Ever want to quit your job, rent out your home, and tour your art around the country on a sea vessel the length of a telephone pole?
It can be done — or so Maine musician Dave Rowe has set out to prove.
Rowe and partner Stacey Guth left their Portland home this month to set sail on a music tour in a 38-foot Bayliner motor yacht, taking a route known as the Great Loop that encompasses 6,000 miles and 15 states and provinces.
The Great Loop is a nautical voyage with some cachet. Roughly 150 boats have completed the voyage over the past two years, according to Kimberly Russo of America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association. That figure makes it a journey rarer accomplished than summiting Mt. Everest.
Putting in at Sparrows Point, Maryland, where they purchased the boat last winter, Stinkpot’s route takes Rowe and Guth up the Hudson River to Albany then through the Erie Canal to the Great Lakes. They plan to hit the Chicago River heading south by late September, charting the Mississippi River and Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, crossing their wake in Fort Pierce, Florida, by winter, and sailing up the coast. The plan is to touch down in Maine this time next year.
Music-gigging is typically landlubbers’ business, but Rowe has been making it work. He played a brunch set at a yacht club in Cornwall, New York, last Sunday, which was captured on video. Playing from the boat, Rowe is broadcasting his next concert, June 28 via the app Concert Window.
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A lifelong Mainer, Rowe said the idea for the maritime tour emerged from a pang of grief at summer’s end in 2016. “We pulled the boat out of the water at Sebago Lake and it just felt like the most depressing thing,” Rowe said.
Mainers may be more familiar with Rowe than they realize. Born in Lewiston, Rowe has been a folk musician in the Portland area for 16 years, playing folk originals along with a steady mix of Irish and Celtic chanteys and folk traditionals. His father, Tom Rowe, played bass in the Maine group Schooner Fare, who splintered off from the folk-rock group Devonsquare in 1975.
Churning out 10 albums over the following two decades, Schooner Fare achieved national acclaim and their folk style became a signature Maine sound over the late 20th century. Their popular 1993 track “The County Song,” about Aroostook County, is well known in The County.
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“‘The County Song’ as I recall has a warm place in my childhood as being The County’s unofficial anthem,” said John Nels Blanchette, a Portland musician who saw Schooner Fare at arts centers and county fairs while growing up in Woodland, a town outside of Caribou, in the 1990s.
In 1992, midway through Schooner Fare’s legacy, Tom Rowe began touring and recording with his son Dave in the duo Rowe By Rowe. They were joined by Maine musician Denny Breau in 1998, renaming themselves Turkey Hollow. Tom Rowe died of cancer in 2004.
Guth, Rowe’s partner of six years, welcomes her role as Rowe’s seafaring tourmate. A city girl at heart, having lived in Boston for 20 years before moving to Maine, she said her initial apprehensions to Rowe’s Great Loop plan have been dashed, and has gotten a lot of practice sleeping at anchor on Sebago during Maine summers.
“He’s been very pragmatic about the whole thing and it’s rubbed off on me,” Guth said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Rowe is documenting the tour — which he’s calling “Folk On the Water” — on the Facebook page Adventures on Stinkpot.
Watch: Inside a houseboat docked on the Bangor waterfront