In Belfast, Maine
We board the schooner Timberwind on a golden afternoon of what has been a beautiful day. The graceful windjammer is a true Mainer: she was built here in 1931, never left the state, and now mostly does short day cruises in Down East. She’s 96 feet in overall length and no longer has a motor; her yawl boat pushes her in and out of Belfast Harbor before she sets sail.
We’re beginning a two-hour “Sunset Sail” in Belfast Bay and, through a quirk of luck, we’re the only passengers on the schooner this afternoon. We're greeted by the congenial crew and the knowledgeable Captain, Lance Meadows, as well as the Captain’s friendly wife, Liz, who works the sails and ropes as hard as anyone. On deck, we can appreciate the polished woodwork details and the care taken with the ropes, including a fine Flemish curl figure eight.
We cast off at five p.m. and are pushed slowly out of the Harbor. On the way, we’re passed by the Tide N’ Knots, a Belfast lobster boat going out with its two-person, two-gender crew. The Tide’s “lobstermen” are dressed in summer business attire: tee shirts and water-proof fishing bibs and braces (rubberized overalls and suspenders); whether pants are worn under the bibs in summer reportedly is a matter of personal taste here.
The motor on the yawl boat pushing us is turned off in the outer Bay. We decline the offer to help the athletic crew in jumping the halyards to raise the sails by hand. It’s tough work that needs strength and coordination of the type that we have long lost. Soon, the sails are up and we find good wind. The music of sailing starts with notes from creaking wood, stretching ropes and canvas, and gurgling water being cleaved by the bow.
It's getting on the cold side of chilly here in the September wind and everyone dons jackets. Perhaps the cold air is why we see few recreational boats out at dusk. But we do see a pretty Friendship Sloop that changes course to greet us; her passengers take photographs of our vintage schooner while we do the same to the vintage sloop.
Soon, the sky begins to blush with hints of pink. We’re silently heading for an infinite horizon where sea meets wind-streaked evening clouds.
The sky and water get darker and the sun becomes a flare, sending out streams of light through the clouds racing over the ridge to our west. A sun beam swims out to us in the blackening Bay.
Although it feels like the sun is leaving us, we realize that it is we who are leaving our mother star and we bid her a fond adieu – until we meet again. The feeling is primal if you’re in the right mood – and we are.
You can join us on the virtual version of our Sunset Sail by clicking the link below to see the images, which can viewed in about 30 seconds. We recommend that your initial screening of the images be a full-frame slideshow. (To make that happen, click on the SLIDESHOW button above the featured [largest] image on the gallery page to which the link will take you. Press Esc to return to the thumbnail gallery.) Here's the link:
Barbara and Dick