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Joining a growing list of schools in Maine, Bucksport High School is in the process of creating a sailing team. Like George Stevens Academy, BHS is using the waterfront facilities at Maine Maritime Academy as the base of operation for what is, at least for the moment, more of a club than a competitive team. MMA is also giving the Golden Bucks the use of its fleet of Mercury sailboats.
The BHS sailing story parallels the GSA teams in another way. Captain Eric Jergenson, master of the schooner Bowdoin and, until a few seasons ago, MMA’s sailing master, is coaching the Bucksport sailors.
Before Tom Gutow took over full-time coaching duties for GSA, academy students and staff served as GSA’s coaches.
While thick fog and lack of wind forced the Eagles and Mount Desert Island High School to scrub their regatta last week, Jergenson took the opportunity to give his novice squad a chance to try their hands at sailing 15-foot Mercury sloops in the light airs of Smith Cove.
It wasn’t an easy task and wouldn’t have been even for experienced sailors. At 730 pounds with a 300-pound keel, the Mercury is a heavy, stable learning platform, but not a light air performer. By contrast, the 14-foot 420 dinghy that GSA, MDI and many collegiate sailors race weighs just 230 pounds.
Jergenson said the Bucksport club has about a dozen members, eight of whom made it to Castine last week. Many of them have no small-boat sailing experience. A few, though, have sailed with Jergenson on the Bowdoin and one of them has been a participant in the summer Windward Passage program, sailing with Captain Havilah Hawkins aboard his 50-foot gaff-rigged wooden sloop Vela.
“This is our second spring season,” Jergenson said last Wednesday as he shepherded a fleet of three through the mooring field with one of MMA’s rigid inflatable rescue boats. “We also sailed last fall.”
Bucksport is the newest addition to the growing high school sailing scene in Maine.
Stephen Rappaport, Waterfront Editor of The Ellsworth American, has lived in Maine for more than 20 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats.Website: ellsworthamerican.com