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Wayback Machines

By John K. Hanson, Jr.

It should have been an easy fix. Actually, it was, but it required three round trips, by peapod, out to the boat and back, to get it done. Along with three trips to the three different stores, to get the proper, single bolt that was needed. But, don’t cry for me, it was glorious.

The repair in question was on our sailboat Wild Rumpus, which lives on a float at the head of Camden Harbor. It was a beautiful, late-fall day and several big schooners were being put to bed for the winter. Young folk had climbed up mast heads to derig halyards, topping lifts and sheets; others prepared frames for winter covers, and still others hauled parts from boats to trucks. All was being done in a much more relaxed way than the frantic spring fit out. The pressure was off; sure, it was important to get the work done, but the weather was fine, and the schooners won’t sail again until next June. The crews also seemed aware that they might not all be back together next season so they were taking time to savor relationships built over a summer of sailing these glorious vessels.

Often during the boating season, more so in early spring and late fall, when I sail out on Penobscot Bay, and look around for other boats, the schooners are all I see. It’s my personal “wayback machine.” These schooners were the heart of commerce in 18th and 19th century Maine. When I see them out on the bay, I am transported to that era. The sky has not changed, nor have the waves; and the deep blue ocean has been a constant over the centuries. I can easily wonder to myself, “What year is this?”

I watch these schooners sail in and out of the harbor all summer long. On that lovely fall day, as I took my time with my boat repair, I reflected that today’s schooner crews work as hard as their forebears, although the boats carry people now instead of freight. And I was grateful for all the love and energy that has kept these classic vessels sailing for so many years. I knew that I, too, would be derigging soon. But next spring, the cycle will begin anew, and that makes me happy. 

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