Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Schooner Family


This is about the good old days, and how they are still good. The photo was taken in 1994, the day Voyager left Mystic for Michigan after I sold it. I saw a lot of the above folks the last few days. Amy, the woman smiling in the center, started out as a mate in the early 90's on Voyager, the 95 foot schooner I designed and built in 1977. She became its captain after a year or two. After I sold Voyager, Amy came back and captained and managed Argia, a smaller 86 foot schooner I designed and built in 1986. Amy bought Argia from me about 6 years ago, along with the associated business, Voyager Cruises. Last Friday, Voyager Cruises expanded when Amy brought to Mystic the biggest schooner built in this country since World War II. Amy brought it up from its construction yard in the Florida panhandle. The schooner is appropriately called "Mystic". Amy herself had it designed, raised the financing and had it built, a 150 foot three-masted multi-million dollar boat.

It just amazes me the hundreds of people that have gone through Voyager Cruises, family and friends, how well many of them have done with their lives, and how many are still involved. I went down to the docks a few hours ago, and there were about 20 people, all hustling and bustling, getting "Mystic" ready for its first cruise. Passengers boarding this Sunday, and boat leaving Monday morning! There is LOTS to do.

There was Mal, in the left in the above picture, working on "Mystic". Mal was mate on Voyager a long time ago. Mary Kirby is next to him in the photo. I was best man at her wedding in the mid-90's. She also was a mate, and then captain with us, and is now mate on the high-speed ferries to Block Island. She was taking trash off the schooner, with Denise, who used to cook for us over 10 years ago, and also played hostess for catered day sails. She had also taken the above photograph 13 years ago. Denise's younger sister, who I had never seen working on a boat, was happily painting a ceiling.

In the picture, next to Mary is Marco, who also started out with us in the early 1990s. He now drives big 2,000 horsepower tugboats up and down the West Coast to Alaska, but he was relief captain on the 100 horespower Argia while on leave last week. Behind Marco is John Smallidge. Have not seen him in a while. He gave me my first job in the marine business, as assistant sailing instructor at Niantic Bay Yacht Club in the early 60's, then hired me as steward, the bottom man on the totem pole, on the 108' Mystic Whaler in 1971.

Behind Amy is James, who cooked on many schooners, and worked with us on and off since the early 1990s. James has hundreds of thousands of miles of sailing under his belt. James and Marco both came down to the docks Friday night to greet the "Mystic". Next to James is Kitty, who managed the Steamboat Inn for many years, where Voyager and Argia docked. Before the building was an Inn, it was a restaurant, and James was the head chef. Next to Kitty is me and then Nick the bridgetender. Nick lived in the little bridge house in the picture, 8 hours a day, so he knew a lot more than I what was going on with the boats. Nick had a great sense of humor.

Not in the above picture, but working hard getting "Mystic" ready for its first cruise, were other captains that had worked with us at least a decade before, Rick Nestler, Tim Rice, Beth Mongillo and Jody. Coming down to see the schooner were many other "old timers" Dean Seder, Josh Lyons, John Bebeecenter, and my wife Gig (please don't refer to her as an "old-timer"). And my daughter Leigh was on her second day as captain of Argia, docked next to "Mystic."

So, what's the point of all this rambling? It's not bragging or self-serving. I started a business in 1977, sold it 25 years later in 2002, and many of the people that I hired years ago are still involved with it as its friends, and part-time and full-time employees. To me, that is BIG. Voyager Cruises has always been more of an extended family than a traditional "business". These people are what made, and still make, the business great. The most important thing was always to treat the crew right, the second most important goal was a quality product at a fair price. The third, but not forgotten, priority was to make money, which is probably why I'm almost always on a tight budget. But someday on my deathbed, when I can't take anything material with me, how much money I made will not be very important. What will be important is the legacy I leave behind. (I promise I will leave enough funds for my wife to live above the poverty level).

Amy is a much better business person than me, and makes a loads more profit, but I like to think I helped give the business its heart, which is still beating thanks to her and our sailing fraternity.

When I saw a licensed master captain taking mounds of trash off a boat to get it ready, late in the day and at no pay, I knew I started something right.

Below is a picture of the schooner Voyager, taken in the early 90's. James is at the wheel steering. It's lunchtime, and we went down below to get out of the wind to eat the great lunch he made. James loved to steer while the crew was eating! It's blowing about 25 knots, all the sails are up, and Voyager is cutting though the water at about 11 knots, with a "bone in her teeth".

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Frank, It was a real pleasure to read your "ramblings" about the Voyager family. I came upon your blog when I saw that VOYAGER was for sale in Florida. You may remember that you hired me as Captain of VOYAGER during the spring of 1980 while she was in the Virgin Islands. I still have my Master's license and operate various vessels now and then, but have gotten into marine surveying, having "crawled through bilges and boatyards" full time since 1986. St Thomas is my home. Captain William Howe

Frank Fulchiero said...

Captain Will, it's also a real pleasure and a nice surprise to hear from you! You must love St. Thomas if you are still there. You were one of the good-hearted and competent folks that helped us out when we needed help, and made the business what it is. Without employees like you, I would have been a dead duck!

Yes, I would call my post "rambling" for lack of a better word. I just renewed my license, but have not used it lately. I have some great memories of the Caribbean, and hope to come back someday.

Fair weather and following seas to you...

cyndi said...

hey frank

i was one of the voyager's passenger back in the 80's when it was in st thomas...i came across an article in the florida times union that you were here in jacksonville this past spring...thought about my trip the other day and thought i would see if i could find out anything about the voyager. i had one of the most memoriable vacations of my life on that schooner...
cyndi (bryan) daily

Frank Fulchiero said...

Cyndi, thanks for the kind words. They remind me the main reason those years of my life were worthwhile is because I helped passengers like you have a "memorable vacation" and get some happiness. Though you deserve some of the credit for that!
I could not have done it without the great crews I had.
I have not seen Voyager since it left Mystic in 1994, and one of these days I have to go to Florida and track it down! I have no idea what happened to it. Fair weather and following seas, as one sailor says to another...good to hear from you.

Anonymous said...

Voyager was in Detroit for several years after leaving Mystic. Owner decided to move to Amelia Island FLorida in 1997. I was part of the crew that brought her to Fernandina. We stopped at the Mystic Seaport where we docked at vacant slip that was part of the exhibit. Imagine the museum goers' consternation when they compared the image on the placard with the salt encrusted Voyager with 12 rag tag people hanging up their gear to dry. The crew of the Argia entertained us in high style. Somewhere there are pictures that are definitely NOT going on Facebook. She was chartered pretty successfully for about five years. She was sold about four years ago. I believe the new owners intended to charter her in St Augustine after having some work done. Friends have reported that she was on the hard for a time in Mayport FL

Frank Fulchiero said...

Thanks for the update. Yes I remember when Voyager stopped in Mystic on the way south. It might have done this twice…I liked the "fake portholes" though others groaned a lot! I received a call about a year ago from someone who purchased her. But I forgot where he was from and lost his contact info. Apparently she was in real poor shape, ready to sink. The guy already owned a steel passenger-carrying schooner, and bought Voyager as a "project" for his kids and family to fix up. I gave him some advice…glad someone was still interested in her. She was a good schooner. It was already hauled out, close to his home I believe.. Well, I hope to see it again someday.

I still have a very old black t-shirt that was made up by the man that bought if from me. It says Mystic . Detroit . St.Thomas . Halifax on the back. It's quite worn and torn but I wear it at night, just wore it last night as a matter of fact!

Claudia Dengler said...

I just unearthed photos from a trip I took on the Voyager in March of 1980 with Capt. Will Howe at the helm. Great experience. I now works as a sailing instructor and delivery skipper.

Samuel Siegel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Samuel Siegel said...

Greetings, I believe that this is the very same ship I just purchased this past weekend. She was previously named Voyager and from Mystic. But she had made her way to Jacksonville, FL where she was basically left to rot till a group from St. Augustine, FL rescued her and renamed her The Pursuit. I purchased her off of them as they had too many projects in the works do do anything with... Oddly enough I was in St. Augustine looking at a different ship two spots over, and it was by luck and fortune that I was able to have the opportunity to purchase her...

She is in rough shape. The Keel was recently replaced (still needs some work on the Bow, and a couple port side planks need to be replaced below the waterline. Her rails all need replacement, the deck was glassed over and has some soft spots, and she needs new rigging, and possibly sails...

I am looking for blueprints, pictures, information, logs, anything on her that I can find to aid in my restoration/conversion (to a 1700's Schooner)... Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Please email me at VonSiegel@Gmail.com

Capt. Samuel W. Siegel
Lansdale, PA