Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Finally, My trip on the Isaac H. Evans

At lunch I was going through my documents and found this "essay" I had written about my trip last summer on the Isaac. H. Evans. The Captain had asked me to write something up to share with a reporter about "Gal-Pal" Trips. In this case, I was taking a Gal-Pal trip with my mom. Anyways - I realized that I hadn't shared my experience about the trip online, so I thought that I would post this. I'll post pictures from the trip tonight.


My mom and I discovered that we were ideal traveling partners back in 2003. At the time, my mom had recently located to NC after divorcing my dad and I had lost my job as well as a boyfriend. We had also lost our dog and my grandma (my mom’s mom) to cancer. Obviously it hadn’t been a stellar year up to that point. My mom’s a teacher so she had spring break so she suggested that we do a road trip to Charleston, SC and then to Savannah, GA. While my mom and I had a really strong relationship – I remember realizing on this trip how awesome my mom was as a person – not just as my mom.

Fast forward 6 years later.

A lot had happened since that first trip. My old company hired me back (literally a week after I got home from the Charleston trip), but a few years after that I fired them and took a new job. My mom had firmly established a life in NC – where she is beloved teacher at a high school and active in her church. But one of the biggest things that had affected us was that I had found and lost real love. My boyfriend, Chris, died of a stroke just before Christmas of 2007. It was tough on all of us. Of course I was grieving because I had lost the person I had envisioned a future with; but my mom, she had to deal with not only losing someone she had come to think of as a son, but she was also watching me slip away into a grief fueled depression. By May of 2009, we were both exhausted and needing some kind of refreshment.

My mom and I were just having a normal conversation when suddenly she mentioned our trip to Charleston. It was like a light bulb went off in both of our heads and we realized that a trip was what we needed to rejuvenate ourselves. We began to throw out ideas – repeat our trip to Charleston, drive up to Minnesota to see her sisters, make a pilgrimage out to Wisconsin to see our old watercolor instructor. It was my mom who had the idea for Maine. She said it had been a lifelong dream of hers to go. All I knew about Maine was that the blueberries and pointed firs grew there. So my mom, being a teacher, gave us homework – find out more about Maine. We both searched the Maine’s Tourisms Office website – and from the looks of it – it seemed like Maine was a totally chill state that would give us the peace that we needed. I called a Boston friend of mine who loves Maine (almost more than her husband); she squealed at the prospect of me visiting her favorite place in the world and told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to go there - stat. It was my mom who found the link for a “Fireworks Cruise” on the Isaac H. Evans.

We both instantly fell in love with the idea of a windjammer cruise. It would be something new and different for both of us, and it is also very affordable. A four day/3 night trip (including all food and board) ends up being less than $200 per day/person – that’s less than one day in a hotel + restaurants in most cities. I still remember us conference calling the Evans reservation line and being giddy as school girls making our reservations. For the first time in a long time we both had something to really look forward to.

Onto our trip

We drove up to Maine in one day. I don’t know what possessed us to do that. And while it was tough and we got massively lost toward the end of the marathon drive – it was definitely a worthwhile experience. We spent most of the time either talking about things or just sitting comfortably in silence (a first for me). We also had fun trying to map out different routes to where we were going on our car atlas (no Tom Tom for us). We had opted not to take Route 95; instead we travelled through Pennsylvania farmland and the New York mountains (Route 81 and 84). We found a really delightful state park to have a picnic lunch. Both my mom and I were in the middle of reading the book “Blue Highways” and we definitely felt like we were on a blue highway trip of our own.

Our ultimate destination was Rockland, Maine and the Isaac H. Evans. Because the Evans doesn’t load until the evening – we had all day to explore Rockland. Exploring the Farnsworth Art Museum, my mom shared with me her love of Andrew Wyeth art. We then went to get a Lobster Roll (at Linda Bean’s Perfect Lobster Roll – very fresh and delicious). We also visited the puffin visitor center – which convinced us that our next trip to Maine must include a trip to see the puffins in person.

Of course the highlight of this trip was our time on the Isaac H. Evans. My mom and I both have Girl Scout backgrounds and we found that our time on the Evans felt a lot like going to summer camp when were younger. For four days we were living life on the sea with a group of strangers who quickly become your family. Some of the people traveling with us had been on the Evans in years past (or in the case of Bob – several times that season already). They took us newbs under their wings and taught us the way of boat life. The crew and Captain Brenda were like the cool camp counselors who you totally want to be when you grow up.

Coming onto the boat – I thought the hard part would be disconnecting from the modern world. While there is electricity on the boat – you have to use it very sparsely so that the battery doesn’t wear out- so no lap tops, no recharging iPods, and cell phone coverage at its best was a little iffy. This level of disconnect from technology is so rare nowadays –and you don’t realize how restful that is until you are bombarded with it back on land. If you want heat (cause it did get cool out there on the water), you bundle up or hang out around the wood burning stoves (which they also use for cooking). We of course had to help the crew with the raising and lowering of the sails as well as the anchor (what a workout). But this adds to that rustic camp feeling.

There were tons of things to do on the boat. Captain Brenda really embraces a feeling of playfulness on the boat, so in addition to fishing poles there are puzzles, marshmallow guns, pirate regalia, and bubble wands. Plus she and Lil’ John (the first mate) were always challenging us to word games or telling us stories of other trips. One of the passengers even got to play cowboy and lassoed up our stuck lobster trap. You quickly find yourself embracing the kid in your heart.

Of course the grown up in me also had stuff to do. There was plenty of time to read or work on craft projects. It was a very friendly environment for doing things like learning how to use my digital camera. But if you asked me what the one thing I wished I had done on this trip though – I would say that I should asked to help with the cooking. The food on the Evans was top notch and it was all cooked on a wood burning stove and I would have loved to learn to cook on one. Next time I will have to ask if I can help.

I know that one of the problems people run into when traveling together is that they sometimes end up with too much together time. It never felt like that on the Evans. It was really easy for my mom and me to find activities to do separately. We also found it easy to find moments to support each other. I can’t tell you how proud I was watching my mom row Daniel the row boat when we finally anchored the first day – or how much it meant to hear her cheer me on as I was at the pump raising the anchor. There were also the contemplative moments when thoughts of Chris, the memories would hit and my mom would find me and hug me and she would reassure me that everything would be all right – just like she did when I was a little girl. There was something special about the Evans that made this moment happen.

The feeling when we docked was bittersweet. Sweet because we had just had one of the greatest experiences of our lives and bitter because we didn’t want it to end. Before we even got out of the shipyards parking lot, my mom had the “IHE” bumper sticker on the back of our van so the boat would be with us wherever we go. We took advantage of our last day in Maine and we visited various light houses and craft boutiques, but I know that our hearts were yearning to be back on the Evans.

Since getting back – my mom and I talk about the next trip we are going to take on the Evans. It’s not a question of “if”; it’s of “when”. This trip was so refreshing, rejuvenating, and best of all - healing. Since our trip, I have felt more balanced and relaxed with life in general. My mom is talking about doing a “Galpal” trip on the Evans with her oldest friend in the world possibly next summer, while I’m trying to convince multiple friends that we should get a group trip together in two years. But I know that my mom and I will both look for the chance to do this trip together again – it would be a shame not to. Until then– we’ll just have to keep up with Captain Brenda and the Evans online.


Capt. Brenda said...

Thank you so much for sharing your Evans experience with the world! You have a knack for writing...you make it sound so fun that I'm ready to book a trip! ;-)

Hugs to you and I can't wait to sail with you again.

Yarndemon said...

What a great post! I love the Evans and have sailed with Brenda many times. I am so glad you found the Evans magic worked for you and your mom too :)