On The Way Back From Nebo

Last night we took a boat trip and headed due west to North Haven, an island community that is about a 45-minute boat ride from Stonington. On the way we enjoyed the sunshine and the salt air and the sailboats and the sighting of some seals lounging on a rocky outcropping in the water.

Our destination was the Nebo Lodge, an inn and restaurant on North Haven that is a favorite of ours. We had a fine meal at Nebo and brief walk around North Haven before we headed back to reboard the boat so we could make it back to Stonington before nightfall.

Our timing was impeccable, because the skies were clear, the sun hung low on the horizon, and the wispy clouds etched dazzling patterns high above as our boat steamed back east. We sat on the stern and watched the boats sail past, silhouetted by the sinking sun.

Dr. Science, the ultimate rationalist, observed the the sun was just the equivalent of countless hydrogen bombs exploding in an empty void. But the GV Jogger, Kish and I scoffed at his clinical analysis, knowing deep down that Old Sol was painting a brilliant canvas just for us, and we were going to enjoy every minute of the show — and take some pictures to remember it.

As we drew nearer to Burnt Cove, the sun dipped inexorably down and the horizon flared orange, leaving the waters a deep purple and the clouds fully backlit and glowing.

By the time we reached Burnt Cove harbor, the western horizon sill blazed with a warm but dimming celestial fire, while darkness was falling to the east. Our captain deftly steered between the docked boats as we took in the last scenes in the sun’s big show.

To the east, the clouds high above still caught the sun’s bright rays, and looked like wisps of pink cotton candy reflected in the waters of Burnt Cove. The blue sky looked vast and endless.

As we docked and disembarked, the sky was the color of cinnamon and salmon and every hue in between. Dr. Science may be right about the sun just being a colossal hydrogen bomb, but it really does put on a pretty good show.

The Lone Dory

Coastal Maine is a scenic place, and Stonington has its fair share of photo opportunities. Sometimes, if you keep your eyes open, they just appear in front of you, the result of a combination of weather, viewpoint, circumstance, and just plain luck.

I caught this picture of a lone boat at anchor just off the shoreline east of the mail boat dock during my early morning walk yesterday. The calm waters allowed for a clear view of the floating seaweed and the huge rocks just below the water’s surface.  At the same time, the fog in the distance left the boats farther out in the harbor shrouded in mist. while totally obscuring the islands beyond, making the top of the picture look like a kind of unfinished artist’s canvas. The colors are subtle and subdued.

Against that backdrop, I was struck by the sharp image of the lone boat — which I am pretty sure is called a dory — all by itself on the placid water.  The scene seemed to perfectly capture an almost mystical feeling of calmness, and solitude, and quiet.   

In Support Of Boaty McBoatface

If you’ve ever walked through a marina, you’ve quickly come to understand that there must be few, if any, limits on what you can name your boat.

Short of outright obscenity, just about anything apparently goes, and you see boats with boring, unimaginative names like Jennifer’s Dream, boats that shamelessly boast of their owners’ financial success, boats that suggestively tell the world that they’re ready to party, and boats that bear really bad puns like Seas The Day.  (My favorite boat name ever, which I saw on a derelict, beached craft on the rocky shores of the harbor in Stonington, Maine several years ago, was Shit Happens.)

uk-npv-aerial-view-smallSo when the British Natural Environment Research Council invited the public to name its new polar research vessel through a voting competition, what were they expecting, really?  Of course they got whimsical and silly and punny names — like Usain Boat and It’s Bloody Cold Here — because that what boat namers naturally come up with.  And the runaway winner in the competition is along the same lines:  Boaty McBoatface.

I happen to like the name Boaty McBoatface — in fact, I like it a lot — but I can see why the NERC might conclude that it really doesn’t convey the seriousness of the vessel’s mission. Imagine a bundled up BBC correspondent, reporting from the rolling, windswept deck as the craft plunges through an iceberg-dotted seascape, beginning the report by saying in a high-brow British accent:  “This is Jeremy Middleditch reporting from the deck of the Arctic exploration vessel Boaty McBoatface . . . .”

It’s probably not the message the NERC was hoping to convey, and the NERC gets the final say on naming the boat.  So even though Boaty McBoatface got nine times as many votes as the second place name, serious types are urging the NERC to overrule the public and give the boat a more inspirational name, like the name of a long-dead polar explorer or adventurer — which is how the two current polar exploration vessels are named.

I hope the NERC avoids the temptation.  Sure, the winning name sounds like a cartoon character, but we need more whimsy in our lives.  I’m all in for Boaty McBoatface!

Big Boats

IMG_0202Freeport, Bahamas is a significant port.  No surprise there — presumably, that’s how Freeport got its name in the first place.  It’s very close to the American mainland, and a convenient stopping point for ships coming and going to the U.S. of A.

During our recent visit to Freeport we had the opportunity to take a boat trip past the port, thanks to our gracious hosts the Bahamians, and therefore got to see some of the larger ships up close.  What’s interesting to me, as a dry landed Midwesterner, is the many different kinds of big boats you see around the Freeport port.  Tankers, tugs, and tenders, construction boats and unloading boats — each with its own special design related to its specific function in making the port work.

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Ph.D In Boating

  
We took a boat trip with friends yesterday, and I realized that boating technology has progressed about as rapidly as cell phone technology.  The boat’s instrument panel featured RPM monitors, fuel gauges, depth finders, fish finders, engine monitors, more buttons and lights and switched than you could shake a stick at, a GPS link and map that could be scrolled up or down or in or out — and Sirius XM radio.  

It all looked so complicated, like the cockpit of a plane, that I wondered if you needed a Ph.D to operate it.  That turns out to be a slight exaggeration — our friends only took a week-long course to get up to speed.

In The Midst Of The Mist

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We took the mailboat run out to Isle au Haut yesterday.  After we started the trip a dense fogbank rolled in, moving toward us like a living creature and then finally enveloping our small craft in its damp, blank embrace on our return journey.  It was like being in a dream, with small islands silently sliding in and out of the thick mist and bobbing lobster buoys adding the only dabs of color to the monochromatic scenes.

A Boater’s Best Day . . .

Whenever I visit a big body of water, like Lake Erie, I like to walk through the recreational boat docks.  It’s always a colorful and interesting experience, as nimble boaters ready their crafts for a day’s outing.

I’ve never bought a boat, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the boat dealers play on the romance of being out on the water, captaining your own ship, catching prize-winning fish, spending marvelous, sun-dappled days with grateful children, and impressing your neighbors, friends, and clients.

If you walk regularly through marinas, however, you’ll inevitably notice that many of the boats are for sale.  That’s because, after the thrill of buying a boat wears off, boaters quickly come to realize that boating is hard work, and expensive, too.  You’ve got to find a place to dock your boat and paying the mooring fees.  You’ve got to dry dock your boat during the winter.  You’ve got to keep it painted, scraped free of barnacles and crud, watch for rust on those gleaming metal surfaces, and maintain the engines.  You need to buy boater’s insurance, and God forbid if you have an accident.  And you quickly learn that boat engines love to guzzle expensive fuel.

That’s why they say the day the boater buys his boat is the second best day he will ever have.  The best day is when he’s lucky enough to sell it.

Working Man’s Boat

During our visit to Stonington, Maine, I ran across this boat tied to a dock.  I didn’t see the owner, but Sherlock Holmes clearly could have drawn some significant inferences from the state of his vessel.

The owner clearly wouldn’t be pretentious, given the appearance of his humble, battered craft.  He didn’t load the boat with creature comforts or fancy gadgetry, and indeed did not even treat himself to a seat cushion to make the ride a bit more bearable, so he obviously wasn’t a slave to luxury.  And given the simple contents of the boat — a buoy, some oars, a life jacket, a beaten tool box — the owner clearly was focused on function, nor form.

I imagined a working man who had a vessel he had used for years and trusted completely, and who saw no need to mess around with something that was working just fine, even if it was somewhat the worse for wear.

Dockward Bound, Stonington, Maine, July 5

Being a landlubber, I’m fascinated by boats and water.  As Kish and Richard will attest to their dismay, I could sit and watch boats for hours, whether they are drifting at anchor or cutting through the water on the way to a nearby dock.  When we visited Stonington yesterday, there was lots of activity on the water that caught my eye.