After completing her schooling, Brenda thought she had her career set working at a local bank. While bookkeeping on the side for the schooner Wendameen, she had the opportunity to sail on an overnight trip, and her connection with windjamming was instantaneous: “It was magical – it plays like a little movie in my head.” Despite the security and stability involved in her job at the bank, Brenda signed up to crew aboard the Wendameen: “The president at the bank predicted I’d be back in six months. Fourteen seasons later, I’m still sailing!”
In 1998, after spending four seasons on the Isaac H. Evans, the schooner came up for sale. Though she had been keeping track of her sea time, when Brenda purchased the Evans in February of the following year, “I didn’t even have my captain’s license. I spent that whole winter on the railway, working on the boat, and studying. It was an absolute rollercoaster ride. But when it was over, I called my mom and said, “I own a National Historic Landmark!”
Brenda doesn’t think of herself simply as a windjammer captain: “Essentially, I have seven jobs – electrician, carpenter, plumber, janitor, teacher, camp counselor, and businesswoman. When you sign up for this job, you’re not just sailing. It’s so much more.” And the Evans, which was built in 1886, has many years of hard work under her belt: “This old girl has so much to teach me, and I learn so much from her; about the boat and about myself.”
The Isaac H. Evans is a unique schooner, says Brenda, because of her “woman’s touch.” “For me, it’s not about a show or a routine. I can look at a group and get a sense of what they need from us.” Though the Evans offers a variety of specialty cruises, it is well known for being family-friendly – since 1999, children as young as six have been welcome on every sailing adventure.
Brenda takes great pride in her vessel and its accomplishments. In 2001, former Governor Angus King awarded Brenda a Maine Tourism Award for her work with the Evans. Then, this past season, Brenda did something she will talk about for years to come – she sailed the Evans into The Basin, a deep-water hurricane hole surrounded by the island of Vinalhaven. “I’d never heard of anyone in the fleet doing it before. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced. One of my passengers said that I sail the Evans like a dinghy.” For a full account of Brenda’s cruise into The Basin, visit her blogspsot.
It is easy to see why Brenda loves what she does – her enthusiasm and love of sailing is contagious. “I have met so many very special people over the years. I love what I do, and even though it’s work, it is work that has blessed me with so much.” Thankfully for those who have sailed with Brenda, she will be with the Evans for a long time to come.
For more information about the Isaac H. Evans and other windjammers in the fleet, please visit our website.