A St. Ayles Skiff from Vinalhaven

By Ben Mayock

Last Tuesday, very early in the morning, I set out on a mission to Vinalhaven, Maine. Usually when I head to Vinalhaven it is for the express purpose of enjoying the inescapable magic of Penobscot Bay on vacation with good friends, but this time I had a different mandate: go to Vinalhaven to pick up the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s new St. Ayles Skiff!

The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum recently purchased a St. Ayles skiff from Vinalhaven High School. Facilitated by Mark Jackson, the skiff was built in 2014 by Vinalhaven High School students from plans designed by Australian boatbuilder Iain Oughtred. The skiff, named Valkyrie, saw much use in its first years, but as school enrollment dwindled and issues with securing permanent dock space arose, the opportunities to row the Valkyrie became fewer and fewer.

Meanwhile, ever since a transcendent trip to Stranraer, Scotland for the SkiffieWorlds 2019, the Champlain Longboats program at the Museum has been actively looking expand our fleet of St. Ayles Skiffs. We offered to purchase the Valkyrie from Vinalhaven High School, an offer which VHS accepted. The funds needed to purchase the skiff were quickly and without hesitation raised by members of the museum’s adult rowing club, all leading to this mission to Vinalhaven to bring the skiff to its new home in Vermont. The Valkyrie will be joining our two house-built skiffs, the Resilience and Perseverance, for the 2020 season.

Boats aside, I couldn’t be more personally grateful for the warm hospitality shown to me by Mark Jackson and Carol Baker. From the moment I stepped off of the ferry, Mark and Carol were wholly attentive toward my stay on the island. Carol treated us to a wonderful dinner of vegetarian soup, cornbread, delicate squash and apple crisp. I slept in a charming, off the grid, two-room guest cottage that afforded me one of the most, quiet, restful nights’ sleep that I’ve had in a long time. In the morning, after a giant veggie omelet at the Surfside Diner, we buttoned up the Valkyrie and the trailer and prepared it for transport. As I was going to be on the last ferry off the island, I had some time to kill. At about noon, in preparation for the season’s first coastal nor’easter, Mark and I took his Whaler out to his property on Greens Island where I was treated to a tour of Mark’s 30-year history-through-structure accomplishments on his eight acre plot. 

I left on the 4:30 p.m. ferry fully in awe. Vinalhaven, Maine is a truly unique and hard-working community. The landscape and infrastructure of island itself are rare in the modern world, but it’s the people that best represent this extraordinary community that exists ten miles east of Rockland Harbor. Hard-working, resilient, well-loved, and with a constant eye to the future, my encounters with people on Vinalhaven very much reminded me of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Similar values, challenges, people and, as a constant, dedication to boats, water and the people that find the joy in stepping off the dock.