About that time, as I was about to graduate from college, I saw an advertisement for the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School off the coast of Maine. The ad pictured a young person about my age standing on top of a mountain peak with his back to the camera, arms outstretched and gazing toward the heavens. The picture spoke to me and the yearning I felt in my soul as I searched for spiritual relevance and meaning in my life.
Below the picture was a quote from Henry David Thoreau,
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
That was it. I was hooked and I was determined to accept the challenge and face my fears head on. Thus I learned to sail and planted the seed for a lifelong affinity for the sea and its mysteries.
After, Outward Bound, I ended up out West for many years, living in Phoenix, Colorado, Kansas, and the mountains of New Mexico. As happy as I was to experience the great, expansive wonders of the west, my mind and heart were drawn back to the sea and I knew that one day I would return to Maine and follow my dreams as a sailor..
To me the prettiest boat on the water was a wooden, traditionally rigged Friendship Sloop. Originally built in Friendship Maine and used by lobsterrmen these sloops featured elegant lines with a long bowsprit, two headsails and a large gaff rigged main with its boom hanging far aft of the stern. I decided i wanted to start looking for a boat and as I searched, I held the image of the graceful Friendship Sloop foremost in my mind.
As I perused the paperwork on the boat, I remarked to a friend who had accompanied me how great it was that the boat was named Morning Watch, pretty close to the name I had imagined and another sign that the boat was for me.. She insisted that the boat was actually named Morning Star but I showed her the paperwork to the contrary. Still she insisted adamantly. I disregarded her, thinking she had to be mistaken according to the documents. I made plans to visit the boat again the next day and was astonished at what I discovered. Someone had made an elaborate carving as a nameplate for the transom and apparently had removed it as a keepsake. You could see where it had been mounted and that it had been painted around.. To my astonishment, right there in front of my eyes under where the nameplate had been were the words Morning Star.
This was the beginning of a lovely ten year relationship with the sea that was a significant part of my life.
But wait.... there's more.....
When I got the boat, the broker gave me a related batch of paperwork including a copy of an article about the vessel by John Rousmaniere that had appeared in Sail Magazine. John Rousmaniere was a famous nautical author who had written several important books including Annapoplis Book of Seamanship and Fastnet Force 10. Serious sailors know the former as a basic handbook of sailing skills that is one of the Bibles of sailing. The latter chronicles the transatlantic Fastnet race in 1932 which was historic due to a Force 10 gale that occurred during the race.
Brilliant was used as a sail training vessel at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut and, remarkably for a wooden boat built in 1932, was being actively sailed. We used to go out for 7-10 days at a time in southern New England waters with a crew of 10 mostly inexperienced sailors, some rank novices.. The Captain and I depended on the crew to help sail the boat and all hands were actively engaged. Many of our voyages were made with an all teenage crew as part of the Seaport's sail education program.
He said, " My favorite picture in the whole world which is hanging on the wall of my living room at home is of MY SON SAILING ON YOUR BOAT !"
Later that year, I was out sailing on a beautiful day on Fisher’s Island Sound and another boat sailing by hailed us. I wasn’t surprised as my boat under full sail was a real eye-catcher and frequently got waves and compliments. Someone from the other boat yelled over, “What happened to the staysail club?”. The staysail club was a small wooden boom attached to one of the forward sails which enabled the sail to move unattended from one side of the boat to the other during a tack which made the boat easier to sail single handed. I liked the challenge and action of handling all the sails manually so had removed it early on. But how would this guy have known about that?
He yelled over one more time, “It’s John Rousmaniere. I used to sail on her when I was young!”