August of this sailing season is a special time for Doug and Linda Lee, captains and owners of the Schooner Heritage. The month will mark the 40th anniversary of Doug and Linda's marriage, a union made in heaven—and on the sea! Theirs has been an ideal partnership; meeting as soul mates and working together as ship mates, growing a family and building a life together, blessed by a shared passion for sailing and schooners, history, stories and stars. It was in 1969 that Doug and Linda met as students while attending the Pratt Institute in New York. At the time, Doug worked during his school vacations on a boat named the Richard Robbins, Sr., for Captain George Allen, who was a part owner of the vessel. Doug was rewarded for working on the boat with an invitation to sail for a week, and he asked Linda to go along with him . . . and that was the beginning of a lifetime of sailing together. On August 30th of 1969, Doug and Linda were married and, as a wedding gift, were given part ownership in the Richard Robbins, Sr. For the next few years, Doug and Linda sailed on the Richard Robbins, Doug under the tutelage of Captain Allen until he sat for his own captain's license, and Linda filling various roles as cook, messmate, and deck hand. It was while Linda worked as cook on the Robbins that she began to question the cooking style and menus that were standard on the windjammers at the time. It was considered necessary to serve pre-prepared products and meals from cans, baked goods from package mixes. Linda says, "I thought, there was this lovely old-fashioned wood cook stove . . . why not use it to cook lovely old-fashioned things? The first time I wanted to bake bread from scratch, Captain Allen didn't think it a good idea . . . but when he smelled it baking," she chuckles at the memory, " mm mmm, ha ha, soon I was baking fresh bread every day!"
In 1971, the Lees purchased the Isaac H. Evans, which they found in New Jersey and brought to Bath, Maine, to be rebuilt. Their second anniversary, in August of 1971, found Doug and Linda in the Evans on the Kennebec River, on their way to Bath. The couple continued to sail the Richard Robbins, Sr. while the Evans was undergoing an extensive two-year rebuild. 1973 was a big year for Doug and Linda: the Isaac H. Evans was launched and became a sailing vessel of the Maine Windjammer Fleet; they also, together with Captain John Foss—then owner of the Lewis R. French—opened the North End Shipyard in November of that year. In the late 1970s Doug and Linda began looking for a vessel that would be larger than the Isaac H. Evans, and they started toying with the idea of building their own boat. In 1978 they began to put plans on paper for the vessel that we now know as the Schooner Heritage. She was built with the comfort of the guests in mind, and also with provision of space for nurturing two young children; in 1980, the Lee's daughter Clara was born, and in 1983 their second daughter Rachel was born. Clara first sailed when she was but five weeks old, and she learned to walk on the decks of the Isaac H. Evans; Rachel was an infant of four months when the Lees launched the Heritage in April of 1983. Asked about rearing two young girls on a sailing vessel, Linda replied that it wasn't as hard as one might think, but that there were rules imposed for the girls' safety: both feet on the deck at all times, they were not allowed to go forward of the foremast, and they wore harnesses when advisable or necessary. Clara was climbing the rigging when she was still quite young and, in fact, set the topsail when she was only eight years old. Today, Rachel has her 200-ton Captain's License.
Today Doug and Linda can look back on their 40 years together (so far!) with pride and joy. Life is not without its ups and downs. But they have weathered it all and accomplished a great deal together as a team. And, because they truly love what they do and they love each other, they make it seem easy and enjoyable. Doug said it best in an article in Maine Coastal News: "There is a happy marriage, love the vessel, love the people, love the area, and you need all of them to be successful." Well, Doug and Linda, you surely are successful and you surely enjoy your lives together—on shore and off shore. We wish you "Congratulations!" on your 40th Wedding Anniversary, and we wish you many more years of happy sailing together.
(For more information and details about Doug and Linda Lee’s boat re-building projects, please see: Maine Coastal News and our newsletter of December 2007.)