I was gaining confidence in the whole boating arena. There was all the boat shopping but also the Coast Guard boating class. Back in Maine, I took another boating class with America’s Boating Club, “Second in Command”. It was a two part class: what to do if the first in command is incapacitated and then anchoring and docking. With two certificates under my belt and the possibility of a grand adventure, I was feeling pretty good about things while Tim continued his search for our trawler. I read about life on a boat and Tim researched various yacht broker web sites. Within a few weeks of arriving in Maine, he found a listing at Winter Island Boat Yard, Salem, Massachusetts, a two- hour drive south. It was a Ranger Tug 31’ with a flybridge, five years old. This was old enough to get a good price but new enough to be in excellent condition. As with real estate ads, online boat ads have a lot of photos. After looking at the photos over and over it was time to make an appointment to see the boat.
Winter Island Boat Yard is wedged onto a patch of land along the causeway connecting Winter Island to downtown Salem. While Salem is best known for the “Salem Witch Trials” of 1692, its history starts with British immigrants coming from Cape Ann first settling there in 1626. Winter Island once housed a British fort. New England loves its historic eminence. Some places have friendly sayings or list their populations on their welcome signs, New England towns like to post the year they were incorporated. Along the coast, the competition for being oldest is right up there with who has the best lobster roll. Maine sits atop the rest in terms of lobster in general but the lobster roll is always a source of rivalry.
There is one more struggle for superiority among New England towns. Where and when did the Revolutionary War begin? Prelude to Revolution: The Salem Gunpowder Raid of 1775, by Peter Hoffer was published in 2013 and contends that it started in Salem. On February 26, 1775, residents thwarted a plan by British soldiers, led by Colonel Alexander Leslie to take the colonists gunpowder. The confrontation took place on the North Bridge. The colonists raised the bridge, not allowing the British soldiers passage to the gunpowder. Colonel Leslie had his orders to cross the bridge. In order to avoid bloodshed, the local pastor allowed the Colonel to cross the drawbridge only if he agreed to immediately return back over the bridge. In that way, the Colonel fulfilled his orders to cross the bridge without any shots being fired. It is on this basis the good folks of Salem think the Revolution had its start. I suppose it’s preferable than being remembered for the witch trials but I don’t think it will stick.
I’d never been to Salem so I was looking forward to seeing the town as well. When we got to Winter Island Boat Yard, there was an eight-foot fence surrounding it and all its apparatus; boat lifts, boat stands, tools, arched boat sheds and of course boats tucked into any spot they would fit. It had an industrial feel to it, with everything being oversized to accommodate boat repairs. Across Juniper Cove were fine old houses with widows’ walks perched on the rooftops. I tried to imagined what it was like when the area was inhabited with merchants and traders that made their living from the sea, ladies in long dresses waiting for their men to return from the sea, and horses and carriages rumbling down the narrow streets. This was an old seafaring town, transformed into a modern city and yet, still we were here to buy a boat. The traditions live on. It was low tide when we arrived. The cove was mud flats, there were boats across the way resting on the bottom, hulls fully exposed, waiting for Massachusetts Bay to fill it back up with the next tide. It seemed a curious place for a boat yard, with water being present only half of the time, but it’s been there for almost 100 years so it’s safe to say it works.
Tim pulled the car into a spot alongside the house/office that we hoped would not interfere with the boatyard’s activities. To the right, across the yard, alongside several other boats was a dark blue 31’ Ranger Tug. It looked enormous sitting suspended in the air atop stanchions with a large ladder at the stern. Before going over to see the boat, we went up the outside staircase to the office. The stairs were sturdy but aged and in need of a coat of paint. As we entered the office Peter, the owner of the yard was expecting us. He was tall and trim, short dirty blond hair and dressed in workman’s clothes and topsiders. He had the look of a man who spent a lot of time outside, without looking weathered. As we walked over to the boat he told us a bit about the boat and her owner. He lived in Falmouth, Massachusetts and worked for the Boston Red Sox. The boat’s name was “Extra Innings”. This information was particularly amusing because our house was in Falmouth, Maine and Tim is a lifelong Yankees fan.