Schooner Mary Day, 4 Days on Penobscot Bay

Schooner Mary Day
Denise walking in Isle au Haut, Maine

At 4pm we can go on board the Schooner Mary Day.  We will spend the night onboard, we can come and go as we’d like until we leave in the morning.  We will be on our own for dinner. The other passengers are nearly all retirees and there is one particularly charming lady traveling with her husband,  who I would guess is in her 80s.   She has been on this ship 13 times before.  She and the Captain, named Barry, have quite a flirty verbal back and forth.  Both my Barry and I find the other passengers to be of great good will and have shining outlooks.


The heads, two of them, are on the deck.  There is a “shower” in one of the heads.  The instructions are that we should step down into the head, cover the toilet paper and air freshener, use the shower head on the side wall (it has a flexible hose).   I don’t see how you could keep a towel dry in there, let alone maneuver around or have a robe ready when you need it.  MMmmmm When we go out to dinner, we make a run to the drug store in Camden to get a huge package of baby wipes.  I don’t think I will be showering for a few days.


Barry and I are below deck, down a ladder.  We are sleeping in head to head bunks.  The hull of the ship curves over us and the only light in our very small cabin is from a hatch on the deck above our door.  There is a very small sink, and small shelves for our “stuff”.  This is “glamping”, as their brochure says.  It’s pretty rough, especially after the cruise ship and the wonderful inns that we have been staying in.  BUT we are on a glorious ship in one of the most beautiful places on earth.


Wednesday,  9/27/17  Sailing Penobscot Bay & “Lobster Island”


Come morning, there is excellent coffee on deck and we have an amazing breakfast in the galley.  I am anxious to see what this will all be about.  It’s foggy and cooler today.  We are out of the harbor in no time. Members of the small crew climb up the riggings and glorious sails unfurl.  We, the passengers, are enlisted to pull lines to help.  Now underway,  photos do not do the scenery justice.  It reminds me of Puget Sound, but there are lobster floats all over and smatterings of light houses on small islands.  


Captain Barry warns us that there is no itinerary, but that we will arrive back in Camden on Saturday.  That’s all the information that he will give regarding where are we going.  In the early evening, he does let us know that we will be going ashore for a lobster bake.  He has a lots of fun about giving us a HEADs up in planning aHEAD before we GO ashore because there is no HEAD and so WEE should GO aHEAD and use the HEAD.   It is a small, uninhabited island. My Barry and I dig out the rubber boots that we purchased for this trip and are ready for the row to some island that Captain Barry will only call Lobster Island.  We are one of the first passengers there and I see our captain and cook add the live lobsters to the two huge pots of steaming sea water, throw in potatoes, corn and then use a pitchfork to pile seaweed over the top.  Too bad that not everyone could see this.


My Barry and I explore the island a little.  We step onto spongy ground, mushrooms at our feet, pines all around us.  It’s like a memory of a fairytale, a deep, dark forest.  When a fallen log blocks our path, we climb over and investigate more.  The fog is getting heavier and I imagine bears behind the trees.  We can also hear our travel companions popping wine corks and smell the lobster.  We get back to the beach to see some of the crew setting up the meal into a gourmet mandala – a bed of seaweed, a ring of lobsters, a ring of corn and potatoes.  We all worship at the sight of it. We aren’t given pliers to crack the claws, but I look around me and see other people digging in.  The shell is so soft that I can just peel it off.  This is the sweetest, most tender lobster that I have ever had in my life.  I could weep, that no other lobster will be as good.  When the crew is coming around to try to get rid of the leftover lobster (Leftover lobster, ha!), I take another claw and my Barry goes for another lobster and claw! He enjoyed his meal too.  


Back onboard, we somehow eat more.  Cookie has made blueberry squares that are slightly salty and not too sweet.  Some decaf coffee to warm our hands as we have conversations with fellow passengers about the Galapagos Islands, Bhutan and northern lights in Iceland. Barry and I return to our little, little cabin as the crew is singing and the woodfire stove is heating up the ship.


Barry on deck.


Th 9/28  Sailing Penobscot Bay & Environs

I have found that during the night I can make it to head on deck and not be grossed out!  For one thing, it is always spotless.  More importantly, there’s a great peacefulness that comes with climbing up the ladder to look up to see millions of stars above my head.  It. Is. So. Quiet.   I return to my snug, little bunk and can hear the low snoring of people in other cabins.  Smiling, contented, I easily go back to sleep.


Another great breakfast! Then, Captain Barry tells us that the sailing will be great today.  Though there is a small craft warning, we will have some great wind.  


“Wind will blow butter off a biscuit!”, says he.


Nearly everyone gets involved in raising the sails.  We work on the port and starboard sides, the throat and the foot.  There’s problem with the foresail, a line is afoul.  Crew member, Paul from the Bronx is up there for 20 minutes in a harness working lines and getting it straight.  It sure makes makes me nervous, but he fixes it and comes down.  


The heeling of the boat had everyone moving around in a stooped posture.  I hear things shifting in the galley and we are flying on the water.  The water glistens and we race past lobster floats and pine covered islands.  The sailing is transformative, a meditation, so brilliant and above care.


Later in the afternoon, we stop at Deer Isle for a walk.  Homes along the water look so picturesque. I want step inside one of them, and sit in a comfortable chair to look back at us in the sailboat.  After rowing ashore, it is great to stretch our legs and see the beginnings of change of colors on the trees.  That evening there is pork loin, a huge salad, fresh bread, home cooked pies. We are fed again.  


Cooler now, we return to our damp, small cabin.  The scratchy, red wool blanket from the foot of my bunk now makes it’s way up over my comforter to just below my chin.  


F 9/29/17 Sailing Penobscot Bay & Environs


The wake up call of the crew swabbing the decks above us is the familiar routine now.  It’s our last full day onboard.  The “shower” that they showed us a few days ago is looking slightly more inviting, but I think I can hold out until tomorrow.  There is the amiable morning chatter with the other passengers.  One fellow from Maine explained to me how to understand the Maine accent.  He said that they like to conserve their “R”s.  As the Boston accent that I’ve heard, Park your car in the Harvard Yard – use no Rs …..  pak ya ca in the havad yad


It’s another great day of sailing, terrific wind and not too cold.  Toward the mid afternoon, a lobster boat is spotted on a closeby island that seems to be in trouble.  I can’t describe how impressed I am with how quickly and professionally the Mary Day crew reacted.  The first mate took a dinghy out to help, the captain called the coast guard.  It seems that this lobsterman went out alone to check his traps, fell overboard and could not get back into his boat.  The boat was ramming the rocks, motor on idle.  The water is very cold and the captain later said that the lobsterman was getting weaker by the minute due to hypothermia.


To get a little stretch today, we anchored in Isle au Haut.  It has a population of 73, only about 40 stay through the winter and there are six kids in the school.  There’s a very, very small post office, a sweet New England church, a small lighthouse and a store that is opened a few hours a week.  The scenery, of course is great.


Sa 9/30  Our Last Morning on the Schooner, on to Waterfire in Rhode Island


How does “Cookie” do it on a small, WOODBURNING ship’s stove! I have the chance to talk with her a little.  She gets up at 4:30 to get the fire going and has learned to rotate things around so that they will cook evenly.  She is just a wonderful cook, among the dishes that we had that were great were:  Scrambled eggs with onion & herbs (she turns off the heat and adds cream cheese!), cranberry muffins, piles of fruit, amazing bacon, pies, homemade ice cream, tons of cookies, blueberry pancakes, soups, chili, terrific salads, and that lobster bake…All of it was better than the cruiseship and she does it on a wood stove!


We enjoyed our time talking with fellow passengers from Maine, Massachusetts, Illinois, Washington, and Florida.  Everyone was so easy to get along with.  The crew was stellar.  I have never seen people work so hard and have such wonderfully helpful attitudes.  They slept in bunks right off the galley, barely crawl spaces and always wore a smile.  The first mate was a real cutie and couldn’t have been nicer or more attentive.  Our little 80+ year old lady was catered to and helped all over.  The captain seemed to have a pretty dry sense of humor, but I wish that he has talked more about the areas where we were and maybe some stories about previous sailing trips.  This was the last cruise of the year, maybe he was ready to give it up.  The Mary Day would go into dry dock shortly and he did talk about all the work that he had to catch up when he was home.    




3 thoughts on “Schooner Mary Day, 4 Days on Penobscot Bay”

  1. You always have the best adventures. Thank you for letting us tag along vicariously on this one, too.
    – Betsy

  2. Thanks for your nice comment, Betsy! You have some great adventures as well. Looking forward to hearing about your trekking in Scotland.

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