Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best of 2012: The MaineSail Journal: Tall Ship Amistad

The MaineSail Journal
By Doug Mills

    Fall brings many surprises to the coast of Maine. A very pleasant surprise was to find Captain Sean Bercaw of Freedom Schooner Amistad, awaiting customs clearance after returning from Nova Scotia. Amistad is a ship with a mission. A reminder of a dark time in history when people were stolen from their homes and carried off to a far away land where no one spoke their language and they were forced into a life of slavery. Her namesake La Amistad was transporting 53 slaves to Cuba to be used as labor in the sugar cane fields when she was forced to change course and this eventually helped to change the course of this nation. During to voyage to Cuba one of the slaves was able to free himself and also the others who were on board. Armed with sugar cane knives the managed to take the ship. They ordered the crew to sail west, which they did during the day but at night they would sail north east in hope of running across another vessel to free them from the slaves who held the ship. Off Long Island New York the U S Navy ship USS Washington found them and took the slaves into custody and took possession of La Amistad.
The court case that followed was instrumental in bringing the blight of slavery into the public eye in the United States. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court who freed the those who had been involved in the taking of La Amistad. They eventually were able to return to their home but things had changed forever in the United States due to the actions of these former slaves.
    “The impetus for building the Amistad came from Warren Q. Marr II, former editor of the NAACP’s The Crisis magazine. Marr’s inspiration for the replica emerged during New York’s operation sail 1976, a spectacular parade of the world’s tall ships. Participating in that event was a representation of the historic 19th century schooner, La Amistad. It was actually the schooner Western Union with its name temporarily hidden under signs proclaiming her La Amistad. Marr wanted the story of the African captives’ fight for freedom on the seas, in a New Haven court, and in a landmark United States Supreme Court case to be told. Marr’s goal was to design the re-created vessel as a floating exhibit, assemble a crew, and sail her from port to port teaching the history of the Amistad Incident of 1839. Marr believed the Amistad story could foster unity among people of diverse backgrounds and help improve race relations.”
    “The reproduction was built in Mystic Seaport’s Henry B. DuPont Preservation Shipyard. It was built using traditional construction techniques. Some of the tools used to construct the Freedom Schooner Amistad were those that may have been used in 19th century construction. Others were electric tools. The reconstruction, while based on the appearance of La Amistad was about 10 feet longer than the original to accommodate an engine room. It also had bronze bolts in use as fastenings throughout the ship and an external ballast made of lead. None of these features would have been available on the original Amistad.”
The dimensions of the Amistad are as follows:
1. Length from bowsprit to stern: 129 ft (39.4 m)
2. Length Over Rail: 85 ft (26 m)
3. Length On Deck: 81 ft (24.7 m)
4. Maximum Beam (Width): 23 ft (7.01 m)
5. Length at Waterline: 78 ft (23.8 m)
6. Draft (depth): 10.5 ft (3.3 m)
7. Height of masts: 100 ft (30.5 m) 

[AAI Staff. "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)." AMISTAD America. AMISTAD America Inc, 14 Jan. 2008. Web. 7 May 2009..] 

The Best of 2012: The Keeper of Stories: The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter

The Keeper of Stories
The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter
By Doug Mills
“There is neither tree nor shrub and hardly a blade of grass on The Rock. The surface is rough and irregular and resembles a confused pile of loose stone. Portions of The Rock are frequently swept over by the waves which move the huge boulders into new positions.” The Lighthouse Board’s 1891 Annual Report.

    Located nearly 18 miles out to sea, Matinicus Rock may well be the most inhospitable place on the coast of Maine. The Matinicus Rock light station was established in 1827. By 1831 its first keeper was too ill to continue and soon died. The second keeper also died after only a short time on The Rock. During a winter storm in 1842 Keeper Abbott and his family needed to seek shelter in the attic of the keepers house as waves swept over the island and through the first floor of the house.

    In 1853 Samuel Burgess became keeper at “The Rock”. He brought with him his handicapped wife and several of their ten children including 14 year old Abbie. Abbie soon learned the duties of the lightstation.
    One January morning in 1856 burgess had to sail to Rockland, some 25 miles away, for much needed supplies. He left Abbie to care for her mother and younger sisters as well as keeping the light. Burgess had no way of knowing a monster storm was bearing down on the Gulf of Maine. By afternoon the sky had turned black and the wind began to blow. The storm continued to strengthen through the long night. The morning came with a howling gale and the waves crashing over the entire island. Another sleepless night only to find, the next morning, the waves threatening to wash the keepers house into the crashing sea. Abbie moved her mother and sisters into the north lighthouse tower, then waded through knee deep water to save the chickens. A short time after she arrived back in the safety of the north tower a giant wave crashed over the island completely destroying the old keepers house!
    Day after day going about her duties as the winds howled and the waves crashed over the island. Watching for her fathers small boat returning from the mainland. Hours turn into days, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into nearly a month and still no sign of that sail on the horizon, no sign of her fathers return.
Abbie later wrote of those days, “As the tide came, the sea rose higher and higher, till the only endurable places were the light towers. If they stood we were saved, otherwise our fate was only too certain. But for some reason, I know not I had no misgivings, and went on with my work as usual. For four weeks, owing to rough weather, no landing could be effected on the Rock. During this time we were without the assistance of any male member of our family. Though at times greatly exhausted with my labors, not once did the lights fail. Under God I was able to perform all my accustomed duties as well as my father’s.”
After four long weeks of fearing the worst, Burgess was able to make it back to “The Rock”.   The sea had finally calmed down enough for him to land on the rocky island. Imagine his joy to find his family well and that the lights had never once gone out!

Once again in 1857 while burgess was in Rockland for supplies, foul winter weather kept him from returning for three weeks.

The Best of 2012: The Keeper of Stories: A Tale of Two Lights

The Keeper of Stories:
A Tale of Two Lights
 By Doug Mills

Two Lights Cape Elizabeth Maine
Marcus Auralius Hanna, a Civil War Medal of honor winner, was appointed
keeper of the two lights at Cape Elizabeth Maine, located on the approach to Portland harbor.
On the night of January 28, 1885 a huge winter storm moved up the Maine coast growing rapidly into a howling blizzard. Hanna sick with the flue spent the whole night sounding the steam fog whistle. At 6:00 A.M. he was relieved by the assistant keeper. Suffering from his illness and exhaustion he had to crawl through the deep snow drifts to the keepers house. Hanna’s wife put out the lights in both towers after sunrise.
It was around 8:40 A.M. when Mrs. Hanna saw it, a schooner aground on Dyer’s ledge, just below the lighthouse. It was the Australia out of Booth Bay bound for Boston. The captain had already been carried overboard in the violent seas. Two crewmen remained alive. They had climbed into the rigging to keep from being swept overboard, leaving them exposed to the freezing wind and ocean spray.  Hanna and the assistant keeper rushed to the shore near the stranded vessel. The ice on the rocks made it nearly impossible to get close

Marcus Auralius Hanna
and the wind and snow would not allow them to
keep the stranded sailors in sight. The waves
attempted to pull them into the deadly waters
while the cold wind slowly sucked the life out
of their bodies.
Hanna tried to throw a line to the freezing
sailors but to no avail. The assistant keeper
returned to his duties at the fog signal, feeling
the situation was hopeless. Hanna refused to
give up. Nearly frozen himself by this time he
waded waist deep into the freezing waves and
threw the line again. Success, the first sailor
managed to tie the rope around himself and was
pulled to the shore. After several more tries he was
able to get the rope to the second sailor. The sailor ties the line around himself. Hanna begins to pull him in. But, with the cold waters taking the life from his body and his cloths frozen from the wind and snow, his strength fails!
At that moment the assistant keeper returns with two neighbors and the four men were able to pull the second sailor to safety.

Two Lights  Cape Elizabeth, Maine

The Best of 2012: The Keeper of Stories: The House

The Best of 2012: Pirates Invade Camden

The MaineSail Journal
Pirates Invade Camden

By Doug Mills
    Pirates at the Camden Windjammer Festival?  I am not sure what I was expecting, a few people in fake pirate costume pretending to have a sword fight, the Pirates of the Dark Rose were so much more.  The costumes, their speech, their knowledge of their craft combined with the schooner fleet in the harbor combined to make one believe that Camden had actually been taken over by pirates!  I found myself in big trouble as soon as I walked up.  "That had better be a Nikon Camera you be shooting with" bellowed one of the pirates, "ARGH, it be a Canon!  We pirates din't like having cannons pointed at us.." he yells as his hand moves for his sword.
We pirates din't like having cannons pointed at us..
  First up was the "Pirates Council"  to settle any grievances among the crew. There was no appealing this ruling and there were a few less crew when they were done.  I am glad that my "Canon incident" didn't have to be settled in that court!  Later we were treated to a great demonstration of pirate weapons and tactics.  I would not want to be on the receiving end of this pirate invasion.
    The Pirates of the Dark Rose are a combination of wit and wisdom, combining fun with a deep knowledge of the history they portray.  Oh, did I mention that the canons and the weapons used were real and not toys?
So, step back and enjoy that pirate fantasy you had as a child for a few hours.  Ah...or "ARGH" it is just as I had dreamed it would be so many years ago.  I can't wait to have a chance to see "The Pirates of the Dark Rose" again.
    For those in the Eastport area they will be at the Eastport Pirate Festival, 7-9 September at Eastport, Maine -- where one whole town turns pirate, warms me old black heart, it does.  For those who will not be able to make it to Eastport you can contact The Pirates of the Dark Rose to invade...I mean visit your Fair or Festival, Historic Site, School or Fundraiser.  For engagements or information, contact Tom Crudbeard
AKA Tomm Tomlinson
(207) 975-6517
122 Camden Street
Rockport, Maine 04856

The Best of 2012: USS Constitution Sails For First Time Since 1997

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Andrew Meyers/ Released)

USS Constitution Sails For First Time Since 1997
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kathryn E. Macdonald, USS Constitution Public Affairs
CHARLESTOWN, Mass. (NNS) -- USS Constitution departed her berth from Charlestown, Mass. Aug. 19, to set sail for the first time since 1997, during an underway demonstration commemorating Guerriere Day.

The underway honored the 200th anniversary of Constitution's decisive victory over the HMS Guerriere during the War of 1812, marking the first time a United States frigate defeated a Royal Navy frigate at or nearly equal size. It's also the battle in which Constitution earned her famous nickname "Old Ironsides."

"I cannot think of a better way to honor those who fought in the war as well as celebrate Constitution's successes during the War of 1812 than for the ship to be under sail," said Cmdr. Matt Bonner, Constitution's 72nd commanding officer. "The event also ties our past and present by having the ship not only crewed by the outstanding young men and women who make up her crew, but also the 150 chief petty officer [CPO] selectees who join us for their Heritage Week."

More than 150 CPO selectees and CPO mentor chiefs assisted Constitution's crew in setting sails. CPO selectees participated in Constitution's annual CPO Heritage Weeks, a weeklong training cycle divided by two weeks that teaches selectees time-honored maritime evolutions, such as gun drills, line handling and setting sails. The training is also designed to instill pride in naval heritage in the Navy's senior enlisted leadership.

"I'm a boatswain's mate," said Chief (Select) Boatswain's Mate (SW) Michael Zgoda, assigned to USS Ingraham (FFG 61). "This is the foundation of my rate. Being able to learn from a variety of genuine chiefs and their different perspectives on leadership is overwhelming and important to the chief petty officer transition. I'm extremely honored to be a part of the group that can say they sailed the USS Constitution."

The ship got underway at 9:57 a.m. with tugs attached to her sides and 285 people on board, including special guests, such as the 58th, 59th, 62nd and 65th former commanding officers of Constitution; Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge, Commander, Submarine Group Two; Rear Adm. Ted Branch, Commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic; Vice Adm. William French, Commander, Navy Installations Command; retired Navy Capt. Thomas Hudner Jr., Medal of Honor recipient; and Dr. Phil Budden, Britain's Consul General to New England.

At 10:27 a.m., Budden and Bonner tossed a wreath into the ocean to honor and remember Constitution's battle with the HMS Guerriere.

When the ship arrived at President Roads, a body of water of Boston Harbor, the crew then set three sails from Constitution's main, mizzen and fore masts, and at 12:25 p.m., she detached from her tugs and sailed west under her own power for 17 minutes. She sailed at a maximum speed of 3.1 knots, at an average of two knots, and at a distance of 1,100 yards.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Andrew Meyers
"As the ship's sail master, I felt a combination of pride and relief that the hundreds of man hours of training and planning over the past year all came together, and we were able to accomplish this goal," said Boatswain's Mate 1st Class (SW) Conrad Hunt. "I'm really proud that I can say I was a part of this historic occasion."

After tugs reattached to Constitution's sides, the ship headed to Fort Independence on Castle Island, where thousands of spectators waited to watch Constitution fire a 21-gun salute toward the fort at 1:14 p.m. Fort Independence is a state park that served as a defense post for Boston Harbor at one time.

Finally, the ship returned to her pier at 2:05 p.m. and everyone departed once the brow was safely set and the ship was clean. Constitution re-opened to the public for tours of the ship's history at 4 p.m.

"For me, this underway is representative of an incredible amount of work and dedication by not only the crew, but Maintenance and Repair Facility, Naval History and Heritage Command, and all of the partners coming together to make this happen," said Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 1st Class (AW/SW) Jason Keith, who is the longest serving crew member currently assigned to Constitution. Keith reported to the ship April 13, 2009 and will depart Aug. 31. "I've given tours to thousands of people, shined brass for hundreds of hours, and I've climbed the rigging to set and furl these sails over and over again. But sailing USS Constitution on Aug. 19, 2012 is one of the greatest honors I've had in my naval career, and I'm truly proud to be a part of this history."

The last time Constitution sailed under her own power was July 21, 1997 to honor the ship's 200th birthday. It was the first time the ship sailed in 116 years.

"When we sailed the ship, it became clear it was a different experience you can't have in port," said Lance Beebe, a crew member aboard Constitution's 1997 sail. "The ship comes alive, and you truly understand what she is all about. This new crew [2012 Sailors] just joined a group of crew members [1997 Sailors] that also got to experience Constitution under sail, and they became a significant part of her history as a result."

Constitution is the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat and welcomes more than 500,000 visitors per year. She defended the sea lanes against threat from 1797 to 1855, much like the mission of today's Navy. America's Navy: Keeping the sea free for more than 200 years.

Constitution's mission today is to offer community outreach and education about the ship's history.

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The Best of 2012: Historic Schooner Isaac H. Evans Makes Unscheduled Pit Stop.

The historic schooner Isaac H. Evans is out of the water at North End Ship Yard after grounding off Isle Au Haut. Time to make sure there is no major damage some maintenance and back to work.
The Isaac H. Evans was built in Mauricetown, New Jersey in 1886 and spent many years oystering on the Delaware Bay. Captained by Brenda and Brian Thomas, she now specializes in kid-friendly sailing adventures; families with children as young as age six are welcome on any cruise. National Historic Landmark.

"The Isaac H. Evans was built by George Vannaman in Mauricetown, New Jersey in 1886, on the banks of the Maurice River that leads into Delaware Bay. She will be celebrating her 123rd anniversary this year!  To survive that many years you know she must be an exceptional and well-loved vessel.  She was built when oystering was the biggest fishing industry in America and spent many years working the Delaware Bay before she came to Maine for a new life.  In 1971 she was brought from New Jersey to the old Percy and Small Shipyard which is now part of the Bath Maritime Museum. By 1973 she was completely rebuilt and adapted for her new industry.
    The designation of National Historic Landmark is one we are very proud of. Though it is purely honorific and doesn't mean we get any government money, grants, or tax breaks, there are only a handful of vessels that are so honored. This designation is awarded to vessels that are recognized as being of extraordinary historical significance to the United States.


    Although steeped in history, the Evans has a reputation for always being a well-maintained and neatly kept schooner with very comfortable amenities.  A legacy of her past occupation, she is a very shallow-draft vessel allowing us to haunt the islands of the coast, seeing seals, eagles, osprey, and visiting the small harbors we love."