Total immersion: the making of a sailor

Gwen Chamberlain
Everett Spencer on the Schooner Nathaniel Bowditch.

Like the song says, “If the wind is right you can sail away and find tranquility.”

Just ask Everett Spencer, who spent three weeks in June as a crew member on the Schooner Nathaniel Bowditch, a Maine Windjammer.

Spencer, who will begin his sophomore year as a math major at Colgate University soon, talks enthusiastically about the experience of being totally immersed in the art of sailing.

With no sailing experience at all before his short marine career, Spencer now has the intimate knowledge of the Schooner Nathaniel Bowditch that only comes from living, working, sleeping, eating and learning on board the windjammer.

Taking a break from grilling hotdogs at his family’s Lakemont restaurant, R.E.D.S. Hots, Spencer recently said while he has several great memories from the sailing experience, probably the best thing about the three weeks was meeting so many different people.

The Schooner’s owners, Owen and Cathie (a former Central New Yorker who is Spencer’s cousin) Dorr, welcome passengers from all over the U.S., he says, which gave him a chance to make new friends from all walks of life.

A typical day onboard the schooner begins at 6 a.m. with a cup of fresh-brewed coffee, followed by cleaning and sailing until about 9 p.m. Passengers spend time socializing, eating, learning more about the bay and sailing. “There’s always something going on,” he says.

The day is filled with the details of traditional sailing against the stunning backdrop of Penobscot Bay. Passengers help with as much of the sailing work as they want, and are especially needed when it’s time to raise the sail, which Spencer calls, “hard work!”

As a crew member, there were times when he needed to climb the 80 ft. tall mast, not a task for the faint of heart, he confirms. He credits the other crew members — two guys and a girl —  for teaching him the ropes.

According to the website, the Nathaniel Bowditch was designed by William Hand and built in 1922 in East Boothbay, Maine as a private racing yacht. In 1923 she was entered the Bermuda Cup under her original name, Ladona. She won the race in 1927. Her second owner renamed her Jane Dore, after his daughter.

In 1942 she was commissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard and assigned to Offshore Patrol to search for German submarines off New York Harbor. During this time she received two citations by the Commander of the Eastern Sea Frontier U.S. Coast Guard for seaworthiness in poor weather.

Spencer says the decking is original and everything else about the schooner is traditional, right down to the rigging, and the crew works hard to maintain the historic piece.

Each cruise includes an on shore Lobster Bake. “You never get tired of that,” Spencer says, adding that the cook prepared “great” food throughout the cruise.

Will Spencer return next year? “I would if I could,” he says, but acknowledges that next year, he’ll want to secure an internship using his math major. So much for sailing away and finding tranquility.

The Schooner Nathaniel Bowditch.