The Schooner Yankee Foundation

Schooner Magic

A Ghost From The Past

“The Yankee – She Lives to Sail Once More”
by James Devine

Who can say what draws us to the sea? Why do we feel uplifted as we stand on a headland facing the ocean? Perhaps it is the music of the wind and the waves as it carries to us. Perhaps it is the fact that life itself consists mainly of water. Or could it be something else? Could it be the beautiful form of a graceful wind ship making her way westwards? Surely above all the spirit of man is moved by the sights and sound of a sailing ship at sea. The movement of her hull through the water must be the seaman’s ballet. The sound of the wind filling her sails the sailor’s aria and the love that he feels for his ship is that of a man for a woman.

The calm waters of Gloucester harbor stretch away to the southeast and a gentle breeze blows from over the land. There is a sense of the ocean here, from the granite rocks of the Massachusett’s coast, this is seafarer country. We are now and have always been a sea people, born to a legacy of great schooners and strong adventurous men who loved and understood the ocean. Our forefathers built great wind ships and sailed them from this coast since the very beginning and even those of us who claim to be landsmen have an uncle, grandfather or distant cousin who went to sea from some East Coast seaport. We were famous schooner men in days gone by, and when people talked of us the words were spoken with respect. Fine sailing ships were born on this coast, and our heritage is just as surely steeped in the salty Atlantic as it is rooted in the soil of this land.

"For the Love Of Sail and Sea" - James R. DevineAnd there is this other thing here along this coast, it is not mine alone and so I must share it with you. There is schooner magic all along these shores, and it is free for the taking. The bays and coves are filled with it as are the granite headlands and the rocky shores. It is there for you and I and anyone who would have it. Good for body and soul, this is how to find it. Go quietly at the earliest hint of dawn to the place where you can see and smell the Atlantic. Close your eyes for a moment and face the east and it will come to you as it has so many times for me.

Peer intently into the mist, searching for the ghost we know is there. We can hear the quiet surge of the sea at the water’s edge and the cries of the gulls. The first whispers of a morning breeze brush our faces and we can smell the salt of the ocean.

An early morning daydream takes us far to the south east, past the tree covered islands into the great Atlantic. There, an ethereal apparition from another time fades in and out of the fog, a lithe and lovely Atlantic siren, come once again to stir the hearts of mortal men. She’s the specter of the schooner Yankee, silently homeward bound from faraway lands and oceans where the trade winds blow. Tall of spar and long of hull she heels gently, as with canvas taught she reaps the wind. Close hauled with topsails sheeted home the set of her sails is as perfect as her sheer line. The curve of her quarter is as fair as a woman’s hip and her stem lovely to behold. The faint scent of pine forest drifts across her bow, and she knows that she is close. Born here, on the coast of Massachusetts, the thought of seeing her place of birth stirs her spirit. She has voyaged long and far but she lifts her bows with the sauciness of a young girl, throwing the spray to leeward.

The creak of wooden blocks and the snap of manila rope comes and fades. We can almost hear the hiss of her bow wave as it rolls away to leeward and the faint commands crossing her deck as her crew haul on halyard and sheet.

“Full and by, make fast.”

The image becomes clearer as she closes the Massachusetts Coast and the schooner Yankee comes on under full canvas, leaving a white frothy wake astern. There is the perpetual fog bank off the coast that she must navigate before making port but there is a familiarity; she knows the rocks and coves and harbors. The first of the sun’s rays break the hills to the west and the Schooner Yankee glides into the bay. Rounding the point she comes ghosting towards us and even as the topsails are clewed up her catted anchor is unlashed and her sails come down from forward. She glides near to the shore, and we are startled as we hear the command “let go”. The schooner Yankee has come home and our daydream ends.

“There resides in everyone the spirit of adventure, that small flame that inspires life’s quest. All that is required is the kindling and then it will burn brightly. The first sips of freedom’s heavy brew are intoxicating and will pull you ever onwards, as it has me. Drink freely of it and you will not be disappointed. May fair winds fill your sails and the lee shore never find you”

Capt. R. L. Boudreau

 

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