Saturday, August 11, 2012


Station Maine's crew had the privilege during the Lobster Festival of dressing as pirates and landing Blackbeard the Pirate for the opening ceremonies of the festival.  It seems a silly thing, and in all reality it is silly, and that's the point.  We could all have gone on about our normal day and been, well, normal.  Like anyone in Utah or Ohio or Delaware.  But we live on the coast of Maine.  We live in the lobster capital of the world.

Taking these few days to dress in costume and eat lobster makes us different.  It makes us us.  We are Mainers.  Mid Coast Mainers.  We crown a Sea Goddess, not a Corn or Soy Princess.  We celebrate our uniqueness and in doing so draw ourselves together as a community.  When we as a community make it a point to include our children and youth in this frivolity, the Cod Carry, the Lobster Crate Race, the Pirate boat that lands Blackbeard, we pass on to our youth this sense of belonging to something special.  Some place special.  Our children and youth can ground their lives in knowing that wherever they travel they are part of the rockbound coast of Maine.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


I had a great dog once.  Skye knew that I was in charge and that she was my first officer.  Whenever we'd house sit or care for another dog, or often dogs, those dogs became instantly obedient.  I would call, Skye, their obvious leader, would come, and the rest of the pack would follow whatever instinct that bound them to her authority.  Any inappropriate behavior was dealt with almost instantly, although often I was completely unaware that a lesson was being accomplished.  I had complete control over my pack of dogs in the woods or in the home.

I find that same sort of authority builds with my rowing crews.  Station Maine has designated Watch Captains.  Their authority is not fabricated.  They are not chosen by popularity, but rather by skill and seamanship.  They lead, they teach, and they free me for larger more pressing tasks like actually teaching the first aid for hypothermia or buying the ferry tickets.  Their authority is not as much given as taken on.  Newer crew members follow because they want to be a part of a crew that sees itself, and rightly so, as well disciplined and well pasted together.

Given a genuine need for leadership, leadership really does rise to the top.  And old leaders graduate and new leaders rise up and train the newbies.  This is a natural progression.  All we need do as adults is provide the setting.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Down Time

The last day of camp was terribly hot.  We took it in manageable bites.  Play a little tennis.  Hang for a while.  Go fishing, then swimming off the dock.  Lie about til our clothes dry.  Fish a little more, play a little more tennis, and suddenly the hiking trail looks cool and shaded and gives us three miles of genuine pleasure in the woods, finding toads and salamanders.

All this down time isn't wasted.  We talk.  Sometimes we even talk seriously.  A forced march or forced row in this heat doesn't send a child home with fond memories unless, as occasionally happens, it is necessary.  Camp is about putting these kids in the position of learning and having fun, not regulating them.  It's about giving kids the pleasure of being, just being, on the coast of Maine.  Kids get enough regulation, and rightly so, in school.  Camp should, within reason, be a place to relax and enjoy the coast of Maine in the company of friends.

Trust youth.  Give them the tools they need to grow and the encouragement to use those tools.  They know instinctively what they need in order to grow at their own rate.  They always make us proud.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mark Twain

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Funnest Camp Ever

I can't say our day camp is the most organized institution on the coast.  But everyone who does it seems to think it's the most fun.  Today we hiked Ragged Mountain.  It wasn't a very challenging hike, and I'm pretty sure the purpose of it, other than finding salamanders, was to get us hot and sweaty enough to really appreciate the swimming in Lake Megunticook.

There are, apparently, hundreds of ways to jump off the end of a dock.  Hundreds.  These kids found them all.  There are flips and twists and slow and fast and in the style of someone's favorite video game character with which I am cheerful to say I am too old to be familiar.  There was a family of Canadian geese who came over to share our fun.  We shared out chips with them.  They were stale anyway.

I fear the child of the 21st century is too organized.  Too managed with tightly controlled activities.  Maybe the best thing we can do for these kids is to get them out where they can enjoy the sun and the water and the salamanders and the geese.  Then, we need to leave them alone.  They don't need us to identify every leaf or lecture them on ecology.  They need the freedom, and often the permission, to just enjoy themselves.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Riding a Fender

We had our first day of eighth grade camp today.  The tide was so high that we could pole down the little brook that feeds the southernmost part of Rockland Harbor.  It was there, up in the reeds, that we found a huge military grade type fender.  Of course we dragged it out, found it still good, and brought it home.

Except on the way home somebody got the bright idea of riding it like a dolphin.  And I couldn't think of a single good reason to say no.  We were wearing life jackets and the water was calm and surprisingly warm for Maine.  We each took our turns.  We tried, we failed, we tried a different way.  Some did better than others.  All of us laughed til we couldn't laugh any harder.

What did we learn from this?  I guess I could explain it in a hundred different ways, but I'll never be able to quantify it.  I'll never justify the test we'll be able to ace because of this adventure.  I'm just certain down to my socks that this is how children are supposed to live on the coast of Maine in summer, in sunshine and salt water and sea air.  And joy.  Lots of joy.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Moving a gig

I moved a 38' gig across the harbor with a friend today.  Against the wind.  No kids were available from either of our programs and the time was now.  We are both experienced seamen and there was no danger involved, but it was a wild thing to do and surprisingly fun.

We talked about the adventure later over wine.  The subject became deeper as we are both educators as well as seamen.  The craziness of moving that gig without sufficient crew acted more like a stimulant to us than anything had in a while.  There is a drug effect in the body's natural chemistry.  Too often in youth programs we as instructors jump in at the least sign of "danger" to take over for our kids.  We actually do this not to "protect" them so much as to once again experience that life affirming rush of endorphins that led us to working outdoors with youth in the first place.

We did enjoy moving that gig.  It needed to be done, there was nobody else to help, and it always feels good to remind yourself of the fire within.  But we reminded ourselves, and so I write here, that kids need those amazing fleeting opportunities even more than we do.  Sometimes there really is danger from which they must be protected.  Generally, though, ours is not a lifestyle of mortal danger.  Let the kids stretch whenever possible.  They will grow for it.