ROCKBOUND

Water Closet for August 4, 2017

“For the past twelve years the regatta has attracted small vessels from up and down the coast and even inland lakes.”

As much of the Wisconsin continental glacier turned to liquid water, the rising ocean moved up the valleys and around the hills and mountains of Maine. Their tops became islands and peninsulas, their valleys bays. After the ice was gone plants and man populated the rocky land. This happened in the past 15,000 years, no time at all to geologists. In the last few millennia people have been “messing about in boats” along our salty shores. The Indians did so in birch and dugout canoes until gutsy fishermen and colonists from afar arrived in sailboats to take over the seas and shores. No fair wind did these newcomers bring to the Indians who were soon gone from their summer playgrounds by the sea.

Three of fifty eight boats at the Traditional Small Craft Association’s Small Reach Regatta (SRR) held in the waters off Brooklin, Maine, last week. The red, white, and blue dory is a replica of Alfred Johnson’s Centennial that he sailed alone across the Atlantic in 1876. “Centennial II’s” maiden voyage was on July 27 at the regatta. – SRR photo

Fast forward 300 years to the last century. Since childhood many of us have been told stories and later read yarns, many false, about those early days with colonization and Manifest Destiny in mind. As kids we built rafts and little boats. Occasionally we recovered one freed from its mooring by a nor’easter. The old Closeteer’s first boat was a skiff found in a post storm driftwood line. He named the river-worthy boat the Whistler after the Golden Eye Duck, also called Whistler. Thus he, like many near water, became a boat enthusiast. There are thousands forever hankering for a time away on water even though they no longer need to be for a living.   It is fun, interesting, and challenging.
Some have formed groups of kindred souls, many who build their own boats in cellars, garages, and sheds. One organization here on the Yankee coast and beyond is the Traditional Small Craft Association (TSCA). Their boat fever has been exacerbated over the last four decades by the fancy magazine “Wooden Boat”, and the unfancy, but comfortably homey “Messing About in Boats” magazine, the latter sometimes mentioned here in the Stream Team’s weekly Water Closets. Tom Jackson, editor of “Wooden Boat”, long a leader in all things boating helped organize a gathering of tiny yachts called the Small Reach Regatta (SRR). For the past twelve years the regatta has attracted small vessels from up and down the coast and even inland lakes. Owners, many their builders, gather on Maine’s rockbound coast among long ago immersed hills now islands showing nice green tops where ledge and salt spray allows. The hardscrabble farms are gone as is most of the fishing. Lobsters and tourists are now the targets. Old tourists still passing north are reminded of the “Keep Maine Green” signs that greeted them at the border mid-last century. The tourists soon learned the request had two meanings.
Serious boat builder Dan Noyes, once a student of the Closeteer’s and a young member of the Rings Island Rowing Club on the Mighty Merrimack, invited the old timer to crew in his spanking new “Centennial II” at the TSCA’s 2017 annual soiree. The first Centennial, a 20-foot Gloucester dory was sailed across the Atlantic by Alfred Johnson alone in 1876 to celebrate our country’s hundredth birthday. Dan launched his red, white and blue copy appropriately on July 4th. (See WC of July 14, 2017.) He then rigged it in time for the Small Reach Regatta (SRR) held July 18 to 23 in the cold waters around way Down East, Brooklin, Maine.
In Brooklin about 90 boat devotees arrived along with 58 small motor less vessels for five days of sailing, rowing and happy boat talk about ballast, trim, sail rigs, boat finishes, glues and a hundred other boat topics. The Closeteer no longer felt so old, a good two-thirds of the participants looked like grandparents and some even great grandparents. In and around their vessels they moved like teenagers, albeit a little slower. Many joyfully lent helping hands when lugging boats around. Even the old Closeteer scrambled in and out and about “Centennial II” with renewed vigor hoping Captain Dan wouldn’t think him a malingerer. Enthusiasm and good cheer were the orders of the day. Even head hits by shifting booms got smiles. Passing on either land or sea most of the sailors and rowers greeted each other hardily. In the evenings around the campfire sailor-musicians played several instruments and sang chanteys and salty ballads. All learned that mosquitoes like music. Kindred souls all as happy as could be, as befits Kenneth Grahame’s famous words in Wind in the Willows by River Rat to Mole, “There is nothing . . . absolutely nothing . . . so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” The Closeteer, long a rower, quickly learned there is nothing “simple” about today’s small craft and their modern gear when added to the numerous variables of sailing. Many of the gung-ho skippers had twenty pieces of equipment aboard their small craft. The days of the basic fishing dories without life jackets are long gone. Visit a boat store and you’ll see what is meant. Bring plenty of money.
What Mole and Rat couldn’t have known was the number of boats made by different hands over the centuries that would evolve. There must have been twenty species each with several subspecies at the regatta. Well represented was the dory with a half dozen types made of different materials, heavy and light. Some TSCA purists, who pride themselves on wood, frown on molded plastic but still kindly allow them in the SRR fleet. Here are at few types and rigs Dan named for the new-to-the-scene Closeteer: duck punt, peapod, melon seed, Swampscott dory, pearl, lug, ketch, yawl, lateen, Marconi rig, sprit rig, sloop, beetle cat, sandbagger, and on and on.
Once underway, more or less together at first, the vessels showed their stuff in various winds as the ever more spread out fleet threaded its way among lobster buoys. It must have amused the lobstermen to have so much non-working company. They motored from pot to pot among us providing gentle wakes, well knowing we might buy lobsters.
Long ago when the Indian and Colonial children picked up lobsters from low tide pools life was much harder but perhaps more rewarding to those who earned their living from the sea. They paddled and sailed at the mercy of the gods. The Indians, long integrated with their surroundings gave thanks to the animals, plants, and rocks they saw as kin. The Colonists built churches on the ledges and gave thanks to God. Each early morning in first light after rolling from his tent the Closeteer hiked a mile up an empty highway to admire the vegetation that richly populated the hard land with little soil. The rising sun reflected off blueberries, spruces, firs, bayberry, and lichens, the latter covering exposed rock. On a gentle rise he found a Spartan looking church, one of two in sparsely populated Brooklin. This church called Rockbound, no denomination noted, had a sign up announcing: Hymn Sing, All Invited, July 27. What events those must have been in the days before radio and TV when spread out neighbors in a beautiful hard land gathered to gossip, sing and pray. The Closeteer bet much of the talk year round was of boats and gear as it was back at the SRR camp. The difference is that those talkers of old wouldn’t be leaving after a week of play.
_______________________________________________________________________________WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD`

Precipitation Data* for Month of: April May June July
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 4.53 4.06 3.95 3.89
   2017 Central Watershed Actual 6.53 4.87 6.08 3.8 as of July 28

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For July 28, 2017  Normal . . . 6.5 CFS     Current Rate . . . 36.6 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru June.
** Middleton Stream Team is the source of actual precipitation data for July..
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or         <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584

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