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SCHOONER VICTORY CHIMES

September 2019 sailing on the Schooner Victory Chimes along the coast of Maine.

I’m not as old as the Victory Chimes, but I’m a bit like her, just not so beautiful. After 120 years afloat, she is still working, the only ship of her kind, sailing the Maine coast every summer, the Grand Dame of the windjammers.

Must I retire? Victory Chimes hasn’t.

I’m supposed to be retired, too. I tried it twice. In 2000 I sold my software and computer consulting company and moved my desk back home. Now, what was I going to do? When I get bored, I can actually feel my brain rust. I stumbled into writing, typed a thousand pages to start my memoir, and ten years later had three published books. So, I paused again. In 2012 after we moved to New Hampshire, my son asked me to build an accounting and inventory management system for his new business. I was ten years out-of-date with accounting software, and Microsoft applications. “It will only be six months to a year,” he said. LOL. He removed my shackles six years later.

Don’t put me in dry dock.

Once again, I was free, but like an old ship, if you tie me up along a dock, I’ll collect barnacles and soon be unfit to sail. So early last spring I took back my publishing rights from a small press and commissioned an artist to paint new covers for my three books. I initiated my author Facebook page opened an author account on Instagram. Not sure how to use it yet.

In spite of kidding myself I’d reformed my workaholic ways, I knew I’d immerse myself in building my own website, learning SEO (search engine optimization), blogging and writing two more books. So, I called my son and asked him if he would like to schedule a six-day sailing in September.

Sailing. Sailing. Over the bounding main:

Labor Day, 2019, we schlepped our way down the steeply sloping gangway from the shore to the dock. Towering over our heads sat the Victory Chimes, the last of the three-masted Chesapeake Bay ram schooners. Her lower hull was painted black with white above. Victory Chimes, written in large gold letters set in a black panel, spanned her white stern. It had taken three trees in excess of one hundred feet tall to provide her masts which rose to the heavens. We handed up our luggage and climbed aboard.

You’re as young as you feel.

A few of the passengers, and all the crew, were younger. But most of us sported gray hair and a few wrinkles. I had the impression that a trip like this was a coda for a life well-lived. In truth, it was more like a dash mark between adventures for this lively bunch. No rocking chair league here.

Much like an old ship, if you pull me up into dry dock, my sails will molder and mildew and my hull will rot away. Birds will build nests in my rigging and slime my decks with excrement. For me, age is a state of mind. I cannot stand still. If I’m not moving forward, I go into decline. My spirits droop if I don’t have a catalyst to pop me out of bed in the morning. I like to get my mind in gear while I’m sipping my first cappuccino.

A day off the coast of Maine

The Victory Chimes may not haul lumber on the Chesapeake Bay, or get rammed through the canals loaded to her gunnels, but there is still a lot of luff left in those sails. Her hull is tight, but tired, so she stays inside the bay. She drifts along within sight of the shore, dropping her anchor each evening in a small cove, near the lobster boats. With her gaff-rigged sails unfurled and no motor to disturb the quiet, she brings pleasure to those adventuresome souls who come aboard for the wind, the rain, the sun and the laughter, and at night, the music. Then she rocks us to sleep, ever so gently. She’s an old charmer.

Come early morning, she’s alive with bustling crew and urns of steaming coffee. Hearty, working-man breakfasts greet hungry tummies in the cozy salon that can seat all forty or so. At eight bells, we assemble on deck to salute the flag and raise the sails. The donkey engine, circa 1906, drags the anchor from the ocean floor and we are underway.

She naps through winter.

For the winter months, the old schooner rests quietly under her taut jacket of plastic, hunkered down against the freezing winds of a Maine winter while I sit in my cozy office, plotting out my course of blogging, writing, and decoding the cryptic world of Amazon and the internet. Oops! I just went down the rabbit hole on the internet gazing at her gorgeous pictures.

Come next spring, the Victory Chimes will welcome new friends aboard to experience her rustic accommodations, her hearty food and fellow sailors. Even if you can’t make a trip to Maine, look her up on the internet and lose yourself for a spell in the beauty of her pictures. Go ahead. I won’t tell. SCHOONER VICTORY CHIMES

Some passengers return year after year. One lady had sailed over twenty-five times, and another, over fifty. If you plan ahead, it’s a great addition to a trip to New England. Your friends at home will be jealous.

Cluck! Cluck!

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