We’ve finally left Maine! We spent two days moving down southern Maine, stopping off in Saco Bay and off of Cape Neddick for the nights.
It was another rolly sail from Cape Neddick to Gloucester. However, we had a welcome hitchhiker on this leg of the trip. A little bird appeared on deck, taking a rest. He didn’t seem phased by our presence and hopped right by us. At first, we offered him some breadcrumbs, but he (or she?) didn’t seem interested. I watched as he pulled off and ate a squished insect from the side of a container on deck. We all were rather excited by this as we’d had a horrible time with flies lately. The night before, my mom and I were sitting on either side of the wheelhouse, flyswatter in hand, gradually amassing large piles of dead flies on deck. We then went around the boat and picked up all the fly carcasses that we could find, and placed them in front of the bird (we thought it was a goldfinch [note: readers identified it as a nashville warbler]), who gobbled them up. He (or she) did a great job of cleaning all the dead flies off of the boat, and when he’d eaten the last one, he flew off.
We arrived in Gloucester late in the day, so we decided to wait until the next day to go ashore, but that night we did share a ceremonial bottle of Moxie to commemorate leaving Maine.
We’ve always felt at home in Gloucester. For one thing, Koukla is designed after the Gloucester fishing schooners. It might be because, like Rockland, it is largely a gentrified fishing village. Or it might be the people.
The next day, Dad stayed onboard while the rest of us set off in search of showers. When we returned we saw another dinghy hanging off of Koukla. We were being visited by the unofficial Gloucester schooner ambassador, Al, who owned a schooner himself, and was active in the American Schooner Association. He gave us the inside scoop on the best places to go ashore and eat.
We had stopped at Gloucester on our way south back in 2001, and I have to say, it was nicer than I remembered. There were all sorts of interesting shops and restaurants. I was particularly excited about the natural foods shop Common Crow, while Isaac was excited to get some “traditional Gloucester sausage” at a neat little shop Al had told us about called The Cave. The sausage was later put to good use on homemade pizza and in soup, and smoked gouda from the same place made an excellent grilled cheese.
Our second day in Gloucester was Scott’s birthday. We’d all squirreled away a few boat-appropriate presents for him, which he opened over homemade French toast. Mom had really outdone herself this time—the sourdough French toast was superb. Served with real maple syrup of course. But really, does any good New Englander use that fake corn syrup garbage?
We ate lunch that day at an Italian bakery and deli recommended by Al. As we walked up to the place, a classy old wooden car rolled up and parallel parked right in front, drawing stares and photos. We happened to walk in just ahead of the man in the wooden car, and he playfully grumbled “geeze, what are all these sailors doing here?” I have no idea how he knew we were sailors. We had all recently showered, I didn’t’ think we looked that scruffy.
We chatted with him while we were in line and followed his recommendations on sandwiches, which were great. After eating, we happened to be leaving at the same time as him and Mom started chatting with him about his car. I don’t’ know exactly what she said to him, but it must have been just the right thing, because before I knew it we were all piling into his 1929 Ford Station Wagon for a ride around town and up to the Cape Ann Museum. I felt like I was in a parade as everyone on the sidewalks watched us go by.
It turned out Scott’s birthday lined up with free museum day sponsored by the Smithsonian. And the Cape Ann museum right there in Gloucester was one of the many participating around the country. Although the best part was the permanent installation on the history of fishing and sailing in the region, my favorite part was learning the story of local hero Howard Blackburn. Blackburn, a fisherman, had been caught in a gale and his ship had been lost and he was alone in a rowboat hundreds of miles offshore. He had the foresight to realize he wouldn’t’ be able to hold the oars to row for very long and lashed his arms to the oars which then froze tight. He rowed for days without food or sleep before being rescued off Nova Scotia. Unfortunately he lost all of his fingers. He returned to Gloucester a hero. No longer able to continue fishing, the town helped him set up a shop which became very successful. He went on to get his own sailboat and sail solo across the Atlantic twice—the first (and only?) person without fingers to do so. When he died he was planning yet another voyage.
Just as we were preparing to leave the next morning, we had a visit from the captain of the local charter schooner the Thomas E. Lannon. He said he was an engineer as well. I seem to be noticing a trend here… sailor=engineer. Apparently he’s done a bit of cruising himself with his family, and has been pretty successful chartering. He was very proud that since he’d begun, every kid in the Gloucester public high school had been out sailing with him. We had to cut our visit short, as we all had to be getting under way. As we left Gloucester, we passed the Lannon under sail, and he gave us a cannon salute.
Our next stop was Nahant, an island-like peninsula north of Boston, connected to the mainland by a causeway. My dad grew up there, my parents were married there, and I remember visiting my grandparents there when I was very little, before they moved up to Maine. We all walked around together following my dad on his stroll down memory lane. As we walked, he would point out a house and say so-and-so lived there, there’s where his neighbor the gymnast hung upside down out his window to paint his house, ect. My memories of the place were much hazier, almost dreamlike, as I’m not totally sure if they are my own memories or memories of things people told me, though I do clearly remember the closet-like children’s section of the quaint stone library.
We reached the house where my dad grew up, and he walked right up to the people standing in the driveway. The house looked more decrepit than I remembered, when it belonged to my grandparents 20+ years ago, but it was clearly being taken care of and worked on. Apparently several renovation projects were in the works. I hope this was reassuring to my dad. I know I’d want the house where I grew up to be well cared for by its future owners.
The next day we were shipping off to Boston! My new hometown. Isaac and I had been living there for the past three years, and it had really become home unlike anywhere else. Of course, I will always have a soft spot for Rockland, but I love Boston.
As we sailed down into Boston Harbor, we passed Logan Airport. It was amazing how many planes were constantly landing and taking off. As we sailed by, several airplanes swooped right overhead at unnervingly low altitudes. You don’t often see airplanes moving straight toward you. It looked like there was barely enough clearance between our masts and the planes. But don’t worry, this was mostly an optical illusion because the planes are so large, there really was plenty of space.
We found a perfect anchoring spot right off the aquarium. And nearby was the Boston Waterboat Marina on Long Wharf for services. If you ever need marina services in Boston, we highly recommend them.
That afternoon, Scott, Molly, Isaac, and I explored the North End, Boston’s little Italy, and picked up half a dozen cannolis from Mike’s Pastry. After dinner, we munched our cannolis and enjoyed our amazing view of the Boston skyline. I felt like I was home.
The next morning, three of my friends from grad school came over to see the boat. With a boat full of engineers I’d missed being able to talk about science, biology, and nutrition, so it was really nice to have my friends around for a bit to “talk shop” and hear about their research.
After my friends had to go back ashore and back to work, Isaac and I set off to wander, run a few errands, and enjoy the amazing weather. I couldn’t believe it was 75 degrees in Boston on October 1st!
That evening my friend Hat invited us over to her place for dinner. She is an amazing cook so I jumped at the invite. So Scott, Molly, Isaac, and I took the T up to Porter Square and did some grocery shopping before she picked us up to take us to her place. She made pork skewers, sticky rice, papaya salad, roasted vegetables, guacamole, and chocolate chip banana bread for dessert. Everything was delicious, as expected.