A family’s Friendship, a fleet’s friendly ways

SOUTHWEST HARBOR – Three generations of Zubers are aboard the Friendship sloop Gladiator on a terrifically hot Saturday in July.

“Did you see, last night? There were, like, a thousand squids over there,” says nine-year-old Liam, who points to the sea. “It was so cool.”

Hegira, Helen Brooks, and Osprey.

The boat is temporarily tied up to a town dock in Southwest Harbor, awaiting the arrival of more family members and a guest for the Friendship Sloop Society’s Southwest Harbor Rendezvous.

Parked elsewhere along the shore and on moorings are fishing boats, yachts, Coast Guard vessels, and a multitude of dinghies. The blue sky, traced by the harbor’s semi-circle of wooded hills, is fuzzed by a shimmer of heat and the timeless sound of lapping waves.

Scott Martin comes down the ramp wearing the pirate’s hat that’s usually seen when he’s aboard his Friendship sloop, Eden. Miff Lauriat follows soon after, sporting a crisp white button-down shirt and cherry-red shorts, to catch a ride to his cherry-red-hulled sloop, Salatia.

Alice E., Banshee, and Endeavor round a mark.

On Gladiator, some members of the family wear T-shirts emblazoned on the front with “71,” the boat’s number in the society’s registry, which keeps tabs on the provenance and ownership of all known Friendship sloops, going back more than a century. On the back of the T’s is the image of a gladiator’s helmet topped by an adornment of centurion plumes, and the words “Team Gladiator” and “Navigo, Cucurri, Devinco,” the fighting words, in this case, meaning, I sail, I zip past you, I conquer your butt.

Ben, who is 14, is tasked with making sure the lifejackets are handy.

Hegira picks up speed.

“Two years ago, a boom swung near our boat and almost hit five of us off,” he says. “No one’s ever really fallen off of this boat, that I know of.”

“You should fall off the boat, to have the experience,” jokes his grandfather, Bill. “It’s a good day for it.”

The Southwest Harbor Rendezvous is part of the summer-long circuit of Friendship Sloop Society races. The grandest event on the circuit will occur a week later, with the Homecoming, in Rockland, where the sloops will figure in three days of racing, a parade of sail, and an open house for the public, at the docks.

The crew aboard Endeavor help the sail catch a puff.

The Zuber family has sailed Gladiator at the Rockland Homecoming almost every year since they bought the boat, 45 years ago. The society was formed in 1961 by Bernard MacKenzie of Scituate, Mass., who owned a Friendship sloop named Voyager. According to a history written up by Betty Roberts, an early member of the society, MacKenzie sailed Voyager in a Boston Power Squadron race in 1960, and won. This inspired him to have a homecoming race in Friendship, which was a center of this type of boat construction in years that bracket the turn of the 20th century. The society’s first race drew 14 sloops, and the registry listed 22 members. Today, the registry totals 281 boats, including a fair amount of the original sloops and many wood and fiberglass reproductions. Races moved to Boothbay Harbor in 1985 to accommodate the growing fleet, and again in 1995, to Rockland. The race series this year includes Rockland, Southwest Harbor, Pulpit Harbor, and Marblehead and Gloucester, Mass.

Little wind made fending off here and there a necessity.

The Zubers added the Southwest Harbor Rendezvous to their racing ways a few years ago.

“We like this race,” says Bill, the family patriarch, who is fit-looking and sports a goatee and mustache. “It’s very informal and there’s not as much blood and guts kind of stuff going on. It’s just a real fun thing.”

Bill and his wife, Caroline, who has a cheerful personality, bought Gladiator when the boat was 65 years old. At the time, the couple lived in New Jersey. They later moved to Friendship, and their three sons were raised with the boat as a kind of older sister. Their youngest, Andy, began sailing on Gladiator when he was in the womb, and now, according to his family, it’s hard to wrest control of the vessel from him. Ben and Liam are his sons, and they, too, have been sailing from their pre-birth days.

Surprise and Hegira below the Bear Island light.

Ben wears a cap bearing the image of Marvin the Martian, and Liam sports a desert hat given to him by his father, who joined the army right out of high school and spent a year in Egypt. They explain that they get to take the helm sometimes, but not when the race gets serious.

“When my dad’s racing, he just goes into a mode,” says Ben. “Nothing else matters except racing.”

“When you try to talk to him he just goes, ‘Shh!’” says Liam.

“And he’s a little more aggravated,” says Ben. “But we still love him.”

At age 110 this year, Gladiator is the second-oldest known Friendship sloop. Alice E., which lives in Southwest Harbor, is the oldest.

Gladiator was built in 1902 by Alexander McLain, on Clam Cove in Bremen, and was used for long-lining swordfish and working offshore in the cod fisheries, as well as for lobstering. Daniel Simmons of Waldoboro bought the boat for $450. Mrs. McClain sewed the sails.

Salatia.

Alice E. was built in 1899. Its documentation, describing its early fishing and later yachting days, goes back to the early 1900s. Alice E., 42 feet overall, was first used as a working lobster boat.  In the 1930s, it was purchased by a doctor and renamed Depression.  The boat sold at one time for $15. Although renowned Friendship sloop builder Wilbur Morse’s name is mentioned in the earliest document, the boat’s provenance is unknown. Today, Alice E. is owned by Karl Brunner and is part of his commercial charter fleet.

A century ago, McLain and the Morse were two of the biggest names in the Friendship sloop-building world. The towns of Friendship and Bremen are on Muscongus Bay, and there were other builders of repute in those towns and elsewhere around the bay, where the design was developed for commercial fishing, be it lobstering, seining for herring, hand-lining for cod, sword fishing, or mackereling.

Banshee drifts along on a hot race day.

“It is certain some of these fishermen had seen a Gloucester fishing boat, and being impressed with the lines, had incorporated some of its features into their own hull designs,” Roberts wrote. “These men did not build a ‘class boat’ where every hull is the same length. From existing records we find that the original builders constructed sloops varying in length of 21 feet to 50 feet. Probably the average length would be about 30 feet to 40 feet. The basic design was scaled up or down depending on length, and followed a pre-set formula. They all had an elliptical stern, and most of them a clipper bow, and were gaff-rigged.”

Wilbur Morse’s name, in particular, came up as “father” of the sloop because of the large number that came from his shop.

“Because of Wilbur’s mass production and his shop being in Friendship, this great sloop acquired the name of the town he was building in,” Roberts wrote.

In the early 20th century, the advent of motors and modern equipment lured fishermen away from the sailing sloops. But yachters turned their attention to the boat’s fine lines and reputation for seaworthiness.

Helen Brooks sails off the Claremont Hotel.

According to one of the boatbuilding world’s “bibles,” Howard Chapelle’s American Small Sailing Craft, the sloop evolved from a centerboard boat to a deep-keel hull.  As the sloop grew in size, double headsails came to replace the old single jib.

“The small sloops were jib-and-mainsail boats; the larger ones, often as  long as 36 to 40 feet on deck, had a staysail and jib and often a fidded topmast carrying a gaff topsail and, usually, a jib topsail as well,” Chapelle wrote.

The design’s low sails, great beam, and deep draft gave it a good reputation in heavy weather; by the mid-20th century, this led to the conversion of many of the boats into cruising yachts.

“This was their great quality – they would bring you home as well as they took you out,” wrote Chapelle.

Hegira.

Mount Desert Island has what is said to be the largest concentration of Friendship sloops anywhere in the world. At least a dozen of the sloops live within 10 miles of Southwest Harbor. And today’s premier builders of the sloops live in Southwest Harbor. Ralph Stanley, and now his son, Richard Stanley, have built and restored wooden sloops for many years. Jarvis Newman is known for his fiberglass versions.

Ralph Stanley, who is a 1999 National Heritage Fellow under the National Endowment for the Arts, and who is now retired, was one of the last remaining builders of wooden boats in the age of fiberglass. As part of his repertoire, he built Friendship sloops ranging in size from 19 feet to 36 feet, some of them seen regularly in local waters. Richard Stanley was largely responsible for running his father’s shop in recent years, and now has his own boatbuilding business, where the vintage Friendship sloop Westwind, built in 1902 by Charles Morse, has been undergoing rehabilitation.

Newman created fiberglass versions of the sloop. The 25-foot fiberglass sloop became known as the Pemaquid, although the original Pemaquid referred to a keel model of the Friendship sloop that was first produced in the early 20th century. Thanks to documentation made available by the Watercraft Collection of the Smithsonian Institution and then published by Chapelle, the Pemaquid is a mainstay for many aficionados who want to build their own. Newman created the mold for the fiberglass line some 40 years ago, from a wooden sloop called Old Baldy, which was built in 1965 by James Rockefeller Jr., who owned a boatbuilding shop called Bald Mountain Boat Works in Camden. At the time, Newman gave Rockefeller free storage at his own shop in Southwest Harbor, in return for letting him take a mold off the boat. He went on to produce 20 Pemaquids. Old Baldy ended up sitting in a barn in New Hampshire, out of the  water for a decade. But Newman kept track of the boat, and bought it in recent years. He restored it, and launched it in time for the Southwest Harbor Rendezvous in 2011.

In the late 1970s, Newman restored one of the original sloops, named Dictator, a 31-footer that was built in 1904 by Robert E. McLain. Once he finished, he took a mold off the hull and, over the years, built numerous fiberglass reproductions. The original Dictator today belongs to film industry professional who splits his time between Deer Isle and Burbank, Calif.

On this hot July day, many of Stanley and Newman’s sloops can be seen prowling around the start line, which is also the finish line, off the north end of Greenings Island. Not coincidentally, the line is pinned down at one end by Ralph Stanley’s motoryacht Seven Girls, where Stanley serves as the race committee chairman, aided by committee colleagues – Jill Schoof, the timer and statistician, and Rodney Flora, the cannoneer, who themselves own a Friendship sloop, Wings of the Morning, built in 1967 by Roger Morse. All are seated in deck chairs comfortable enough to wait out a couple of hours of racing.

Surprise’s skipper, Steven Keblinsky, gets off a water balloon shot.

In 1979, Stanley built Endeavor, which is now cruising onto the race course under the helmsmanship of Skip Fraley. Endeavor’s owner, Betsey Holtzmann, is passionate about the open air and the sea. The boat is a dependable sight on the course, but was almost lost forever in 2001, when it sank during the Rockland race. A strong gust of wind and sloppy sea conditions, aggravated by a bilge pump that had been switched off without the skipper’s knowledge, and poorly stowed backpacks carrying  a couple of hundred pounds of stuff,  flipped the boat. Five people went over, picked up minutes later by Stanley.  The 25-foot boat went down in 110 feet of water, along with Holtzmann’s “second home” worth of stuff, stowed below – a seaside library of children’s books for her son, sea-themed craft works by area artisans, childhood mementoes, her son’s silver baby cup.

A handy bucket of water balloons on Gladiator.

Holtzmann hired a salvage operator who, after many passes, found the boat a month later, sitting upright, embedded three feet deep in mud. The boat was hauled up, fixed up, and ready to sail the following summer. For good measure, many of Holtzmann’s treasures were still in good condition.

For today, Newman’s Old Baldy is back on shore. But other Pemaquids are sailing into sight. Regulars from Massachusetts include Banshee, owned by Carole and John Wojcik, and the full-bellied Hegira, dressed in green and ribboned in gold, owned by Laurie Raymond. There’s Osprey, built in 1973 and one of two Pemaquids used in the making of the Jim Carrey movie, “The Truman Show.” One was destroyed during the movie’s storm sequence. Osprey survived the movie and now belongs to Steve Hughes of Southwest Harbor. At the moment, though, Newman can be seen at Osprey’s helm.

One of Newman’s most cherished Pemaquids is surely Salatia, owned by Miff Lauriat and Marjory Russakoff of Southwest Harbor. The red hull stands out on the water, and Lauriat, as the organizer of the Southwest Harbor Rendezvous, is one of the society’s most enthusiastic voices.

The local boat Eden, owned by Scott Martin, is a 25-foot wooden Pemaquid built by do-it-yourselfer Ed Coffin, of Owl’s Head, in 1971. Coffin wrote a book about his project, which shaped up in what he called his “Tug and Grunt Boatyard” and which involved a fair amount of blue car-body putty. Coffin called the boat Ray of Hope for his wife, who was alcoholic. One day, Coffin said, he hoped his wife would recover.

That didn’t happen. In the meantime, the boat was sold to another owner for the charter boat trade. Martin, who has struggled with alcoholism, worked aboard the boat for a time, then bought it some 15 years ago. The boat soon came to represent his own shot at redemption – the one thing he was able to hold onto through the years, as he lost everything else. In 2009, Martin was approached at a dock by an elderly man who recognized the boat. It turned out to be Coffin, who shared his story. Shocked by the connection, Martin re-dubbed the boat Eden’s Ray of Hope.

The venerable Alice E. stirs a certain nostalgia with its arrival on the course.  It is accompanied by Helen Brooks, also owned by Brunner and previously named Baschert, Yiddish for “destiny.” Brunner renamed the boat after his grandmother, who helped him get his excursion trade started, in 2002. One of the largest boats in the fleet, at 42 feet overall, Helen Brooks was built in 1970 by another big producer of Friendship sloops,  Bruno and Stillman, Inc., of New Hampshire.

Gladiator.

Two other boats that serve the tourist trade are usually given the day off so they can join the race. One of them is Chrissy, a 1910 Charles Morse build, owned by Ed Zimmerman and operated in Bar Harbor. Another is Surprise, owned by Steven and Andrew Keblinsky. Surprise was built in Round Pond, using local oak and cedar trees, and has continuously sailed Maine waters since 1964. First employed as a lobster boat fishing from Monhegan Island, and also carrying firewood, it entered passenger service in 1979, and was later donated to the Atlantic Challenge Foundation in Rockland.

On the Dictator model Gaivota, the society’s vice-commodores, Kathy and Bill Whitney, raise linen-colored sails up the boat’s hefty wooden mast; they have outfitted their boat with an old-fashioned gallery rail that encircles the cockpit.

Gladiator is able to proclaim itself as “the Friendship from Friendship,” meaning that Caroline and Bill Zuber live in the coastal town by that name. The boat has a hearty aroma of old wood and salt.

“We put a lot of salt in her. It keeps her from gathering rot and things,” says Bill.

Nine people are on Gladiator today. That’s small, actually, compared with the time they carried 18 people for a Rockland race.

“It looked like a Haitian refugee camp,” says Andy’s older brother, Bill Zuber III, who has come up with his partner from New Hampshire. Andy’s wife, Candace, is also here, along with her daughter, Ally, age 16.

Boating is a new activity for Candace and Ally. They like it pretty well.

“I have to say, though, I’m a fair weather girl,” says Candace. “I don’t like the fog and the rain.”

She peers up at the cloudless sky.

Bill Zuber at the helm of Gladiator.

“It looks like fair weather,” she says.

That’s one way to put it. It’s actually going to be a day of water- and soda-guzzling, with the temperatures reaching into the 90s and the sun beating down.

Gladiator is, essentially, a member of the Zuber family, too. Its journey home began when it landed in Bill and Caroline’s hands.

It was 1967. The couple lived in New Jersey. They were building their own sloop, and went on the hunt for a ready-made mast to install. With their friends, Dot and Stu Hancock, they spotted two white Friendship sloops in a nearby boatyard. Both were named Downeaster.

“One had the builder’s name, Lash Brothers, on the trailboards and had been built in 1963,” according to a write-up by the Zubers in this year’s race program. “The other had no builder listed, but in the cabin was a deck carlin with the inscription ‘86611 No.7.’ The owner’s name was listed on a card with a telephone number.”

The two couples bought the second boat, for $4,600.

A few months later, the two men set sail from New Jersey to Friendship Harbor to race in the three-day Friendship Sloop Regatta, and to register their boat with the society.

Caroline Zuber sees off her clan.

“The voyage was made with a barely functioning Model K Chris Craft gasoline engine, a ‘Dutch Log’ to calibrate speed underway, a compass and an ancient RDF [radio direction finder] for navigation,” the Zubers wrote. “The fuel was lashed in jerry cans along the cabin sides – not exactly U.S. Coast Guard approved condition, but they made it.”

The wives drove up to Friendship. When the second day of racing was cancelled due to fog, the couples went off to Rockland to the Customs House to research the number that was on the carlin.

Southwest Harbor Rendezvous organizer and owner of Salatia, Miff Lauriat.

“We pored over the dusty volumes listing all the documented vessels in the United States and soon determined that Downeaster was not the original name with that number,” they wrote. “In the 1902 book, however, it was determined that the original name was Gladiator and she had been launched in 1902, documented in the Waldoboro Customs House, and had been built for Daniel Simmons of Waldoboro by Alexander McClain.”

The family doesn’t know what became of the boat between 1927, when it ended its fishing days, and 1941, except that it was probably used as a yacht or day sailer in the Chesapeake Bay.

The new owners restored the original name of Gladiator and, soon enough, restored the boat – and themselves – to its rightful waters. In 1971, the Zubers bought property in Friendship. In 1973, Bill accepted a full-time job at Hurricane

Andy Zuber maneuvers on the final leg.

Island Outward Bound, a job he had for 16 years. Gladiator went along, to become part of the training fleet. The family later ran the boat as a commercial day sailer.

Andy remembers a call they got from an older man, who recognized the boat as the one his dad used to own, when he was a kid. There were old photographs to be viewed.

“It was weird for me to see pictures of a whole other family growing up on the boat,” says Andy. “It makes me realize how old it is and how lucky it has been that people took care of it.”

There was a five-year period, in the 1980s, when Bill rebuilt the boat, making it “bombproof,” as Caroline says.

“He said, ‘If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it right,’” she says.

But the frames and planks are original.

“It’s a museum in itself,” Bill says.

Down below, mounted prominently above the forward bunks, is the original carlin carved with the number 86611. Hanging on a wall in the head is a framed copy of the 1902 license.  Stowed under the companionway is a section of Gladiator’s original rudder, which Bill polished up and the society now uses as a trophy.

Ben and Liam lead the tour. A table bolted to the sole was removed, leaving behind phantom bolt holes. The galley is fixed up with a small stove, a couple of kettles, a freshwater tank, a cutting board, plastic storage bins, mugs on hooks, and a cooler. A curved ceiling member signals where the outer edge of the original cuddy cabin was; at some point in the boat’s history, the cabin was doubled in length. The bunks along the sides used to hang from chains. The boys call the bow bunks the “mouse house.” That’s where they usually sleep, and it’s a lot roomier than it appears, says Ben.

Ben Zuber prepares to lob a water balloon.

“One time I fell asleep down here and I actually slept through the whole, entire race,” says Liam. “I think it was last year.”

The hull is painted green. The decks are white and the cabin top is white and tan. Grab rails and trim are made from glossy teak. A skull-and-crossbones flag has been hoisted atop the mast. The bowsprit, like those on almost all the Friendship sloops, is highly ornamented. In this case, there’s a small, carved-wood gladiator’s helmet at the tip, an ivy twine, a bunch of gold stars, and “1902 Gladiator” painted in bright red. A plastic party cup props open the cabin’s overhead hatch.

As a last-minute addition this year, the boys say, the family painted more skulls-and-crossbones on each side of the keel, which will surely intimidate the competition during the summer’s races.

Andy is probably Gladiator’s biggest fan. But sailing is in the blood of the entire family.

Liam Zuber is full of exuberance on race day.

“We sail all the time, except in the winter,” says Liam. “We sail for fun, and we just like sailing. It feels natural.”

Bill enthuses about Gladiator’s “gentle” personality, in terms of how it moves. It’s a heavy, big-boned boat, at 19,000 pounds, probably because it was built for offshore fishing. It sails with a certain gravitas.

“They wanted a boat that had a little more sea-kindliness when it was rough,” Bill says of the design’s original customers.

He and his wife have a certain well-weathered outlook on this family member.

“This boat has been part of our life for a long time,” says Caroline.

“It’s also taken the biggest part of our fortune,” says Bill.

“This is all the vacations we never took,” Caroline jokes.

Alice E.’s name in the 1930s reflected the era.

By now, everyone is spread around. Andy is firmly in charge at the helm, although he lets his father and brother have a go once in a while. A couple of books emerge; one is about quantum physics and consciousness.

“A light summer read,” says Bill III.

The group languidly observes the scene. There’s a resident osprey nest on top of a ledge marker. An airplane growls overhead. The sky-blue boat Chamar sails out from Northeast Harbor; her captain wears a sky-blue polo shirt.  The mega-yacht Rebecca, out of Newport, sits on her mooring, her flag drooping ever so close to the water. Gladiator does a slow circuit around her endless length and her highly polished bow, which reflects the shimmering sea.

A Hinckley picnic boat zips by, and the family speculates about the price. And then they agree that nothing is as pretty as their boat.

The lobsterboat Gizmo can be seen in the distance; men haul traps, extract lobsters, then toss the traps back to the depths. The lobsterboats Nighthawk and Takin A Break speed by.

Bill III recalls the 2010 visit of President Obama and his family to Mount Desert Island. That was a great to-do for the fleet, which was in the middle of the rendezvous when the First Family arrived for lunch at the Claremont Hotel, which overlooks the finish line.

Always ones to throw together a show when the opportunity presents itself, the sailors put on a display of sail after the race, having learned of the first family’s proximity through Jarvis Newman’s daughter, Kathe Falt, who returned to shore after viewing the start of the race, only to be stopped and patted down by a Secret Service agent. Falt called Lauriat on his boat, and the word went out among the racers, by cellphone, to form a parade after the finish. With considerable foresight, Lauriat’s wife, Marjory Russakoff, had told her husband to contact the local police department before the race to let them know that the event involves cannon blasts, thus avoiding upset for the Secret Service.

Ben stretches out on a bench, a spare lifejacket over his face for shade. Folks dip their feet in the water, trying to cool off.

People are starting to wonder. “Where is the breeze?”

Liam and Bill III have gone below to fill tiny balloons with water. Gladiator is one of the main perpetrators in the fleet’s infamous water balloons fights. They gently place the filled balloons in a bucket and hoist the bucket on deck.

“They’re starting to get holes,” Liam groans, when one of the balloons spurts.

Ben emerges from below wearing a pirate hat.

“Aaay, arrgh,” growls Andy, pirate style. He steers toward Gaivota. “Could I have a grenade? I want to get the vice commodore.”

There’s Endeavor, with Holtzmann, her son Abe, Skip Fraley at the helm, and Kathy Van Gorder snapping pictures.

“Prepare for broadside,” announces Andy. “I think Surprise is trying to surprise us.  Prepare to be boarded!”

There’s a melee of grunt-inducing tosses and pirate growls. Many balloons hit all targets.

The sloops circle the committee boat. Everyone smiles, waves and yells at each other. The Cranberry Isles mailboat, Double B, motors in and noses up to the fleet, carrying spectators to view the day’s races.

People are starting to get hungry. Where’s the peanut butter and jelly? Gladiator is in fighting trim. It’s time to make sandwiches.

“Stand by to go somewhere else,” announces Andy, performing a jibe.

The talk becomes laconic, something about Miracle Whip versus mayonnaise versus mustard. Soda is broken out of the cooler.

Other types of sailboats can be seen gathering in the distance, in the Western Way. That’s the local International One Design fleet, taking part in the second day of the Hospice Regatta of Maine, now in its 16th year and earning money for a good cause. The cruising class drifted off in the morning.

The Friendship sloop race occupies its own little niche, tucked up by Greenings Island.

Some years, all the activity on the water makes for quite a whirlwind.

Perhaps not today.

“Twenty-two minutes for the race to start, and there’s no wind,” says Bill.

Seven Girls pins up the first flag. The sloops mob up the committee boat.

Miff Lauriat and his gang on Salatia sail up.

“Which radio channel?” yells Bill.

“We don’t use radios, just smoke signals,” shouts Lauriat. “If you’re on fire, we’ll come.”

Bill scrutinizes the flags on Seven Girls and a chart from the race in 2008, and figures out the route, which is pretty much the same over the years, involving circuits around a couple of gongs and tipping off the Bear Island lighthouse.

“We’re going to go to the narrows this time,” Bill says. “We’re going to go where we didn’t go last time.”

“Sounds like Star Trek,” says Bill III.

Eden approaches. Balloons fly. Martin wears his pirate hat, a crewmate wears an eyepatch, the mast flies a skull-and-crossbones.

Voices burble: “They’re loaded.” “Arrrrgh!” “Uh oh, they have a water blaster!”

“Watch out for those guys!” yells Bill, his straw hat tumbling into the water.

“It looks like we beheaded you!” yells the Eden crowd.

Bill III grabs the hat with the gaff hook. The committee gets down to business and fires a cannon, signaling the race’s imminent start.

Andy and Bill get serious, as Gladiator and the other boats maneuver behind the start line. Andy reckons it’s 20 seconds to the start. The cannon goes off again.

“How about right now?” he says, heading up to the light air.

The wood of the boat creaks pleasantly, as it drifts along at the pace of a turtle. Bill reckons the wind will come around at some point.

Over the years, the fleet has collectively suffered various mishaps and many joys. Endeavor sank. A mast broke here, a gaff broke there. Gladiator ran aground in fog; no damage ensued. People fell overboard. A bowsprit went through Eden’s mainsail. Eden finished the race and tied up back at the dock, where “rivals” descended, whisked the sail to a sailmaker for repair, got it back the next morning, and had it back on the mast in 20 minutes.

“That mainsail was so perfectly stretched that she was really fast. It was really fun. We all contributed to Eden’s success,” Lauriat said at the time, then added ruefully, “This year, I promised myself, no adjusting anyone’s outhauls.”

One year, Wayne and Kirsten Cronin of Rockland showed up on the first day of racing on Tuesday, in their boat Rights of Man. But on Wednesday morning, they were too busy to join the fleet, due to the fact that they were having their baby.

“We regard that as the best excuse for not racing,” Lauriat said that summer. “We have a prize for youngest child in the race. A few hours old would win it.”

It’s all about good times and good stories. Everyone’s kids join the scene. Multiple generations have grown up with the sloops. Sure, there are trophies for the fastest boats under and over 25 feet, for the first Pemaquid sloop, for the fastest Class A original sloop built before 1920. There’s also the Rum Line Trophy, given in commemoration of the sloop’s working heritage, which drafts the original sloops into a contest to haul milk crates, one of which holds a half-gallon of rum. The youngest crew member wins a prize, as does “the woman who keeps sloop, crew, and family together,” the sloop that sails the furthest distance to be in the race, the sloop that finishes in the middle of the fleet, the sloop that places seventh in the fleet, the latest owner and restorer of a sloop, and the crew member who best represents the spirit of friendship. Along with the cookouts onshore, the trophy rum is shared all around, in paper cups.

Today’s casualties might be more of the slumbering variety.  Lulled by the sway of the boat, the senior Bill has gone below to take a nap. Dolphins crisscross Gladiator’s trail. The kids are broiling hot. There’s a lot of flopping in the scant shade on the side decks, feet over the side, hands paddling the water. The bottles of frozen water don’t melt fast enough to gulp down. Everyone’s parched.

Andy pipes up, optimistically, “Uh oh, watch out, we might get a little breeze. Just for a minute.”

“Did we actually get a gust of wind?” asks Liam.

“Gust, no. Zephyr, yes,” says his dad.

The kids wet their T-shirts in the cool ocean water, and put them on.

“Oh, yes. Ooooh. I feel so happy!” Ben exults.

Suddenly, the sound of other sailors whooping it up can be heard, as the lead boats round the Spurling Rock bell.

Bill pokes his head up to check on progress.

“Hi, Cap,” says Andy. “We’re almost to Spurling Rock.

“I guess I’d better stay down here, then,” Bill says.

“Yeah, that helps,” teases his son.

Suddenly, Bill III hops up.

“Hey, guys, get in the cockpit,” he tells the boys. “We’ll be going around the mark in a bit.”

The gong is louder. There’s excitement in the cockpit, and suddenly a flurry of activity. It’s taken more than an hour of sailing, but finally the fleet gets to make its  first maneuver. Relaxation time over, a cluster is caught in a contest of bumper boat. Lack of wind and an ebb tide brings out the friendliness of the Friendship sloop gang, as Alice E. fends off a buoy and other boats fend off Alice E., no damage done and no hard feelings. Salatia, which was lurking on the wrong side of the committee boat at the start and watched Eden, Osprey, and Peregrine waft ahead in a no-wind area, now has an advantage. Lauriat found a bit more breeze and is now maneuvering around the shenanigans to chase Helen Brooks and Surprise, in company with Alice E.

Now it’s Gladiator’s turn.

“Jibe ho!” yells Andy, as he whips the wheel around. The gong comes within spitting distance, the sails flip sides and fill with a freshening breeze for the next leg. Abruptly, there are wind shifts and currents to negotiate.

Gaining speed, Andy pummels the deck with glee.

“Come on, baby, let’s go!” he says. “Ha-ha ha-ha ha-ha!”

 

 

 

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Laurie Schreiber

About Laurie Schreiber

Laurie Schreiber has been writing for award-winning newspapers and magazines on the coast of Maine for more than 20 years.