July 9, 2014 - last week at a good friend’s house off-Island - a peaceful spot in the early morning to sit over coffee, surrounded by bird song, with Ansel the cat for company.
A week ago I made a very impromptu trip off-Island and took a drive up to a town northwest of Boston to visit some very old friends for a few days, and to help celebrate the birthday of one of them, my oldest friend. Once married to each other, they now live near to each other, and remain close friends. They both are now remarried to two really wonderful, and interesting people.
My oldest friend and I had many adventures together during our school years in NYC, and later on shared our first couple of apartments together in the city. The biggest, and most memorable adventure we shared though was when she, with her former husband, and I, with a now ex-husband, went for a 4-month bicycle trip in Europe. We started off by traveling for 10 days on a freighter across the Atlantic, landing finally in Cadiz, Spain. Our intention, and her former husband’s idea for the trip, was to basically follow the lilac season northward into Scotland. None of us, except maybe her husband, really had spent any time on a bicycle since we were kids, so it was rough going for the first couple of weeks. Each of us had good days and bad days as we slowly got in shape for this undertaking. We didn’t even have the right equipment to carry things on the bikes for such a trip, but we were in our late 20’s and early 30’s, and none of this was much of a concern for us.
One time, near the beginning of our trip, somewhere way out in a more desolate area of southwest Spain, when we had underestimated how long it would take to reach the next town, we started to really worry we might not find a place to stay before dark. None of us had lights on our bikes, and the sun had started going down. We hadn’t passed a town with any places to stay in miles. We finally rode into this one really small town which just happened to have bar in it, and pretty much nothing else, except maybe a few houses here and there. We went into the bar hoping to get some information on where the closest place to find a room might be. When the four of us walked in, the whole place which I remember as full, went completely silent. It was such an out of the way little town, that I think they were just shocked to see four strangers walk through the door.
All listened quietly as we told them of our problem. Various ideas flew around as they engaged in trying to help us. One said he knew someone, perhaps a relative, I can’t remember now, in a town a few miles south of where we were, who had rooms in their home that we might be able to stay in. That sounded good, for at this point we were fairly desperate for a place to stay, but the only problem now was, it was dark outside, and without lights on the bikes there would be no way to get there. They all discussed this some more, throwing ideas rapidly back and forth between them, and then someone came up with an interesting solution. A few of them offered to light our way with the headlights of their cars, one in front and one behind us, all along the few miles or so of rough dirt road which led to the other equally small town with the rooms. And this they did, and made it almost festive with excitement for this small unexpected adventure. We felt fortunate, and very grateful to have a place to stay, and a small meal that felt like a feast.
In any part of the world this kind of vulnerability could have put us in a possibly dangerous situation, but fortunately we got to experience just the opposite instead. We got to see the incredible kindness of the people of this small town, who were willing to drop everything they were doing to help four strangers who had wandered into their town needing help. I have never forgotten their kindness, and almost joyfulness, in wanting to help us, and light the way for us. I can’t remember the name of the town, and in truth I think it was so small it didn’t even show on our maps. I hope to figure that out some day. The little town’s name may be lost for the moment, but the generousness, thoughtfulness, and kindness of the people who lived there, and the image of the cars lighting our way for a few miles over the long, dark and bumpy road, has remained a vivid, and treasured memory from that trip so many years ago.
Further on in the trip we did discover at least two paradises, one was in southwestern France, with the special quality the light casts there, with its fields full of wild flowers where we would stop for a small lunch, and then fall asleep in the grass. The second was in England, where we stayed in a small farmhouse for an unforgettable week in the town of Keld, and wandered daily across the wild, beautiful moors of the Yorkshire Dales. I had tears in my eyes when I left there, a place at the time I felt I could have stayed forever. Further north, we had a memorable train ride through the highlands of Scotland, while the hauntingly beautiful sounds of a guitar, and the voice of someone singing Wild Mountain Thyme wafted up the train corridor to our compartment. We wandered down the corridor and came upon a young Scottish musician who invited us in to join him in his compartment as he continued to play, all the while outside, the wild beauty of Scotland rolling by the train windows. Towards the end of the trip we took a ferry out to the Outer Hebrides where we rode our bikes through the stark wildness of these islands, and wandered out across the peat bogs looking for Golden Eagles. These were only a few of the many adventures that we all shared on this trip.
The few days I spent last week with these very old friends were some of the most relaxing and enjoyable ones I have spent in a long time. We haven’t seen much of each other in quite awhile, so it was a great pleasure to be able to reconnect, and have the time to sit and really talk and laugh again with two people whom I have always held very dear despite the distance, and so much time apart.
June 21, 2014 - Another very striking and impressive vessel that was cruising around the harbor on Sat during the Charles W Morgan celebration was the Cangarda - a 126’ luxury steam yacht, built in 1901 in Wilmington, Delaware. She is the last surviving luxury steam yacht in the US, and one of only three remaining in the world.
The Cangarda has quite a history. She has gone through 7 owners, a change of name then back to her original. In her early years she hosted princes, dukes and future kings, and other dignitaries. During WWII she was loaned to the Royal Canadian Navy as a training vessel, and came back in bad condition. In1999 after a restoration project failed due to neglect and other reasons, she suffered a sinking of the gutted hull in Boston harbor. Fortunately, the original machinery and the beautiful Victorian woodwork and interiors had been dismantled prior to that, and stored. And then in 2007, there was a very scary, close to disastrous launch of the newly restored boat.
The Cangarda and many other sailing and motorized vessels accompanied the Charles W Morgan for all, or part of the way, on this leg of its historic 38the voayage from New Port, RI to Martha’s Vineyard.
For those interested, here is a link to a more detailed history of the Cangarda . Also, on that page is a video of that near disastrous launch in 2007.
June 21, 2014 - Little Vigilant out of South Dartmouth, MA - in Vineyard Haven harbor - sailing trawler built in 1950
On Sat I made a visit to the1841 whaling ship Charles W Morgan so I could get on board and look around. That day there were all kinds of boats of all sizes - sailboats, motor boats, canoes, kayaks, and row boats, including a few of the whale boats connected to the Morgan- circling around the harbor, midst periodic cannon fire, and boat horns in celebration of her 6-day stay here. And somehow the large ferries passing in and out of the harbor right through the midst of all of this.
One of the many interesting boats that I saw in the harbor from the deck of the Charles W Morgan was Little Vigilant. I did some searching around and found this info about her on her Facebook page:
“Little Vigilant was conceived by Drayton Cochran of Oyster Bay, NY in the late 1940’s, modeled after his original 110’ Vigilant built in 1930. Mr Cochran commissioned Walter McGinnis of Boston, MA to design a sailing trawler for summer use upon the European waterways. She was built and launched by Abeking & Rasmussen, Bremerhaven, Germany in 1950 and used by Mr Cochran extensively during the next ten years. She was sold in the early ’60s to a wealthy British businessman and sat in a storage shed until 2004 when she was discovered by the present owner. She was completely retrofitted in 2005 and presently hails from South Dartmouth, MA”.
June 18, 2014 - Eastern-rig dragger, Roann
Accompanying the Charles W Morgan on her 38th voyage is the completely restored 1947 60’ Eastern-rig dragger, Roann. She resides in Mystic Seaport also, and is used at the museum to illustrate one of the last remaining examples of the fishing vessels that replaced schooners. These types of vessels were used to fish for flounder, cod and haddock, and were much more productive than the old sailing schooners they replaced.
Vineyard Haven harbor is actually her old home port since she was originally built in 1947 for the late Captain Roy Campbell of Vineyard Haven.