Last but certainly not least, as I was to be reminded on this trip, there are the people of Maine. Debbie and Michael had mentioned to a few of their friends that we were coming to town. Next thing we knew, we were having a great dinner at the home of Jon Wilson and Sherrie Streeter. Jon founded WoodenBoat magazine and the WoodenBoat School, but not content to rest on his laurels, he’s gone on to do amazing work as the founder of Just Alternatives, a nonprofit that champions the rights of victims of violence and the advancement of victim-centered practices in justice and corrections. Sherrie is a visual artist who’s also involved in prison work. And then there’s that little thing they do called WoodenBoat, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
We also met JoDee Jolley Baird, from Utah, who, with her husband, Robert, is the founder of Youth Making a Difference, which sends high-school students to the poorest regions of India, to learn leadership skills while serving local communities. We met Robin Lincoln, a great sailmaker who sold her business and has since retired, and marine photographer Benjamin Mendlowitz and his wife Deborah Brewster, who runs Noah Publications, which puts out the annual Calendar of Wooden Boats and the photography books so many of us are addicted to…We met Michael Phillips, a principal in Sparkman & Stephens, and an avid yachtsman. And we enjoyed, most of all, our time with Debbie and Michael, who had a commercial contracting business that specialized in high-tech infrastructure for major California Silicon Valley companies but retired early to do what they really love. Debbie is getting certification as a practitioner of acupuncture and Chinese herbal remedies. And Michael has been showering his love on Burma, serving on various boards (Mystic Seaport for some time), and making the world a better place by introducing the people he likes to other people he likes. It’s a magical job, and nobody does it better than Michael. I continue to meet great folks as a result of his enthusiasm for boats and for putting people together—he has a gift. As a friend of mine used to say, “He’s the straw that stirs the drink.”
The day after the dinner party at Jon and Sherrie’s, Matt Murphy, the editor of WoodenBoat magazine, and Tom Jackson, senior editor, rowed out to Burma for lunch. Afterwards, we had a tour of the WoodenBoat compound that was inspirational. We walked through classes of people carving figureheads, casting brass cannons, making half hulls, and yes, even building boats. The WoodenBoat people are doing important work keeping the skills, craftsmanship, and artistry of wooden boatbuilding alive. It’s a phenomenal thing to see.
Back on the water the next day, we passed noted marine historian and author Maynard Bray underway with a small convoy in tow, as he helped a friend retrieve some (wooden, of course) boats. It was a gorgeous day, crystal clear, and the sun sparkled brightly on the water. I felt like I was in a magic place, removed from time, but very connected to the greater world because of the interesting and generous people who call this part of Maine home.
And I couldn’t help but wonder why everyone in the world doesn’t book Burma for a week each summer (mathematical impossibilities aside, of course)? I can’t think of a better vacation for a young family or several couples than to climb aboard this historic beauty and let her able captain take you where he will. You will be in good hands on a gorgeous boat in one of the most beautiful places in the world. And what’s better than that?