A Special Time


Kay H.


*Sequel to 'A Necessary Evil'



Lee and Chip have a rare chance to take a week off between Seaview missions, which occurs at the perfect time for the race of great sailing ships.  For several years a mutual friend of theirs from the Academy has been extolling the challenge of sailing on some of the beautiful, old tall ships.  As a teenager Lee sailed off the coast of Rhode Island in modern sailing sloops and participated in some small races.  He still watched the America’s Cup race whenever he had a chance. He had never had been on the tall ships which were either replicas or remodeled like ships from a bygone era utilizing an age of sail and physical skill from past centuries


It so happened that Lee, Chip and Commander Victor Davison, the old Academy friend who was now serving aboard the USS Carl Vinson, all had leave at the same time and better still the Great Schooner Race was being held in Camden, Maine that same week.  The three of them decided that it would be great fun as well as a chance for some friendly competition if they all took part this year.  Commander Davidson already crewed with the Sea Harmony when ever he had a chance.   Lee used to race with Captain Mike Rodgers many years ago and when Lee checked the master list of ships competing in the race he happily discovered that Captain Mike now captained the Mary Day a training ship in the competition.  Lee immediately contacted Captain Mike and reserved a place for himself and Chip.


Lee and Chip flew into Portland Maine and picked up the rental car that Lee had been reserved and  Chip decided he would do the driving for the approximately 2hr trip to Camden.  The plan was to arrive the day before the race and immediately join the crew on the Schooner Mary Day.  After they arrive in Camden and Chip parked, they both get out and Lee said enthusiastically, “Let’s grab our gear and get aboard the Mary Day.  When I talked with Captain Mike this morning, he said that he wanted to test the new mainsail this afternoon if all of the crew arrived in time.”



 “You never mentioned in addition to us and Captain Mike, how many others are in the crew.  You haven’t seen Captain Mike much since you joined the Navy have you?” asked Chip.



 “There will be a crew of seven including us.  No, I haven’t seen Mike in years. The last time I was in a schooner race was the Chesapeake Bay for Annapolis to Baltimore.  I never have sailed in the waters off Maine. ”


As they approach the pier it was quite a sight to see all the schooners tied up alongside. This was an amazing spectacle not seen anywhere else in the world.  There was a truly great congregation of working sail vessels that all raced around Penobscot Bay.  Spars and sails fill the skyline, and crew’s milled about saying hello to old friends and meeting new ones. Lee immediately spotted Captain Mike aboard his ship; he still looked the same even after all these years.  As Lee and Chip started working their way over to the Mary Day they passed the Sea Harmony.  A figure suddenly dropped from the deck to the pier and grabbed hold of Chip.  Chip shook the hand off of his shoulder and angrily turned around to see who had seized him.  Lee had glanced quickly toward Chip, when he glimpsed someone grabbing him and dropped his bag as he turned to help his friends, then smiled as he realized who it was. 


Chip was about to yell at the person who grabbed him when he recognized his friend.  “Victor, you should know better that to do that.   I nearly tipped you into the ocean.”  As Chip growled as he greeted the other man as Lee reached out to shake Victor’s hand. 


Victor Davison laughed as he warmly shook Lee’s hand and grinned at Chip. “You and who’s navy, Chip old friend.”



When Lee looked at Chip’s irritated expression and started to laugh which broke up the tension in Chip’s Scowl.  Gradually he started to relax. 


“Vic I see you made it in.” Lee said.   “It is great to see you.  Let Chip and I check in with our boat and maybe we can get together one night while we’re here.  I remember you telling me about a training cruise that included a tour of the lighthouses off of the Maine coast.   We signed up for a cruise after the race.  Maybe we can have a chance to talk about it.”


“What ship are you crewing on?” asked Victor.


Lee looked down the pier and pointed “The Mary Day. I discovered that it’s captained by an old friend, Captain Mike Rodgers.”


Chip meanwhile has picked up their bags; he was less inclined to conservation, Lee was really better friends with Victor than he is, during their Academy days Victor’s antics tended to get the younger Lee in difficulties usually resulting in some type of minor injury.  “Lee we need to report to our ship.”


Victor looked up at Chip remembering how he was always spoiling their fun.  “You said the Mary Day; she’s the fifth ship down the pier.  I need to go anyway; I have a crew meeting in half an hour. Drop by anytime and we can have that get together.  Enjoy the sailing and may the best ship win.”


Lee smiled confidently. “Don’t worry it will!” and joined Chip as they continued to the Mary Day.



Captain Mike looked up and saw Lee walking toward him down the pier and came down to greet him.  He reached out and grabbed hold of Lee’s hand “I’m so glad that you were able to make it this year, Lee, it’s been too long since I’ve seen you.”  He looked Lee over closely “You need to gain some more weight, don’t they feed you on your boat?”



Lee grimaced “Not you too.”  He turned and drew a grinning Chip forward,   “I would like to you meet my friend and XO of the Seaview Chip Morton. This laughing buffoon is another member of your crew.”


Chip was trying so hard to contain his laughter at Captain Mike’s comment that he almost missed the introduction.  He glanced at his Skipper’s frowning face, “I’m sorry sir.  I knew Lee was skinny at the Academy, but I did not realize that it was always the case.”


Lee looked indignantly at both of them “I’m slender not skinny!”


Captain Mike reached out to take Chip’s hand and shook it heartily. He just grinned at Chip, “Gentlemen, let’s get aboard and I’ll introduce you to the rest of the crew. Later on maybe I’ll tell you all about your young friend here! But right now, I want to get underway as soon as possible to test the new sails before the racing starts.”

After they climb on the deck of the Mary Day and were introduced to the other crewmembers, everyone started preparing to get underway.  Raising the new sail took some getting used to, but in a short time they were tacking their way up the Bay at speeds of up to ten knots. As dark approached the Mary Day anchored in a cove. The crew spent a quiet evening aboard and was tucked in to their sleeping bags early.  First thing the next morning Captain Mike turned on the radio for the day’s weather report. The forecast was for the wind to stay strong during the day, but then become light in the evening and overnight. Less encouraging still was next days forecast, which included a wind shift to the southwest. They would have to make the best of the afternoon and hope to hang in there after the weather change.

The Parade of Ships had about 25 schooners participating in the race which included the Lewis R. French, Mary Day, Victory Chimes, Spirit of Massachusetts, Integrity, Bald Eagle, Liberty Clipper, Green Dragon, Roseway, Bluenose II, Friendship, Synchronicity, Sea Harmony and the Adventurer.  The Inner Harbor was filled with so many large and small schooners all setting sail to the starting line.  The Schooner Race started with a light northerly breeze as the boats sailed down from Penobscot Bay’s to the starting line just south of Rockland’s Harbor. They jockeyed for position at the starting line, staying away from all the big schooners which would steal the breeze. .In spite of the breezes, the Parade of Sail went off as planned.

With the wind gently out of the north, the Mary Day took the lead.  This kept them in front but they were closely followed by the Adventure.  When the wind began to lighten to barely a zephyr and their speed went down to less than 2 knots from behind them they could see some of the other boats. Suddenly a dramatic wind shift took place from the NW packing 30+ knot winds and the Sea Harmony was coming up fast.

Captain Mike called, “Lee releases the second mast.  We need all four sails.  We need to catch as much wind as possible if we want to keep the lead.” He did not want to give the Sea Harmony a chance to over take them, since the Mary Day and Sea Harmony were traditional rivals.

An hour later, the wind increased a bit from the south and they picked up speed as they tacked their way down the bay, exchanging tacks with Adventurer. The rest of the fleet fell further behind. The wind continued to build to a steady 20+ knots, allowing for a perfect rum line down the bay.  Toward the end of the race the Pride of Baltimore II passed them and was 20 minutes ahead at the finish, being the first to finish. The Mary Day finished next and Virginia was right behind them. Lee and Chip enjoyed the race even though they didn’t win, they were very glad they had beaten Commander Davidson’s boat.  Captain Mike was ecstatic; they had defeated their traditional rivals. After the race, all of the boats sailed majestically into Rockland’s harbor and carefully nosed their way through the small boats along the town's waterfront to put on a grand Parade of Sail. 

They celebrated that evening with a mingling of the boat crews.  Later that evening, fireworks arched into the sky over Rockland Harbor as the gallant ships floated quietly at anchor.  The view for the crew and passengers was a unique experience as they watched the fireworks beautiful patterns arch in the sky achieving a new glory as they viewed flashes of bright lights and colors through ship's rigging.



Lee and Chip spent the night on the Mary Day, since they were participating in a very unusual and unique, hands-on, physically active course of learning all aspects involved for the students to become integral members of the. Obviously the Command Crew of the Seaview did not need to learn every skill required to live aboard, skills that included general seamanship, coastal navigation, and marlin-spike seamanship.  Captain Mike had asked them to come along and assist since he only had one of his usual instructors to handle the students.  The students were divided into four watch groups: Navigation, Bow Watch, Marlinspike, and Helm/Galley, with a daily rotation set up so that participants could experience all aspects of a large sailing operation.


Lee and Chip always enjoy passing on their knowledge about the sea.  An added advantage of this cruise is the opportunity to view some of the most beautiful sentinels which were built to protect those who travel by sea along the state's rocky coast.  Maine has over sixty lighthouses, most of which are available for viewing by driving or walking.   There were a number of lighthouses that were only accessible by boat, some of which tourist were also able to see on boat tours operated by the maritime committee of certain cities, but there were still some that visitors are only able to view from a sailing ship.


The constant flurry of action allowed no thoughts of boredom from the students. The would be sailors all had a chance to scurry up the tall masts and along the rigging to furl and unfurl sails.  This all required a difficult balancing act on the spars and yardarms. The Mary Day was never quiet during the day.  You could hear the sound of wind in the rigging and the flapping of the sails when the wind dropped and they became slack.  Also you could hear the slapping and crashing of waves as they hit against the ship in heavy seas. Lee and Chip along with Captain Mike and the other instructors were constantly barking orders to the crew teaching them how to trim the sails in order to catch the constantly changing wind and any number of other tasks required for the operation of the ship.  The students could be heard grunting and chanting as they hauled on the halyards to raise and lower the heavy sails.  This gave them a view of the rigors of a mariner's life and the teamwork necessary for the safe operation of these big sailing ships.  Even at night the ship was not quite.  You could hear the ship's timbers creaked and the wind in the huge canvas sails, along with the ever-present sound of the vessel moving through the mighty ocean.


Lee especially enjoyed giving some of the daily lectures on the decision-making process and responsibilities behind commanding your own vessel.   While training the students in handling of the schooner the course allowed everyone to see lights that just can't be seen from shore.   


“Chip wasn’t it was fantastic to see all of the lighthouses.  They’re all so dramatically different style and even construction” enthused Lee.  “I was glad we were able to see all 23 lighthouses in this area including the Mt Desert Rock and Matinicus Rock Lights.  I know it took a lot of extra effort for the crew and fortunately the winds were just right.  You know the Admiral is going to be so envious.”  Lee looked thoughtful for a minute “If I remember correctly he took a tour of the area, but was he unable view the Matinicus Rock Light.  The sight of the lights at sunset is one of the most unusual, especially the spectrum of colors reflected off the buildings.”


Chip grinned as he said, “You know Lee, and the Admiral is going to be so jealous that we got tour the island.  I know that since Matinicus Rock is maintained as a bird sanctuary the access is very limited it was great of Captain Mike to arrange it for us.”


Lee looked over at Chip, “The Matinicus Rock Lights are special, since it is unusual to see Twin Lighthouse Towers.  You know it was one of Maine’s two “twin lights” the other one was The Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse.  In 1924 the Lighthouse Service ruled that all twin lights must be converted to single beacons.”


As they return to the harbor after viewing the spectacular lighthouses, Lee sighed as he spied at the shore.  “You know Chip, I’m sorry to see this fantastic experience end.  This has been on of the best vacations we’ve had in a long time.”


Chip looked thoughtfully at his friend.  “Well Lee we still have a couple days before we have to be back.  There is always the Wellness Trip we could take before we leave here.”


Lee glared at Chip “Why on earth would you want to take that cruise.”


Chip laughed “Just think how pleased Jamie would be when he heard that we took a cruise which has informal instruction as well as a discussion for creating true balance and harmony in all aspects of our lives.  Think about it the six aspects covers; physical, intellectual, occupational, emotional, social, and spiritual.    He would be so impressed with the healthy eating and the reduction of stress from work, schedules, traffic, cell phones, computers, and decisions.  He might even get the Admiral to recommend this program for the crew.”  Chip got an evil grin on his face “It will also give us both a chance to recover from the little climbing adventure that you insisted on taking at Matinicus Rock, so you could get a close look at the lighthouses.  You do remember your sprained ankle and my scratched up arms and legs.




Lee shuddered “If you had worn something other than shorts with only a T-Shirt and deck shoes, you would have been fine.  I told you to watch out for the bushes and the birds would not have chased us if you had not gotten close to their nest.   I consider this is all you fault Mr. Morton, then I would not have sprained my ankle trying to help you get away from the birds if you’d listened to me.  The only good thing about it was you didn’t screw up until after we had a chance to see the lighthouse and if Jamie ever hears anything about the Wellness Cruise I will think up a suitable punishment that you most definitely will not enjoy.  I will get even, Mr. Morton.”



Note:  As Always thanks to Lill. H who keeps me on track, without her assistance this story would not be completed.