It’s coming on to midnight and I’m standing near the bow of the Spirit of Bermuda, a 112-foot long, three masted Tall Ship that visited Boothbay Harbor the last weekend in June. The sea hisses along next to me and I’m mesmerized by the softly glowing, cloud-like star clusters of the Milky Way overhead. Maine is over a hundred nautical miles away. How did I end up here, I wonder?
It all began innocently enough when I read in the Boothbay Register that three tall ships would be visiting Boothbay Harbor in late June. My wife, Barbara, and I decided to pay our $20 to be able to visit the ships while docked in Boothbay. Santa Maria – check. The Lynx – check. But when we boarded the Spirit of Bermuda, and we heard one of the volunteers talking about sailing this amazing boat, everything changed.
The words, “I’d love to do this,” were barely out of my mouth when Robin Hamill, head of the Spirit of Bermuda Foundation said, “Let me introduce you to our captain.” And just like that, after a short conversation with Captain Alex Peacock, I’d volunteered to join his crew for the 5-day sail across the North Atlantic back to their homeport in Bermuda.
For our trip to Bermuda, we were a crew of 14, ten men and four women. Ages ranged from 16 to 72. Half of the crew were Bermudian, half from the States. I was one of three septuagenarians, that included a retired state department diplomat and a retired cargo ship pilot. We all were assigned two, four-hour watches a day, followed by eight hours to catch up on sleep or just enjoy time on deck.
My watches were from 8 a.m. to noon and 8 p.m. until midnight. Watch consisted of doing boat checks and logging in our position and other vitals, manning the helm, forward watch for any other vessels within sight and helping with cleaning chores. Upon leaving Boothbay, the weather was rainy and cold and it stayed that way for the first two days of sail, as we rounded Cape Cod and passed east of Nantucket. The seas were rough and sleeping was challenging.
But, July 4 dawned sunny and warm as we entered the waters of the Gulf Stream. Pods of dolphins raced alongside our bow and flying fish landed on deck. After a brief squall, a double rainbow saluted our passage. Sunset was glorious. But we paid for it the next day as we ran into a gale with winds gusting to 40 mph and 12-foot seas.
Two days later, under full sail, we entered “The Cut” into the harbor of St. George’s, Bermuda.
What had I learned over the course of these days? That in all the seasons of our lives, it’s good to be challenged. That being alone at night on a dark sea, one appreciates even more our place on the planet and how important it is to be good stewards. To be grateful.
Ron Lambert lives in East Boothbay.