The cold, clear emerald water parts in foaming crests and valleys, silently sliced by the ship’s bow, as it rises to meet the next wave. Back on deck, the captain grasps the helm and adjusts his gaze on the horizon. Salt and sea mist have collected in his beard over the last four hours of his watch. He pulls his wool hat further down on his head and casts his view to the rigging above. Sails swell with a freshening breeze and pull at the stout rigging, driving the vessel on towards her destination. The sound of laughter and smell of breakfast cooking in the galley below drift back to him on the morning breeze. The main hatch slides open and brings the bright of down-below up on deck. Warm smiles and hot coffee are never in short supply on this boat.
We are a family at sea. Three generations of sailors, students of life, and best friends. The excitement and passion that floods our hearts as we make our last preparations, untie the dock lines, and turn the boat out to sea drives us through the hours, months, and years of planning, hard work, and the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears. Our ship is our pride and joy, second in our hearts only to the love we have for each other. We know every inch of her, from the bottom of the keel to the top of the flag halyard. Part of each of us is constantly attuned to the sound and feel of the ship. Any shift catches our attention immediately. After all, this is our life. Should something go wrong, well, let’s just say that swimming 100 miles to shore isn’t on the top of our to-do list for the day. She carries us through the beautiful, awe-inspiring, and inhospitably vast world of the sea. Inside she is warmth, home, joy, family, adventure, and systems, all working seamlessly together. She is dreams realized. Her name is Dirigo II.
Let me tell you a little bit about this special creation. Her 72 feet was designed by the godfather John Alden to combine strength and beauty. She was built in 1939 at the Goudy & Stevens Boat Yard in East Boothbay, Maine. She was commissioned by a hero of WWI, who sailed on the original Dirigo that went down in the Atlantic hunting German subs. He survived, as did his dream for adventure, and so together the Dirigo II came to be. Her commission was “Any ocean, any weather.” She has sailed around the world twice, won many racing victories, and countless ocean passages have been seen from her decks—everywhere from the Galapagos to the North Atlantic. She has survived storms at sea that saw her decks awash with green water, and she has climbed waves that were taller than her own mast, white with froth and foam. She has also seen happy days in the sun and swayed to anchor in quiet coves while drinks and fiddle tunes poured freely. Amongst all this, two families have been raised in her hull.
But the Dirigo’s story wasn’t always full of glamour and glory… sadly, this remarkable ship once sat tied to a dock, her hull rotting and her name forgotten. That’s where we found her. When we look back at the pictures and sit around the salon talking of times gone by, we laugh at ourselves for taking on such a project. There were literally clams growing in her bilge. Paint and varnish peeled from every inch of wood. She needed structural work that would make any shipwright gulp. She was truly a disaster, but love is love, and happily, together with an amazing team of shipwrights, riggers, engineers, and sailors, we have spent the last 10 years rebuilding frames, floors, and stem, sewing canvas, scrubbing bilges, laying smooth varnish over new wood, and so much more, all working together to bring the Dirigo II back from the brink to set sail once more.
Today you can find the Dirigo II sailing under the skilled hand of Captain Arthur somewhere in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. He is a truly remarkable man, with a crazy life story and a heart as big as his ship. I’m honored to call this man my father. I have been beside him from day one, and together we have given everything to realizing our dream of rescuing the Dirigo II and sailing off into the sunset. I know it sounds funny, but I can’t imagine anything better than the feeling that swells within my chest as I stand on the bow and look back to see the smiles of my family looking back at me as we embark on another journey together.
The best part of it all? Not only have we saved this amazing piece of history and created an incredible life for ourselves, but now we get to share it with others. Like ships of yore, the Dirigo II sails where she has business to be. We are proud to warmly welcome folks aboard to sail with us, to become part of the story, part of our voyaging family, to share in this amazing adventure and to take part of her home with them in their hearts, hopefully enriching their lives as well.
There are several ways for folks to join us: stepping on board as voyaging crew, booking a private stateroom on one of our cruising adventures, or privately chartering the entire ship and embarking on a dream adventure of your own. We know not everyone can join us, but for those who are looking for a truly unique and life-changing experience, full of camaraderie, adventure, and laughter, we look forward to welcoming you aboard on your voyage of self-discovery.
You can find out more by visiting our website at www.dirigosailing.com, following us on Instagram, and watching the videos on our YouTube channel. Thanks for taking the time to hear our story. Fair winds and following seas! — Captain Morgan
Story by Morgan Lohrey
Photography by Will Kutscher