Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why me?

I do a lot of sailing and I've been sailing a lot for 40 years. I know a lot about sailing - not every kind of sailing, but I do know about cruising, big boat and small boat racing, how to get performance out of a boat, and I know something about blue water. I can rig, repair, service an engine, cook, provision, steer in bad weather, and navigate. When I am not sailing I read about it and I think about it. When I meet someone who is a "good sailor", I very often find that he or she may know something about some aspect of sailing, but can't "hand, reef and steer", as the old sailors used to say.

So I will write this blog, and every day, or most days, I'll tell whoever looks what is on my sailing mind.

I own Journeyman, a 27 foot Albin Vega sloop, built of glass in Sweden in 1971.
I keep Journeyman on a mooring in Casco Bay, Maine. She is tough, has bunks for four, and has a turn of speed if handled right. I ask of a cruising boat that she be tough enough to really take it without fear that the deck is going to lift or something, and that she not be a slug. I call her Journeyman because that is how I think of myself as a sailor. I do know a lot, but I know much less than a master sailor. There aren't so many of those around, but I have sailed with some and I know the difference between my abilities and theirs.

My sailing life began when my father bought a Soling. I was fourteen, and for the next 8 years or so I sailed the boat 4 or 8 hours a day, from May to September. We sailed from Edgartown to Nantucket and to Newport. I was often alone. We could reef the main, and we sailed in northeasters and in southeast storms. I learned that a strong enough wind (50 knots, I think) will blow the bow of a sloop off the wind and maybe into a bad jibe. A Soling has no engine and no accommodation and if there is a better boat for a boy to really learn to sail in I don't know it. (But maybe an Ensign, which has bunks.)

I worked as a paid hand on yachts and got to know an English sailor, Dudley Knott, from Manchester. He and I sailed together up and down the New England Coast. He was schooled in the English Channel and raced with the greats from the 1950's. We generally agreed on sail and course changes with hardly a word and it was a pleasure to sail with him. I am sorry he is gone and that I never told him, as he was dying, what a pleasure it had been to know him.

After college I crewed on a 54 Tripp designed yawl, Geronimo, skippered by Steve Connett and built by Abeking and Rasmussen in Germany, of aluminum. (She was sister ship to an early Ondine.) Steve was - is - truly a master, having worked as a paid hand and boat boy on the early 1960's 12 Meter American Eagle, and then sailing Geronimo 11 months a year for many years, on cruises from New England to Haiti to Bermuda and across the Atlantic. If he stepped on board Journeyman he'd see tricks he'd recognize, and if anyone taught me how to run a boat it's Steve. Geronimo was a research vessel, tagging and releasing sharks, and we had a gas. Our best run was Cap Haitien to Key West in 3 days, December 1980, with 24 hour runs of over 235, 210, and 215. Only Steve and I could steer, with the mian reefed, and genoa, and the wind 25 to 30 knots on the beam, down the Old Bahama Channel

After college came a stint in the Coast Guard, as a deck officer on Steadfast, a 210 foot cutter out of St. Pete, Florida. We cruised the northern Caribbean and the Bahamas - some of the same water I'd seen on Geronimo. That was 1982 and 1983, and we navigated with one Loran line and a sun or star sight. Maybe we were the last to navigate a US warship using celestial. It was fun, and of course I learned a lot. When we'd bust a yacht carrying pot, the captain (Chick Murray) would detail me to bring to to Key West. Then to Juneau, and a desk job. We did have a 14 foot centerboard sloop and found out about katabatic winds.

After the Coast Guard, and now married (still am), my wife and I went back to Geronimo for 4 months, April to August, and made two Bermuda trips. We tagged 800 blue sharks that summer, hand lining them, mostly. I'll tell you about it sometime.

Then law school, and since 1988 I've had an admiralty law practice in Portland, Maine. I am pretty involved in the waterfront and keep my hand in with Journeyman, a bunch of small boats, and the occasional blue water trip on someone else's boat.

So tomorrow I will start in with whatever topic is on my mind, perhaps from a recent experience. I'm just trying to figure it out. I'm still a journeyman.


  1. I don't see how you have time for this, but its very good

  2. Yeah, every day seems a little ambitious. I think the way to get the word out about new blogs is to write a few good posts and then invite a bigger blog to link to you.

  3. You apparently have a lot to say, please do! If you are a Journeyman then I am certainly a mere neophyte. It tickles me when someone calls me Captain, I hope someday to be a Sailor. This is my second year with Victory, V715. I sail out of Stockton Harbor and live in Bangor. I appreciate your approach to this blog and will relish the content. Thank you for taking the time to pass along some of your tricks.

  4. Great source of information. Thanks for taking the time to do this.


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