Down East Dreamers and Doers
You can explore Maine forever and still miss an anchorage or two. Passage Notes from our August 2011 issue.
After sailing Namani, our 35-foot Dufour sloop, across the Atlantic and throughout the Caribbean, we headed back to our home waters in southern Maine. There, my husband, Markus, our son, Nicky, and I quickly found common connections with a wide range of cruisers, from young families to empty nesters and retirees. Our easy friendships are based on what we all share: the ability to dream big and go far on a modest budget, tackle never-ending repairs to older hulls, and apply a sense of humor to lives led at the mercy of the elements.
Like us, Fred Sewry and Susan Brown of Spirit, a 1987 Contest 36-footer, were tackling hull work in Yarmouth’s Yankee Marina. The couple had found themselves dissatisfied with a quiet retirement. “We wanted to do something with our lives, so we did the normal thing—we bought a boat and got out of town!” says Fred. For starters, they sailed Spirit from Maine to Florida and back. What do they enjoy most about cruising? “It’s fun just meeting people,” says Susan. “You never know what story you’re going to hear. Some stories are true and some aren’t, but everyone has a tale!”
One of the highlights of their U.S. East Coast cruise was “passing the Statue of Liberty,” Susan recalls. “I was surprised that I was that impacted by that experience.” Fred, on the other hand, says that one of the highlights of their trip was meeting our family in Yarmouth, a true compliment and one of his rare moments of not cracking a joke—we think!
Cruising in Maine is full not only with possibilities but also with the pleasure of not going anywhere. One morning, I found Susan and Fred contentedly sipping coffee in Spirit’s roomy cockpit. “Our plan is to sail the coast of Maine this summer,” says Susan. “Our long-range plan is what happened five minutes ago!”
Fred, for his part, quickly moved on to more pressing topics. “This is neither here nor there,” he says. “Tell me what kind of bottom paint you use!”
Technical details also peppered conversations with the Armors, Liz and Jeff and their daughter, Jennifer, who sail on Boundless, a 47-foot Morgan built in 1979. We met during a serendipitous ferry ride, thanks to Nicky. He was swinging on a handrail, letting wooded isles and lighthouses slip by unnoticed, when a little girl joined him. “I live on a boat,” said Nicky. “Me, too,” Jennifer casually replied. Overhearing this exchange, we parents practically fell over each other to get acquainted.
Liz, a teacher, and Jeff, a percussionist, completed an Atlantic circuit in 1994 aboard the boat they owned then, a 28-footer named Different Drum. Then they stepped up to Boundless and started a business. With Different Drum Sailing, the Armors host high-school and college students on weeklong educational sailing adventures. “When they first come on, most of the kids have never even been on a boat before. After four or five days, they’re running the whole show!” Jeff says.
Young Jen lends a hand. “She’ll show the students how to check the oil on the engine and how to run the outboard,” Jeff says. Not bad for an 8-year-old! Jeff runs the business full time while Liz and Jen join him in shifts from their home base at a Virginia school. They enjoy summer cruises as a family in between paid sailing gigs.