Thursday, December 13, 2007

Up with the Peak

“Up with the Peak!” shouted the captain.

I looked up at the mast. I had opted for the peak line because it looked easier. Now it looked formidable. I planted my feet more firmly, changed my grip and started to pull. It took a while for me to get the rhythm-not too fast, not too slow. Hand over hand; it was easy until the sail started to rise.

“Up with the throat!”

The un-showered barely-caffeinated sailors on the other side of the boat started to heave.

“Way hey, up she rises. Way, hey up she rises…” the mate started to sing.

We heaved, pulled and struggled to raise the sail, two lines of strangers working for a common goal for the first of many times.

“Way, hey, up she rises, earl-eye in the morning.”

“Early, indeed,” someone behind me grumbled.

And it was true we had only had coffee. The rule was, first the sail, then breakfast. The smell of bacon cooking on a wood stove first thing on a chilly morning on the water was the incentive we needed. Such anticipation. My stomach growl in response. But first, the sails.

First one mumbled voice joined the song, then another. Soon we were all singing lustily.

“Way HEY, up she RISES, Way HEY, up she RISES.”

The rhythm of the song matched perfectly with the pull on the line.

With the sail high above us, we had such a sense of accomplishment. The crew quickly moved to tie it off. We moved down to the next mast.

“Up with the Peak!”

Now, we knew what to expect.

It was our first day on a weeklong windjammer trip in the Penobscot Bay. Two friends and I wanted an adventure, so in the depth of winter we decided to go sailing. We researched the options and chose the J&E Riggin out of Rockland, Maine.

The boat left the first week of June. The very first time the schooner was going out that summer. With only 8 passengers, we had no option to sit around, drinking coffee while others hauled away at the lines. We were the crew! We loved it. This is what we came for.

The trip was fantastic. I have fond memories of the smell of wood smoke from the stove in the galley; the taste of milky fish chowder eaten on the deck in the chilly air; the feel of the boat running in the wind, water rushing in the scuppers, with us hanging onto anything we could; going ashore to come out of the little store to be completely shrouded in fog, and eating lobsters and clams dumped from their seawater bath onto cold Maine island rocks.

I have gone windjamming many times since then on different boats in many different places. Any time there is a tall ship, I will be the first in line to buy tickets—all because of my experience raising sail the first week of June, 1983.

1 comment:

A.Decker said...

Very good! Thought I was in a novel about the old days of seafaring there for a minute.
Thanks for sharing.