After a busy morning seeing all the lighthouses, Ruby and her family rushed back to the hotel just in time to catch the shuttle bus to downtown Portland. The bus was definitely the way to get there because there would be nowhere to park the Salsa Red Pearl van. The bus driver was from Boston Massachusettes and now lives in Portland Maine. Miss Jennie told him the story about the coin flip to name the new (in 1845) Oregon town Boston or Portland. Then he said, “That is a fabulous story! I’m going to tell it to my friends!”
Once they were in Portland, there was plenty of time to have lunch at Flatbread Company, right beside the dock where the big ferry boats chugged in and out of the bay. The oven fired pizza was delicious, but Ruby liked her bottle of Maine Root Blueberry soda best of all.
Then they went out to the dock where the schooners were moored to get their boarding passes. Ruby was so excited about going on the ship, she could hardly be still in line. “I thought a schooner was a wagon that took people on the Oregon Trail to Oregon and California,” she said. Miss Jennie told her that she was right; Prairie Schooners did roll across the prairies on the Oregon Trail. Those wagons were smaller than the great Conestoga wagons, and with their white canvas covers or bonnets, they looked, from a distance, like smaller tall masted schooner ships, sailing across a sea of grasses.
The Portland Schooner Company sails three tall masted schooners for two hour tours and charter trips. Ruby and her family would sail on Wendameen, the oldest of the three ships. “Goody, goody, I like old things,” said Ruby. Wendameen is a two-masted schooner, built in 1912 by the noted naval architect John G. Alden, and is 67 feet in length. She is the 21st recreational schooner built by Alden, and is one of the oldest to have survived. She sailed on the Great Lakes for 20 years, then languished on land until 1985 when she was fully restored and began her life of “windjamming” cruises in Maine. Wendameen was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
When Ruby leaped on board Wendameen from the dock, she went right to the helm. “Can I steer?” Then the captain came aboard and said to her, “What kind of voodoo is this?” Ruby just looked at him with big eyes and said, “No voodoo, sir. I’m just Miss Jennie’s travel companion.” That seemed to satisfy the captain, and he paid her no more mind on the cruise.
They followed Bagheera as Wendameen’s motor pushed them away from the dock. Then they were in the bay and the sails were unfurled by the two-woman crew. What a lovely evening to be out on the water on a tall masted ship!
There were lots of things to see out on the bay. There was a Civil War fort named “Fort Gorges” that is on an island, and they could see the other two schooners, Timberwind and Bagheera, sailing around the bay. Ruby looked and looked at the varnished wood, tall masts, sails, and rigging, on the ship she was on. She was amazed at how the crew members climbed right onto the mast to adjust the sail! “I want to do that!” she said. “Can I have a schooner for my birthday?”
Ruby was sad as the sun sank lower and Wendameen followed Bagheera back toward the dock. She thought she could sail aboard a tall ship for days and days. This had certainly been an experience that she would remember for all of her life.
When Ruby was home again, she took out her copy of Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, which is a Newbery Honor high adventure story about a tall masted ship and a 19th century girl who sailed on her. This helped keep Ruby’s sailing adventure alive for her.
This beautiful Thursday evening had been the perfect time for Ruby’s sailing adventure. Now it was time for dinner (grilled scallops! Yum!) and another cozy night at the hotel. The morning would bring rain–the perfect day for shopping!
To be continued . . .