A Cunard Among Coasters
The Angelique is quietly bobbing in a dead calm off the northern tip of North Haven. The Lewis R. French drifts slowly to starboard; the Mary Day drifts to port.
The weather all around us is unsettled: to the west, scattered showers wash over the Camden Hills; to the north, anvil-shaped storm clouds rake eastward over the mainland. Here, in our tiny pocket of sky-blue stillness, we swelter under unfettered sun. The wood deck is so blisteringly hot I patter to a shady spot to cool the burning soles of my bare feet. Farther aft, on the quarterdeck, Captain Mike McHenry sits on the deck with his back propped against the steel bulwarks.
It’s a posture befitting this captain. After all, Mike McHenry is a laid-back guy. The term “laid back” is so often employed to describe Captain Mike, it threatens to become cliché. His crew uses the term, his passengers use it, and crews and captains from other windjammers use it, too. At this rate, the words “laid-back Mike McHenry” may someday become as intractably fused as “real-deal Evander Holyfield.”
It’s easy to see why. Captain Mike carries himself with such ease, you get the impression he’s somehow known you for years: his silences are comfortable and his conversations begin in medias res. Captain Mike often wears a wry smile; a smile that suggests he’s seen a lot of humanity during his 21 years aboard the Angelique and he was pleased by most of it.
His crew is a good match. Dennis Gallant is filling in this week for Captain Mike’s vacationing mate, but Dennis had been doing the job fulltime for many seasons prior. Dennis returns to the mate position equipped with a deep bag of jokes and endless social energy—a splash of theatricality that might otherwise be absent amid the Angelique’s amicably low-key deck crew.
Chris Sherman, a bright and easygoing deckhand, recently graduated with a degree in American literature from the preppie epicenter of Williams College. If it’s true that wayward poets turn to winos and Jedis turn Sith, then the natural trajectory for a disillusioned preppie must be slackerdom. Chris Sherman’s transformation to the dark side is now complete, and it suits his smiling disposition well. I’d venture to say it’s admirable. Last spring, while many of his fellow classmates matriculated to Wall Street, Chris rebuked Izods and the rat race for Carhartts and the simple pleasures of messing about in boats. God bless him.
Shelly Colantonio dons foulies.
Deckhand Shelly Colantonio shares a somewhat similar story: she traded in a high-paying project management job in a Manhattan architectural firm to sail aboard tall ships. While on vacation a few years ago, she’d caught the bug as a passenger on a daysailer in southern Maine. When she returned to New York, she began volunteering her free time aboard the historic vessels at the South Street Seaport Museum. A year later, while drafting designs for a proposed mall in New Jersey, Shelly had an epiphany:
“I realized I was designing a building I wouldn’t care to enter.”
Shelly got a job aboard the Liberty out of Key West, put in her notice at the architectural firm, and resigned herself to a life of hard, physical labor, cramped living quarters, and drastically lower pay. After the Liberty, she worked aboard the Pride of Baltimore II then, at age 29, Shelly came to the Angelique last spring. In the years since she left New York, Shelly picked up a few tattoos, a gnarly scar, and a pile of dreadlocked hair.
A friend of hers once said that tattoos and dreadlocks are like an insurance policy: “You’ll never again get stuck in a job you hate.”
Dennis Gallant coiling lines.
Still, there’s something not entirely simpatico about these salty trappings. I wouldn’t dare suggest Shelly’s a poseur; at this point, she’s earned the right to carry a parrot on her shoulder if she so desires. (During a race off the Isles of Shoals, a fife roll aboard the Pride of Baltimore II suddenly gave way and a belay pin tore into her antecubital fossa, necessitating 33 staples.) But there’s something about her soothing voice and intelligent blue eyes that suggests her style doesn’t exactly match form.
It’s fitting then that Shelly found her way aboard the Angelique—a vessel whose intrinsic elegance sets her apart.
The Angelique is unique in many ways. She’s the only ketch rig in the fleet (the rest are schooners), she has a plumb bow (the rest have clipper or spoon bows), and she has a steel hull (the rest are wooden). She was built in 1980 and, like the Mary Day and Heritage, she was designed specifically for the windjammer industry.
But her elegance is most striking. The Angelique replicates the fishing trawlers of late-1800s England. Across the pond, it was common to treat sailcloth with tallow, tannic acid, and red ocher to prevent mildew growth. The Angelique conforms to this faraway tradition; her red sails make her instantly recognizable in a bay so rife with white canvas.
The most elegant aspect of the Angelique, however, is her deckhouse salon. There you’ll find an upright piano amid shining brass lamps, braided rugs, and comfortable benches. It’s a place where you’d expect to find sherry-sipping gentlemen sporting pea coats and peaked caps. It’s a Cunard among coasters.
But, once again, style doesn’t exactly match form aboard the Angelique. After a long drift on a windless sea, the laid-back Captain Mike McHenry rises slowly to feet, adjusts his ball cap, and reveals yet another unique feature of the Angelique: her twin diesels. Tomorrow we’ll embark on an offshore whale watch, so today we need to hustle to our launching point. The easygoing schooner bums aboard the ketch Angelique sheet in the red canvas and we motorsail across glassy seas toward Swans Island.
Sunset at Swans Island.