Our Back to the Island sail ended on a perfect note. On day nine we sailed past our final destination, Rolph's Wharf and headed to Chestertown just around the corner of Primrose Point. As we tacked off the point I noticed to two masts above the tree line. It was the schooner Sultana.
We knew our arrival coincided with Chestertown's Tea Party waterfront celebration and the Sultana, based in Chestertown, would be part of the weekend affair. I hoped we could at least sail by her docked on the waterfront. But here she was heading our way. At first she was under power, then the sails were raised. It was a beautiful sight.
We sailed alongside her for a while, Bruce up in the bow shooting all of these photographs. We exchanged waves with her crew and passengers, tacked away then tacked back towards her. It was a treat to share the wind with Sultana.
Finally we decided to head for Rolph's Wharf to get some lunch. As we tacked away from Sultana we heard a shout of "Ahoy!" It was the captain calling us. We turned back. "Are you a wooden boat?" was shouted across the water. "Where are you from?" Yes, the boat was made of wood. We said that we had left days earlier out of Onancock. The details of our trip were lost over the distance on the water, but they could understand that we were on a small boat journey. Smiles, waves and well wishes, Spartina headed for the dock while Sultana sailed down the Chester River.
Later that evening we were having dinner with our friends Fred and MaryLou at The Fish Whistle on the Chestertown waterfront. As we finished our meals we looked out the window to see Sultana coming in from her last sail of the day. We walked down to the pier and watched her tie up. After the passengers were off Sultana I asked one of the crew if I could say a quick hello to the captain. He walked over to greet us. I introduced myself, said we were on the small green yawl they had seen earlier in the day. The captain's face lit up. He took the rope off the gangway, said "Come aboard! We are tired and the crew needs to get home for some rest. But anyone with a wooden boat like yours gets a full tour." So MaryLou, Fred, Bruce and I spent a good while with the captain - he said his name was Drew and described himself as a relief captain - looking over every inch of the ship. Drew went into great detail about the original Sultana and her history, then took time show how this replica ship was true to the original design with only a few modifications. I love ships, I love tall ships and this was a great chance to get a good look at one. I won't go into detail about the ship, but you can read about it here and here.
It was the perfect way to end the day, the perfect way to end our trip. We thanked Drew for the tour and his time, I'm sure he was worn out from the sun and wind on three sails that day. As we were leaving Drew and I exchanged contact information. He handed me his card. I looked at it to see that this "relief captain" was in fact the president of the Sultana Projects. He had been deeply involved, I read later, in the concept, design and building of this beautiful boat. I should have known that just from the pride showed as he talked about Sultana.
Drew asked if I had ever heard of Sultana before seeing her on the river that day. Yes, I had seen her on some of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Races. Drew laughed and shook his head - Sultana will never be considered the fast schooner in the race.
I also mentioned that I thought the father of a friend of mine had been involved in building Sultana. My friend, I said, was from New Jersey. "Was his name Wagner?" Drew asked. Yes. And once again another connection. Drew pointed at the rigging and said "Jim Wagner did just about all of this." And then he pointed to a boat nearby and said that boat is named after him. Jim, who passed away a few years ago, is well remembered in Chestertown. Just how much do you need to do to have a boat named after you? (BayDog, also known as Dave, tells me the name of the boat on the website above is a typo. His father's name was James W. Wagner, and that is also the correct name of the boat. Dave ought to know.)
Sailing with Sultana, then getting the tour from Drew was the perfect way to end our trip. I'll remember that day for a long long time. And I'll look forward to sailing with Sultana again some day.
The weather looks good tomorrow, clear skies and mild winds. I should be out on the water before nine.