Down East 2013 ©
Alison Jones does more before 8:00 a.m. than most people do all day.
Rain is pattering heavily on the deck when Alison, the cook, wakes to her alarm clock at 4:00 a.m. She gets dressed and fires the galley’s woodstove by 4:30. It’ll be another hour before the stovetop is ready for cooking. In the meantime, she begins souring 10 cups of milk for the blueberry pancakes on today’s breakfast menu. For the batter, Alison combines the buttermilk, a dozen eggs, 10 cups of flour, a pound of melted butter, and many, many blueberries. The griddle has only enough surface area to make 6 pancakes at a time, but this morning Alison will make 120 pancakes. She’ll start pouring batter at 6:30. The messmate, Laura Dodd, will help her cook bacon, slice fruit, put out coffee, and set the tables. By 8:00 a.m., when Alison has enough warm, golden-brown pancakes to serve 34 people, she’ll climb the companionway ladder and ring the ship’s bell to announce the start of breakfast.
A half hour later, after the passengers have eaten seconds and thirds, the deck crew will clean the dishes and the galley crew will begin preparing lunch, and, after that’s eaten, they’ll prepare an afternoon snack and later dinner.
Think about the number of people and resources needed to prepare meals in a similar-sized restaurant. I once worked as a dishwasher in a fine-dining joint that served 30 for a prix-fixe dinner. The staff included a chef, sous chef, two servers, a host, and me, the lowly Hobart administrator. Back then, purveyors would truck ingredients to the restaurant and stock our shelves. Bakers would deliver bread. A steady flow of LNG would provide instantaneous, reliable, and adjustable heat for cooking. We had an endless supply of water—both hot and cold—and could dispose of limitless quantities of wastewater. Electricity provided bright light to work under and refrigeration for our food stores. We worked six days a week from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 and we were amply bushed each night after six-hour shifts.
Then imagine the daily feats of galley crew. To cook, they must build their own fires and keep them dutifully stoked throughout the day. With two people they prepare and serve food that, at any other enterprise, would require twice as many people, if not more. And they do it for nearly 14 hours every day.
Consider, too, that once the Grace Bailey leaves the dock, the supply line has been cut. If the holding tanks run out of fresh water, there’s no more water for drinking, cooking, or cleansing. If the batteries run out of electricity, there’s no more light to work under. If the wood is all burned, there’s no more heat for cooking or heating water. If an ingredient is used up or forgotten, there’s no purveyor to supply it. If the ice in the coolers melts, the meats and dairy will spoil.
No sleep til Brooklin.
Keeping the passengers well fed requires an inordinate amount of planning and logistics. But most of all, it requires bull work.
Before leaving the dock, Andy and Santi re-supplied the Grace Bailey. They filled a truck bed with 16 crates of split firewood, carried the crates one at a time from Public Landing, down the ramp, across the long series of dock floats, up the gangway, and down into the galley. They also carried 45 blocks of ice, 5 bags of cubed ice, all the groceries, fresh linens, and towels.
“And we don’t have a hand cart like some of the other boats,” says Santiago wearily.
It’s Tuesday morning, the gam has just disbanded, and Santi takes a brief turn at the Grace Bailey’s helm as we motor out of Holbrook Island Harbor into the eerily still water of the Bay.
Santi has just begun his second season working on Captain Ray Williamson’s so-called Green Boats. Prior to that, Santi studied boatbuilding.
Laura Dodd furls the main.
Santi tells a story about serving as the mate/cook on the Mistress’s shakedown cruise last year. (The Mistress, another one of Captain Ray’s three so-called Green Boats, sails with just two crew and six passengers.) While sailing through the tight Deer Island Thoroughfare off Stonington, the Mistress got fouled on two lobster pots. A pot warp got hung up on the rudder and had to be cut free in order to tack the vessel away from some dangerous ledges. A second warp got fouled on the keel, and they dragged the lobster pot all the way to their anchorage in Stonington. In the evening, after serving the passengers dinner, Santi tied a rope to the starboard beam, walked the bitter end around the bow to the port side, pulled the line tight, and tied it to the port beam. Next, Santi put on a dive mask, lowered himself into the 55-degree water, placed a knife in his teeth, took a deep breath, and pulled himself hand over hand along the line toward the keel. When he reached the fouled warp, he took the knife out of his teeth and started cutting. Then, when his air was used up, he put the knife back in his teeth, pulled himself to the surface, drew another breath, and pulled himself back underwater to cut some more.
For windjammer captains—or, for that matter, any boater traveling the coast of Maine — getting fouled on lobster pots is an occasional fact of life. This fact, although wholly unintentional, doesn’t endear the windjammer fleet to the men and women who make a living hauling traps. As the lobstermen see it, each cut trap represents roughly $100 in lost property, plus the lost revenue of any bugs unlucky enough to be forever doomed to the steel confines of the discarded pot. As windjammer captains see it, fouled traps are the unfortunate natural consequence of placement: if channels and harbors are increasingly choked with colorful buoys, there’s bound to be a corresponding rate of attrition. It seems like a cut-and-dry stalemate—an unavoidable set of circumstances that leads to spoiled goods and contrite schooner captains—but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for longstanding, disproportionate animosity. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that if lobstermen could snap their fingers and make sailboats disappear from the bay, “blow boats” would have vanished shortly after the advent of the marine diesel engine.
Again, there’s nothing remotely empirical in these findings, but nearly every captain has at least one story that suggests relations between windjammer crews and lobsterman aren’t exactly rosy. Whether it’s a early morning boat wake that surreptitiously poops a windjammer’s yawlboat, or an open exchange of heated words between skippers, schooner captains have gotten the feeling that they’re not entirely welcome in certain harbors.
Captain J.R., for instance, during a trip to Carvers Harbor in Vinalhaven six years ago, was approached by a lobsterman.
“Aren’t you a little far south?” the lobsterman asked.
But there’s also anecdotal evidence to suggest that the windjammers’ hierarchical standing has improved. While schooner bums used to be lumped in with yachtsmen, they’re gradually being treated more like the commercial boaters they are. Yachtsmen may forever bear the scorn of commercial fishermen, but schooner bums are now afforded a begrudging measure of respect—an undeniable respect for the men and women who earn a living on the sea.
And it’s a hard living. After a day that sees the gloomy skies lighten and the winds pick up slightly, we beat our way to an unnamed harbor outside of WoodenBoat School in Brooklin and drop the hook. The deck crew furls the headsails and raises the awning, Captain J.R. provides shore trips for the passengers, and the galley crew prepares the third meal of the day: baked haddock, rice, salad, broccoli, biscuits, and strawberry shortcake with hand-whipped cream.
The sun has set by the time the dishes are clean and the galley is put in order. It’s past 9:00 p.m. when Alison and Laura retire for the evening. In less than seven short hours, their daily routine will begin anew.