Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Oak Island

Blowing the red Old Country canoe off course, the wind skipped across Great Pond. Paddling towards a distant point on the wooded shore, I dug deep, as if avoiding a violent waterfall in some rain forest jungle. Slowly and with much effort, the canoe's bow ticked back on course. As my shoulders burned, I reevaluated my course and headed towards the protection of the saw-like shoreline. Protected from the wind by tree covered points, I made my way towards a dock and my waiting friends.

"What took you so long?" Dan asked as I got to the dock.

"The wind, Dude. Do you see those white caps?" I responded as I caught my breath. "It feels like you're paddling upstream."

Quickly we packed the remaining sleeping bags, food and fishing poles into the canoe and pushed off the dock. With the help of two more paddlers and a stiff tailwind, we made it back to Oak Island in a third of the time.

Stashing the canoe between two trees, we set up camp in proper Huck Finn fashion, and headed out to explore the island. With a few hours of sun remaining in the early summer evening, we set off across the island in search for fishing holes, traces of other campers and the highest point on the island.
In the distance, loons called as the first mosquitoes of the season buzzed around, settling on exposed skin.

A goose feather blowing away.

Spencer searching for the source of a distant loon call.

Pack out all trash. Extinguish all fires. Cut only dead trees. Bury human waste 100 feet from water.

Crawling around the shoreline, we hopped from rock to rock avoiding the tepid water. Dropping towards the hills to the west, the sun cast an orange hue on the trees and rocks. Consecrating the first days of summer, I rolled up my jeans to below the knee and liberated my feet, going barefoot on the rocks and pine needles.

Isolated by a half mile of water on each side and claimed by a thin pillar of smoke from a lone campfire, the island was ours. As if aware of the potential pranks and horseplay offered by a half dozen twenty year olds, the occasional boat gave the island a wide birth.

Walking to our camp and the promise of freshly cooked sausages, I murmured out loud, "This is the perfect place for a fort."

Here are some more links,
Oak Island (Picasa),
Great Pond (ART).

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mt. Katahdin

At 6:15, I woke to the sound of chirping birds and the warmth of the morning's sun on my down sleeping bag. With much resistance, I unzipped my bag and crawled into the cold Maine air.

My dad had already checked the weather and prepared breakfast. "Great day for a hike," he said with a boyish smile. Forty five minutes later, we were on the trail, heading up Mt. Katahdin.

Prepared by a youth spent tromping around the woods and mountains of the Pacific Northwest, I felt unfazed by numerous war stories from trustifarians at Colby and Bill Brison's comical account of his tribulations in the 100 Mile Wilderness.

The "trail," consisting of a foot and half gap in the Maine woods along a compass bearing connecting our campground with a distant peak of Mt. Katahdin corrected my fantasy of briskly walking up mellow switchbacks whilst eating granola bars and casually snapping pictures with my camera. Scrambling up Igloo-cooler sized blocks of granite, we emerged from the pine and hemlock trees onto a sparse alpine environment found on only a few of New England's highest peaks.

Stopping frequently, we snacked on Cabot cheddar and Wheat Thins all while taking in northern Maine's beauty from a 5,000 foot vantage.

Above the trees, we moved quickly across the barren mountain top. Looking down at my foot and hand holds, I forgot where I was, traveling thousand of miles away to the Rockies or the Cascades.

Confused by the thin air and sparse environment, my mind bounced from place to place transcending time like a daydream. The wind whistled through rocks, rattling the small and tilting the tall signs in the same direction.

Cinching up the leather straps of my Bergans pack.
This is a trail, look for the blue blazes spray painted on sporadic rocks.

Maine or the Rockies? For more pictures from Katahdin, check out this album I took with my iPhone.

After ten hours and forty five minutes we made it back to a small bridge within shouting distance of the car. Sore from twelve miles and 3,500 feet of vertical change, I rested my feet in a cool stream. As the sun dropped below the rugged outline of Mt. Katahdin, I wiggled my toes in the runoff from winter's snow. Taking my time, I jumped from rock to rock, happy to have finished the day.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Building Boats

Mainers make boats. They have since sailors first arrived from across the pond in the 17th century and they will as long there is an ocean and trees to cut. Today, the laborious craft continues at fine boat builders along the coast. Steeped in the tradition of the region and the resources afforded by the nearby woods, apprentices at the Apprenticeshop in Rockland, Maine learn the art from veterans.

Serving as the two year home to some 20 apprentices from around the US, the Apprenticeshop trains the art of boat building from drafting the initial design to sailing the finished project.

On a bright May morning free of scholastic obligations or other frivolities, Tucker and I drove out along Route 1 to visit a friend and apprentice learning the craft of boat building. Enticed by the Maine coast and the importance of knowing a timeless craft, Matt left his job doing windows for a New York fashion designer and moved to Rockland in January.

Five days a week, Matt and the other apprentices who range from their mid twenties to late forties, learn woodworking, drafting, painting and sailing from their workspace on Main Street in downtown Rockland.

Starting with a blank piece of plywood, the apprentices start each boat with full sized drafting. Using the board like a set of Lego instructions, the boat builders refer back for the angles, lengths and widths of the hundreds of components of each boat. It all seemed like alchemy to me.

Tucker observing Men at Work and a nearly complete rowboat.

A Maine Boat Builder.

This band-saw chops up more wood than a cheap masseuse.

Does this magazine still exist?

The fruits of their labor: a 13-foot row boat and its oars.

Dinghies on the dock.

In addition to building boats from scratch, the Apprenticeshop also resurrects past flames.

Preparing for a late June launch.

You can't telecommute to Rockland or learn about it on Wikipedia. Boat building appeals to an older desire to create tools of exploration and adventure. It's an existence, a way of life. The results reflect the hundreds of hours spent toiling over wood, paint and sand paper. Price aside, I would rather have one of these works of art than any Patek Phillipe or Mercedes AMG. Groups of people on the Maine coast still answer the call to build boats from scratch. That inspires me.

Here are some more links,
Building Boats (Picasa),
The Apprenticeshop.