An Afternoon of Sailing and Storytelling Aboard the Pinky Schooner ARDELLE

Friday, July 21, 2017

Dance with the waves, move with the sea, let the rhythm of the water set your soul free.
                                                                                     -Christy Ann Martine

Having grown up spending my summers on a lake, it's not surprising that I'm at home when I'm on or near the water.  It's been quite a few years since I've lived on the lake, so whenever I get the chance to be on a water vessel of any size, I jump at the opportunity.  When we went on a mini getaway to Rockport and Gloucester this week, I knew I had to stretch my sea legs and we found the perfect sail aboard the beautiful Pinky schooner, ARDELLE.

It's funny how things work out sometimes - the order of things, I mean.  We've been visiting Rockport and Gloucester since our kids were tweens and over the years I think we've visited about 7 times. Back in 2013 while visiting the Maritime Heritage Center where the ARDELLE is docked, I took this photograph....
While researching before our trip last week trying to buy tickets for a cruise, among the crew of the ARDELLE was this same kitty, Stubby.  Seems Stubby's been around Maritime Gloucester for many years, in fact, he's about 20 years old now.  As soon as I saw Stubby on the ARDELLE's website, I knew in my heart this was the place we were meant to be!  And boy, was I right!

Last year when we visited Rockport, you may remember I wrote a blog about our cruise on the Thomas E. Lannon Schooner. 
The Schooner Thomas E. Lannon as we sailed past it on the ARDELLE.

Well, here's where things get interesting.  In 1997, Thomas Ellis commissioned Harold Burnham to design and help build the Thomas E. Lannon Schooner.  Harold was 29 years old.  We met Captain Harold prior to boarding for our cruise when he was busy doing a last minute dive (for fun, certification hours and a last minute sprucing up of the underside of his vessel).

Captain Harold Burnham explaining the art of mackerel fishing.
What I loved (and who wouldn't) about Captain Harold was his easy disposition, his sense of humor, his humility and his genuine love of his trade.  And believe me, there's no mistaking that shipbuilding is in Harold's blood.  According to a 2012 article in the Washington Post, it's said that 'the first boat constructed in Essex was built by a Burnham sometime before 1668.'  Eleven generations of Burnhams have lived in Essex, MA.  Harold is an 11th generation boatbuilder, a master shipwright, designer and mariner. He is the 28th Burnham to operate a shipyard in Essex since 1819.  In 2012 Harold received a National Heritage Fellowship award - the nation's highest honor for accomplishment in folk and traditional arts.  While it may be impressive that Harold was commissioned to design and help build the Thomas E. Lannon when he was only 29 years old, even more impressive is that he has built six boats in 20 years.  To meet him, you'd never have a clue of how accomplished he is, or well known.  Just Google him and you'll find article after article about his contributions to the industry, especially when it comes to passing down the history and culture of shipbuilding in  and around Essex, MA.  To meet him, he's just a regular guy with a passion for something he believes in.   Shipbuilding runs in his veins and being able to continue that craft and educate the public about it is what motivates him, and that is clear every moment one is in his company.
Pinky Schooner ARDELLE

After decades of building boats for others, Harold finally got around to building a schooner for himself. Named after Harold's grandmother, the ARDELLE is a Pinky schooner - a type of boat that's smaller than some schooners but known for it's seaworthiness.  Instead of carrying dories (small, flat-bottomed boats) that fishermen launch from a larger schooner, on a Pinky schooner the crew fishes off the sides of the schooner.  The ARDELLE is constructed of white oak, locust and white pine that was all cut from wood from other projects.  It's design was inspired by the Pinky MAINE built in 1845 by Ebenezer Burnham in Essex, MA. There was no paid labor on the ARDELLE project.  Hundreds of family, friends and neighbors, like neighbors helping neighbors to raise a barn, all volunteered their time and labor.  The same was the case in the building of the Thomas E. Lannon.  The ARDELLE was launched on July 9, 2011.  It weighs 45 ton, is 72 feet long (overall) and can carry 49 passengers. However Harold prefers to carry half that number so that everyone has ample room to move around and enjoy the full experience of the boat.

John and Elena helping to raise the sails.

The Thomas E. Lannon up ahead of us.

Another member of the crew is a seagull named Mooch.  Really.....if you look at the website, he is an official member of the crew.  Mooch has been visiting the Ardelle and its passengers since 2011.  He has a soft spot for cheese puffs and if you're wondering how they know it's Mooch - he's missing a toe.  He also is known to visit the Thomas E. Lannon.

Mooch has his eyes on our granddaughter's cheese puffs, but Harold has things under control!

Captain Harold adjusting our sails.

Captain Heath Ellis doing a 'sail-by'!

We had a gorgeous day for our sail.  The breeze and wake in Gloucester Bay at times made the ride a little rocky but never scary.  Along the way Harold explained to some younger crew wannabes techniques for adjusting the sails and such.  Throughout our 90 minute sail, Harold moved about the boat chatting with guests, answering questions, telling stories and sharing the history and culture of the Cape Ann heritage.  There was plenty of room for passengers to move about the boat for a different vantage point and there was so much to see from every angle, both on land and sea.  There were cold beverages for sale and bags of chips and cheese puffs, of course.  If you're visiting Gloucester or Rockport, I highly recommend a sail on the Ardelle, especially if you are interested in learning more about the area and the history of this famous fishing port.  Did you know Gloucester is the home of Gorton Fish Company?   The Ardelle is docked at the Maritime Gloucester on Harbor Loop,  To book a trip on the Ardelle: . You won't be disappointed.   To watch some really cool videos about Harold and the building of schooners:
There's many, many more!
 To learn more about the area and read my previous posts about Gloucester and Rockport, you can use these links:
Thank you Captain Harold and crew for a fun afternoon on Gloucester Bay.  If you're looking for more information about the building of ARDELLE, you can purchase "The Shipwright and the Schooner" by Harold Burnham on   Thanks for reading!  Don't forget to share this post with your sea-loving friends using the links below.  Come back soon for my next post featuring Wingaersheek Beach and other views of Life As I See It!

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