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Kevin J. O'Toole, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is a former New Jersey State Senator. (Photo: Kevin J. O'Toole.)

The O’Toole Chronicles: Sailing

By Kevin O'Toole, August 16 2022 12:01 am

I recall a few budgets ago, when I was still in the Senate, we were waiting around, as is often the case, for a copy of the State budget and a few Senators began talking about vacation plans. I remember acting surprised when Senator Kip Bateman bragged about his upcoming trip and extoled the virtues and beauty of his vacation home in Maine. Recently, there seems to be an uptick in folks we know taking a vacation to the Granite State and away from the Jersey Shore. I thought that there must be something to this Maine thing.

As mentioned previously, we took a spur of the moment weekend trip and found ourselves in Portland, Maine. The quick 45-minute direct flight from Newark to Portland’s airport made this decision easy. After landing and checking in at the hotel, we set off to explore the old and quaint downtown. The uneven cobblestone roads and sidewalks littered with small, crowded shops lent itself to convey a quaint New England vibe – think early 1800’s.

Continuing with the spur of the moment theme of the weekend, we made a decision to sail in Casco Bay. I called around and found a single boat was available for a sunset cruise (talk about points scored).

As we walked down to Fore Marina, we were surprised by the number of boats, from large yachts to small fishing vessels that were docked there. We quickly found Captain Tom and First Mate Kate (who was a captain in her own right, but that night she was working as First Mate) waiting for us on the Hesper.

The Hesper is a sixty-foot sailboat – a gaff-rigged wooden pilot cutter to be more precise. It was patterned after pilot boats built in the Isles of England in the 19th century. What was most striking about the Hesper was the Douglass fir wooden mast and poles that made up most of this structure. This rope and wood boat sat in striking contrast to the newer shinier steel and plastic ones in the bay.

Sail time. After a brief safety instruction, we set off to see the many lighthouses and sights in and around the bay. After helping to hoist the sails (yes, I actually helped), not an easy task, we sat back and took it all in. As I sat for a moment on that boat, I was reminded of the first time I appreciated sailing.

It was more than 3 decades ago as Captain Steve Adubato took me out in his sailboat in the bay near West Point Island. I remember it like yesterday, Steve turning off the mini motor and allowing the wind to move the small maritime craft. At that moment, he turned to me and whispered, “What do you hear?”

I said other than your voice – nothing.

A beaming Steve said that is sailing.  He went on to note that in our loud and noisy world, we all need places of quiet. After hearing his 10 minute lecture (so much for a place of quiet), he grew silent and let the magic of the sailing trip unfold. Point proven.

This more recent sail in the Casco Bay was magical, particularly the private and public islands. We also saw ferries moving people about and an occasional party boat shattered the calm.

The point to all of this is, and I think my political mentor’s point many moons ago, in our hectic life of noise and clutter, find the time to exhale and find beauty in the quiet spaces around us.

As the sun faded, we headed back to the shoreline with some cool photos and incredible memories.

Last note. I will leave it to Fran Adubato to tell the story of when Steve went sailing at night and got lost. Fran received a call and visit from the State Police and she thought she lost him for good. The reality was Steve was found a few hours later and returned home. I never asked him, but I guess he had plenty of time to think (scheme) about his next exploit.

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