Jenifer LeClair, Official Author Site
Windjammer Mystery Series

News: Land and Sea

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Update on Book 5: The Windjammer Mystery Series

Dead Astern, Book 5 in the Windjammer Mystery Series is scheduled for release in March of 2017. See more info below.

Book 5, Dead Astern, is a closed environment mystery set almost entirely aboard the Maine Wind. Seven men charter the ship for a week-long cruise—the last cruise of the season—and seven men come aboard. But will they all return?

Locales in Book 5 include Camden, Maine; Isle au Haut and Frenchman Bays; Monhegan Island, Maine; the Isles of Shoals; Boothbay Harbor, Maine; and Brunswick, Maine.

Dead Astern is now in the final stages of production and will sail onto the shelves and into the e-book world in March. In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy reading my travelogue below about my voyage to Stellwagen Bank. And don’t miss my photo gallery of my voyages in the Gulf of Maine and beyond, coming in the next few weeks.

Voyage to Stellwagen Bank

I hope you’ll enjoy reading about my nine-day voyage aboard American Eagle, out of Rockland, Maine bound for Stellwagen Bank in search of adventure and humpback whales.

Stellwagen Bank is a marine sanctuary that covers 842 square miles of ocean and lies 28.5 miles north from Provincetown off the tip of Cape Cod and stretches 19 miles, north to south. The ocean depth off the western side of the bank is approximately 300 feet, and the top of the bank rises to within 100 feet of the surface. These shallows at the top of the bank are where the whales feed.

Called a bank because of the undersea formation that rises toward the surface, Stellwagen Bank is a wild ocean habitat that attracts massive whales, raucous seabirds, and plentiful fish. Humpback, finback, and minke whales return to the bank each summer to feed on schools of fish and Sand lance eels. The bank is also a graveyard of ships.

For more than 400 years, Stellwagen Bank has been a destination for fishermen and a major crossroads for maritime traffic, and so the sanctuary is home to numerous shipwrecks spanning centuries of American history.

Here’s a funny aside. The night I boarded American Eagle for the voyage I called my husband and told him about visiting the Maine Maritime Museum—a favorite haunt of mine in Bath, Maine—earlier that day. The museum had a wonderful video exhibit about Stellwagen Bank and all the ships that had sunk there, including the famous paddlewheel steamship, Portland. I was quite excited about the exhibit and told him that Stellwagen Bank is a graveyard of ships. There was silence at the other end of the line and finally he said, “I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about that.”  

The Voyage:

We departed Rockland Harbor on Saturday, June 13 at 6:00 a.m. or 0600 and sailed through Mussel Ridge Channel, past Owl’s Head Light and White Head Light and south by east, passing Monhegan Island, Manana Island, and Sunken Duck Ledge and out into the Gulf of Maine. Our destination the first day was Cape Ann which forms the eastern side of Gloucester Harbor and marks the northern limit of Massachusetts Bay. We reached Cape Ann at around 1:00 a.m. (0100) and anchored for the remainder of the night.

Early the following morning—Sunday—we left Cape Ann and sailed for Stellwagen Bank, reaching the northern end of the bank by mid-morning. We sailed along the bank for several hours and midway through the afternoon, we found the majestic humpback whales, or maybe they found us.

As American Eagle galloped along under full sail, these huge creatures averaging 40 – 50 feet in length—half the length of our vessel—swam right up along our port side. We were treated to a chorus of grunts and explosive sounds of their blowing as they surfaced and dove and raced alongside the ship and under our bow. They were so close we could see the barnacles on their flukes when they dove. And I can tell you this; once you’ve seen the humpbacks, life will never be the same. I will carry that experience in my heart forever.

That night we anchored off the tip of Cape Cod in the waters just north of Provincetown. As we sailed to our anchorage, we passed the Spanish tall ship, Juan Sebastien de Elcano, laying at anchor. The vessel is a four-masted barkentine carrying one square-rigged mast and three additional masts with gaff-rigged sails. It is the sail-training vessel for their merchant marine. We fired a salute from our ship’s cannon. (See picture in photo gallery). I guess they couldn’t find their cannon because we got their ship’s horn as a return salute.

The next day-Monday-was drizzly and rainy, but we got underway soon after breakfast and sailed north along Stellwagen Bank. We were soon treated to breaching humpback whales. A breach is an acrobatic move in which the whale shoots straight up out of the water and rotates as if attempting to jump clear of the water. It is one of the most spectacular maneuvers seen in nature and seems to occur more frequently in rough seas. After a long rainy day underway, we anchored near Little Misery Island, a destination oddly appropriate to the day’s weather.

From there we made way for Gloucester Harbor where we rafted up with the historic schooner Adventure. “The 1926 schooner Adventure is one of the last of the famous Grand Banks fishing schooners of Gloucester, Massachusetts. She is one of only two knockabout fishing schooners surviving. Adventure was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1994.” -- Wikipedia

After touring Adventure, all the shipmates went ashore in Gloucester for the day, giving Andy, our cook, the night off. A bunch of us ate at the Topside Grill—lobster, clams, and oysters, what else? Wonderful food and super attentive and friendly service.

The following morning, we weighed anchor and sailed through the day and night on a great circle route that took us east by north around Monhegan and Matinicus Islands. By morning we had reached beautiful Isle au Haut Bay, back in Maine waters. We spent the next few days enjoying great wind and perfect spring sailing before heading for our homeport of Rockland, Maine. Anchorages along the way included Stonington and Babson Island where we went ashore for a lobster bake.

I hope you will enjoy photos of this and other voyages on my website at the photo gallery page.    

Jenifer LeClair Attends Ramsey County
Sheriff’s Office Citizens Academy

In 2016, I completed the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Citizen Academy. The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office employees over 400 officers and employees and includes the City of St. Paul, the capitol city of Minnesota, in its jurisdiction, as well as seven townships and small cities that lie north of St. Paul.

Taking this course has given me a chance to learn in depth about all the divisions within a large sheriff’s office and about the responsibilites and myriad jobs each entails. The Ramsey Count Sheriff’s Office contains five divisions and 74 sudivisions. As a mystery and crime writer, it has been invaluable to get an insider’s look at what makes a major  law enforcement agency tick and at the vast number of services that go into keeping the public safe.  

 

 

Photo credits: crime scene tape © zimmytws | more — Fotolia.com