Story by Nelly Paasche
The voyage of the Guillemot was a true adventure. We departed from the beautiful Chewonki Waterfront on a glorious September Monday morning. After rowing out to Montsweag bay, Angela, the captain of the ship taught us how to raise the three sails; the jib, the mizzen, and the main sail using their proper halyard lines. As we sailed into Sheepscott bay, finally anchoring in Spectacle island hope was fresh and spirits were alive. Members of the crew, which was made up of four semester students, James a science teacher and Reis the waterfront director, enjoyed exploring the island during the late afternoon. That night, we ate a warm dinner of pasta with tomato sauce on the boat and then went through the somewhat laborious process of removing our sleeping bags and pads from our dry bags. We decided to sleep on the boat our first night, feeling the gentle rock of the boat and looking up at the stars.
It was determined by our captain that the best time to leave Spectacle and set out for the Gulf of Maine was in the late morning, so we had the luxury of sleeping in until 8:00am and having a brunch of eggs and sausage and cinnamon toast at 10:00am. As we headed out, Hannah the navigator and myself, the captain of the day chose the proper route to take in order to get out into the lower Sheepscott Bay and out to sea. That Tuesday we almost had too much luck with the winds. With breezes over 15 nautical miles per hour, once we were out to sea, the waves lifted us up and down, spraying our backs and necks with cold seawater. As we dipped in and out of large swells that were four feet high it felt like we were not moving very far at all. While members of the crew began to feel ill from the swooping waves, Seguin Island shimmered in the distance beckoning us.
The hours passed, the crew growing weary and cold and nauseated, when suddenly Angela grabbed me aside with a chart. “I don’t think that we will make it to Seguin before dark,” she said with purpose, “I think it would be best for us to tuck into Damariscove Island for the night and anchor in a protected cove.” We decided on a route and anchored just before sunset. It took some hard rowing to get us into the enclosed cove, a final push to end the challenging day at sea. We stretched our legs and looked at the sights from the top of the hill where there was a tower looking over onto the ocean. Rowing back and forth between the island and the good ship Guillemot on a small dingy, we took breaks and cooked dinner before we nestled into our sleeping bags and put our dry bags back under into one of the very organized compartments inside the boat. We were to wake up at 5:00 am to catch the proper tide that would have us end up in Seguin within just a couple of hours.
After waking up to a bright magenta and orange sunrise, we packed everything up and under in record time before using our fresh morning energy to row out of Damariscove back into the Gulf so that we could set sail east towards Seguin. This third day the seas were calm enough but the wind was strong enough to allow us to sail straight into our mooring at Seguin Island, arriving at 10:00am. We took turns rowing all of our bags to shore and set up camp. There was work to be done on this historic island that has been in use since the 1600s. Several of us scrubbed the paint off of rocks on the pristine trails and others worked to lift rocks into piles for the lovely Island Keepers, Tim and Lynn.
The main attraction of Seguin Island is its lighthouse, constructed in 1857, which can be seen by ships from up to 20 miles away. We were given a grand tour of this important monument and got to climb to the very top and take in the breathtaking views. It was a perfect day; sunny and warm. After a casual lunch and more exploring of the island, the crew lay out in the sun around the campsite and drifted into a relaxing group nap. I woke up and snuck back onto the boat to cook a big dinner for everyone as well as our new friends Tim and Lynn. Everyone left the boat with full stomachs ready to settle into our tents for the night and prepare for another early start.
Following our delightful séjour on Seguin Island, the success of the final two days was a testament to the determination and strength of the crew. There was minimal sailing those last two days and everyone had to work together to row us back to our dear home, Chewonki. Skilled sailors at this point, Lena, Hannah, Sophie and I navigated, captained, and steered us home. We raised and lowered and loosened and tightened the sails when we had a rare gust of wind, but really, it was the jovial spirit of the crew that kept us going and allowed us to row eight miles in one day. We sang and laughed and told stories as we rowed. The final act that brought the group together even closer was when we all made matching turks head knot bracelets out of cord at our final campsite, once again on Spectacle Island.
While we dragged our dry bags, wannegans, and extra supplies back up the hill to Pack Out, our bodies still felt the pull of the Ocean. For the rest of the day, until I went to bed, I felt very emotional and proud of myself. I had never sailed at sea before and it was one of the most physically and mentally challenging experiences that I have had in a long time. I have never had to organize my possessions more or function so closely with the forces of nature. At sea, we were completely vulnerable to the currents and tides of the ocean and it was imperative that we all worked together well as we were just seven people in a tight space, sometimes sailing or rowing for ten hours. As I tried to fall asleep in my cabin on Friday night, my hands were covered in calluses from rowing and my skin glowed from the sea air. I tossed and turned in bed, finding it hard to fall asleep without the gentle rocking of the good ship Guillemot.