Portland

The wharves and quays are home to numerous tour boat companies, ferry boat companies, tugboats, container terminals, shipyards, yacht brokers, restaurants and bars. The balmy summer months bring schools of tourists swarming, and cruise ships spill thousands of souvenir–seeking–leaf-peepers every Autumn – like a pregnant seahorse.

What does Portland Maine compare to…?

It’s a yard worker, sitting beside the water’s edge, looking out over the harbor, his pant legs are frayed to the shape of his boots, and he’s eating a gourmet lunch from a high-tech lunchbox.

Portland is a happy mix of old and new. The waterfront is a real working commercial force – hauling $616.5 million in fish alone.

Portland Wharf
Portland Wharf

The wharves and quays are home to numerous tour boat companies, ferry boat companies, tugboats, container terminals, shipyards, yacht brokers, restaurants and bars. The balmy summer months bring schools of tourists swarming, and cruise ships spill thousands of souvenir–seeking–leaf-peepers every Autumn – like a pregnant seahorse.

Moving up the hillside into downtown; 18th century federal style buildings sit uncomfortably next to their modern, multi-storied, grandchildren. The new generation – made from; triple pained glass; brushed stainless steel; and polished basalt – stand brazenly against their aging ancestors.

The emerging modern city is rising from the clunky cobbled streets – which are quickly disappearing into the sinkholes of time.

Perhaps the most notable features of the city, though, are its food and people.

Restaurants are as numerous as lobster pot buoys on the bay. They produce a variety of fares – ranging greatly in ethnicity and taste – even a vegan will not feel out to pasture in this town.  According to some experts, Portland comes second only to San Fransisco as a food destination. And if you consider the ocean resources within its arms reach, reports like above may not be a far stretch.

Add fresh local ingredients, unique New England cooking traditions, and the continual rising tide of local breweries – about 40 in Maine altogether, with 22 of them in the Portland area alone –  and a perfect union is born.

As for Mainer’s, don’t let their modest demeanor fool you – they’ve been at this a long time. Hard winters have tempered their souls – while the bounty and beauty of this land softens it. But a cunning character dwells beneath that childish naivety, like a dormant perennial, it awaits the right season to rise.

But they are kind and chatty – and appear genuinely concerned about their fellow man, or woman. And though some macho bravado may still linger on the fringes, both men and women appear happy to be called Mainers.



Boston

The streets of Boston were obviously not designed by a zealot of Roman order.

The streets of Boston were obviously not designed by a zealot of Roman order.

In fact, I’m fairly certain it was a drunken vicar, standing atop some hillside, pointing with his finger to where things ought to go – between sips of his Guinness.

Nine days in Bean Town and I still can’t find my way back to the inn without help from my cellphone. A tardy lane change will send you on a sightseeing tour of the city, and I’ll never again find the original route I intended to take. God help ya if you find yourself heading down into one of those dreadful tunnels! – without a shadow of doubt, we travel through alternate dimensions of time and space while inside one of those.

More photosBut what a lovely city, really.

Much of old Boston still exists at the base of the new skyscrapers. Their sturdy brick walls and embellished cornices seem to ground the glass and seemingly frame-less modern buildings which might otherwise float up off the ground.

I like to sit along the new promenades bordering the harbor, where the city has provided plenty of comfortable teak chairs and benches to relax on and whittle away some time. I can easily spend an entire day watching the boats passing by. And I ponder what the harbor might have looked like a hundred years ago, when schooners carried more than sightseers taking selfies.

A few blocks from the water is the Boston Public Market. A sprawling outdoor Farmer’s Market surrounds a building where vendors sell handcrafted cheeses, cured meat products, local honey, and homemade ice cream. Outside, the varieties of fruits and vegetables match the diversity of people who go there to shop. Boston is modern multicultural city, and it reflects in the food you find.


Newport RI

Newport is an amazing place. It’s impressive because of its expansive green lawns; abundance of cemeteries; huge mansions; big trees; mega yachts; and one of the largest registered collection of 18th century buildings in the nation…It also has the longest damn stoplights I’ve ever waited on!

This entry was easy – I thought the entire thing out while waiting at a stoplight.

Newport is an amazing place. It’s impressive because of its expansive green lawns, many being expansive cemeteries; huge mansions; big trees; mega yachts; and one of the largest registered collection of 18th century homes in the nation…It also has the world’s longest stoplights!

If you come to Newport – watch your speed. All the main thoroughfares are 25mph, and the cops have them very well canvased. Don’t let your wait at the last light effect the weight of your foot, because they’re waiting, examining your patients….scrutinizing your virtue.

When you look into the history of Newport, it’s truly inspiring. Founded in 1639, the town rose to the most prominent on the eastern seaboard through sequences of incredible adversity. It remains a shimmering jewel of business and culture, even though the guise of tourism is beginning to dominate parts of town and foul it’s wharves.

But it’s consoling to think it will be a long time before the developers completely excavate the historical dirt from under it – its story runs too deep.

IMG_2418 copy
The 12 meter, Enterprise, looking a little neglected.

I’m here looking for work. Newport never lost its place as the pinnacle of the yachting world here on the eastern seaboard – even after the America’s Cup sailed off the horizon.

I dutifully do my rounds, twice a day, visiting the Newport Shipyard and the Melville Boat Basin, hoping to stumble on that boat in need of a captain. Although the task is fraught with disappointment, the chore is nothing short of totally enjoyable.

The industry changed considerably since the days I walked the deck. It’s become a formalize and sterile process of polished resumes and a sea chest of necessary credentials. Disheartening as much as promising, I guess. But it appears as though only the rock stars are now now getting the work. I’m feeling a bit like tarnished binnacle in Garmin Electronics store.

What’s promising is, the industry has exploded. What was considered a big yacht in my day is now mediocre. The port is vibrant and full of life. 130′ yachts are worked on in sheds, and the advances in design confirm the promise we’re going to space.

I’m experiencing pangs of regret for leaving the industry when I did. And I’m sure that working on the boats still has all the downfalls it had back then. But I still feel sorry I didn’t stay harnessed in…never leave the boat, as it’s said – eh?