Waaaay back in what, for all practical purposes, amounts to a prior lifetime, I was an avid sailor. I was even an actual sailmaker for the duration and owned a couple of sailboats and, finally, ended up living on a 40 foot cabin cruiser circa 1910, which was one of the first powerboats on the Great South Bay. I have been on or close to salt water for pretty much my entire life. As such, I have a particular affinity for boats and a definite love affair with those of the wooden variety. These days, the boat in my life is a wooden kayak that I built myself about a decade ago. It suits my life much more effectively than a larger cruiser and offers the benefits of almost zero maintenance and excellent portability.
The love of the classic wooden sailing craft still remains, however. There are few things as thrilling as seeing one of these wonderful creations in full sail charging across the water. I've sailed a few of these beauties over the years but the last was well over a decade ago, when a few friends and myself delivered a custom built 40' Britt Chance designed wooden yawl around Long Island to its winter harbor on Shelter Island. It was a fine sail to end my sailing career with, with a broad reach the full legth of the south shore of Long Island that sailors only dream of.
I've been fortunate of late to discover that unique sailing experiences are still within reach. Opening in the Terrence Joyce Gallery in Greenport has presented some unexpected benefits along these lines. The day we met Terrence in his gallery, the HMS Bounty happened to be visiting Greenport. I made the most of this surprise opportunity by taking a series of photographs, some of which are now on display in the Terrence Joyce Gallery. The reaction to the images was so positive that Terrence made a point of letting me know that the Privateer Lynx was coming to Greenport and suggested that photographs of the Lynx would be of interest as well. As luck would have it, the Lynx would be in Greenport for a week and we were able to match her schedule with the one free day I had in a three week window. Even better, we learned that you could participate on a day sail on that day! Of course, I committed to two slots immediately and my wife and I were set for a great afternoon on board.
The Lynx is a reproduction of a real privateer built in 1812. These were the days of the War of 1812 with the British and the Americans needed fast, nimble cargo craft to evade the British blockade. The small clipper styled privateers were the result. These craft were often lightly armed, but they were made for running rather than fighting. The modern Lynx has added low deck houses and more reasonable accomdations for the crew than the original, and has a deeper forefoot to improve tracking. Otherwise, she seems a faithful reproduction of the periods craft.
Nancy and I arrived early, so we could spend time in town and also get some shots of the Lynx at the dock. The crew was also allowing visitors on board, so we took the opportunity to explore the ship while it was relatively quiet and uncrowded.
The Ship's Bell (click on image to enlarge)
One of a pair of starboard cannon.
The big event was the sail of course. The day was brilliant with sun and a light to moderate breeze, in other words, perfect for a pleasant sail. I spent the afternoon mixing with the captain and crew while looking for interesting angles to photograph. While I make a pretty serious effort to stay out of the way, counter to the reputation that some photographers seem to strive for, the crew were exceptionally accomodating and willing to show off and discuss their vessel. It was a splendid afternoon.
I'm still processing the bulk of the images, but here are a few samples.
This image is looking straight up the foremast with the rig close hauled for the beat back to Greenport. The square rigged fore tops'l sets a strong diagonal against the other sails and standing rigging.
Before the mainsail was set, the crew had been flying the huge stars and stripes from the main rigging. I took about a dozen frames trying to get the masthead pennant and flag just right. This was the shot I was trying for. The deep blue sky is the result of the polarizing filter, which reduces reflected glare and really brings out the intense blue of the sky.
Last is my personal favorite from the day. I rarely shoot people, as I require a pretty special set of circumstance and subject to bring out the quality of image that draws me. This afternoon had one of those rare moments.
While prowling the decks looking for subjects, I spotted one of the crew on watch at the bow, looking out for small boat traffic as we crisscrossed the bay off Greenport. Here was the iconic image that calls out to me. Having stood my share of watches, I was instantly transported to that place that thousands of seaman before have lived, where the world is composed only of sky, sea, wind, a far horizon and the immediate needs of the ship.
I slid low along the windward cabin side and laid low in the gunwale, the crewman unawares, and angling up from this low position, framed the crewman against the backdrop of the boom rigged jib and fired off a half dozen frames. Perfect.
We finished up back at the Greenport docks and, after effusively thanking the crew and captain, Nancy and I headed to Clauidio's for dinner, the perfect end to a perfect day.
Art was little more than a passing curiosity to me until I saw the works of artists such as Maxfield Parrish and Andrew Wyeth back in the early '70's. Through their work I gradually learned to see the world with a painter's eye. A nomad spirit seeking out the quiet, secret places of the natural world, I traveled the remote backcountry of the mountains, witnessing first hand these spectacular, natural vistas. I soon discovered that the camera held within it a special magic if one only took the time to learn to see with it. Here was, for me, the perfect marriage of the artistic vision and the tool to express it - and it has led me to an unlikely place; a traveler in search of what it means to truly see the world and who discovers a hidden truth. The vision has grown to include the more traveled places, the mundane every day places and things that most no longer see, so inured to the commonplace as we inevitably become. My chosen task is to break through that hard carapace, to bring you back to the spirit of the reality that lies just underneath the surface of our lives, to communicate again, even if for a moment, with that vital thread of life.