Handmade: Knitter reduces bucket list with windjammer cruise

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News
On the final day of the cruise, everyone on board the ship posed for a group photo.

After more than 40 years, Barb Caddy now has one less life experience to check off her list -- a windjammer cruise with her husband, Mark, by her side.

"Mark and I have been wanting to do this for 43 years, ever since we got married. We put it off because of life. We were looking for a windjammer cruise our entire life together. It's like the bucket list trip of a lifetime," said the Royal Oak resident.  "Then I decided if we're going to go, we should find one with knitting involved. Since Mark would be helping with the sailing, I wanted to hang out with some knitters."

Caddy is the soft-spoken vice-president of the Black Sheep Knitting Guild, which meets every second Tuesday at Central Oaks Community Church in Royal Oak. I've known her a number of years, and never would have imagined her roughing it on a sailboat cruise -- not even one for knitters. I was amazed when I learned of her plans and excited when she agreed to share her story.

After searching online, Caddy found the perfect voyage -- a Maine knitting cruise, hosted by Sawmill Creek Fiber Events in Maryland, aboard the Schooner J&E Riggin, with nationally-known knitwear designer Casapinka as the featured guest. As it turned out, Casapinka was also scheduled to do a color workshop at ...have you any Wool? in Berkley, two months prior to the cruise. Caddy, of course, didn't hesitate to register for the class. 

For the cruise, Caddy said, "Casapinka brought on board a pattern for a cowl that hadn't been released yet called 'The Tidal Wave Cowl.' It's long enough to wear as a tank top or skirt. She was just there basically for help. There were 12 sections in this cowl. We were told to bring size 4 (circular) knitting needles in either 16 or 24-inch. 

"This lady (Casapinka) is brilliant. She's so smart and funny, and has so much energy. She's a real hoot. While on the ship, she was working on a sweater. She does beautiful patterns. I told her the next time she's in Michigan, we want her to come and talk to the Black Sheep Knitting Guild."

Debbie Davis of the Fibre Studio in North Carolina was also on board. "She donated the yarn for the kit and gave us nautical stitch markers. The yarn was called '50 Shades of Gradient.'" 

The first day of the cruise was "really cold," but warmed up with excitement when Halcyon Yarns came on board and did a trunk show with all kinds of locally dyed yarns. "I got a skein for socks in green and navy," said Caddy. 

A husband and wife, known only as "Captain John" and "Captain Annie," were in command of the ship. Those on board included 17 knitters, two of whom were traveling alone, and several knitting buddies. There were also three non-knitting husbands accompanying their wives, and the rest were crew members.

Captain Annie cooked everything on the ship on a cast-iron burning stove, and when it was time to eat, Caddy said she would yell -- "Attention knitters, and the people who love them!" 

Island exploration and a lobster bake were also part of the adventure. "That was awesome," said Caddy. "They built a fire on the beach, and cooked all the lobster and corn on the campfire (oooh!). When it was time to eat, a crew member went down to the water, got rocks and rinsed them off for us to use to crack the lobster."

Barb Caddy with her husband, Mark, as he holds up her cowl knitting project aboard the Schooner J&E Riggin.

A stop in Castine gave knitters the chance to shop for yarn, followed by a visit to the historical museum in town, where Mark bought a couple books about the area and its part in the Revolutionary War. Later, a trunk show was held on board, featuring J&E Riggin Island Boat Souvenirs. Caddy and Mark purchased T-shirts and one of Annie's cookbooks.

"We slept on the sailboat every night. I was the first one to sign up for the cruise, so we got the only double-bed, and everyone else had to sleep in bunk beds." Because the cabins were tight, Barb said she and Mark took turns getting dressed. 

Without a doubt, you know you're on a knitting sailboat cruise when those pulling on ropes to raise the sails chant "knit-purl," instead of "heave-ho!" Mark, who's no stranger to sailing thanks to his days as a Boy Scout, helped with the anchors and sails when he wasn't busy "swapping stories with Captain John."

I asked Caddy, what she enjoyed most about the cruise. She said, "I liked the knitting, and the food was out of this world! We were eating forever!" She was also quite taken by the scenery, and seeing three lighthouses, sea lions, an eagle, and a sunset highlighted by three schooners in the bay shooting off cannons.

"Maine is beautiful. I can't get over it," she said. "We were wondering, 'How do we top this?' So, whether you're a knitter, or not, Caddy "highly recommend(s)" taking a windjammer cruise aboard the Schooner J&E Riggin because the crew is "very down to earth." She and Mark plan to do it again someday!

(Sawmill Creek Fiber Events has another Maine knitting cruise with Casapinka, set for Sept. 16-19, aboard the ship. Visit sawmillcreekfiberevents.com for details.)   

Detroit News columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, jbrown@detroitnews.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade. 

Contact Barb Caddy at bjcblankets@gmail.com.