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Maine couple sells cows to sail again

Jan 1, 2003

Three and a half years of milking cows and shoveling manure on a 100-acre farm in Maine was enough to convince veteran circumnavigators Herb and Doris Smith that they needed to build another schooner and sail around the world again. They have built a jig, laid an oak keel, and will soon be steaming on frames in a shed next to their big red cow barn.

The Smith family is not unfamiliar with building schooners and sailing them around the world. In fact, this will be their sixth schooner and third circumnavigation. After building the boats and cruising the world's oceans, the Smiths have sold their creations to fund their next adventure. The five other boats, all named Appledore, are still being operated in the charter sailing industry on the New England coast.

The urge to head back to sea was mutual, the couple said. "We both just got tired of milking those cows!" said Doris Smith. "Whenever the wind would blow across the farm I'd ask myself, 'What am I doing here?'"

"It didn't help that milk prices recently dropped from $17 per 100 pounds to $11. It's a hard way to make a living, so we'll go sailing," Smith added. "From udder to rudder."

Smith has been obsessed with dairy farming for many years, according to his wife, and could not rest until he had tried it himself. "We would arrive on a beautiful island like Mauritius and Herb would be off looking at dairy farms," Doris Smith said. "I used to say, 'Great, here we are in paradise and Herb takes us to see the cows.'"

Smith claims that farming is in every sailor's blood. "Farming is traditionally part of a seaman's life," he said. "When I was out at sea I would always dream about dairy farming."

The couple's two daughters, Lisa and Susie, 16 and 10, will be going on their next adventure, but their 21-year-old son, Tom, who was aboard for the last two circumnavigations, has declined the offer. "He's graduating from college this year and has better things to do," Doris Smith said.

Smith said he owes the financial success of his ideas to his and his wife's ability to build the boats themselves. Their least successful projects were the boats built of steel because they were forced to hire a shipyard for much of the construction.

The new schooner, to be called Eastwind for a Coast Guard cutter Smith once served aboard, will be 58 feet on deck and was designed by Bud Macintosh shortly before his death four years ago. "I think he had us mind when he designed this boat. He knew I'm an amateur," Smith said modestly, "so he didn't make anything too complicated."

Smith demonstrated this by holding a 10-foot straight edge lengthwise against the molds in various places: at the garboard, back at the stern post where the deadwood meets the mold, and forward, near the stem. "There are no hard turns anywhere," Smith said. "We're not going to have to steam any planks."

Since both Doris and Herb Smith are talented at boatbuilding, their pace is quick. The boat should be completed by spring 1998 for possible charter service on the Maine coast before they depart in 1999. Smith still operates one of the Appledore schooners as a day-sailer in Boothbay Harbor in summer, so Doris Smith has been proceeding with the work alone, chiseling out two-inch holes in the keel to accommodate frames. Once the sailing season ends in late September, both of them will work full-time on the project.

Eastwind will be 65 feet overall, have a 14-foot beam, be framed in local white oak, and be planked in Port Orford (Oregon) cedar, two inches-thick. The 13,100-pound steel keel, which was poured into sand by Rodney Hunt in Orange, Mass., and delivered by truck to the Smith farm in Albion, Maine, is secured to the keel every two feet with galvanized, cast steel, 1-inch bolts that are three feet long.

The boat also features a locking stern-post knee secured in the same fashion. "When the boat floats, this 13,000-pound keel is just hanging there," said Smith. "These bolts lock it right into the whole boat."

Eastwind will carry 1,700 square feet of canvas and have auxiliary power from a 40-hp Westerbeke diesel, turning a 19-inch prop through 2.5:1 reduction gears.

Look for the Smith family and Eastwind sailing from Boothbay Harbor for Cape Town, South Africa, in September 1999.