Tale of the Green Dragon|
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 150pp, Paperback $11.25, Kindle ed. $6.99
When the author/protagonist and his first mate are both well past retirement age and have been sailing since forever, you can count on an abundance of pearly words of sailing wisdom about the sport. When the subject of the book is a lengthy voyage (from Maine to the Chesapeake)...and the purpose of the voyage is to participate in the Greater Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race at Fells Point, Maryland...and the boat is a vintage gaff-rigged schooner designed by Scotty Gannett and built by Chester Spear (both out of Scituate)...you can rest assured that this tale is a classic.
The vessel, Green Dragon, whose keel was laid in 1939, was not launched until 1951 (World War II intervened). She suffered a string of "girly" names until her current owner (Allan Bezanson) saw her "spirit and determination" and named her after the Boston tavern which had been a hotbed of the American Revolution. A 43.6' classic beauty, her hull is carvel planked mahogany, with strip-planked decks, varnished cap rails, green hull, clipper bow, sawn off counter and heated with a Lunenburg wood stove. She also has a nice high porcelain head (which was easy on the writer/crew's recently rebuilt knee).
She also has been outfitted with all the modern electronics including autopilot, radar and chart plotter. The skipper has aboard his laptop pc (with antenna), cell, and spot tracker which give the boat's position every ten minutes on the internet. "We can sail but we can't hide," says the crew/author. And if all that doesn't quite make a perfect world, they are using a newly restored 10' 6" Cape Dory, (varnished bright work, green hull) as a tender.
Owner, skipper, Bezanson is a "true New England vagabond skipper...his playground, the New England coast". Writer/sailor, Jay Irwin grew up on the Chesapeake, experiencing "opposite conditions"...no real tide, currents or fog, and a generally soft bottom. Congeniality and decades of experience of all conditions insured an uneventful and highly enjoyable passage.
But all is not perfect in this world, Irwin confesses. They lost a hat leaving the dock, jibed around and ran back to get it, fouled the sheet, sailed by the hat...in front of an audience of seasoned boaters. But that was just about the biggest disaster on the whole trip (although have a bit of engine trouble). Of course, there were close calls: sloppy weather, lots of bigger boats to maneuver around, through, and between. (Squeaking around some of the behemoths in New York Harbor was as smoothly performed as the rest of the trip).
Observations of services, conditions, comparisons of alternate routes here and there contribute to the usefulness of the book as a guide, although it was certainly not intended to be one. Especially fun are the overnight stops which not only include all the tricky parts in the harbors but detailed and enthusiastic descriptions of the restaurants and services available. A harbor or anchorage with a first class restaurant with lots of salts to pass the evening with was a high priority.
Although they planned perfectly for safe harbors and convivial dinner spots along the way, they weren't completely successful in this goal, time and tide, you know but a meal or two on Green Dragon was a treat in itself.)
They arrived in tiptop shape, except for one insignificant battle scar, and left the reader hanging about how they fared in the race.
The book, like the voyage, is a honey. You'll wish you had gone with them.