BY CHARLIE SCHULER
The 93-foot schooner, AMERICAN EAGLE, was built in Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1930 as a fishing vessel. The schooner is a unique vessel with two or more masts, with the aft mast equal or higher than the foremast. Purchased by the current captain in 1984, she was refitted and launched in 1986 as a cruiser in the Windjammer fleet. AMERICAN EAGLE’s first big outing was the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. This was a huge celebration with more than 60,000 boats of every description in the harbor. It was special for us because we were there with our family of 11 aboard the 34-foot O’Day sloop for three days and three nights.
While we only saw the AMERICAN EAGLE from afar back then, this past August we were privileged to see the EAGLE up close and personal. Marianne and I, along with her brother and our son and his wife, had the opportunity to spend four days and nights aboard this beautiful vessel. Marianne asked me what the agenda was for the trip, and I replied to her that it all depended on which way the wind blew.
Our family boarded the AMERICAN EAGLE on a Sunday after 6 p.m. and slept on board that night. We were given a tour of the vessel including the safety features. There were bunk beds in each cabin with a sink, mirror, and a 12-volt car type connection to charge your phone. They pointed out the location of two heads, or ship’s toilets, and a single shower on board.
We awoke to a fantastic sunshine-filled day and the smell of fresh coffee and honey buns. All meals were served on deck, and the weather cooperated wonderfully. If there was inclement weather, then we would all have to gather in the galley. This would be cramped because we had a full ship of 26 passengers and six crew. By the way, the galley used a real wood-burning stove. It was very cozy and authentic!
We set sail the following morning from our dock in Rockland, Maine and sailed through the harbor and out into the open waters. It was heavenly! The captain got the passengers involved with raising all four sails and properly storing the lines. We carried a sailing dory (small, shallow lightweight boat) and a longboat as our dinghy. As we sailed, they served up a beautiful and delicious lunch. The schooner sailed well into the afternoon, and I couldn’t help but notice the crew, periodically, wetting down a FULL box of live lobsters!
Sure enough, we reached a remote island with a typical Maine beach, and the captain lowered one of his huge anchors with an all-chain rode. Rode, also known as anchor cable, is what connects your anchor to the boat. Someone came from ashore and pulled their longboat alongside the schooner and asked for six oarsmen. I was among the first group, and Marianne was the first of three “supervisors.” They had a crew member with an oar to help with the steering. Remember, we had six inexperienced rowers. We made our way to the beach where they had brought a big pot and plenty of wood. It didn’t take them long to get the fire going and the water boiling. In the meantime, they made two more dinghy trips to get the rest of the passengers and crew.
Can you imagine 77 pounds of lobster prepared for you? It was the perfect way and place to eat lobster. Dinner included all the sides with corn on the cob and dessert. The little bit of leftover lobster would show up in tomorrow’s lunch salad. YUM!
The night sky was magnificent without the city lights. The bright moon was waxing and would be full in three days.
The next day was similar, although without the lobsters, but they launched a sailing dinghy. This was a three-passenger gaff-rigged lapstrake dory. Lapstrake is a method of boat building where the edges of hull planks overlap each other. Marianne and I got in for a sail, but the wind makes its own decisions and died on us. We still had a ball that day!
The following day brought us to a new harbor and a new adventure. After anchoring among other boats, a green hull gaffed-rig Maine sloop was pointed out. They told us that she was 110 years old. Hard to believe, but we had anchored off the Wooden Boat School and the Magazine Wooden Boat location. All were looking forward to rowing ashore in the morning and taking a tour.
One other thing we have always loved about Maine is that the people you meet are different than our normal circle. They come from everywhere and may have made names for themselves in politics, government, education, or writing. They love the outdoors and are strong environmentalists. If you are together for four days on a 93-foot schooner, then you will get to know a lot of interesting folks. Very interesting and enjoyable!
We are sailors, and we loved our time sailing on the AMERICAN EAGLE schooner and working together to move a 43-ton vessel with two massive wooden masts, bigger than telephone poles with four sails, through the water to our goal. The night sky with the full moon was a perfect ending, and the food was first class. It was a FANTASTIC time that we will always treasure!