Thursday, January 26, 2006

August, 1988

As a teenager I did an Outward Bound sailing course - 26 days - out of the Hurricane Island base site located in the Fox Islands archipelago in Penobscot Bay, Maine. Though I had grown up sailing, this experience, more than any other, was the genesis of a life long passion for voyaging on the ocean. For most of the time we (five guys and five girls plus two instructors) sailed and lived aboard a 30-foot, ketch-rigged "pulling" boat modeled after a 19th century whaling vessel. I remember an instructor named "Pokey" who ate raw garlic and exhorted us to follow suit. I remember one of our fellow crew having to be helicoptered to the hospital with an impacted bowel...there were no heads on the open boat and the only source of privacy was forward of the headsail hanging ass on the leeward rail...not everyone could adjust. I remember camping on some deserted island one night - we lashed oars and draped tarps for a makeshift shelter - and waking in the morning to a buzzing sound and the slow realization that every exposed bit of flesh was crawling with black flies. We climbed to the top of Cadillac Mountain in the darkness of pre-dawn to be in place for sunrise. We helped build a schoolhouse on a remote island where the inhabitants all looked suspiciously alike. There were nights of intense conversation by firelight and candlelight and failing that, starlight. The scent of pine, sea air and mildew blended and soaked through everything. We had sunshine and thick fog, stiff breezes in the afternoon and high white summer clouds pacing Eggemoggin Reach. We made our beds at anchor by laying the oars along the benches to create a platform, spead a tarp over the boom and lashed it to the gunnels. In the morning we woke to a cannon shot from a neighboring windjammer and leapt over the side together for a very brief "dip." Pokey made coffee by swinging the grounds in a pot of boiling water. I heard, for the first time, Natalie Merchant and her Maniacs on the radio washing the dishes after dinner in the dining hall. On my three day "solo" I read The Stand by Stephen King cover to cover, contemplated the clouds and birds and consumed nothing but my daily ration of liquid, a gallon of fresh water per day. This was during the month of August in 1988. I was eighteen.

5 comments:

Rocko Delray said...

Great Blog!
Looks like you've had lots of adventures. I got my first sailboat in my mid forties and have loved it ever since.

Rocko Delray

rockodelray.blogspot.com

Lonnie Bruner said...

I love stories like that.

Me and the boys are heading out in late May and I created a blog just to try and get us through the winter.

Adrift at Sea said...

My first time sailing was at Boy Scout summer camp. It was a Sunfish and it was at some lake in the mountains up near Gilmanton, NH. In my group, only three of us qualified to solo in the Sunfish...

Tillerman said...

Great story. You should write more in your blog about personal sailing experiences.

Zephyr said...

Thanks for all the great feedback - I'll try to incorporate more personal experiences into the blog...