Maritime Explorer: David Nutt
The 61st annual Windjammer Days will take place Sunday, June 25 through Saturday, July 1, 2023. This year the Friends of Windjammer Days is celebrating our rich population of Maritime Explorers. Those featured have traveled extensively on different bodies of waters either for work, pleasure or both.
I am a boatbuilder and a sailor. I have sailed my entire life and have been a boatbuilder since 1972. But mostly I was a partner and companion with my late wife Judy Sandick and with our four kids, David, Sarah, Jasper and Charlotte.
Perhaps my love of the sea is genetic. My father sailed north on the Morrissey (now known as the Ernestina Morrissey) in 1936 when he was 16 on the first of his six trips to the arctic with Bob Bartlett. My mother sailed with Irving and Exy Johnson on their schooner Yankee. In the Second World War my father served as executive officer on the Bowdoin for two years in Greenland before being transferred to the Pacific as CO on the USS Sumner doing the survey required before the US Naval Fleet could enter the uncharted harbors of the Pacific. After the war he acquired the 100’ schooner, Blue Dolphin, which he based here in Boothbay Harbor and used her to do oceanographic research work in Labrador and Greenland.
I sailed as a child long before my first memories and was one of many kids at the Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club in the 50s and 60s. I launched my first boat, a 38-foot Bjarne Aas cutter, in 1976. I sailed her extensively on the coast of Maine and made voyages to the Bahamas, the Caribbean and to Nova Scotia doing boat repair on other’s boats along the way. Much of my sailing in the Caribbean was single handed sailing.
I made a few deliveries as crew to the Caribbean from Maine while further establishing my business, David Nutt Boatbuilder, in Southport, Maine. My company maintained upwards of 50 boats doing all the routine maintenance, major rebuilds, as well as designing and producing the Southport 30, a Maine lobster boat used in the recreational market.
In the fall of 1998 my wife, Judy Sandick, and our four kids ages 3, 7, 8 and 10, headed to the Caribbean from Maine on Alsager, our 42-foot Dick Carter design sloop. I had rebuilt the boat after acquiring her following a disastrous blowdown in a boatyard leaving her steel hull severely dented, her deck damaged, her fin keel bent 6 feet to port and her mast in three pieces. This was supposed to be a six-month family voyage and adventure, but we soon found we loved the lifestyle and each other so much that we set our minds on a circumnavigation.
We found Danza, a 60-foot steel Robert Clark design, in fact a sistership to Chay Blythes’ original British Steel. Danza needed an extensive refit which I did at my own yard after bringing her to Maine from Puerto Rico in the spring of 1999.
We left Maine on March 25, 2000 after selling Alsager and my company and headed off on almost six years of sailing around the planet. Our route took us from Maine to Bermuda, the U.S. Virgins, Panama, Galapagos, Marquesas, Tahiti, and many of the other island groups arriving in New Zealand for the cyclone season. We then sailed north to Fiji including the Lau Group, a rarely permitted destination. We sailed on to Vanuatu and New Caledonia before making the long passage to Australia to once again duck south of the cyclone tracks. After the cyclone season passed, we made the 1200-mile windward passage back to New Caledonia and then on up to Vanuatu. From there we sailed north to Makira in the Solomon Islands. Due to the conflicts in the Solomons, we were one of the first westerners to visit and many of the young children had never before seen members of the white race. Despite the plans to head on to Southeast Asia we headed back to Australia for the cyclone season again. It was too good to try to hurry along. The next season we head directly back to the Solomon Islands as we found it truly to be a magical place. We dropped back to Cape York in Queensland, Australia and Judy got off the boat and went down to Cooktown where she enrolled in a master’s program in Public Health and Tropical Medicine. As a physician she was always furthering her education. The kids and I sailed on through much of Indonesia meeting up with Judy several months later in Singapore. Thereafter we crossed the Indian Ocean
landing in Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Oman, Yemen, Eritrea, Sudan, and Egypt. From there we stopped in Israel, Turkey, Greece as well as the western Mediterranean countries before slipping out the Straits of Gibraltar and back into the Atlantic. An easy Atlantic passage followed by a slow trip up the islands and then landfall in the United States in Norfolk, Virginia arriving back at the town dock in Boothbay Harbor on June 5, 2005. We
sailed over 45,000 nautical miles and visited 42 countries and met wonderful people.
Our return to Maine left us very different people than when we left. The kids had added years to their young lives and experiences that still shape them almost two decades on in time.
In 2010 we sailed to the west coast of Greenland and back. Three of my four kids as well as my dear Judy were crew. It was an amazing voyage getting as far north as Illulisat in Disko Bay, some 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. I will regret for the remaining days of my life that we did not go back and do the Northwest Passage.
On our return I picked up my trade again taking care of the region’s beloved Boothbay Harbor One Designs of which I built four new ones. Judy continued her work as a hospitalist at Miles Hospital. Our kids grew into adults, and I know they all harbor dreams of ocean voyages.