Sunday, August 10, 2014

Things To NOT Do When You Visit Maine

The next afternoon we planned to go to the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath which is about 20 miles from our base in Boothbay. Vicki, who does most of our tour planning, had read all sorts of good things about this Museum, so we were expecting greatness,  except for Christopher who will always expect museums to be boring and from his standpoint he is usually right.  Unfortunately, in order to get from Boothbay to Bath you have to go through Wiscasset. There, a couple of well known and popular lobster shacks at the east end of town create a weekend traffic backup for a mile or more in each direction. What should've been a half hour drive took about twice that and we would be facing the same thing on the return trip.

Piece of a boat - I don't know what piece
The Maine Maritime Museum is located on the site of the now defunct Pearcy and Small boatyard, one of the last boat yards to produce the classic American trading schooners. It produced the largest American schooner ever built, the 6 masted Wyoming, at the start of the 20th century, along with six other similarly sized vessels and dozens of smaller ships. A metal sculpture on the grounds shows the outlines of the Wyoming while it was sitting in the yard. It was humongous. At 450 feet from the stern to the tip of the jib-boom, the ship could carry 6000 tons of cargo. That length represents about the limit for wooden vessels. Over that distance, no matter what kind of wood you use or how you reinforce it, the torque applied by the ocean bends the wood enough that the seems open up and let in water. The Wyoming had to run its pumps constantly to keep from sinking. She was launched in 1909 and was lost in a storm in 1924 with all hands.

Still, 15 years was a good run for a wooden vessel. One of the points the Museum stressed was that maritime shipping in the days of the tall ships was not about adventure or glory or swashbuckling. It was about making money. Between dry rot and ship worms and weather, the life of a wooden ship was limited in the best of circumstances. If you were able to move enough cargo during the ship's lifetime to pay for the cost of building it along with a reasonable profit, it was a success and the Wyoming certainly managed that. The eventual, inevitable loss of the vessel was simply a cost of doing business.

Ships figurehead - mermaids are out, tycoons are in.
The museum suffered from the same general problem as the maritime museum we saw last year in Sturgeon Bay. You just can't have a series of 19th century wooden ships on display the way you can with muskets or pottery or what have you. So instead, the displays consisted largely of models. But as you're going through, the feeling you get is that this is not a museum about actual ships, it's a museum about somebody's weekend hobby. They had a few pieces of boats, figureheads and what have you, but no actual boats.

One thing I did learn is that they used models in the building of the ships. They would literally build a precise scale half-ship model that served as the ship blueprint, then they would measure distances on the model and multiply by "the magic number" to get the length of the piece of wood they needed. It seems kind of haphazard and obviously most of the construction was based more on the experience and knowledge the shipbuilder had gained on the last dozen boats he had put together.

For the most part, I had to agree with Christopher on this particular Museum. In the end, it just did not seem that interesting to look at a collection of model ships. So, we decided to give up on museums for the moment and go shopping.

Model boat... weekend hobby?

Vicki has been ordering clothing from LL Bean for years, so we took an afternoon to drive out to Freeport, ME which is this mail order giant's home base.  I'm not sure how it worked out exactly, but with LL Bean as its flagship store, the entire town has somehow become one giant outlet mall.  Most of the old storefront buildings and even the residences have been bought up so that signs for Calvin Klein, IZOD and even Jockey Underware could be slapped onto them to participate in the consumer feeding frenzy.  The houses that weren't turned into stores have become bistros and cappuccino bars.  That many outlet stores in the middle of what was once just a typical small New England town generates a ton of foot traffic which does not mingle well with automobiles on narrow streets.

I generally have no use for LL Bean since they don't make anything even approaching my size, so after the first snail's pace drive through town, I was ready to go back to Boothbay, but Vicki desperately wanted to have an LL Bean experience, so... well, I'll let her tell it.
LL Bean mother ship with giant water proof boot in front

Those of you who know me are aware that in the past I really loved to shop. Having a son, who is very similar to his father, means that I haven’t really been able to shop much on vacation in the past because they just wouldn’t
tolerate it. That prepared me well for the full time RV lifestyle in which one just can’t shop much because there’s no place to put anything new. We have to live by the rule – new item in, old item out. I think Roger has a harder time with this than I do. He actually likes to shop, albeit only from Amazon. But I digress.

Water proof shoes?
For as long as I can remember I have been ordering items from the L.L.Bean catalogue, or more recently on line. So when I read in my tour book that the L.L.Bean flagship store is in Freeport, ME, I just had to go. Chris refused to come, but Roger agreed because we had some other chores to do. However, he wouldn’t come inside.

Hunting and Fishing store
The L.L.Bean flagship store is a big tourist draw because it is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. The mail-order “store” was started in 1912 and named for Leon Leonwood Bean who invented a waterproof hunting boot to sell, hence the giant boot on the outside of the entrance. There is the main store, the home store, the hunting store, an outlet store, an L.L.Bean restaurant and I not sure what else because I didn’t go to all of them. I just went to the women’s section on the 2nd floor and bought a lightweight fleece jacket and a summer blouse.
So there you have it.  An exciting afternoon in Freeport , Maine.  Alternatively, you can save yourself the drive, avoid the crowds and congestion, make your own coffee, order your fleece jacket and summer blouse online and have them magically appear on your doorstep in 3 or 4 days.  Your choice.

Shots from touring around Boothbay Harbor

1 comment:

  1. Hello fellow Jojobian. I see we are touring the same area. We are now back in Main heading for DC. Just left the White Mountains in New Hampshire. If you haven't been, I would suggest it. You put together a great blog. Do you mind if I post a link to your blog on my blog page?