I spend my summers and falls sailing around the islands of Casco Bay, Maine. Nothing makes me more pleased than when fresh ideas of how to purposefully use Frances take form at a season's start. This season's ponderings, though fresh for us, date back to the era of Frances' design. To help you better understand, first I will share a bit about this boat. My name is Megan, I own and captain Frances.
The man who dreamt of her was just about the most clever person I think I will ever meet. His name was Hasket, and one of his many visions was to build a replica of a late 1700s sailing vessel. The boat would be named Frances, and launched into the Fore River in 2003. She is a replica of a workboat from 1790, her design utilitarian for the practical purpose of coastal trade and fishing.
I loved the Frances even when she was just pencil on paper, all ships curves and calculations. She was a working vessel and yet elegant in her lines. Today you may know her as running day sail and charter trips from the Maine State Pier.
I am beyond the point of being able to count the number of times I have set out from the pier and sailed past the islands of Casco Bay. Sometimes we stop, but mostly we sail past. There has always been a bit of me that wants to see Frances do something she would have done in her time. In the years between 1790 and 1820 there would have been fifty or more of these 70-foot range, gaff-rigged topsail cutters on anchor in Portland Harbor. These vessels would sail out to the fishing banks with dories in tow. They traded lumber, salt, granite, and a great number of natural resources along the coast of Maine.
We carry visitors, local people, musicians, yogis, summer campers, maybe even you have been aboard. We don't carry cargo... but we could.
I am hopeful in saying this season Frances will be working with Fresh Start Farms at Cultivating Community to help organize island delivery of CSA summer farm shares. I am optimistic we will have a good response and we hope to service one, if not three, of the islands in Casco Bay. Peaks, Little Diamond, and Cushing are on the short list. The sale of 10 summer shares per island will allow for weekly delivery by sail.
This idea in part stems from spending my childhood summers on an island in Maine. I have memories of the vegetable boat crossing the Sheepscot River, docking on Pratts Island, selling us fresh veg right from the farm. They made the trip once a week, weather permitting. It was rustic, it was old world, it was real, and to a child it was magic. Perfectly ripe tomatoes, candy-striped beets, sugar snap peas, pies, pickles, and luscious local goat cheese rolled with fresh dill. These memories make me nostalgic for island living and for summer. Now I am grown with a boat of my own, and I call a different community home. I believe there can be a connection between soil, farm, food, cargo, and our sailing heritage alive on our working waterfront. Portland is the perfect place for it.
Since 2009, Cultivating Community has led the New American Sustainable Agriculture Project, now the largest land-based farmer training program in Maine, to support former refugees, as well as other immigrants, in creating farm businesses. The farmers provide the produce for their CSA and wholesale programs. More information on Cultivating Community and pricing for summer shares may be found at cultivatingcommunity.org A visit to their website is inspiring. It will be an absolute pleasure to get this organization on the water.
We will be sailing in June. If you are an islander reading this, perhaps we will be bringing you your fresh veg come July. Please be in touch if this service would be of interest to you, and please share this blog with island friends.