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As I walked across the runway (yes walked) and up to the plane at Boston's Logan Airport, the steward warned me to watch my head. Watch my head? I'm barely five feet tall - so much for my fleeting thought that the seventh row must be near the front of the plane - try the second row from the back. Thus, began my 45-minute journey on a twin-engine prop plane from Boston to Rockland Maine. Despite the mild turbulence and the four-foot interior, it sure beat a five-hour bus ride in the rain. Rockland is accessible by car, bus, Amtrak (starting in 2004), and my preferred route, the US Airways Express from Boston, with four flights daily between Boston and Rockland, and an easy connection to the US Airways shuttle to New York.
Upon arriving in Rockland, I called the local taxi company, Schooner Bay Taxi and Limo, and was told to step outside and someone would be waiting for me, now how's that for service? From the airport it is a $10.50 cab ride to the pier where the Isaac H Evans is docked. Now, at this point I have to say I was a little apprehensive about what was in store for the next few days. The weather was decidedly overcast and gray, not boding well for that nagging fear of seasickness while sleeping on a floating historic landmark for the next few days. My only other real boating experience up to this point, was a massive cruise ship in the Caribbean, a far cry from a 21-person oyster boat on the northern coast of Maine in September. Then, there was the other aspect of this voyage, it was the annual knitting cruise. Yes, knitting. Not that I haven't toyed with the idea of learning how to knit, but as my father kindly put it... "And you wonder why you are 27 and single, if this is your choice of a vacation." Ah, but it's all about the experience - right?
I was welcomed aboard the ship by the ship's cook, Eileen, who pointed me in the direction of my cabin. The accommodations onboard are certainly no-frills, but they are relatively comfortable if you don't mind damp, enclosed places. There are single, double and triple cabins available, each with their own sink. I was in a double bunk, so there was a little less space than in some of the cabins and I couldn't quite stand upright in certain places. But, as we already established, I'm not too tall anyway and after all I would only be down in my bunk to sleep, so whether I could stand up comfortably or not was inconsequential. Besides, it added to the whole experience of living onboard a ship anyway.
The bathrooms (or heads, in ship talk) were located on deck and were more than adequate. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the toilets were real toilets and very clean. The toilets doubled for showers, but there was an abundance of warm water and once I got over my fear, I realized that the showers were actually pretty impressive for a 117-year-old sailboat!
The Isaac H. Evans was built in 1886 and served as an oyster boat for 85 years, after which it was designated a National Historic Landmark. Partly due to this designation, the Evans is unable to have a motor onboard and is entirely dependant upon sails. With a little help from the "tug and chug" a small motorboat that pushes from behind when there is no wind and negotiates the boat in and out of the harbor.
Around 7.30 pm the owner and captain, Brenda Walker, came onboard to welcome everyone and facilitate introductions to the boat, crew and other guests. So, over crackers and cheese, we learned a brief history of the boat and where the lifejackets were kept. As it turns out the knitting cruise is an annual event, part of the "something for everyone" philosophy of the Windjammer Association. Other theme cruises include several photography cruises, whale watching, natural history, astronomy, hiking and fall foliage, to name a few. Many of the 18 guests on board are regulars on this knitting trip and virtually all were either knitters or involved with the knitting industry (one couple owned an alpaca farm and spun their own wool). In fact, I was the only participant, apart from the crew and a few patient husbands, who hadn't knitted before. The take-home message from the introductions was, make yourself at home, relax, knit if you want, be prepared to eat, and feel free to chip in and help as much or as little as you would like. The main point Captain Brenda did want to make however, was to feel free to ask whatever questions we wanted, bar one. Where are we going. " I can tell you where we are, I can tell you where we've been, but I won't know where we are going until we get there."
We weren't due to set sail until the morning, so I headed back into town with Scott and Caroline, a young couple from Arizona, in search of bug spray and food (the mosquito's we're out in full force because of the damp weather). Scott and Caroline were avid football fans, so it turns out we were also on a quest for a restaurant with a TV and some beer. Scott was trying to mentally prepare himself for four days without TV! As it turns out, he came amply prepared with a portable radio, so he was not without sports entirely for the duration of the trip. Just a quick disclaimer here: Scott does not, nor was he tempted to, knit on this trip. Although we have to admire him for coming along on the trip to support Caroline's knitting habit and for realizing that there was much more to this trip than just knitting. Anyway, we found a cute Tex-mex restaurant in downtown Rockland, where I enjoyed "wicked good" crab quesadillas, served to me by a waitress who had never tried seafood until that year, despite growing up on the coast of Maine. Go figure.