Whether you are a first-timer or an old-salt, sailing 3, 4, 6 or 10 days out of Rockland, Maine, on Penobscot Bay aboard a wooden schooner is a thrill and a tonic and there are none better than the J&E Riggin and her crew. Faced with a dozen choices, I picked the Riggin more from a gut feeling than from comparing vessel dimensions, features, or sail plans. I’ve been thanking my gut ever since.
I’ve sailed with Captains and co-owners Jon and Annie over a dozen times and I look forward to each trip, year after year. I avail myself of the early-bird and repeat customer (Riggin Relics) discounts but that’s like a bonus to the real prize: the sigh of contentment that ends every day aboard.
The vehicle to that contentment is a converted 1927 oyster dredging boat that has been designated a National Historical Monument: that signifies charm and warmth rather than old and staid, especially when she deploys her sails, with the help of passengers heaving at the lines, lifts her skirts and the boat gently heels, slicing through the frothing waters, picking up speed and spreading smiles all around. The sky is blue, with a dash of cloud to add texture and variety if not temperament to the moment. We sail even in the rain: nothing but very, very high winds can deprive us from our daily dose of Aaaah!
I spent from 9 to 19 September 2013 on the schooner. I had gone in June and couldn’t resist returning, especially since, as a repeat customer, I had an additional discount. The first group (Aye, matey, these were back-to back trips, the first of six days, the second of four) was of 19, me included and numbered five people I had encountered on the Riggin previously (that’s a clue to take note of). The second manifest totalled 20, all newbies (also notable), except for me.
The trip was cooler at this time of year and we had heavy fog and rain, and, one night, a spectacular lightning show with huge strikes in the distance with what I had never seen in Maine: horizontal zig-zagging bolts between clouds. Oh, we also had some sun. The sailing was light (Captain using the engine from the yawl to push us along) to great (heeling and going 8.7 knots, even 9.4 while running from another storm). I helped at every occasion while changing tack and the Captain offered me a turn at the wheel (re. thrill cited above). As usual, shipmates are always an interesting bunch. A highlight of this trip was this guy Alex who could trade jokes with me, recite poetry (one in particular he wrote about the night sky was excellent) and, using a laser pointer, taught me more about constellations and their mythology in one evening than I ever knew. The food from Annie’s wood burning stove is always appetizing and plentiful. If you don’t know, she authored two cook books. I didn’t deprive myself of all desserts as I did in June but ate the smallest serving: a supreme act of will and self-discipline!!! Everything is sooooo goooood!
The second trip was just as interesting and had varied sailing and weather conditions, including requiring putting in a reef in the mainsail while underway as we jumped from a light breeze going through water at 2.3 knots to 30 to 35 knots of wind and a ship speed of 6.4 knots.
After sunsets of gold, evenings are entertaining. After fabulous desserts served on deck, under the awning, jokes and stories are traded and there is a musical evening with the Captain playing guitar and Annie singing, often accompanied by crew and passengers. Mariners and troubadours welcome.
At anchor in a different bay every night, you can swish the water around and see a phosphorescent trail under a sky so dark, one can lose sight of the Big and Little Dippers among the billions of Milky Way stars showing up. (re. tonic cited above).
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