The clue arrived as mysteriously as usual on Sunday and we had to quickly book a seat for two on a seaworthy vessel. Thankfully, we got the first time slot for 10:30 Monday morning. And so, despite some fog, we drove northeast.
But . . . before we reached our destination, we had a challenge to answer to along the way. My guy needed to complete the crossword puzzle in the Portland Press Herald on his own. And then, while I did the driving, he needed to give me a clue, word by word until I’d completed the puzzle orally. Unfortunately, one letter held me up and we knew we’d loose a few moments if everyone else in the Amazing Race–Our Style finished it without flaws. We wouldn’t know for sure until the end. My glitch–the “r” in Urdu–the language spoken mainly in Pakistan.
Two and a half hours later we reached the location where our next challenge would begin. Of course, we had to pay attention to the signs and not park where permission was granted only to those who worked the waterfront.
Our mission was to sail upon the gaff-rigged schooner Surprise. According to her website, Surprise was “built by the Waddell Shipyard in Rockport, Massachusetts, for Martin Kattenhorn. Surprise began her life as a racing and cruising yacht. Mr. Kattenhorn had commissioned Thomas McManus, the most famous American designer of fishing schooners, to design a vessel of about 45 feet, which could be safely sailed by a crew of no more than three persons. In early 1918, Surprise slid down the marine railway.
Her final dimensions were: Length overall 57 feet, Length on deck 44 feet, Beam 12 feet, Draft 7 feet, Displacement 21 tons.
Her topsail schooner rig allowed Mr. Kattenhorn to fly a mainsail, foresail, staysail , jib, and a fisherman staysail. Her working sail area, not counting topsails, was just under 1000 square feet. Surprise was a respected racer. In 1923, she captured sixth place in a fleet of 22 vessels in the first race to Bermuda after World War I. Mr. Kattenhorn was a founding member of the Cruising Club of America, and Surprise carried the club’s ensignia from Bermuda to Nova Scotia and ports in between from 1918 until Mr. Kattenhorn’s death in 1959, an incredible sailing career!”
All of that history, and we realized we needed to pay attention. (Note to self: remember these facts) Already into the eighth leg of the race, we had a feeling that the historical value of some of our adventures would play a key part if we stay in the race until the final episode.
At the established time, we boarded the boat and looked around at our shipmates. No fellow contestants. Huh? How could that be? But perhaps the rest had chosen the alternate activity that involved some baking and deliveries. We were much more comfortable setting sail with Captain Will, who when he wasn’t applying sunscreen, used his left foot to steer the boat out of Camden Harbor.
Half way out, First Mate Laird asked for help in hoisting the sails. We knew this offering was intended for us. I quickly jumped up and my guy followed. My job–to use the hand-over-hand method to raise the raise the main gaff at the top as my guy kept the main boom parallel. Of all our challenges thus far, this was among the easiest and we felt right at home.
Finally under sail rather than motor power, the boat moved away from Camden Harbor and out into Penobscot Bay.
As we continued, the captain and first mate exchanged roles, because really, they are both comfortable and supportive in each. While Captain Will explained that Surprise was celebrating her 100th birth year, First Mate Laird looked up.
Above, a flag blowing in the breeze commemorated the celebration.
As we headed out to Mark Island in Penobscot Bay, so named because early mariners used the island to mark their bearings, we noted a ghost ship on the hazy horizon.
Will and Laird both exclaimed about what a perfect sailing day it was. Indeed.
The further out we moved, the more we noticed lobstermen checking their traps as gulls circled in hopes of an offering.
These were the folks who had headed out onto the water at 4 am as they surveyed the grounds where they’d set traps. A Maine lobsterman is allowed to set up to 800 traps, but as we learned today, it not only takes time to gain a lobster license and no longer is it a tradition handed directly from father or grandfather to son or daughter, but one doesn’t set the full amount of traps to start. And we learned that Lobsterman Toby is the local God of the Traps and the one to consult before dipping into a lobstering career.
Some collected lobsters while others replaced traps. It’s not an easy life, but don’t tell a lobsterman that. Oh yeah, and one more fact, women who lobster are also called lobstermen . . . with pride.
Once we changed tacks, positions on the boat shifted, as should be expected.
From all sides, we viewed the Curtis Lighthouse. The station was first established in 1836. As the lighter rocks tumbled down in front of the current house indicated, when the first building was demolished, the rocks were not intended to be reused or repurposed. The present lighthouse was build in 1896 and automated in 1972. (Note to self: remember these facts)
Slowly we tacked and then motored back into the harbor, with Mount Battie’s domed shape, a reflection of the harbor’s outline, standing tall in the background.
Captain Will shared a third point of interest to add to our bag of potentially important historical points should we make it to the end of this race: The 1930 122 ft. steel-hulled yacht Atlantide. The boat played a life-saving role in World War II as allied troops pinned down by the invading German army were evacuated at Dunkirk, France. And it was featured in the movie Dunkirk.
As we sailed closer to shore, in a pattern of symmetry that matched our departure, everything was restored to its original position and the term shipshape revealed.
Back under motor power, we passed by an old marine railway, which probably resembled the one Surprise originally slid down.
At last, our sailing experience of the day slowed. And a female mallard swam beside the boat, perhaps her hope for a handout redeemed occasionally by others.
Meanwhile, a cormorant bathed.
With precise precision as a neighboring boat docked, we pulled in, Laird jumped off the boat and all ropes were secured. Our journey had ended and we needed to hustle to a lunch spot.
We chose Peter Otts and a Maine Beer Company Peepers Pale Lager for me, while my guy enjoyed a Guinness–because it’s good for you! Two delish haddock sandwiches rounded out our menu choices.
But we still had one more task to complete–to locate a symbol of WWI while hiking. And so up Route One we drove to Camden Hills State Park in hopes that we’d chosen the right place. It was rather deceiving at the start of the hike for across one boardwalk after another did we walk.
Eventually, however, the incline steepened and terrain became more of what one might expect along the coast of Maine–rocks and roots to navigate around and over.
We hadn’t seen a single other contestant and had no idea how we were doing, but knew we’d lost a wee bit of time on the crossword challenge, and so we paused for a second and my guy expressed his inner Cousin Itt.
The funny thing we noticed about the trail system was that no matter how much further we had to go, many of the signs indicate 0.5 miles, and even after we’d covered a section of 0.25, the next sign stated the summit was still 0.5 ahead. It amused us and from then on we knew everything was a mere half mile away from somewhere.
At the summit of Mount Battie, the view encompassed the harbor below.
But it was what stood behind us that became significant.
We’d found our WWI symbol, a memorial to those local people who served our country. And another piece of history to tuck under our hats for future reference.
Though we couldn’t see Acadia because of fog, the view was still breathtaking from the top. It was there that we encountered another contestant who actually asked us for some help with the trail system. Team Purple is legally deaf and her partner had deserted her, so we were happy to offer assistance.
To that end, we gave her a head start while we paused to honor Edna St. Vincent Millay. And give thanks that we saw what she had seen.
Eventually, we did catch up with Team Purple, but she was a hearty hiker and we let her continue to lead.
She, however, had another idea in mind, and in true alliance fashion, the three of us, our shadows lengthened as the sun slowly lowered, crossed the finish line of this episode together. We weren’t the first to complete today’s challenges, but we’re still in the race.
Going forward, we wish Rebecca of Team Purple the best.
Phew, eight episodes of the Amazing Race–Our Style completed. Only four more to go. Will we survive? Stay tuned.