Article from MAINE WINDJAMMER ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER ()
September 21, 2016
Milestones A-Plenty!

50 Years At Sea

Fifty years ago, a young couple was invited to sail aboard a small schooner. Within short order, they decided that they wanted to be a part of the windjamming way of life. They were Doug Lee and Linda Fortnam and the year was 1966. They became crew members in 1969 and spent their honeymoon on board at the end of the season.
 
Captains Doug and Linda Lee discovered the joy of windjamming together very early on in their lives. This year marks their “golden anniversary” of their first sail aboard a windjammer.


Their love of windjamming continued to evolve as they went through the rigors of obtaining their captains’ licenses, and then rehabbed and owned one vessel, built the Heritage from scratch and became co-owners of the Rockland-based North End Shipyard (with Captain John of the American Eagle).

 
A major chapter in the Lee’s half-century love of windjamming includes the design and construction of their beloved Schooner Heritage, launched in 1983.
 

Over the course of 50 years, the Lees have welcomed aboard thousands of people from all over the world, explored a good number of the thousands of islands off Maine’s roughhewn and uncompromising coast and become experts on maritime history.

“Some things are exactly the same, and some have changed,” says Captain Linda. “There has always been great sailing, beautiful sunsets and fabulous camaraderie. What’s changed? The food has definitely evolved – it’s gotten much healthier and fresher. I remember in the early 1970s, everything used to be canned. The first time I made bread from scratch, it was at a raft up and Doug took samples to all the other boats boasting, ‘Linda made this!’ No one could believe it. Now, of course, everything is made from scratch in all the galleys.”

 

130 Years Afloat

"Old things are better than new things because they've got stories in them," quotes Captain Brenda as she describes her love of the Isaac H. Evans. By many standards, at 130 years afloat, the Evans is remarkable for having survived this long and with her gleaming decks, shining brass work and up-to-the-minute, top-notch safety and navigational equipment, she seems like she could easily go another 130!

 
Photographed in May 1939, Schooner Isaac H. Evans is loaded with oysters on Delaware Bay.
 

Captain Brenda continues, “She obviously takes more work than a new boat would and that just makes me appreciate her more on some level. I've always thought of her as a matriarch, like a wise and mild-mannered elderly grandmother. Our relationship has been one of her gently teaching me all kinds of lessons and me – hopefully humbly - learning from her. She has been a huge part of my life over the last 20 years. I love it when guests arrive and the realization snaps into place in their minds that the Evans is a living, breathing museum.
 

credit: Hazel Mitchell
The 130-year-old Isaac H. Evans has been a huge part of Captain Brenda’s life over the past 20 years.


“Her National Historic Landmark status is significant in that she is the oldest boat of her kind still in operation. When you consider that these vessels were only expected to last something like 20 years and then were destined for the scrap heap, it's amazing that she survived. And she is a survivor . . . before she became a windjammer, she experienced a fire, a sinking, she was run aground and had her masts removed and was operated as a power boat harvesting oysters.

“Finally, after lots of TLC, and her complete restoration as a sailing vessel, she became ready to carry guests safely and to share her stories which she does to this day. It just amazes me. What a legacy.”

 

145 and 145, respectively

Having both slid down the ways in 1871, the Stephen Taber and the Lewis R. French have the honor of being the two oldest windjammers afloat. They were built the very same year the first-ever photograph was taken of Yellowstone National Park, the first Gilbert and Sullivan opera premiered, and a boy called Orville Wright was born in Dayton, Ohio.
 

Happy 145th Birthday Schooners Stephen Taber and Lewis R. French!


Captains Garth and Jenny love the combination of modern and historical, as well as the chance to share their love of the sea, sailing and all things maritime with their guests. “You’re on a traditional vessel and you can begin to understand why the boat is laid out the way it is to carry specific cargo. And during raft-ups, it’s even better. You can see all the different types of vessels and walk around and tour them all.”

Schooner Lewis R. French hauled cargo along Mount Desert Island around 1900, when this photo was taken.


Captain Garth of the Lewis R. French says, "The conversations are amazing. As people relax and spend time together, they really get to know one another.” The Lewis R. French began her life hauling bricks, lumber, firewood, granite, fish, lime, canning supplies, and Christmas trees. She had a number of different owners, but always served as a cargo vessel. Then, in 1971, she was rebuilt and reconfigured to carry guests.

Happy times aboard Schooner Stephen Taber, circa 1900, off Newport, Rhode Island.


Having served as a classic coasting schooner and yacht in her lifetime, the Stephen Taber was rebuilt and started her tenure as a windjammer in 1979. Captain Noah grew up sailing on board the Stephen Taber and fell in love at an early age. He took the helm full time in 2004, and is still in love. He says, “Every trip is different. We can’t possibly fit everything we can do into one week – for example, sailing by moonlight or finding a new place for an after lunch hike with an amazing vista. I make a point to bring people to places they haven’t been before every single time they come sailing.


“There’s always an incredible mix of folks on board and every group is different. There are new inside jokes that spring up on the second day and invariably, guests coalesce into a solid group. On every trip, our guests get off the boat with everyone else’s email. I’ve heard plenty of stories of people making their new best friends while on board.”
 

For more information about Maine Windjammer Association vessels, click here.

 


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