Around the world in 1978: 40-year reunion for the ‘Appledore’ crew

Posted:  Saturday, August 25, 2018 - 9:00pm
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CAMDEN - It was 40 years ago on, August 22, 1978, the Schooner Appledore left Portsmith, N.H., with a crew of 18 to start a 1.5-year trip around the world. On Wednesday, August 22, despite the weather, 12 of the original crew met in Camden to celebrate the 40th anniversary of that sail with a reunion and trip around Penobscot Bay. As one person put it, "we didn't sail around the world on a sunny day."

Tom Smith, son of Herb and Doris Smith, said he was 18 months old when he embarked for the sail around the world.

"I remember playing with Tonka trucks on the deck," he said. "And some of the people seem familiar to me. I remember one of the guys, but he had a big brown beard at the time."

The Appledore was built by Linwood Gamage, who operated the Gamage Shipyard in Bristol at the time.

"It's an awful sturdy boat," he said. "About six months of very hard work went into it. It was a good crew that worked on her. Everything went along just fine. We were very happy with her and all the crew seemed to be happy with her. The Gamage yard always took a lot of pride in the ships we built."

Jack Williams was 31 when he left to travel around the world.

"I quit my banking job,” he said. “I was working for Casco Bank and Trust in Portland and I was a commercial loan officer. My job was to develop business on the coast of Maine. I went to the Gamage Shipyard in Bristol trying to find Linwood Gamage, who, I was told, was off doing his favorite thing, which was flying his airplane."

Williams said he saw Herb Smith out of the corner of his eye.

"I had met Herb many years ago while making my first loan as a loan officer in Kittery," he said. "From there the magic began, never to be forgotten any day of my life. I relive it everyday. There's a little vignette everyday of somewhere in my life for this."

Williams said he went to work for Camden National Bank in 1983.

"We returned in 1980 and I went back to my old employer," he said. "I begged for a job and they said you're OK, we'll take you back. But then I knew I had to get closer to the sea because that's far deeper in my bones then any banking career will ever be."

Williams the boat looks fine after 40 years.

"She looks great," he said. "It's the greatest sea boat I was ever on."

Greg Wellstad was 16 when he left to travel around the world.

"Coming back here after 40 years to experience the comradery and seamanship we all had together has been the most amazing thing," he said. 

Wellstad said he remembers the watches most.

“Being on the watches and really getting to know the people on the level you get to know them is unlike you would any other place,” he said. “I wouldn’t hesitate a minute to do it again.”

Donna Giarraputo agreed.

“In a heartbeat,” she said. “You have to have the right boat and the right skipper. I was 30 and had never sailed before. Nights on watch were very, very special — a full moon and phosphorescence, the sound of a dolphin going by. I live in Ft. Myers, Florida, and I came back for this. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

John Thorpe Richards was 18 when he left on the Appledore and 20 when he returned. According to Richards, he did a lot of growing up in between.

“I was made navigator after we hit Panama because I had set off with a copy of Dutton’s Navigating and Piloting,” he said. “I taught myself celestial navigation and Herb was gracious enough to turn over that task to me for the rest of the trip.”

Richards said the boat always got to where it supposed to go.

“That was a great honor,” he said. “It was a life changing experience. I almost didn’t graduate high school because I was so unmotivated and unfocused. They were all truly wonderful people. It taught me persistence and how to stick to it because when you’re out in the middle of the ocean on Appledore your either going to get along with everybody or nobody and that was a tremendous lesson.”

Richards said it gave him a tremendous purpose of accomplishment.

“Herb had set a goal of getting to Portsmith, N.H., at 2:30 p.m. on May 17, 1980 and we did it, by God.”

Giarraputo said the journey changed her life.

“There’s just no doubt about it,” she said. “Herb had said early on if my husband and I joined the trip we would never be the same and I’ll never forget those words.”