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Sketch Journal: Schooner Stephen Taber, Rockland Maine

Luxury Travel Sketching

I have a tragic history of letting summer go by without embracing the outdoors. This year I’ve been burning to spend time by the water. Opportunities came and went but timing fell short of booking a thing. I have a pool in my building but this country girl turned New Yorker needs the REAL thing. Over stimulated, synthesized and social networked to exhaustion, I wanted peace and quiet with green space for miles. Honestly, I wanted to be a passenger, for someone or something to carry me around to beautiful places while I took naps, ate, drank and sketched in my sketchbook, like Atreyu on a giant Luck Dragon or something.

Luck Dragon Never Ending Story

But where do I find a Luck Dragon this late in the season? That’s when a friend told me about the Schooner Stephen Taber. He had just taken a 6 day cruise up the coast of Maine and loved every minute. After peeping their website and cruise schedule it didn’t take long before I was calling asking if there were any open spots on an August 3-4 Day cruise. Luckily, some poor bastard canceled and I was able to book 2 spots on a 3 day cruise for Mister and me.

Scooner Stephen Taber Rockland Maine 2

Schooner Stephen Taber

I’ll spare the details of how we got to Maine, stopping in Boston and all the fun we had in Cambridge because I want to tell you about this remarkable ship. The Taber really is a Luck Dragon, in fact, it’s called the “Good Luck Ship” of the Barnes family fleet. She is the oldest documented sailing vessel in continuous service in the US and a national landmark. She doesn’t have an inboard engine, just a yawl boat named Babe. The first day out, I stretched across a deckhouse for a nap in the sweet sunshine. The ship swayed and swelled, creaked and cracked as if a creature taking breath. I closed my eyes and breathed with each swell and sway. This ship is alive, Captain Noah will tell you the same.

Artful Sailing

As we set sail, the Ladona sailed parallel to us, a perfect opportunity to do some warm up sketching. So I sat on deck and tinkered around on an Arches watercolor block, perfect for windward excursions because the paper is glued at the sides. It won’t buckle and it won’t blow away. (Artist tip #1 for sailing supplies)

Sail Boat Watercolor Stephen Taber
Sail Boat Watercolor Stephen Taber

We passed several fishing villages as I hurried to capture a sense of the colorful buildings and boats in the sunshine. Proportions be damned, I got some fast draw washes down. Feeling as though I may well conquer the watercolor at sea challenge I wondered if some of the curious passengers expected a masterpiece. With questions like, “is this a hobby for you?” Much like a ship, one must stay the course and go with the wind. It’s not easy to fumble around, with a captive audience, trying to figure out if you and your brush are saying the same thing.

travel sketches, schooner, sailboat, art, Maine, maritime, watercolor, Stephen Taber, decor

Just a few hours at sail and I was already in love with this ship. We dropped anchor at Russ Island for a hike, swim, some wine and a lobster bake. With the ship parked broadside to the island I took a seat on the shore to paint a watercolor portrait of the Schooner. I used a toned paper block because I wanted opaque white gouache to pop the colors of the sail and reflections in the water. Turns out love is the magic, with brush in hand, I nailed this one. Having conquered my palette and slightly buzzed on wine, I jumped in the water for a triumphant ice cold swim out to the boat and back. That was brisk.

travel sketches, schooner, sailboat, art, Maine, maritime, watercolor, Stephen Taber, decor
travel sketches, schooner, sailboat, art, Maine, maritime, watercolor, Stephen Taber, decor

Culinary Travels

Besides the ship being a fantastical sea creature manifest, the shore side lobster feast was absolutely Biblical. Just in case 2 crustaceans each weren’t enough, handfuls of day long marinated tender bits of beef and chicken were delivered in frequent intervals as was wine and cheese. I considered for a moment they were trying to kill us but I resigned that this might not be a bad way to go if, indeed, that was to be our fate.

Lobster Bake Rockland Maine Russ Island Stephen Taber
Lobster Bake Rockland Maine Russ Island 2

We loaded back on the ship around sunset, wine continued to flow as we visited with strangers, rapidly becoming new friends. The night sky was clear and bright with stars and a few meteors still passing through. I can’t tell you how awesome it was to fall asleep in the pure silence of a resting ship at sea. Around 3AM I crept on deck to see a low hanging half moon dangling just above the horizon, it’s light slithering across the water like Venetian glass. What a gift that was.

Scooner Stephen Taber Rockland Maine Sunset

Fair Weather Friends

Next morning we woke to a dense fog, breakfast was steaming up from the galley as a damp chill cooled the air. Coffee poured while some guests started taking hot showers. Another guest and I got a bug to jump in for a swim first. So we did. It was cold and it was fantastic, I regret nothing.

Maine Stephen Taber Russ Island Fog

As the winds and the fog would have it, we landed in a little fishing village called Stonington. I Was eager to capture the fog before it lifted so we trolled up the roads, meandered in and out of merchant shops and settled on a view overlooking the dock we emerged from. The fog was kind enough to stick around for the duration.

Stonington Fishing Village Painting Spot
travel sketches, schooner, sailboat, art, Maine, maritime, watercolor, Stephen Taber, decor
travel sketches, schooner, sailboat, art, Maine, maritime, watercolor, Stephen Taber, decor

We departed for a 3 hour sail to another cove huddled someplace, I know not where. Fog following like an old friend, as we all visited on the quarterdeck or down below in the library. Captain Noah entertained us with anecdotes of his storied past and how he and his family came to sail the Taber.

Foggy Stephen Taber
Captain Noah and young Captain Oscar Schooner Stephen Taber
Captain Noah and a young Captain Oscar Barnes
Sailing Map Stephen Taber

We anchored for our last night on the boat, poured our final glasses of wine and took the little yawl boat Babe for a spin.

Jocelyn, a member of the crew, set out on Babe just before dark. She had been recently engaged with another young sailor in the area. I painted her sailing off on her own musing about their future together.

travel sketches, schooner, sailboat, art, Maine, maritime, watercolor, Stephen Taber, decor

I can’t imagine how we could have packed more into a short 4 day vacation. This trip was a memorable escape and a remarkable experience. I got a ton of sketching in and had so much fun with a group of complete strangers, now friends. I highly recommend this excursion to the spirited, creative and adventurous.  

travel sketches, schooner, sailboat, art, Maine, maritime, watercolor, Stephen Taber, decor

Where can I buy Those Paintings?

I’m glad you asked, check out my store for available travel paintings and matte canvas prints. If you enjoyed this story, subscribe to the newsletter in the banner below to follow the journey.

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