Email This Page to a FriendPreview: The Buzzards Bay 25: An Evolution, of Sorts
December 21, 2016
Written by Bill Mayher with photographs by Benjamin Mendlowitz
My on-again, off-again romance with the Buzzards Bay 25 commenced on a breezy summer day in 1973. I was in East Blue Hill, Maine, at the time and as we were wont to do on sunny weekend mornings, my three-year-old daughter Jenny and I were rambling along the boatyard shore to see what we could see, toss a pebble or two into the drink, and lie on our stomachs on the dock staring down at minnows nosing among the pilings.
As I remember it, something made me look down the harbor. When I did, I couldn’t help noticing a sleek but ancient gaff-rigged sloop beating its way toward me against a choppy northwest breeze. With her swooped-up bow, low freeboard, and short stern, even from such a distance, it was clear this was quite a boat. Drawing closer, she grew even more intriguing. Hollow bow sections. An understated housetop suggesting good visibility from the helm and not much more than getaway accommodations below. A big, high-peaked gaff mainsail. Deep cockpit with coamings rolled-out just beyond plumb. The effect was unforgettable, all the more so because, as she gained ground tack after tack, I could see she was being handled with breathtaking ease.
The harbor at East BlueHill isn’t much more than a notch chopped out of a granite coast. Its western shore might be bold enough for close-in tacks, but off to the eastward things give way quickly to a rubble of ledges, with little Mink Island protruding back into a channel. Slapped down by puffs, this Buzzard Bay 25 sloop would weather-up to sail nearly parallel to the walls of the western shore for a few critical seconds before the helm went down and she tacked away again. She darted back and forth across the eye of the wind, brave as a terrier. There were running backstays to tend and scary yellow boulders looming from the depths. To beat against a northwester in that tight spot, with a chart in the lap, would have been a stunning performance by a crew of experienced sailors familiar with the waters. But on ARIA that day, only her owner, Paul Bates, was aboard-fresh in from Noank, Connecticut.