Saturday, June 15, 2013

Wherein I get to tag along to Mystic Seaport Museum

Mystic, Connecticut April 5 & 6, 2013

( Borrowed from my post on Emerald Marine's Blog)

Mystic's famous collection of numerous small craft was just one part of the draw for Andy Stewart and James McMullen of Emerald Marine Carpentry. The vessels and holds of historical maritime treasures brought their present day occupation and hobbies to light in a very large, tangible and meaningful way.  Happily, I was privileged to go along to experience what I think may be the best-ever living museum. Likely not out of order, I'll speak for all of us, very high expectations were not let down.
Imagine hardcore boat geeks among stacks of the very boats sailed, designed, belonging to and built by the likes of John Gardner, N.G. Hereshoff, John Alden, Pete Culler and countless others.  This much alone rendered James McMullen gobsmacked.  By the end of the day, a distant gaze of wonderment made us glad that the train would be carrying him safely back to The City.

We left New York City at 7:00 am which would be 4:00 for those of us just fresh from the West Coast.  With bagels and lox from Zabars, and a bit of coffee and we  headed NE on Interstate 95.  It was mostly a straight shot and James was a great navigational partner especially through a tricky interchange or two near the Bronx.  We passed a few places of note through Connecticut. One of the most memorable was the Pez Factory!  After about 3 hours, we hit downtown Mystic, stopped at Bartleby's for coffee,  James took the back-seat for the final jaunt to our destination.  On arrival, I took few seconds too many, getting my stuff gathered to get out of the car.  Andy could almost see the pressure and anticipation building up behind me, one second longer and he might have burst.  James' relief was palpable, and while he didn't run to the entrance, he was like a kid at the gates of Disneyland.

Maritime art and craft met us around every corner.
The legacy of shipbuilding and all its supporting industries clearly illustrate an interconnected web: the ship builders, rope makers, merchants, barrel coopers, carvers and artists, just to name a few.  Whale oil,  prized for it's clean and bright glowing light and essential lubrication, allowed the Industrial Revolution to slide into the next era.  Seeing living history in action brought some of our country's past into a clearer focus.   One of the best displays was a historical model of Mystic in miniature with 4 narration programs, describing the  area and activities of the town in the peak of shipbuilding.

A visual inspection of a display whaling boat from afar.
At Mystic's living museum, the days of United States maritime successes are brought to life and offered as perspective into our greater influences on world wide commerce.  Literally greasing the wheels, whale oil commerce propelled the Industrial Revolution, and while waning, prescient merchants and ship builders saw the end of the era and made rapid transitions into textiles and manufacturing.  As destructive as this particular whaling was to the world's sperm whale population, its impact on who we are today is undeniable.

Perhaps most memorable and appreciated was the welcoming nature of the staff and other people working at the Museum.  We were treated with the upmost hospitality.  I don't think about our visit without wishing I could plan our next trip soon.  Our special tour of the collection with Walter Ansel was the highlight.
 John Gardner's 'General Lafayette' as referred to in our story about building the Island Star
Detail of the bead around the deck

One of many sailing canoes we admired
In the small boat collection, there were numerous designs in all manner of states of repair, showcase, preserved or in a state of stasis.  We enjoyed a variety of canoes, peapods, dories, whitehauls, sailing skiffs, launches, and Adirondack guide boats.  Mind you these stacks were in rows and rows, like the archives of an ancient library. 
The massive hull of the Charles W. Morgan.
Andy and James enjoyed a Shipwrights tour of the Vessel by Walter, lead shipwright.  Although, not built in Mystic, this last remaining wooden whale ship is getting a full restoration.  A mid summer 2013 launch is expected.  In 2014 she will do a port to port tour of New England.  You can be sure that we will be watching for Youtube videos of this exciting splash.
Patterning Planks

An enviable ship saw!
The largest steambox I've ever seen!  
James and Andy both got a bit misty eyed over this beauty.  Andy had just been reading a book of L. Francis Hereshoff essays. One of which describes a rather exciting adventure delivering this vessel home from New York city to Portsmouth.  The hull color is legend and very alluring.

N.G. ( Captain Nat) Hereshoff's favorite boat

How lucky for school kids in the area to have Mystic Seaport on their field trip schedule. One of the most heartening things we heard was of a very generous donor who contributed a large sum of money to help cover the cost of bringing students to the museum. The Square Rigger, Joseph Conrad, hosts sleep-aboard camps where students experience the routine of a sailor.
The Joseph Conrad
On board the L.A. Dunton, Fishing Schooner

Whale Boat Detail
Whale boat and the L.A. Dunton
All of us who enjoy and care for wooden boats have a favorite sensory enjoyment.  I would have to say my own is the smell of pine tar.  Over our two day visit, my nose occasionally picked up a hint of the earthy pungency.  We found one place where pine tar seemed to be actively in use. The rope walk display was being used to parcel and serve the running rigging for the Charles W. Morgan.

The rope walk: A source of pine tar's earthy scent drifting through the air
Beside having another day to poke around and explore the museum, Andy and I were pleased to have  time to explore that area south of Mystic, Noanck, and Bluff Point State Park. We topped it all off with date night dinner at a cozy Italian Restaurant Anthony J's Bistro.
Thank you Mystic!  We'll be back.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Do I Love NY?

When brother-in-law, Fritz Stewart invited Andy and me to visit him in NYC, we leapt.  Not only would we stay with him in the city, but we planned to cross paths with co-worker, James McMullen and his wife Katy while on Spring Break.  The opportunity for time in the city and a planned maritime field-trip to Mystic Seaport was almost too good to be true.  My first and only other trip to New York was 20 years ago and less than 24 hours in duration.  Enticing experiences and sights beckoned me back. My list of desired activities was way too long, yet Andy and I managed 4 packed days in the city and 3 in Mystic, Connecticut, including the driving time.  The fun/satisfaction ratio on this trip was high!  After looking back through thoughts and images I may be able to answer my question at the end of this post.

Here's one way to get around Greenwich Village.

The Walking

I have to say because of all the walking and yes, fresh air, I slept more soundly in that week than I usually do at home. Only one day did I make a bad shoe choice. Yes, there are scars and blisters to prove it. That was the day we took the 1 Train all the way south and visited the Financial District.  Wall Street, Ducatti Park, Ground Zero, the Ferry Terminal for Staten Island, The Battery Park, and through the narrow deep canyon streets famously define the image of Gotham.  Most days my feet were happy in my waterproof walking boots.  The walking was good, most of it at a comfortable pace.  Luckily most of the major distance was passed by subway, quickly and efficiently.  We never found ourselves pushing against of tide of people below or above ground.  Good timing I guess.

Enjoying the sights from the Highline.  Former tracks of the train that carried goods from the Meat Packing district

James along the tracks.

Iconic Bridge in Central Park.  Spring was just starting to get a hold

Statue of Liberty near the Irish Hunger Memorial, Battery Park

Past the Brownstones on the way to Central Park from Fritz's apartment
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park

Mid- town, near MoMA. Hot dogs of course!

The Food and Beverages

Of course, because of all the walking we get hungry.  We ate Turkish, Belgian, bagels and lox, pizza, falafel from the Halal carts, succulent clam strips (better than Ivar's I must say), delicious seafood and Italian in Mystic, and a very fine home-cooked meal made by our host, Fritz. The meal was built around a venerable vintage red. The  kale salad, filet minion, and wild rice salad from Zabar's held up their end.

On our last night, Fritz's friend Richard was our host for a most amazing meal of Chef's selection at Varelli, which is Greek for barrel.  Trios of small plates filled with amazing creations kept arriving!  A fantastic thunderstorm raged most of the evening.  In fact, Andy and I were lucky to have a break in the storm as we made our way to the train and then the restaurant from Fritz's apartment.  I have never heard thunder echo like that.  It snapped in and out of the buildings, clapping on and on!

We sometimes got thirsty and would have to find a place to have a pint or glass of wine along the way.  In Fritz's neighborhood we found The Parlour and the Firehouse.  The Parlour had great allure, as it also showed the day's Football matches. We had a nice lunch while watching Barcelona beat Paris St. Germain.  A large group of French people shared the fun with us.  In the end, they were a bit sad, Barcelona won. Our first day, we enjoyed the tiny and casual Blind Tiger in Greenwich Village with James and later Katy.  It was a place with a homey feel, no t.v. screens and one patron knitting socially.

What caught my eye

Besides everything in MoMA!  We visited an special exhibit on the beginings of Abstractionism, with a focus on Kandinski.  It was a wonderful trip through an art era.

A friendly fellow along the Highline

Subway Mosaics
Window Display in the Village

Thinking of New York, we might Imagine....
Strawberry Fields across from The Dakota

You know it!

Washington Square

Empire State building framed by tower
T-REX!!!! Natural History Museum

Ground Zero construction, new tower going up and up and up

Central Park

Is it Love?

Do I find myself day dreaming about what I'd be doing there now?  Do my eyes open wider thinking of the sights seen and yet to be seen? Do I find myself making plans of how I'd spend future time together?  Does the thought of eating at a sidewalk cafe watching people make my heart flutter? Do I have a desire to watch the movie,  I Love NY?  Am I looking the city up on the internet searching for maps, images and seeing what the weather is like? Yes, to all those questions. In actuality, I've made a very good new friend.  I want to visit again soon and see what else there is to explore.  Maybe the love will grow!

Shakespeare's Garden in Central Park
Love on the Highline

Saturday, January 5, 2013

You can't stop the weather

Now that all the Christmas decorations are put away for another year, we journey deeper into winter.  I hunker down and do a few projects I've put off for years (?).  I'm sewing cloth napkins, finishing some curtains for the bathroom, recovering the  cloth seats on our dining room chairs.  This makes me feel all homey and cozy.  I like to light a few candles and put on some music that is soothing and inspirational.  I choose Radio Paradise for my soundtrack.

With a forecast that looks like potential snow, I created an Etsy Treasury with cool, frosty images to help get me in the mood.  As if I needed that!!!!

Will it snow?