As many of the readers of my novel know, schooners play a big part in the setting of The Ghost Trap and I've been lucky to know more than a few captains of windjammers in midcoast Maine. Luckier still, yesterday I'd been invited to hop aboard The Stephen Taber for a first-ever schooner showdown between The Taber and The Lewis R. French, two of America's oldest working wooden schooners, both which happen to be 140 years old.
The rivalry between both tall ships was purely friendly--each captain only wanted bragging rights. They were gunning as hard as they could against the brisk wind that cropped up at the start of the race as The French took the lead. Both ships took decidedly different courses, tacking in southerly wind, as the crew of The Taber constantly adjusted the foresails and searched for the best wind advantage--all the while chef Anna was cooking us a homemade fish chowder lunch with Newfie rolls, a mixed green salad topped with strawberries and peanut butter bars. (I was amazed they found the time to do this for the 25 or so passengers all aboard). After roughly four hours under a beautifully sunny sky, The Stephen Taber crossed the finish line first at The Rockland Breakwater as Capt. Ken Barnes broke out the bagpipes and serenaded the lighthouse.
Honestly, I always tell people who come to Maine: You haven't experienced anything until you've been on a day sail on a schooner--or better yet, on a longer trip when you can sleep in a cramped cabin. This was such a remarkable way to spend a summer day.
Columns about the sub-culture of lobstering that K. Stephens has collaborated on with Maine lobstermen and guest bloggers.