Vineyard Voyagers report on expeditions past and future
Mabel is outward bound again soon. This year the expedition vessel of the Vineyard Voyagers offers passage on a six-week sailing and rowing voyage to Maine and return. Off to an early start in the still chilly waters of Vineyard Sound, Vineyard Voyagers began the season with two short trips aboard Mabel, its 28-foot ketch reminiscent of a 19th-century open Nomansland boat.
In late May, Vineyard Voyagers conducted an orientation for the five Islander recipients of Vision Fellowships from the Philip Evans Scholarship Foundation: David Bouck, Christine Brissette, Christine Conley, Matthew Goldfarb, and Jackson Parker. The goal of the fellowships is to "encourage a healthy and vibrant Vineyard future by providing opportunity to Islanders who may benefit from going 'off-Island' to acquire the skills and/or education they'll need to make a long-term difference on the Island. To this end, fellows are expected to 'give back' to the Island by working or volunteering in fields that support a healthy, sustainable Island."
Way, haul away! (Left to right) Jessey Myers, Jack Stevenson, Elliot Morris and Ryan Antolick man the oars. Photo courtesy of Vineyard Voyagers
To provide a challenging and stimulating experience for their first time together as a group, Vineyard Voyagers set the Fellows to leathering oars and provisioning for a mini-expedition to Cape Poge Pond on Chappaquiddick. By the time they set sail to the east and rounded East Chop, the wind died, the fair current was aging and the auxiliary power of the six 14 ft. oars was required. Beginning to row before sunset and ending by starlight, the sailors gradually gained experience
The second Voyagers expedition of the year involved the annual participation of high school students from the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School, including one veteran of Mabel's maiden voyage to the Hudson River in 2004. Opting for this offering of their semi-annual two-week project period, Charter School students chose to perform community service work for Camp Jabberwocky, Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary and Vineyard Voyagers. They braved waves of caterpillars, monstrous mildew, and hours of sanding to plant flowers, clean lodgings and restore a sailboat.
Their service accomplished, the students set off from Vineyard Haven on a three-day odyssey aboard Mabel, aiming to make landfall at Menemsha and Cuttyhunk before returning home. As with the Vision Fellow's trip, a late afternoon start to take advantage of a fair tide coincided with the fading of the wind and yet another hardy crew took to the oars, arriving on a screaming tide through Menemsha Channel at around 11 pm.
Mabel prepares to get underway. Photo by Louisa Gould
After a quiet and slightly off-kilter night anchored literally on the flats off Red Beach, Mabel's crew headed for Cuttyhunk under a warm, sunny, and windless blue sky. The intrepid oarspeople bent themselves to the task once again, some having experience in the 32-foot pilot gigs of Vineyard Voyagers' community rowing program. Cooled by a passing rainstorm and its magnificent double rainbow, the crew rowed on towards Cuttyhunk, only to discover their course through Canapitsit Channel was blocked by six foot breaking waves spawned by the swell from tropical depression Alberto. Facing a lee shore and a ticking daylight clock, the situation required a new plan. This time the wind came to the rescue and provided Mabel with the power for an exhilarating sail over the swells and past Sow and Pigs reef to carry her all the way around Cuttyhunk and tuck her into the harbor for a very peaceful night at the town fish pier.
A morning row up the Buzzards Bay side of Nashawena connected with a slack tide through Quicks Hole and a freshening southwest breeze carried the students and Mabel to Tarpaulin Cove for a brief hello to the square topsail schooner Pride of Baltimore II, then happily home to Holmes Hole.
Now Mabel will rest for a few weeks, then raise her sails for SAIL Martha's Vineyard's Heritage Class Vineyard Cup race on July 9. The following day, she will set sail (or be rowed) for the first leg of a circumnavigation of New England and several of the Canadian Atlantic Provinces. Setting sail down east from Vineyard Haven on July 10, Mabel will sail up the coast of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine and then return home by August 19. In 2007 she will make the initial trip down east again before entering Canadian waters and visiting New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec. From the St. Lawrence River, she will turn up the Richelieu River to Lake Champlain and then down the Hudson to return home by Long Island Sound.
This expedition in a 28-foot open boat promises to be short on comfort but long on adventure and challenge, during six weeks of unforeseen exploits with a floating community of fellow explorers. Mabel will carry a rotating crew of eight: captain, education officer, deckhand and five trainees. Getting teenagers out to sea is the main mission of Vineyard Voyagers, but all comers are welcome to book passage, especially residents of coastal communities along the route of the voyage. "Berths" aboard Mabel may be booked for a week, multiple weeks, or the entire trip. Potential adventurers are encouraged to sign on soon, either solo or with a group of friends or family to ensure availability of the right amount of space at the best time for all.
The pace and itinerary of the voyage will depend on the weather and the will of the whole crew, but the weekly goal for distance over the ground will be around 150-200 nautical miles. Every effort will be made to visit maritime museums along the way and other significant local sites that bear on the area's maritime heritage. The major challenge will be to explore the coastal wonders of northeastern America and scout the route for next year's circumnavigation.
Built to put her crew to work as often as possible, Mabel needs a full crew of hands to tend her sailing rig and come to oars for auxiliary power. Designed and built for Vineyard Voyagers in 2001 by then 17-year-old Islander Myles Thurlow, Mabel is a traditional lapstrake open boat, rigged as a ketch with a sprit on her mainsail and a dipping lug on her mizzen. Her lines are reminiscent of Nomansland fishing boats, though it has been said she more closely resembles the Island gaff-rigged double-enders also built on the Vineyard a century ago. She was built to reflect and reconnect with the Vineyard's maritime heritage by offering young Islanders the chance to go to sea.
In pursuit of this goal, Vineyard Voyagers invites any young Islanders between the ages of 12 and 21 to participate in preparing the vessel and planning for this expedition Around New England 2006 and thereby become eligible to join the expedition at a greatly reduced weekly rate. Vineyard Voyagers is also looking for sponsors to help provide the support needed to mount this expedition and make it possible for Vineyard teenagers to engage in this maritime learning adventure.