Back to the Beach

The beaches were empty, save for the few early morning joggers and type-A Manhattanites staking their claim to a section of prime beachfront. Distracted by the excitement of seeing the open ocean for the first time in months, I walked fifty feet beyond the end of the road. Feeling the familiar yet unnerving feeling of sand bouncing around the inside of my shoes, I stopped. One by one I took each shoe off and threw them in my backpack and stepped into the tepid water.

With the deliberation of a kindergartner picking a scratch and sniff sticker earned from thirty days of punctual attendance, I looked right and left down the shoreline. Squeezing and releasing sand between my toes, I picked a direction and started walking towards a distant turn in the shoreline.

As if attempting to signal distant airliners making their way westward with a mirror, I took off my shirt, exposing the ill effects of a summer's worth of work spent inside. Despite the imminence of a serious sunburn, I marched on enjoying the lapping of the knee-high waves and occasional seagull flying by.


Rock tumbler.

A stairway to heaven.

Meandering down the beach, I stopped frequently to dive into the sporadic waves and do handstands in the morning's heat.

A few happy seagulls and even more happy crabs.

As the beach picked up with the arrival of various Defender 90s and other topless, "Out East" cars, I headed towards the bluffs. Chasing the breeze's acceleration and change of direction through the tall grass, I grinned to myself, "It's been too long."

Here are some more links,
Running on Empty (Picasa),
The Ocean (ART).


Building Boats

Mainers make boats. They have since sailors first arrived from across the pond in the 17th century and they will as long there is an ocean and trees to cut. Today, the laborious craft continues at fine boat builders along the coast. Steeped in the tradition of the region and the resources afforded by the nearby woods, apprentices at the Apprenticeshop in Rockland, Maine learn the art from veterans.

Serving as the two year home to some 20 apprentices from around the US, the Apprenticeshop trains the art of boat building from drafting the initial design to sailing the finished project.

On a bright May morning free of scholastic obligations or other frivolities, Tucker and I drove out along Route 1 to visit a friend and apprentice learning the craft of boat building. Enticed by the Maine coast and the importance of knowing a timeless craft, Matt left his job doing windows for a New York fashion designer and moved to Rockland in January.

Five days a week, Matt and the other apprentices who range from their mid twenties to late forties, learn woodworking, drafting, painting and sailing from their workspace on Main Street in downtown Rockland.

Starting with a blank piece of plywood, the apprentices start each boat with full sized drafting. Using the board like a set of Lego instructions, the boat builders refer back for the angles, lengths and widths of the hundreds of components of each boat. It all seemed like alchemy to me.

Tucker observing Men at Work and a nearly complete rowboat.

A Maine Boat Builder.

This band-saw chops up more wood than a cheap masseuse.

Does this magazine still exist?

The fruits of their labor: a 13-foot row boat and its oars.

Dinghies on the dock.

In addition to building boats from scratch, the Apprenticeshop also resurrects past flames.

Preparing for a late June launch.

You can't telecommute to Rockland or learn about it on Wikipedia. Boat building appeals to an older desire to create tools of exploration and adventure. It's an existence, a way of life. The results reflect the hundreds of hours spent toiling over wood, paint and sand paper. Price aside, I would rather have one of these works of art than any Patek Phillipe or Mercedes AMG. Groups of people on the Maine coast still answer the call to build boats from scratch. That inspires me.

Here are some more links,
Building Boats (Picasa),
The Apprenticeshop.


Surfing in 38 Degree Water

With the limited dexterity afforded by 3 mm neoprene mittens, I pull the hood of my wet suit over my head and gingerly run into the knee-high whitewater. The first bite of the 38° water seeps through a hole in my left booty. I keep wading as the cold water circulates around my foot and slowly warms.

Brown peppers the whitewater as an overhead wave crashes in four feet of water. In an act of desperation, I try to jump over the wave but am swept off my feet. Searing cold stings the small circle of exposed skin around my eyes and mouth as I hit the water and struggle to hold onto my board. I quickly regain my footing, take one step, jump onto my board and start paddling with purpose in the brief window between waves.

Dan observing a point break at high tide through a pair of vintage Vuarnets.

Focusing on each pull of my stroke, I paddle out of the last of the whitewater. Through the thick neoprene of my hood I hear Dan excitedly shriek, "Set," and dig deep like a terrorist in the mountains Pakistan. (For those unfamiliar with the proper nomenclature, set refers to a series of abnormally large waves.) Spitting saltwater on my board, I look up and see the the shadows of wave gaining shape. Four strokes, I have four strokes before I dive under the wave, I tell myself as I turn it up to 11. Three strokes later, I look up to see a wave cresting and immediately kick with my left foot to steer me towards the remaining smooth section of the wave.

Cresting the wave, my sense of accomplishment evaporates as I see a wall charging towards me like a drunk 20 year old girl towards an unclaimed box of pizza. Realizing my chances of making it over the looming wave are as slim as my chances of being a professional lineman, I ditch my board and swim towards the sand. The wave breaks over me with a hollow crash and I tumble around like the marble in spray paint can. Clenching my nose and eyes, I wait for the buoyant 5 mm wet suit to pull me to the surface.

Gasping for air, I pull my board in by the leash and regain my bearings. With no imminent waves in sight, I breath a sigh of relief and paddle out towards Dan sitting some twenty yards away.

"That last one looked fun..." Dan said.

"What did you say?" I ask as I catch my breath and slide onto a sitting position on my board.

"You got pwned by the last wave," he yells as he scans the horizon for sets of incoming waves.

For the next forty minutes we swim in the frigid water, catching the large sets and chatting the way two content friends do whilst enjoying a mutual pastime. The occasional Mainer walks by, stops for an instant, shakes their head with a chuckle and continues down the deserted Maine beach.

The hole in my left booty and right glove eventually gets the better of me and I bid farewell to Dan and paddle in. Immediately after leaving the water, the sun warms my black suit and I run to the car to change and grab my camera.

I will always remember the solitude and excitement of surfing in 38° water on beach breaks along the Maine Coast.

Here are some more links,
Surfing in 38 Degree Water (Picasa).

The Calm Between Storms

Last week, two Nor'easters slammed into the Maine coast, bringing 90 mph winds and 20-foot waves. The harsh weather uprooted 100 year-old trees and flooded much of the coastal area. Twelve hours separated the two storms and on Friday afternoon a group of close friends and I went to the coast to watch the waves crash in.

The crashing of the waves a half mile away blocked out the thudding of the car doors as we eagerly hopped out of the car and set off for the beach.


Our Danners in action.

A pink haze floated around the beach like patchouli oil at a jam band festival in Vermont, making the thunder of the waves feel distant and nonthreatening.

There is something both endearing and dangerous about big storms. Nick dodging spray.

For hours we wandered around the abandoned park, captivated by the constant thundering of waves and the bright colors diffused by the humid air.

Spencer's Danners Mountain Light II boots, APC New Standards jeans, Seil Marschall backpack, and a Blistex wear mark.

I don't know if it's Hell or Heaven, but I am drawn to it none the less.

Spencer snapping an instant with his Polaroid 210 Land Camera.

White foam covered the beach, offering insight into the ferocity of the past storm and an idea of what the coming storm would offer.

As we left the beach, dark clouds covered the sun's light and a wind picked up. The imminence of the sideways rain falling from the heather-gray clouds off the Atlantic gave us purpose in the mile walk back to the car. As we headed home in the comfort of our car, jellybean sized raindrops started obscuring the windshield as the last rays of direct sunlight cut through the trees on the rural highway.