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Kris Cringle

The art of 'sailing in', would be all but lost if it weren’t for our ancient fleet of working schooners on the coast of Maine.

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I had just come on deck (last weekend), when the engineless Schooner Stephen Taber had sailed into Pulpit Harbor. She was already on her second tack through the harbor. 

47 tons of 1871 technology, all moving well in the gentle breeze.

1425059607_STsecondtack1.thumb.jpg.33911e81434d1eb2c3161a6f22810076.jpg

 

They crossed far astern of our anchored boat with the port anchor lashed to the bulwark, ready to deploy.

 

187701433_STsecondtack2.thumb.jpg.57f1fd01712dbc5f15d7c3835ae893bd.jpg

 

Sails rattled as they brought the big boat into the wind. It takes sea room to tack the schooner that measures 115’ from bowsprit to boom end.

Turn,…

 

815134287_Luffingup_.thumb.jpg.affef8d49478a5e94f5ceba0b9e3ffa3.jpg

 

...turn,...

 

936081071_Sailsfilling.thumb.jpg.662a635f1f53a9d3c4a74d9becb09f0c.jpg

 

...turn. 

 

1260916782_Fallingoff.thumb.jpg.756aeae564443b15b3d423f54ba3c910.jpg

 

Sails filled again and drawing well, they were on their final tack. Pinched up to windward, the old schooner crossed close by our stern this time.

The bow turned slowly into the wind as headsails were doused. A gaff was loosened and wrinkles appeared in the sails. 

The crew and passengers waited silently on deck as the Taber, still full of energy despite the luffing sails, coasted on and on, to windward. 

 

2006619544_Reachingbythestern.thumb.jpg.24363e57bca2cb36472131ac9731b07d.jpg

 

Finally, a lone vocal command breaks the silence and is instantly followed by the deafening roar of huge iron chain links racing through a battered hawsehole in the bulwark.

Still coasting slowly forward, the chain rode stretches bar tight. 

The ancient fisherman anchor fetches up on the bottom ending this magnificent scene that is centuries old.

 

444219451_Fetchingup.thumb.jpg.a8cadd2d0cb492e9d1fd32a29d4a180e.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Just occurred to me, Tom - intriguing to know how these specialized engineless sailing ship anchoring techniques have been “passed down” - sure, some of them related to anchoring under sail are obvious, and apply to basically all vessels anchoring under sail - but some certainly are not obvious and apply only to such large, specialty-rigged vessels.  Considering that these types of vessels were last in regular commercial service basically a century ago, how, I wonder, have these big ship techniques survived.  Were they recorded somewhere in books back then, manuals for ship masters who trained?  Now, as then, of course, you learned by doing, over time, gaining experience.  But is there, so to speak, an “unbroken line of knowledge” of folks going back to those early days?  Or are there manuals that help teach someone then basics before actually attempting it?  I’m trying to imagine captaining such a large engineless vessel and anchoring under sail - better not mess it up!! :-)

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7 minutes ago, Jud - s/v Sputnik said:

Just occurred to me, Tom - intriguing to know how these specialized engineless sailing ship anchoring techniques have been “passed down” - sure, some of them related to anchoring under sail are obvious, and apply to basically all vessels anchoring under sail - but some certainly are not obvious and apply only to such large, specialty-rigged vessels.  Considering that these types of vessels were last in regular commercial service basically a century ago, how, I wonder, have these big ship techniques survived.  Were they recorded somewhere in books back then, manuals for ship masters who trained?  Now, as then, of course, you learned by doing, over time, gaining experience.  But is there, so to speak, an “unbroken line of knowledge” of folks going back to those early days?  Or are there manuals that help teach someone then basics before actually attempting it?  I’m trying to imagine captaining such a large engineless vessel and anchoring under sail - better not mess it up!! :-)

I never thought about it, Jud, but its a good question. In this boats case, the owner captain sailed on it at 6 years old when his parents ran it as a 'dude schooner'. That doesn't connect back to 1871. My guess is that these boats went in the charter trade right after the railroads put them out of use as lumber (etc) haulers. There were people interested enough in the 'windjammer' culture even way back then that the boats were never overly modernized. That included keeping them engineless (except for their 'yawl boats', diesel powered tenders that also serve as push boats for most harbor work). 

 

Many still use wood fired cookstoves to prepare 3 meals a day for the crew and guests (the cook deserves the most praise and a purple heart for enduring that in August). 

 

Owners tend to have been family or long term crew, that learned the trade from the last owner/operators. 

 

These boats and their operation have remained largely as built which I guess has retained a connection to the past. 

 

Like many of these working boats, I see this one has radar and likely GPS. They have to keep to weekly schedule so the yawl boat is dropped and the boat pushed when needed, through windless days or pea soup fog. 

I can't imagine a more grueling way to make a living, but I'm glad for those that do, for all of us to watch. 

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Anchoring a topsail schooner in San Francisco Bay, the captain had me unfurl the topsail to backwind it just moments before the anchor dropped. Full stop before the anchor even hit the water. 
I wouldn’t go so far as to say the windjammer fleet is the only thing keeping this stuff alive. 
 

I almost think there was a wooden boat article a handful of years ago about techniques for sailing up to a dock. Probably in the getting started in boats section. 

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Kinda bummed we had hoped to be up there this summer or next, looks like that won't happen at least for a bit. Maybe on the long way around...

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Kris, 

These boats do maintain and pass on a unique set of maritime skills. 

One of the launch drivers this Summer was a very millennial-ish looking young woman ,whom you might never have guessed at first glance was a licensed deckhand on one of the Camden schooners. She took the launch driving job because her boat wasn't doing the trade this Summer due to COVID. Her boat handling skills were far and away the best of the bunch.  You could tell everything came naturally to her. 

We've had some come up an anchor under sail next to us like this one at Burnt Coat. Initially I was a bit worried about noise, but we ended up being treated to some delightful live, traditional music. They sailed off the anchor with us the next am as well. 

ACtC-3dBFrvWH9HEC8tP3xHnKO4dMd0I-w0MVlZt

Windjammer festival in Boothbay. Note all the push-boats. 

ACtC-3egHrCw3mvXmIBqCWKtEPr1uFw8ALmZVXFq

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A friend down here completed his masters certificate with a square rig endorsement about ten years ago, so some of the maritime colleges still teach this stuff.

I recall getting a textbook for him for his seventieth birthday that was all about handling these boats under sail, can’t remember the title, but there are still texts around from the old days.

He has had good time skippering square riggers in his retirement...

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Last safety inspection I had in the Bering had a great conversation with the officer in charge.  She did the Atlantic on the Eagle twice, on the yards in the weather, they still are teaching them what to do.

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1 hour ago, olaf hart said:

A friend down here completed his masters certificate with a square rig endorsement about ten years ago, so some of the maritime colleges still teach this stuff.

I recall getting a textbook for him for his seventieth birthday that was all about handling these boats under sail, can’t remember the title, but there are still texts around from the old days.

He has had good time skippering square riggers in his retirement...

"Darcy Lever's Young Sea Officer's Sheet Anchor"

An awesome book. Never particularly wanted to try that stuff for real, looks like a major PITA. Gaff riggers with topsails are enough to satisfy my lust for that old-time 'iron men in wooden ships' vibe.

FB- Doug

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6 hours ago, Kris Cringle said:

 

I had just come on deck (last weekend), when the engineless Schooner Stephen Taber had sailed into Pulpit Harbor. She was already on her second tack through the harbor. 

47 tons of 1871 technology, all moving well in the gentle breeze.

1425059607_STsecondtack1.thumb.jpg.33911e81434d1eb2c3161a6f22810076.jpg

 

They crossed far astern of our anchored boat with the port anchor lashed to the bulwark, ready to deploy.

 

187701433_STsecondtack2.thumb.jpg.57f1fd01712dbc5f15d7c3835ae893bd.jpg

 

Sails rattled as they brought the big boat into the wind. It takes sea room to tack the schooner that measures 115’ from bowsprit to boom end.

Turn,…

 

815134287_Luffingup_.thumb.jpg.affef8d49478a5e94f5ceba0b9e3ffa3.jpg

 

...turn,...

 

936081071_Sailsfilling.thumb.jpg.662a635f1f53a9d3c4a74d9becb09f0c.jpg

 

...turn. 

 

1260916782_Fallingoff.thumb.jpg.756aeae564443b15b3d423f54ba3c910.jpg

 

Sails filled again and drawing well, they were on their final tack. Pinched up to windward, the old schooner crossed close by our stern this time.

The bow turned slowly into the wind as headsails were doused. A gaff was loosened and wrinkles appeared in the sails. 

The crew and passengers waited silently on deck as the Taber, still full of energy despite the luffing sails, coasted on and on, to windward. 

 

2006619544_Reachingbythestern.thumb.jpg.24363e57bca2cb36472131ac9731b07d.jpg

 

Finally, a lone vocal command breaks the silence and is instantly followed by the deafening roar of huge iron chain links racing through a battered hawsehole in the bulwark.

Still coasting slowly forward, the chain rode stretches bar tight. 

The ancient fisherman anchor fetches up on the bottom ending this magnificent scene that is centuries old.

 

444219451_Fetchingup.thumb.jpg.a8cadd2d0cb492e9d1fd32a29d4a180e.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris, that brings back a lot of great memories.  We spent a week on the Taber 15 years ago.   I distinctly remember sailing into places that i wouldn't take my 31 footer into. That week with captain Barnes was magical.  Thanks for the pictures.

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I wanna know about the Yawl with the plumb stem and funky furling job in the first photo on this thread.

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51 minutes ago, Russell Brown said:

I wanna know about the Yawl with the plumb stem and funky furling job in the first photo on this thread.

Tidal Wave, 1930 Phil Rhodes.    Actually a ketch. Fun story:  Friend of mine worked at Rockport Marine many years ago.  He and the yard crew sailed the snot out of the boat late into the season (I forget now if this was with the owner or with the owner’s permission).  Imagine their surprise when, upon haulout in the Travelift, the boat gently touched the hard and the ballast keel promptly fell off.  Luckily it was in for restoration that included plank keel, frames, and other structural work.  This would have been around 2000 or so, I believe.

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The reason for the push boats is a legal loophole. The main boat doesn't have an engine so escapes various USCG regs. Regs don't say anything about a powered tender to move you around so....

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1 hour ago, Zonker said:

The reason for the push boats is a legal loophole. The main boat doesn't have an engine so escapes various USCG regs. Regs don't say anything about a powered tender to move you around so....

I think it’s unfair to say that is THE reason.   The allure of windjamming has always been to preserve an iconic era along the Maine coast, which was a transitional time between pure sail and modern machinery.  Many of the boats never had engines, were built without them.  The cussed Yankee sailors were running a marginal business by then, being in increasing competition from railroads, and then highways.  They tried to get as much cargo into a given hull, and engines were unreliable and took up space.  So, they got put in the yawlboat and used sparingly.  They could do amazing things with just a couple guys and years of traditional experience, such as back a fully loaded lumber schooner upriver with nothing but the tide, a short haws anchor and keen knowledge of the currents.  Modern windjammers just kept up that tradition, as the boats had been going for over a hundred years without an engine, and they weren’t to be the ones to change it.  Of the engineless boats currently sailing, two were built in 1871, one 1895, one 1900, 1915, early 19teens and 1920ish.  Two are modern reproductions.  I worked on the boats for some time, and have friends who own them, and have never heard them thank their lucky stars that the engine is in the yawl so that they could avoid some regs.  If they happened to do so, that would just be a happy bonus, but not the main reason.

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Above all most of these boats run on a total shoestring budget with tons of volunteers, lots of amazing people keeping the traditional boats alive kudos to all of them.

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The yawl boats are a genre all their own, a unique 'workboat' style, with a design history. Super powerful for pushing with big aggressive props protected by cages, they double as the main ferry service for the guests and supplies. 

 

With this old boat slicing nicely through the harbor in a gentle breeze it occurs to me yawl boats are better for cutting drag than folding props.  

 

The Taber went out under power the next morning. Winds were light and they had to get their charges on the docks on a schedule. No one was in the yawl boat as it left the harbor so they must use a remote of some kind to run the throttle(?). Note the 'bow pudding'. 

55947444_Tabersternyawlboat.thumb.jpg.41deb404040b2348957b2d2ddef3381c.jpg

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3 hours ago, Kris Cringle said:

Nah.  Just set it and forget it.  There’ll be a crew in there to bump ahead to get over the anchor, but once that’s off the bottom they’ll set the throttle and climb out to do other things.  That boat probably has something around 75 hp so is pretty underpowered when pushing the mother ship.  Takes some time to build up momentum, and the captain runs the schooner in a way like he’s sailing, in that there is an understanding that he can’t really stop.  No point in jiggling the throttle up and down, as that’s just not going to do much.  Backing down hard once up to speed is also not going to happen, as at least one, preferably two, tricing lines have to be rigged to a corner of the yawlboat transom to keep it from slewing sideways from prop walk.  This requires advance planning, such as when coming in to land at a dock.

Yawlboats are a mixed blessing for drag reduction... They’re blasted heavy, and are more of a workout to get up even than hoisting the main.  Can be quite an adventure when sailing with a decent breeze, and every once in a while one gets rolled and swamped.  They’re also completely useless in light wind but lumpy sea, when everything is banging around aloft.

Schoonering is an interesting business.  Used to be that it was an inexpensive vacation for working people.  That was when they had a good supply of clapped out old working boats that could be patched up cheap and run ‘till they died.  Then just go out and get another one.  Nowadays, you can’t careen the boat at the head of the harbor for free, and all the bottom paint scrapings have to be contained, the poop can’t just go straight overboard, and safety standards have to be met.  This is all good, but it costs, and the demographic that has the time and money for a sailing vacation gets older and is less able to cope with a lot of the heavy lifting, relative discomfort and lack of privacy involved.  And I should say that they’re all businesses; everything is paid for and there are no volunteers.

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Also, back in the day, the yawlboat might have something around three hp from a make and break gas engine.  Somehow they managed, and reportedly they got good speed.  That would probably be all relative, as this was an era when someone would be tagged for reckless driving at 20 mph.  Reverse was achieved by opening the ignition switch, then closing it again at a certain point in the cycle, causing a backfire and running the engine in the opposite direction.  The method was less than reliable, resulting in many minor bang-ups.  Nowadays lawyers would come running, but back then it was seen as more comical than anything else, especially when, famously, an errant bowsprit invaded a pier-end privy.

And that is your history lesson of the day....

 

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My wife and I spent a week on "Victory Chimes," a 3-masted schooner cruising Penobscot Bay out of Rockland, in 2016. The crew and guests hoisted the sails by hand, although there is a donkey engine (1910 Olds as I recall, which replaced an earlier engine) which can hoist the sails as well as the anchor. Other than one day of no wind, the yawl boat was little used except to ferry us (guests) ashore at various stops. It was claimed to have a 300HP diesel. There was a second boat carried in davits as a lifeboat. The advantage of not using the yawl boat was that there was no danger of picking up lobster pots, as she is smooth underwater with nothing for the mooring buoys to catch on. In that area, that is a big deal. Our cabin was small but comfortable with two single bunks, an upper and a lower, and a sink. Three head compartments (with toilets and showers) were shared, two in the deck house and one below. There were thirty-something guests aboard, mostly a group from a Philadelphia-area club. Breakfast and lunch were served buffet-style on deck, dinner was a sit-down meal prepared by a galley crew of three (Two of whom helped out on deck when needed) with a diesel-fired stove and a CIA-trained chef. Meals were excellent.

A few of the crew were "old salts" but mostly younger people whose principal motivation was earning sea time for higher licenses. All were pleasant and willing to teach.

Anchoring at a pre-planned spot under sail alone and sailing off the anchor is a required demonstration of the MCA Yachtmaster certificate, by the way.

 

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On 10/11/2020 at 6:13 AM, Kris Cringle said:

I had just come on deck

and now you are on the mythical front page :)

Untitled.jpg.c24871e469fa9417c1f439bca41a3bc3.jpg

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The one thing that struck me, when the yawl boat pushes the mothership is the erie absence of the usual engine vibration.  Very cool but a bit strange at first 

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20 hours ago, NaClH20 said:

And that is your history lesson of the day....

and if you think you are going to get away with just that you are sadly mistaken ...

 

more please .

 

lots :)

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On 10/11/2020 at 9:07 PM, Zonker said:

The reason for the push boats is a legal loophole. The main boat doesn't have an engine so escapes various USCG regs. Regs don't say anything about a powered tender to move you around so....

this.

Also the pushboat is cheaper to build with an engine than to convert your excisting ship to have enginepower. You can order it, make a few trips to earn money en collect the pushboat. You don't need to spend time on the dry at a yard.

 

But it is really nice that they kept is this way over all these years. And still use the boats.

 

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It’s nice to see these boats and the Chesapeake buyboats still sailing even with the push boats. 
 

I sailed my 40’er out of the slip and back last year the whole season with the engine in the shop. It was easy and made for old timer conversations at the bar and boat shows. People have a hard time with the concept of a motorless sailboat over 20’...

That boat hopefully sails to Maine in the late spring for a fun summer and looking for a place to keep it  over the winter or a new owner. Too nice for around my Bay.

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Wooden 40’er with a 6’ bowsprit..

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On 10/12/2020 at 10:20 AM, NaClH20 said:

Also, back in the day, the yawlboat might have something around three hp from a make and break gas engine.  Somehow they managed, and reportedly they got good speed.  That would probably be all relative, as this was an era when someone would be tagged for reckless driving at 20 mph.  Reverse was achieved by opening the ignition switch, then closing it again at a certain point in the cycle, causing a backfire and running the engine in the opposite direction.  The method was less than reliable, resulting in many minor bang-ups.  Nowadays lawyers would come running, but back then it was seen as more comical than anything else, especially when, famously, an errant bowsprit invaded a pier-end privy.

And that is your history lesson of the day....

 

A friend of mine who is sadly no longer around to defend himself told me a funny story of his similar gaffe. He was an oceanography student at Texas A&M when they ran a schooner in the Gulf of Mexico as a research vessel. It had an old Krupp, single cylinder diesel with a similar method of putting it into reverse; a blast of compressed air into the cylinder at the right time to reverse the engine. My friend was required to qualify as master of the schooner to complete his program but, coming into the pier to dock her, he sounded a long blast which completely depleted the compressed air reservoir. The result was the engine stayed in forward and he put the bowsprit through a shack on the pier and didn't pass his master's qualification till the next month.

God bless you for sharing that one, Gerry Stein.

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One of my favorite memories was watching the classic  Puritan come into the Cat Club in Falmouth Harbour Antigua in the late 1980's

She came blasting down toward the end of the Cat club dock in a freshening Caribbean breeze,  she turned crossing the end of the dock Topsail flying then went head to wind backed the Topsail to slow her and splashed the anchor paying it out and stopping to keep her head to wind, meanwhile  a number of the crew backed the Mainsail  on a truely massive boom, while others struck headsails they backed her into the dock like it was something Steve and the boys did everyday., they had snagged a lobster pot on the prop and so couldn't use the engine, they had simply  adjusted their plans accordingly.

As I recall Steve went on to run a large Perini Navi, he would regularly sail that 140 footer off the dock.

Always had my respect for that.

I recall motoring out of a Harbour on a Columbia 50 when the engine overheat alarm went off at just the wrong time, we shutdown the engine and rapidly unfurled the genoa returned and picked up our mooring under sail, it was a truly satisfying thing to successfully do.

But tame compared to the seamanship on display in Antigua.

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I've sailed the Stephen Taber with Noah. Yes he does know what he's doing.  They're also known for their great food, though Noah is aware that he's a cheese snob. It s a fun few days.

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