Thirty-three years ago, while working summers in a boat yard, John Foss ’69 watched the tourist boats sail off on day trips and thought “who the heck would want to work on one of those things?” John would go on to become captain of just such a vessel, the 92-foot schooner American Eagle, which sails hundreds of visitors up and down the Maine coast every summer.
Trips vary from three-day cruises to an eleven-day excursion to Canada’s Bay of Fundy. The schooner sleeps 26, and the crew serves hearty Down East style meals in the galley every night. John says the trips have no set itinerary, and passengers are encouraged to relax and take in the sights. “They can see the Maine coast from the right side, not on Route 1 in a traffic jam.”
A lifelong sailing enthusiast, John was a member of the sailing team while at Bowdoin and participated in the Semester at Sea program. Originally from Ohio, he took advantage of Bowdoin’s proximity to the coast and sailed on a trip with the schooner Adventure during Senior Week. He returned for graduation and realized that while his classmates were focused on jobs in the city, his interests were lodged firmly at sea. Rather than attempt to mold himself into a young professional, John joined the Coast Guard and served as an officer for three years.
In 1976, indulging his passion for maritime history, John purchased and rebuilt a 103-year-old freighter, then the oldest working sailing vessel in the country. Many similar projects followed, and when he isn’t sailing tourists to deserted islands off the coast, John works on various restorations, most recently a tugboat.
When he sees friends whose lifestyles force them to make an effort to get out on the water, John appreciates his decision to “take the road less traveled.” As co-owner of the North End Shipyard in Rockland, Maine, where the American Eagle is berthed, John admits that work and pleasure are nearly inseparable.“My ’burden’ is that I’ve been forced to sail the Maine coasts 120 times a year for 33 years and get paid for it,” he says. “I’m looking forward to retiring so I can spend some [more] time on the water.”
For more information, visit: www.schooneramericaneagle.com.
Originally published in Vol. 79, No. 3, Summer 2008 Bowdoin Magazine.
Posted February 01, 2008