Caulking the Deck


Sealing the Decks for the Summer
One of the best things we can do to keep everyone comfortable on board the J. & E. Riggin is keep things dry. Especially in the cabins. The best way to keep the cabins dry, is to make sure there is plenty of material in between the pine planks that form the deck. The gaps between the planks are called seams and they are packed tightly with cotton and oakum before being sealed with a layer of hot pitch. As the boat sails, it bows and flexes in the water, causing some seams to loosen up over time and begin to leak. In the winter, we do our best to identify problem spots and remove wet material between the planks before replacing it, and sealing it with fresh pitch. This process is called caulking. Captain Schaefer spends a lot of time each winter crawling across the deck fixing seams, so we joined him on deck for a demonstration.


The Right Tools for the Job
Capt. Schaefer makes his way down to the boat with a milk crate containing caulking cotton, oakum, an assortment of caulking & reefing irons of different thicknesses and lengths, and a caulking mallet. The cotton is just very loosely spun fluffy bales of cotton. Oakum is loosely twisted hemp or jute fiber wet with pine tar. The irons are meant to drive the fibers into the v-shaped gaps between planks when struck by the caulking mallet. A caulking mallet is a wooden mallet designed to minimize damage to the irons and to the joints of the user by absorbing the shock of each impact.



Probing and Reefing the Seams
Capt. Schaefer begins by poking the seams with the tip of his knife. If the knife fails to penetrate the seam he knows it is still densely packed. If the tip of the knife sinks right in, he knows he has identified a problem spot. He then uses a reefing iron and a rubber mallet to dig into the seam and extract the rotten fiber. Once all of the rotten fiber has been removed, it is time to start filling it again.


Packing the Seam
Capt. Schaefer chooses the right iron for the seam by inspecting the size of the seam and where it is located. “When I am driving cotton I use a thinner iron to start” he says. He lines up a long strand of cotton and systematically pounds it into the seam, driving it in in small arches that overlap slightly. He will then go back after this initial pass and drive the cotton deeper into the seam.
Once the cotton is in place, he makes a pass with a layer of oakum. “If I am driving oakum, I will use a wider iron which matches the width of the seam I am working on. I even have irons that are slightly bent for those seams that are against the side of a cabin house.” In the same way he drove the cotton, he drives a thick layer of oakum on top so there is only about a quarter of an inch of space from the oakum to the top of the plank.


Sealing the Seam

Now that the seam is packed with fresh fiber, he is ready to add the pitch

and seal it. Captain Schaefer, chisels off a few chunks of pitch from a brick. Pitch is a viscoelastic polymer which is derived from coal tar in the process of its distillation. The pitch is put in a can and heated until it is a liquid. It is poured over the seam and left to harden and cool. Sometimes the word pitch is used interchangeably with the word tar, but tar is generally a bit thinner than pitch, while pitch hardens into a solid.

Once the pitch has hardened any excess is scraped from the surrounding planks. Hopefully, with the problem seams identified and replaced, we will stay cozy and dry in our cabins throughout the summer!

Apple Cider & Rum Cocktail

Apple Cider & Rum Cocktail by Jocelyn Schmidt

Fall is always a time to reconnect with friends and family who we didn’t get to see in the height of summer. This week, an old shipmate and friend paid us a visit and that was occasion enough to make a festive and fun fall cocktail. 

We call this drink a Rockland Sunset in our house for the way the layers settle to resemble a sunset sky. Typically, I use bourbon & and an orange-cardamom simple syrup, but in the spirit of the season I substituted a homemade apple cider syrup and a nice bottle of rum we had set aside for a special occasion. The layering effect is created by thickening the rum or whiskey with simple syrup so it settles to the bottom of the glass. By carefully pouring the floating layer over a spoon, you can create a cocktail that is visually-interesting and dynamic as the ratio of wine to the base layer changes.

I started by making a simple syrup by cooking down apple cider from Beth’s Farm in Warren with brown sugar and cinnamon. I made the simple syrup thicker than I might otherwise have so that the wine would eventually be able to float on the surface. For this drink, I used Eight Bells Rum as the base. Eight Bells Rum is a gold rum that is aged 3 years in bourbon barrels right here in Portland, Maine by New England Distilling. I chose this rum because it tastes like mulling spices and finishes like caramel which pairs perfectly with my apple cider simple syrup. The red wine on the surface is Rogue Admirals Red Blend. Rogue Admiral is a South African wine, but you can substitute any dry red wine for the same effect.

I combined 2 oz. of rum with ¾ oz. of the apple cider syrup and ½ oz. of lemon juice in my shaker and shook it with ice until it was combined. I poured that into a rocks glass over a whiskey rock. To get the layering effect, I carefully poured 2 oz. dry red wine over the back of a spoon. The thick mixture on the bottom is heavy enough that the red wine remains on the surface. I garnished this mixed drink with a wheel of apple dipped in cinnamon sugar. 

This drink was the perfect way to kick-off our visit, and we will definitely be making these again soon. 


The Tradition of Flags


The tradition of raising flags at 8:00am and lowering them at sunset dates all the way back to the late 1700s in the British Royal Navy. It is still practiced by today’s navy, as well as many merchant and private vessels around the world. The Schooner J. & E. Riggin is no exception. 

We fly an ensign, which in our case as a U.S.-flagged vessel, is the American flag. This is flown off of the peak of our mainsail when it is set, or off of the back of the main boom when the sail is down. It is used to communicate to other vessels where our vessel is registered. It is the first flag up each day, and the last one down.

The name pennant is flown from the top of the mainmast to give everyone who sees us the ability to read our name clearly. 

The house flag is flown at the top of our foremast this is intended to communicate something about the ownership, but until we have a house flag designed, we have decided to use the classic State of Maine Dirigo flag. 

The final flag you can expect to see aboard the Riggin is the “R” or Romeo flag and the First Repeater. We use this combination on the main spreader to communicate the presence of a Riggin Relic aboard a cruise. 

This week we saw the first of many raising of the ship’s colors for the 2021 season. Though historically greeted with the call of a bugle, ours was greeted with excitement and cheers from the crew.

Our First Annual Honey Harvest

One long held tradition which distinguishes the J. & E. Riggin from the rest is that of maintaining hives of honey bees. We started keeping bees last Spring and finally produced enough honey to harvest. This week, we took time to collect that honey, and thought we would share with you its journey from our hive to your tea cup. We believe knowing where your honey comes from makes each sip a little sweeter!

We start by removing each frame from the super. The super is the box in which the frames hang. We then carefully scrap away the thin layer of wax on the surface to reveal gooey delicious honey.

We use a manual-crank extractor to spin the frame, sending the honey whizzing to the outside where it runs down into a basin in the bottom. Justin cranked a lot to warm up his anchor raising muscles!

After a spin, we return the frames to the super, leaving behind an empty comb for the bees to refill with new honey from the spring flowers.

The extractor is now heavy with honey, wax, and chunks of pollen. Now, it’s time to filter it…

Through finer and finer mesh…

Until there are no visible pieces of wax. Then, we took a taste, and it was delicious!

The honey was then put into jars which we will crack on the boat this summer. It’s a taste of our home made specially for you, courtesy of our hardworking little bees!

Back in Action

After nearly a year of sitting stationary, the Schooner J. & E. Riggin left the dock yesterday under the direction of her new captains, Justin Schaefer & Jocelyn Schmidt. She was bound for North End Shipyard, for her annual haul out. The crew relished in the cool spring breeze on their faces, something they all had missed in their time away. 


“It would have been powerful to take her off the dock for the first time regardless of whether or not she had sailed last year.” Jocelyn said. “There was something exceptionally powerful about getting to be the ones to take her out, even just for the short run to the shipyard knowing that it was the first time in a year she had had the chance to stretch her legs. It feels like the start of a really special summer, and the reality of being able to have a season this year is pretty emotional for us.” 

This haul-out will be brief, just to put fresh paint on the bottom and replace the zincs which protect the metal beneath the water from electrolysis. 

“It feels good to be back out on the water and to return to a familiar routine with the vessel after a year of lying dormant,” said Captain Schaefer. “Generations of Riggin crew spanning several seasons came out to offer their collective support & wisdom which made for an extremely special day.” 




Spring at Home & Sea

Spring at Home

Spring has arrived at our home.

The grass is getting greener.

The flowers have been lying dormant,

but now, they peek out from beneath the soil

which has protected them from the harshness of winter.

The days are longer and the breeze is warmer.

Soon, the air will begin to fill with familiar floral smells.

They define the season around our home.

The familiar buzz of our honeybees will be heard throughout the yard.

The birds will be travelling back to us

with stories of their time away,

chirping and chattering on the lawn.

We love this time of year

when everything seems to awaken.

Spring at Sea

Spring has also arrived at the cove.

The water is getting warmer.

The Riggin has been lying dormant,

but now, she will emerge, peering out from beneath the plastic cover

which has protected her from the harshness of winter.

The work days are longer and the breeze is warmer.

Soon, the air will begin to fill with the familiar smells of pine & paint.

They define the season around our docks.

The familiar buzz of sanders & saws will be heard throughout the vessel.

The crew will be travelling back to us

with stories of their time away,

laughing and chatting on the deck.

We love this time of year

when everything seems to awaken.

My Father’s Soup

Christmas this year saw fewer people around our table. Usually, Justin and I spend the holidays with my family in Ohio. 

Each year we are seated around the table with brothers and parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, eagerly awaiting a delicious dinner prepared by my maternal grandmother, Alice. On the menu, the Christmas ham. 

My grandmother, being a true Midwestern woman, always made more food than we could possibly eat in one night. And it was from these leftovers that my father’s ham and navy bean soup would spring. 

My father grew up in a large catholic family in the suburbs of Chicago. His mother, Rosemarie Claudia (Haskin) Schmidt, had 10 children, the youngest of whom was my father.  In a family of that size, nothing could be wasted, so it was not unusual for left over meat to remerge the next day, given new life in a warm bowl of soup.

Each year, after Christmas, my father would collect the ham bone and left over ham and make a stock by leaving the bone to simmer overnight with thyme, sage, and rosemary in an enormous soup pot. The following morning, he would remove the now clean bone and the herbs, adding carrots, celery, onions, garlic, navy beans, and the leftover ham which he had cubed back into the pot. 

This soup recipe some years produced so much soup that he would freeze it, so it could be heated and enjoyed several times throughout the winter, each steaming spoonful serving as a reminder of the holiday and the gathering of family.

This year, we could not safely make the trip to Ohio to see my parents and brothers. Like many across the country we opened gifts over zoom and wished one another a merry Christmas on the phone. Justin and I, hoping to hold on to some of the traditions that define this season for us, prepared our own ham for Christmas dinner. That night I called my dad, who chatted on the phone with me while I prepared the stock with a hambone of our very own. Despite it being the two of us for now, I made a large batch and froze a few portions. This winter on cold lonely days, I will warm up some of my father’s soup, prepared by my hands, and enjoy it knowing that time spent in the company of family will come again soon.

Jocelyn Schmidt

Big Sea Boots to Fill

Musings of a Captain in Times of Transition
“Its going to be a challenge to become the person I so admired as a kid for the next kid who comes aboard.”

Justin sometimes just says things like this out of the blue after long quiet pauses. I am always surprised by comments like this from him. He is a truly gifted sailor and thousands of miles of ocean have slipped gracefully beneath the hulls of boats he has sailed. Guests of every boat he has ever worked on have always loved him because he is a genuinely warm person who loves what he does for a living and radiates that joy out to those around him. This role for him as the next steward of this amazing schooner he has loved for so many years just makes sense, but for Justin, this is so much more than just a natural next step in his maritime career; it is an ascension into a role he dreamed of as a child, but somehow couldn’t fathom he would have the opportunity to achieve.

Justin has been sailing since he was old enough to stand and that is no exaggeration. A Long Island native, he grew up sailing on the Great South Bay with his father, Chris, nearly every day there was wind. Justin always wanted to sail as a profession, but that dream wasn’t fully realized until his parents took him on a Kids & Family Cruise on the Schooner J. & E. Riggin when he was 12 years old. “The crew and Capt. Jon and Annie were like rockstars. I followed them everywhere asking if I could try whatever they were doing, asking to coil things, raise flags, and help. I had sailed before many times, but this was different, everything was so big and so old it was magical to me. Captivating.” He said “On the drive home headed out route 17 we got about as far as Chickawaukie Pond [about 5 minutes from the dock] before I was bawling in the backseat.” For Justin, the experience was life-altering and he was determined to return as one of the crew members he so admired. He would go on to sail as a guest, and apprentice for countless trips throughout the next 6 summers, a deckhand for 1 season, and finally, as the mate in 2015.

It was during this season as the mate that Justin made one of his fondest memories of his time on the Riggin. It was Jon’s birthday in August and Justin made plans to surprise Jon by dressing up as him; after all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. He went to the local drugstore and bought some sunglasses which looked like Jon’s. He made plans with Annie for her to smuggle him one of Jon’s shirts. The morning of, Justin patted flour into his beard to give him the effect of greying facial hair while Chloe coiled the main sheet into a cursive Happy Birthday. “I popped down into the galley to see if there was anything I could do to help out and even Annie was confused momentarily despite having given me the shirt. It was really funny!” When Jon came on deck, he did a double take, “I think I made a pretty convincing stunt double.” They took a lot of pictures. Justin told me that he continued to dress as Jon for the rest of the day, but he did rinse the flour out of his beard because as he remembers it was pretty foggy and he didn’t want to “end up with a beard full of pizza dough.” Even now as he talks about it, he can’t help but laugh.

Justin is going to be a great steward of the Schooner J. & E. Riggin. He is right; it will be a challenge. There are big sea boots to fill, but he is passionate about seeing this schooner continue to captivate the next generation of guests the way he was captivated, all while preserving the relationships he has formed with the Riggin Relics who have been sailing her as long as he has. With his hand at the wheel, I am confident that 2021 will mark the first of many happy years aboard the Riggin for our family.

Capturing one of many moments

Delightful Dinner

A dinner spread Photo by Susan Portnoy

Poached salmon; tri-color quinoa with seared clementines and fennel; red and yellow bell pepper and mango salsa; seared Swiss chard, roasted cauliflower, and roasted golden beets