Whether by coincidence or fate, our final sailing class of the summer had three birthdays on board! We had no choice but to end the season in style, and what a final day it was.
As the sun came up over Rockland, the schooner Alamar made landfall at the town dock and with lines made fast, it was time to depart. The gang all pitched in with a will, giving the decks a final swab, cleaning out the bunks below, and leaving her in pristine shape for the crew to take her North again to Bucks Harbor. We were bound South for Portland, for one last sailing adventure of our own, and it was time to say goodbye to the good ship.
With all the faces mustered on shore, Captain Jonathan gave some wonderful departing words, reminding the trainees how far they had come since Monday; they had been 'shipwrecked' together, gone for chilly morning swims, navigated the waters of Penobscot bay, handled sail and steered a schooner day after day, cooked meals, written songs, and most importantly they had looked after each other as voyaged on. To add a bit of humor to the occasion, our trainee Adam read out personalized awards to the captain, crew, and fellow shipmates. Starting any morning out with a laugh is the way to go.
With a final farewell, we piled into the 15-seat van owned by Station Maine, and driven by their Executive Director, Muriel Curtis. Muriel is a stalwart member of the Rockland waterfront community and is a Tall-Shipper from way back. She has been running Station Maine from the seaside town for fifteen years, a program that puts local teens in Cornish rowing gigs and dories to head out upon the harbor waters in the ultimate test of teamwork. If you have ever seen a gig-rowing match, it is a sight to behold, and don't believe that the balmy temperatures of a Maine winter keep these kids ashore either. They are tough as nails and travel around the Northeast to compete in competitions as well.
With the occasional bathroom stop and a bite to eat, we finally arrived at Maine's largest city and parked up next to the Ocean Terminal. A short stroll later and we were stood beside the lovely schooner Bagheera, one of two vessels run by Portland Schooner Company from the city waterfront. Between Bagheera and the schooner Wendameen, they take locals and tourists alike out for multiple sails each day in what is a quintessential experience of the Maine coast.
Today, our students stepped aboard for free, a wonderfully generous donation from the PSC! With some overcast skies and promises of rain holding off the crowds, we had the entire boat almost completely to ourselves with only a few other passengers onboard. Our students were unceremoniously offered up as muscle for sail hoists as we pulled away from the dock and headed out onto Casco Bay. The team showed what they had learned the last few days and in no time at all we were flying under mains'l, fores'l, a stays'l and jib. Even in light airs she shot out around Bug Light and with fog laying heavily about the bay and a drizzle coming down, spirits were far from dampened.
The fly-over from a pair of MV-22 Ospreys, rotors vertical, sent all the guys shooting to the weather rail to gawk at these very cool pieces of engineering, and they vanished into the mist over the city as quickly as they had come. In between tacks the gang reminisced about the events of the week gone by and compared the two vessels, Alamar and Bagheera.
Then it was time to drop sail and head to the dock. The crew of Bagheera, an absolutely wonderful bunch of sailors, set our guys up on the halyards and with ease we had bare masts once again. The engine rumbled to life and we pointed for Maine State Pier, and with the smoothest parking job this side of Stellwagen Bank, we were back ashore. With a heartfelt 'Thank You' from our group, we disembarked at strolled the waterfront as we waited for our ferry to Peaks Island.
With three birthdays in a week, there was no way we could let it slip by without celebration and one of our trainees (and birthday celebs), Adam, invited us all to his home on Peaks for a Friday afternoon barbecue. His family had been preparing the lovely forested space all week in anticipation, and when we arrived there was a table filled with food and a grill warming up. With his mother Mary Lou deftly working the coals and turning out shish kebabs and juicy burgers, we all mucked in and started filling our plates. Teenage boys can eat a lot, but even this amount of food was a challenge for them. Adam's siblings had made delicious salads to eat and we were all stuffed in no time at all.
With a bit of swimming and ping-pong to help with digestion, everyone relaxed and enjoyed the sunny afternoon among the trees. When there was finally just enough room to fit it, out came the enormous birthday cake to celebrate the three birthday gents. Although we won't be winning any choir competitions in the near future, we had a rousing chorus of 'Happy Birthday,' then the candles were blown out and the cake was cut.
In between bites of cake and licks of frosting, we read aloud the Captain's log entries from the days gone by, and we even got a performance of the Shipwreck Song the group wrote to get back aboard the boat on Tuesday! With a ferry to catch, we had a last laugh and a huge amount of thanks to our hosts for throwing such a wonderful party. Then down we went to the pier to catch our last trip out upon the bay for the week.
As the Casco Bay Lines ferry shot back across to Portland, we relaxed on the upper deck awash in the setting sun. Once ashore, we bid our final farewells and everyone went their separate ways. It was the perfect way to end the week- a week that had seen everyone come together and pitch in to provide the experience of a lifetime. It's the community that makes sailing so much fun- everyone doing their part for a common goal- and perhaps that's the best lesson we can take away from any time out on the water.