I arrived home from Monhegan exactly a week ago, getting to my house after our houseguest arrived. Saturday, Below the Waterline: Seven Weeks in a Shipyard opened at Camden Falls Gallery. Sunday I washed clothes and repacked my kit in preparation for this week’s trip.
I can fit my clothes and personal belongings in a small duffle bag, but I make up for that with my painting kit. Long trips require extra canvases and carriers to get the wet work home safely.
The water temperature on Penobscot Bay is something like 55° F. right now. That dictates the air temperature, which is why central air is just conspicuous consumption along the coast. On shore, we’ve been in a cool cycle. All that added up to bringing a few extra pieces of warm clothing.
Sunday evening didn’t break the pattern; it was cold, wet and breezy. We boarded at six, and I was very nearly ready. While I’ve painted the American Eagle several times now, I had never set foot on her deck before. It was initially uncomfortable to be treated as a guest by her and her crew, most of whom I met during fitting out.
The heart of the boat is its Atlantic Fisherman woodstove, made in Nova Scotia. This six-burner beast has a rail and spring system to stop pots from flinging themselves off the stovetop in weather. Otherwise it works like a normal woodstove. That meant that each day at 4:30 AM, as guests slept snugly in their berths, cook Matthew Weeks was firing her up to make coffee and do his baking.
It also made the galley warm, and several times I went below deck to find someone snoring amiably in the corner. Occasionally that person might have been me.
From working in and around tourist destinations, I’ve noticed how perennially exhausted most people are when they arrive on vacation. Still, they fight to stay awake, since their vacation is the one week they’ve set aside for fun.
The American Eagle started life as the Andrew and Rosalie, built in 1930 in Gloucester for Captain Patrick Murphy. It was renamed in 1941, when it was sold and converted into a trawler. Captain John Foss bought her in 1984, and rebuilt her for the windjammer trade. My berth was tiny and immaculate and located square in the middle of what probably had been her hold. There was nary a whiff of cod left.
After several weeks of hard slog, I worried that I was too tired to put my all into painting on the American Eagle. But the gentle motion of a boat on the water always knocks me out, and I awoke at 3:30 AM on Monday, itching to paint.