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Local author's tale of a coastal adventure makes a splash

Local author David Buckman stands by one of the boats in his garage that he is currently working on. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
April 21, 2010
Thirty years ago, Gilford author David Buckman journeyed along the coast of New England and through Canada's Bay of Fundy on an 18-foot, $400 sailboat; decades later, he recorded his adventures in his recently published book, "Bucking the Tide."

Buckman, also the author of the "Lake Winnipesaukee Cruising Guide & Lakes Region Canoeing Guide," said his adventure through the wild coast of New England and Bay of Fundy was one to remember.

"Over the course of six years, I sailed from the coast of Rhode Island to the Bay of Fundy. This was well before the GPS, and there was a lot of fog, particularly in Maine. We learned by making mistakes, using a watch and compass," said Buckman. "I felt there was a wildness to the coast of New England. It was dramatic, even having grown up and toured around it. I felt like we were going back centuries."

Buckman took his wife Leigh and his friend Cleve Smith along for the ride in 1977, after purchasing the "Leight" in the early 1970s. Originally from Keene and a resident of Gilford since 1970, Buckman became familiar with the art of sailing at a young age. He did not enjoy racing in the water but always liked cruising and observing the waters as a child.

With 4,400 miles of coastline and 6,000-7,000 miles of shoreline to potentially travel across the New England coast and the Bay of Fundy, Buckman and his sail mates had a lot of work cut out for them.

Buckman sailed the boat on Winnipesaukee, which he said can be tricky in the wind, an endless amount of times before trying the sailboat in the ocean waters. At the time of his sailboat purchase, Buckman said he was happily married with four children and was looking for a great travel opportunity without a great price tag.

"We could go to great lengths close to home, for next to nothing," he said. "We sure were paid off in the end.

Buckman couldn't afford an adequate sailboat at first and instead purchased an old boat. He built a cabin on it and starting sailing on the coast. Although the boat leaked at times, it was fairly sturdy and fast for its size. Buckman said he had some interesting experiences on the boat, and although some were harder than others, he never regretted getting into sailing.

"Others are capable as well, as long as they are careful. You can do these really significant things if you are creative," said Buckman. "There are times when we came up against challenges, but we never had a moment of real fear. We tried to be smart about the weather. The more we did it, the better we got; we learned a lot about the native shore."

Though Buckman always felt safe from the unexpected happenings of Mother Nature, he said his passengers were not always so sure. According to Buckman, the Bay of Fundy has recorded up to 53-foot high tides; he described the drama of the fog, the sea, the tide, and the look of another era as "unbelievable."

"The character changes when you get to Maine. There are places where you feel like you have gone back to a different time. It just feels like 1,000 miles away from anything you are familiar with, and you could go anywhere on the coast in one day," said Buckman.

During his adventure, Buckman would haul up the boat to popular shorelines such as Rockport, Mass., and find that the size of his sailboat was compact enough to fit just about anywhere. He said people were more than helpful along the way and generous about docking the modest sailboat for a night or two by the most scenic of views.

Although Buckman always remembered the trip fondly and wrote about sailing in magazines for a number of years, he didn't decide to publish his epic tale until this past winter, after he found himself with 250 pages of a manuscript.

"It was an unbelievable trip. I've always looked back on the $400 purchase as one of the best investments I ever made in my life," said Buckman.

On top of publishing novels and magazine articles, and with a father in the newspaper business, Buckman was also the marketing director of Gunstock for a number of years, which he described as an ideal job.

"Bucking the Tide: Making Do and Discovering the Wild New England and Fundy Coast in a $400 Yacht," was published by Eastworks Publications in Gilford. It is available for $19, plus $4 shipping and handling at www.eastworkspublications.com, or at local bookstores or boatyards, or by check or money order written out to Eastworks, 31 Ridgewood Avenue, Gilford, NH, 03249.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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