Genesis on the Waters of Penobscot Bay

My boyfriend, Roy, and I traveled to the coast of Maine in October of 2021.  While I have been to Boothbay Harbor and Ogunquit Beach in my childhood summers, this was the first time I visited the origin of my family on the waters of Penobscot Bay.  It was on these waters that my father survived incredible odds, discovered his love of sailing and the love of his life. Without these waters, I would not be. There is no start. No genesis to create my parents long sixty plus year marriage, three thriving children, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Without the waters of Penobscot Bay, there is no spark to start the fuse.

My father on the rigging of The Adventure on Penobscot Bay

Admiral Farragut Academy

My father’s first teaching job was at a boarding school in north New Jersey near Tom’s River, called Farragut, a 200-boy naval academy.  It was a grueling schedule teaching 5 different lessons a day, supervising a    120-boy dorm and presiding over a table of uniformed cadets three meals a day.  He coached football, wrestling and track and worked his first two summers as well.  This demanding schedule and a Farragut choral teacher named, Newt, is what brought my father to vacation on the waters of Penobscot Bay. 

Adventure

Newt and, his financial partner, Herb, owned a 119’ Gloucester Grand Banks schooner named the Adventure which sailed out of Rockland, Maine.  In the summer of 1954, Newt allowed my dad on the ship for free if he helped crew the boat.  The boat was fitted to take up to 50 passengers on a week’s trip around the myriad of islands of Penobscot Bay for an inexpensive week of sailing, sightseeing and partying during the summer tourist season. My father had no sailing experience!

Hurricane

After my father had been on the Adventure for just one day, there were hurricane warnings and they returned to let the passengers off the boat.  My father volunteered to stay with the Newt, two crew members and the cook to help anchor the boat behind a breakwater. As my father writes in his autobiography, “About midnight we dragged past the harbor opening toward the rocky shore south of us.  When a large coast guard cutter was spied shooting messenger lines towards us every five minutes, I thought we were saved.  But hurricane winds made it impossible to stand without hanging onto the riggings, and with horizontal rain slanting into your eyes, grabby monkey fists flying by became impossible in the blackness of night.  As waves got higher and the harbor shallower near foaming south shore rocks, the cutter gave up and left us. Newt warned me to tie myself to the main mast when the ship hit the rocks. As we drifted closer, I realized that at 29, I might not see that next half century of life I had hoped for. With an empty feeling turning edgy, wondering if being scared would turn to panic, I suddenly spied a smaller coast guard boat appear dimly nearby and begin to shoot monkey fists at us again.  I almost caught one but missed. On the next shot, Newt risked his life high on the bow stay—catching the tag end of the line before it fell into the breakers a few yards away.” They were pulled to safety.   As I write this, I can’t imagine how this inspired my father’s love of sailing. I’m just grateful that Penobscot Bay is not where he vanished into the water and rocks below. {What are monkey fists?}

Graduation

My mother drove from Wilmington, Delaware to Rockland, Maine with two other Clinical Laboratory Scientists, Margaret and Alta, just after their graduation from the University of Delaware. They were there for a celebration of their graduation and a week of fun and sailing on the Adventure. They arrived on Sunday, June 19, 1955 (my father’s 30th birthday). When my mother came on board, she noticed a well-tanned goateed man talking to a married woman. My mother was asked out by a guy in a motorboat to attend a dance at a local country club that evening.  She agreed and said she would bring along her two college friends. My mother set her hair and came out on deck to dry it.  There’s my mother on the waters of Penobscot Bay, a bright future laid before her, a blue sky and my father about to get her attention.

Splash

My father was irked that my mother had accepted a date with the guy in the motorboat.  He writes, “While she prepared for her date by washing her hair over the railing in her bathing suit that afternoon, I gave a gentle push – it was ten feet down. What a splash! Maine water is ve-e-ry cold. Sputtering in fury, she climbed the ladder and stomped to Captain Newt to ask how he could tolerate a crew member pushing a passenger overboard. With a quizzical smile, Newt opined as how any young man who did that must be interested.  “What right’s a married man got to push single girls overboard?” she exploded. Pointing out that I wasn’t wed, he guessed that I had wanted to get her attention.  I did.” My mother’s dive into Penobscot Bay at my father’s hand is the genesis of my family. Without the water, there is no origin.

My parents on board The Adventure

I’ve heard these stories my entire life. It’s not until I was there and took a schooner ride out of Camden harbor and saw the rocks of Rockland and the myriad of islands of Penobscot Bay that it hit me. Without all the pieces falling into place, without all the dominos falling just so, the love story never ignites, and they each go in a different direction.  But it does fall into place and the match is lit and the genesis is created on and in the waters of Penobscot Bay.