The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 20, 2000


Indian Summer

Let me tell you about my weekend. On Saturday, October 14, 2000, we left our home at seven in the morning. We wanted to catch the first launch at 8 a.m. from the Boston Yacht Club in Marblehead to our Catboat, TAMBOURINE, moored in Marblehead Harbor. It was a beautiful morning. We had had our first frost already, and this was a beautiful Indian Summer morning. It was the first time in weeks that I had been out to the boat without having my knees knock in the cold air and my hair blown straight back from the brisk fall wind. So, do you think we were finally going for a pleasant weekend sail? No, we were going out to remove the sail from our boat because the season is over and the boat is being trucked home next week. Perhaps you might get a glimpse of TAMBOURINE coming down the road on a flat bed to spend the winter in the back yard. Picture this: it's a perfect sailing day and the two of us are trying to stuff 372 square feet of sail into a duffel bag. Talk about stress.

The reason for the early start is because we had an 11:30 a.m. date to go sailing further up the north shore in Essex. Now, you have to know this about Essex. The town is way up the Essex River, sort of behind Plum Island. At high tide, the river and estuary are big and deep and roomy -- tall ships have been built and launched from there since the 1700's. However, at low tide, the river shrinks to about 10 feet wide and two feet deep. In the past we have managed to plow a furrow trying to get up the river, and it can be so narrow that a young boy could propel his own saliva from one side to the other. Of course, I would never try anything like that.

Now, to get back to our weekend. Our sailing schedule was for 11:30, and high tide was at 1 p.m. This sounded like great timing, plenty of water and plenty of time. There is plenty of water for a couple of hours on either side of high tide. The boat we were scheduled for was built by the Essex Museum, right in Essex. It was launched in the fall of 1998, and has been making trips on different occasions all the way from Maine to Newport, RI. This vessel is named the LEWIS H. STORY, and is a Chebacco boat. A Chebacco boat was used for fishing and other coastal work back in the 1600 and 1700. Nobody really knows exactly what these boats really looked like or what specifications they were built to, so this replica is a very best guess from sketches and other narratives. Chebacco is also the original name for Essex, Mass.

We arrived at the Museum promptly at 11:30 along with several others also scheduled for an 11:30 cruise. Guess what? It was such a beautiful day that our Chebacco boat, along with several Friendship Sloops and several other classic boats that live in the Essex area, were all out racing. "We think they are on their way back. Should be here soon." My husband and I have been both sailing and racing for a good many years, and we know what that comment really means. We only hoped that they would return while there was still enough water for us to have a sail. The several other people were not sailors, and they didn't understand this at all. As it always turns out, it didn't matter whether you understood or not. We just had to wait. And look hopefully for sails to appear coming around the marsh and up the river.

There were lots of interesting things to see as we waited. Boats under construction and reconstruction. A gift shop to browse and a launching ramp where boats were being trailered up and down the ramp, going in and out of the water. There was also a festival going on at the boatyard with a band playing and hot dogs for sale. This was because today was the day that they launched a boat that will compete in a rowing race across the Atlantic Ocean next year. Imagine two crazy guys rowing across the Atlantic Ocean.

Well, at 1 p.m. right at high tide, we see our long awaited boat coming up the river. They had had a wonderful race and now they tied the boat up and walked away. No one had told them about our scheduled trip, and besides, they were all tired out. Great. However, after some discussion, another crew came around and decided to take the boat and all of us out for a brief sail. Remember the tide is now going down fast. This boat is about 30 feet long and maybe 10 feet wide. It draws four and a half feet of water. It has two masts, one right up front in the bow, and the other in the middle of the ship. The sails are two long narrow rectangles flat at the bottom and flat at the top. We looked like a bunch of Vikings. It was wonderful. We had a fast lovely sail down the river. Saw geese, egrets and seagulls. We could even see the shadow of our own sail in the marsh grass as be passed along the edge of the river. Unfortunately, time and tide wait for no one, and during the last part of our return voyage, we had to resort to the modern "diesel breeze." A sail worth waiting for. Short but sweet.

When we got back to the boatyard and museum, the festivities were continuing. One of the more interesting events was the boat building contest. Six teams of two people each were each given two pieces of plywood and several two by fours. The object of the contest was for each team to begin at the same time, construct a boat, or something floatable. Both team members then had to get into these little wonders, along with their tools, row a couple of hundred yards down the river, touch a flag on the shore, and the first boat to return, with crew, was declared the winner. The two guys who built a square box were the winners. I think the fellows who built a long narrow box were the fastest, and the man and woman who build a raft and put their tools in a sealed bucket were the smartest. The two remaining teams had one that sank outright and another that could only contain one person, so the other was dragged through the water around the course, needless to say, this last team had the longest time. Oh yes, team number six took the longest and actually made quite a pretty dinghy, but they took so long, probably 30 minutes, that they too were back at the tail end of the course.

All in all, it was a grand way to spend an Indian Summer's day.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito