Thursday, February 1, 2007

Windjammer Newsletter Article

From the Feb. newsletter of Maine Windjammer Cruises:

Love, Laughter and Life Beneath the Sail
Mattie Mosher's lifelong passion for windjammers

It has been said that fulfillment is best found where life and love intertwine. By that standard, Mattie Mosher's life is brimming over - filled with more than 90 years of rich memories that celebrate the sea.

To say that Mattie has a love for sailing would be an understatement. To say that riding Maine windjammers is her passion gets a little closer to the mark. Some have even gone so far as to say she is addicted to the big ships, to which she responds with a sly smile and laughter - but she makes no effort to deny it.

Mattie Mosher aboard Mattie in 1946.

Truly, Mattie's passion for salt and sail seems to know no bounds. While she hasn't kept a tally of the exact number of sailing trips she has taken aboard the Grace Bailey, the Mercantile and others, she can say that she has never passed up a chance to get out on the water. Mattie has enjoyed as many as three sailing adventures per season since 1939 and, at 93, she says that she has no intention of stopping anytime soon.

"I used to get down to the Caribbean also, and I loved to go parasailing whenever I was down there. I think I have to give that up," she laughed. "I do plan to get out on the Mattie again this season. I can't give that up."

Mattie Mosher and Captain Ray share a laugh on deck in 1995.

While Martha is her given name, her love of the ship led in part to her own nickname, which, she says, "just seemed to fit." She still lovingly refers to the Grace Bailey as her "Mattie," a name that speaks to the fascinating history of the ship.

Originally named after Edwin Bailey's daughter, Grace Bailey, the schooner proudly carried that moniker for more than 20 years. When Edwin's granddaughter Martha was born in 1888, she quickly found a special place in her grandfather's heart. In 1906, when Martha, or "Mattie" as she was affectionately known, was eighteen years old, the vessel was rebuilt and renamed Mattie.

Edwin gave his granddaughter his one-eighth share in the vessel and had Martha christen the rebuilt and renamed schooner. In 1919 Martha Bailey reluctantly sold her share when Captain Herbert L. Black purchased the Mattie and brought her to Maine.

Mattie under sail.

After a complete restoration by Capt. Ray and Ann Williamson in 1990, the vessel was rechristened by Ann, who returned the original name, Grace Bailey to the vessel.

Before relaunching, Capt. Ray asked Mattie to pick her favorite new cabin aboard the restored schooner. When she arrived for the first trip, the hand carved name board from the Mattie was hanging in her cabin, where it remains to this day.

Mattie has been a constant with the ship through four owners: Captains Swift, Nisbet, Bex and, since 1986, the Williamsons. Mattie often sails during one of the first full weeks and one of the last weeks of the season, enjoying all that Maine's winds and weather have to offer. Many Old Salts will go out of their way to book a reservation on the same trip as Mattie, enjoying her colorful stories and good conversation along with the captain and crew.

Mattie's love of sailing led her to many of the other loves in her life. Aboard the Mattie for a week-long cruise in 1946, she met another passenger, Malcolm Mosher, with whom she "hit it off right away." Their friendship continued after vacation's end, including several more sailing adventures, until the two were finally married in 1949. Mattie and Malcolm enjoyed many more excursions together in the years that followed, and, on a spontaneous trip to Camden from their home in Boston "just to look at the boats," they discovered the ad for their future home in a storefront window.

"I was looking around in The Smiling Cow and my husband ran up to me very excited about an ad that he found for a house outside Camden," said Mattie from her chair beside the old farmhouse's beautiful cast-iron-and-chrome wood stove. "It was a lot of work to fix this place up, but we never regretted a second of it. We fell in love with the place, and it got us nearer to the boats."

Mattie and Malcolm welcomed a son into the world a few years after they were married, and the story of their life and love together continued for many years, punctuated by the many wonderful sails they took along Maine's rocky coast. Mattie tended to her husband when he fell ill, and continued to sail after his passing, revisiting many fond memories of their time together at sea. Having a conversation with Mattie about sailing is like peeking through a scrapbook of her life, with many of the best photos taken on deck with a full wind in the sails.

Mattie Mosher enjoys a cup and good company on the Grace Bailey.

Whether she's describing last season's sail or her very first ride on a windjammer, Mattie recalls her experiences with the fondness and clarity of someone who truly treasures her time at sea: the rich, wonderful smells of coffee and bacon in the morning, the seaside clambakes, the friendly passengers and crew she met along the way...

"I just loved it from the very beginning," she said, describing her first cruise with a smile. "I've had so much fun sailing over the years. I don't know why anyone would want to do anything else. What better way is there to enjoy life?"

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