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It is July 2, 1999
"Eagle has landed." or so someone said, and I feel this is no lesser a feat.
Here's an update on our venture. I'm sitting at the cabin table in Silver Heels anchored at the opening to Center Harbor, Maine. It is raining hard, very hard. Hatches are closed and there are no major leaks. We arrived on the 25th after an airline fiasco. They do happen, 'ya know. I made trip reservations in January. When we went to the ticket counter in June to board the flight, they said the flight had been canceled a couple of months ago. 'Sorry, you weren't notified.' At 2:30 am we were re-routed through three flights, landing finally in Bar Harbor - did that last leg in a Beech Turboprop 1900. A true aluminum tube where you have to stoop over and drag your knuckles along the cabin floor as you move to your single seat. Customer Relations personel were truly apologetic and helpful - and - we made it. It is now Friday, July 2. Our first day was hot and in the 90's - and humid. Day two was foggy and much colder. Then we got some sun and a couple of beautiful sunsets. More thick fog. Then today! It's blowing about 25k to 30k with a foot-and-a-half chop. We're exposed to the long fetch across Eggemoggin Reach. Silver Heels is heavy, 46,000 pounds, but she still likes to ROLL. Silver Heels' rig has more halyards and lifts than I can count. They all like to slat and 'sing' in the high winds! Forecast is for more wind and rain until Tuesday. Possible thunderstorms, too.
On the better side of things, the boat looks very pretty with new topside paint, new bottom paint and fresh varnish on the spars and brightwork. The new propane stove works very nicely, and the double bed conversion is very comfortable. The wood boat is warm, has no condensation and with table candles lit there's exceptional ambiance. Everyone around here loves this old schooner.
But, the house battery bank is dead flat and charges very little. The refrigeration doesn't work. Sometimes I think this boat is like the Stearman - a multitude of parts all flying (sailing?) in close formation! We still have four boxes of 'stuff' to put away on this boat, somewhere. I'm known as the 'guy with the boxes' at Brooklin Boat Yard. We shipped 27 boxes of gear from Alameda and actually need about half of it. Everytime you want to go ashore, you have to get into the dinghy and row about a quarter mile. It is blowing about 25k today, and I don't know if we'll go ashore today with this choppy water. I'm afraid the small boat'll capsize. We'll have to scrounge a dinner from the back of the galley lockers, and let me tell you Julia Childs hasn't been in this galley. Are you sure you're still interested in visiting??
The yard is very skilled at repairs - but slow. Plus, they're extremely busy with spring-summer launchings and commissionings for other owners. I thought we'd be cruising in two weeks. No way! I've decided to pay for a season's mooring at Center Harbor because I feel it'll be a base where we can get water and get things fixed. We'll leave here and head south, most likely, around the end of August. That's when the 'northerlies' come on, so the locals say.
There's a small chandlery on Reach Road, and it is within a half mile. There's a general store a mile away (see photos) a couple of B & B restaurants nearby, etc. Get three or four miles away from here though, and services become very few. When we get going, I think we'll sail out of Center Harbor for a few days or maybe a week at a time and then return to the mooring to refresh. AND, we can store some stuff up the road in a locker and NOT on the boat.
We may just be able to hook up a cell phone that'll also let us upload and download email on the boat. We ordered the modem and are about to order the phone. They say it'll work. Who says? The people selling the phone, of course. For now, Ellen and I drive a rusty pickup truck to Ellsworth. There is a 'cyber house' - as I call it - that's a converted bank with computer internet hookups for computer nerds. They provide internet access for $5.00 per hour. It's about an hour's drive from here.
My feelings about this adventure are still ambivalent. It is hard to get used to living aboard again, especially at age 60. But, it is incredibly beautiful here. A schooner hand that I met was describing places to see. One was a true fiord so narrow that as he says, "...you'll doubt that your boat'll fit between the steep walls." But the water is 60' deep. You can anchor next to shore, and if you had a long plank, you could walk it to the shoreline. There's an unlimited number of coves and bights for comfortable, secure anchoring. A friendship sloop moored near us yesterday named 'Lucy Belle.' The owner, a couple, are in their mid 60's, and they sail without an engine. They set three anchors every night; if one drags, they don't have to sail to a new site to reset in the dark. Interesting, they don't trust engines. Guess they shouldn't go for a Stearman ride. The husband built the boat himself, and it's really a fine example of the design. They said they've cruised Maine for fifteen years and have never visited the same cove twice. There's also wealthy easterners here that own some of the islands outright - the Rockefellers for instance. They have 60 and 70 room 'summer cottages' on their islands or on a good sized chunk of some other desirable place. Deer Isle, the schooner hand said, had many such cottages until a fire burned them several years ago. He also said that the good economy is bringing some of the 'cottages' back! Old money! The trees grow to the shoreline where there are few sandy beaches. The water's edge is primarily covered with huge house sized boulders of granite. The forest begins a few feet above the high water line, and it is so thick that you cannot walk through it. It is very rugged. The hard granite extends below the water surface of course, so you don't go aground 'softly' here. When you hit the bottom you hit something very hard. And to complicate things, the tidal range is between 8 and 10 feet!
We've met some very friendly people here. The 'core' Mainers are frugal and hard working - and somewhat distant. They truly love to build boats. Some call themselves "yankees". I pass perhaps five to six independent boat building shops on a half hour drive to Blue Hill. Every cove or harbor has a quality boat building shop. People here love SILVER HEELS with her traditional rig and lines. Many locals have known the boat for years and have known her previous owners. The guys at the yard always say they like to work on this boat. I feel I'm some sort of caretaker for a local 'treasure.'
Tomorrow's our 26th wedding anniversary. If the water calms, we'll hopefully row ashore and have a dinner out.
Best of luck to you all.
Regards, Terry and Ellen aboard SILVER HEELS, Center Harbor, Maine.
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