photo courtesy of Sean Sheppard


Schooner American Eagle Newsletter

December 2015 


In This Issue
Cruise News
Crews News
Galley News
Pictures from Away

Vanishing Point by Shawn Payment
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This picture was the captain's favorite in the recent Maine Windjammer Association photography contest. As often the case it was taken by a guest on another schooner, so if you want to take pictures of the rest of the fleet, come sail with us! Sean's excellent work afloat and ashore can be seen on his facebook page, Sean Sheppard Photography.

 It really is winter finally after a tauntingly easy fall for outside work. I doubt that any of us finished our list of things to do before the snow flew, but it's too late now. It's worth all the shoveling and plowing if there is sailing in the spring.

first snowstorm
this morning

Cruise News
It may be snowing but in 2015 we've been

                                                                                    courtesy of Kathryn Phair
                                                                   courtesy of Jayne Phair


and looking across from Lubec to Campobello
                                                                                           courtesy of Bridget Rolfe

and here's a seven minute video of a 2013 cruise with full orchestra
(Thank you Eve Bills Lacivita.)

Crews News
Shary and I are still busy here between schooner projects and bookings. Meanwhile Christa is dividing her time between crewing on the Penobscot Bay pilot boat, ski instructing little kids at Sugarloaf weekends, and stopping by the shipyard every so often. Angela the galley hand from this past season just finished up a delivery on the Harvey Gamage from Portland, ME, to Key West under the command of Perry Davis,  whom some of you may recall as mate on the Eagle some years ago. As for Andy, see the next article!

Galley News
Andy is underway again. Don't read further if you expect he's on a pleasure cruise. The menu sounds good even if the conditions were not.
     The first thing I do on a new boat is bake bread. As soon as I got on board the Research Vessel Connecticut,  I punched down the dough I had started yesterday and rolled it into a baguette and laid it on corn meal on a sheet pan. Then I went to the aft deck and wrestled open the cargo hold hatch. I laid it on the deck, climbed half-way down the wet rusty ladder and fitted the plastic grate over the hole above me, so no one would fall in. I stepped over the wood blocks and chains and straps and fenders and took out a chicken and two rolls of cookie dough and a half gallon of Dunkin' Donuts French Vanilla non-fat nondairy creamer out of to the chest freezer, carried them back to the sunlit companionway, climbed up to remove the plastic grate, carried my groceries up onto the aft deck, climbed out into the light and laid the cargo hold hatch back into place. It took me two tries to secure the hatch.

     By then the crew was all there, the captain, the engineer and two deck hands. They divided the watches and we ate dinner while it was calm. Dinner was bratwurst with sauerkraut, broccoli and potatoes lyonnaise. The bread was dense because I'd hurried it, but it was warm from the oven, the sesame seeds nicely browned.

     We set out from Avery Point on Monday at sixteen hundred hours and it was fine till we passed Watch Hill into the ocean and then the angry sea gods picked us up and shook us like a maraca.  We punched through eight foot waves into a force seven headwind. But the rhythm was hellishly syncopated.

     The two galley portholes have shutters drawn on them so as not to dazzle the helmsman up on the bridge, but if I looked I would only see an angry gray sea meeting an angry sky, like the window on a washing machine.   I half-way learned the rhythm; I got so I could guess when we were in for a big wave or a bad combination, the one-two punch as Connecticut smashed through a cresting wave to belly flop onto her flat bow thrusters, or leave me weightless half  a second, like a carnival ride. Sometimes the boat glided up to meet me, and sometimes it jerked away, or twisted sideways.  After twenty years and thousands of sea miles, this was the first time I really, really vomited.

     Throwing up was relatively painless. I had plenty of water to give up, I had a sink with a garbage disposal at arm's reach, and a settee and counter to lean against between paroxysms. I welcomed the wave of cold sweat that signaled the end of a series. Compared to the hangovers of my drinking days, seasickness was a walk in the park. No headache, no dry heaves, no bitter yellow bile.

     Luckily I'd fed the crew by that time, so I could honorably retire to my bunk.  The bunks were in the living quarters, below and aft of the engine room. My upper bunk was higher than my body was used to, and I wasted a lot of energy levering myself into it without stepping on Miles in the lower. When I noticed I was lying with my feet beneath the reading light, it was almost too much trouble to squirm my body around in the antic darkness, but it was a relief to lie on my back with no demands on my gastrointestinal tract or inner ear, lulled by the ceaseless thunder of the engine.

     I was up at four-thirty hundred next morning, to have breakfast ready at five thirty. I somehow assembled a platter of scrambled eggs and fragrant sausage, which nobody ate. Miles the engineer ate a slice of unbuttered toast, and visited the bridge before returning to bed.

     On the bridge I could see the horizon, which helped. The sway  of the vessel was more pronounced,  but slower and longer, like a horse going from a trot to a canter.  The captain had classic rock playing as the waves washed over the bridge, three stories above sea level. Conditions were so extraordinary the crew were sending pictures of it on their cell phones.   It's calmed down here in the bay, the captain assured me, but I couldn't tell the difference.

      It took fourteen hours to motor to Gloucester.We pulled in the Gorton's Fish Stick parking lot at ten hundred hours Tuesday morning and onloaded five scientists, two journalists and a truck container with a wet lab inside. We moved our puny onboard cranes above the cabin superstructure so the shoreside ubercrane could swing the container onto our aft cargo deck where the crew secured it with packing straps and chains on turnbuckles. Then the scientists hooked up their pump to give them a steady trickle of seawater to analyze and the head scientist strapped himself onto a lab stool on the gleaming steel counter and the rows of little bottles secure in racks, and off we went into the Gulf of Maine.

      I hurriedly served them soup and grilled cheese and avocado sandwiches before we rounded Cape Ann and started bouncing again. When we hit open water they all threw up and went to bed. The pretty red-haired sound technician never left the dry lab, hunched over her luggage. Her camera man went to the below deck head and stayed there for three hours. The other scientists had to throw up in the main cabin head or turn the big wheels on the outer hatches and throw up into the darkness, where the crashing waves instantly washed it overboard. Plastic bottles of ginger ale, each with one futile sip taken out , clattered across the rollicking galley table, bounced off the settee benches and rolled underfoot on the galley sole. I rose from my bunk at sixteen hundred and steamed some jasmine rice, which nobody came near.

     Wednesday morning I cooked up a pot of oatmeal and boiled some eggs, which nobody ate. By lunch time the wind had faltered and the sea calmed a little, so I could put out last night's rice, fried with pork and pickled ginger. The crew and the senior oceanographer managed to eat. Even at dinner time, when I laid out the soothing spaghetti there were only a few takers, even though conditions were much improved.

     Thursday morning it was rough again. I put out more hard-boiled eggs and cut up a honey dew melon and red grapes. I'd given up the concept of discreet meals by that time; I just kept things on the galley table in deep trays on skidproof mats. The scientists finished testing as fast as they could, and we motored over to Booth Bay Harbor to debark some scientists and samples, then set off back to Gloucester to offload our lab container. The camera man had his sound technician photograph him kneeling to kiss the concrete wharf. I was too sick to drink coffee, said the photographer impressively. And I'm addicted to coffee.

     All the scientists all shook my hand and thanked me for my wonderful meals. I asked the red-haired photographer who had huddled clutching her luggage for a whole night if she thought she'd live, and she said it was a great experience, she wouldn't have missed it for the world.  On our run back to Groton was a pleasure. I could stand on the aft rail watching the calm seas rush by and not need to hold a rail. We saw a minke whale, passed some futuristic tug boats towing huge barges as fast as us (eight knots). We watched the cozy lights of Cape Cod Canal off either beam, and docked at our home port at oh three hundred hours.

     But why anti-human? How different from the schooner trade, where everything we do is designed to bring pleasure to our customers. We reach an agreement with wind and water as to where we will go and how fast. We set out where the wildlife is abundant, where the shores are picturesque and comfortably nearby, where we reliably stop every day to buy our T-shirts and ice cream cones. The meals on board are passed in a line from the galley to the aft deck, so everyone on board can admire the garnishes. One of the great pleasures of the dude boat is the sigh of pleasure that suffuses the vessel when the captain cuts the engine.

     But our customers on the Research Vessel Connecticut focus on the illimitable realm of science, determined to wrest from Mother Nature her closest secrets, which they propose to do by reducing all their data to a series of ones and zeros sequestered in a metaphorical cloud, utterly untainted by the vested interests of mere humanity.  

     Perhaps this is why on  Research Vessel  Connecticut the human element is always ignored, often actively opposed. There are no books except by Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler. There is no half and half for the coffee, there is only Dunkin Donuts vanilla flavored fat free non-dairy creamer. For some reason there's only the cheapest store brand robusto coffee. The blankets are Dacron foam, spun out of recycled water bottles. The pillows are ominously waterproof. The air comes from ventilation fans if the aft hatches are closed. And the engine never stops. It might change pitch as it meets different requirements, it might engage auxiliaries that a cook can only imagine, but it will never stop till we're tied up at the dock.

      And the bulkheads will vibrate and the propeller will cavitate  and the scientists will regurgitate and  the research vessel Connecticut will never stop lurching forward, ever forward in her quest for maritime data.  I suppose there are people out there that we help in our own way; the faceless hypothetical masses of posterity who will benefit from our science. But the primary beneficiaries are the scientists who make a living and further their careers.

     What about the pay? As opposed to my schooner captain ambling down the galley companionway and tucking a check in my apron pocket every Saturday, here I fill out a time card. My pay period, for the convenience of the accounting department, runs from Friday to the second Thursday. I get a certain sum for every day of sea time and a fraction of that for every hour of shore work I put in. There is the traditional two week time lag before I get my first pay check, and I'm never exactly sure how much it will amount to.

     And what about scheduling? Our schedule is derived between the needs and resources of the scientists, who have to secure their research grants and write up their proposals and buy or invent their instruments and when their educational educations can spare them, and that splendidly inhuman impersonal force, the weather, which always casts the deciding vote. Flexibility, says my boss, is paramount. We really can't structure science (which pays the bills around here) around human bourgeois comforts. The human element is what we're trying to eliminate.

     But next on our next trip sometime in January I resolve to improve the coffee and give my dough time to proof up nice and airy.

Pictures from Away


Ellen has made the ordinary extraordinary







We're on a billboard, of sorts!

The American Eagle no longer fishes offshore on Georges Bank; however, her launch picture is now outside in Gloucester  as a mural at the TD Bank on Harbor Loop. Hope the fishing is as good for bank and cruise customers now as it was for half a century on the other bank.




                                                                                                     Anthony Marks photo



                                                                                           Anthony Marks photo



                                                                                                               Anthony Marks photo


                                                            Anthony Marks photo

Someone in the family went to Spain on business and a little sightseeing..Kate!

Happy New Year!!


John and the crew

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Schooner American Eagle
P O Box 482 
Rockland, ME  04841
(800) 648-4544