Yesterday I was out bright and early to paint the American Eagle one more time before she slipped back into the sea. I was determined; I’d charged my camera the night before, and I was going to make a video of that ancient 15-hp winch moving a many-ton boat out to sea. High tide was at 10:55 AM, which gave me almost two hours to finish a little 5X7 oil sketch, get my camera ready, and start shooting.
Of course, I got engrossed in my work. I only realized that the American Eagle was in motion when its bowsprit suddenly disappeared from my view. I raced around the shed and got some neat footage of the winch moving, the boat slipping into the water, and a crane stepping a mast in the background. I figured I hadn’t even wobbled that much and my filmmaker pals would be impressed.
Sadly, when I got home I couldn’t find any movies on my card. Nary a one. Obviously, I need a five-year-old to roll his eyes at me and retrieve them, but until then, you’ll have to take my word that it was lovely.
Later today the schooner Mercantile is coming in. I’ve painted her in the water in Camden and am interested in seeing what she looks like out of the water.
Captains Doug and Linda Lee of the schooner Heritage spent time explaining to me how these great boats are moved. The blocks are formed to fit each boat, arcs of massive wooden wedges held together with staples. Then the cradle and blocks are positioned by a diver. When they’re stable, the boat is winched up onto dry land. “It’s the same principle as balancing an egg,” Captain Doug told me. “It doesn’t take much to hold the boat upright, but the blocks have to be in the right place.”
The Heritage is on the docket for early May, but its crew is hardly idle; everything above the waterline is being worked on under a plastic-covered wooden frame. I wonder how many casual visitors to mid-coast Maine consider the work that goes into their afternoon sail.
I plan to paint here until either the fleet is ready for the season or Captain John Foss kicks me out of his boatyard. I’ve painted many of these boats in Camden Harbor. They’re beautiful in or out of the water.