Quick, name two activities that define New England, and the robust Yankee ideal of harnessing the power of nature. There’s no right answer, of course. But if I had my choice, I’d pick sailing and skiing. Which is why Capt. Barry King of Appleton, Maine, to my mind, has the best two jobs in the world.
During the warmer months, the 56-year-old King can be found at the wheel of his 90-foot schooner, Mary Day, plying the waters off coastal Maine with his windjamming guests.
“I’ve been sailing all of my life,” he said. “I grew up for the first 15 years of my life in Marblehead, Mass., where boats were plentiful. Fished for lobsters as a kid. Forced family sailing vacations. Some racing, yachts mostly.
“My father was a yacht captain, and I helped him with deliveries near and far,” said King. “It’s about the only thing I have a feel for.”
King began working on Mary Day 26 years ago, in the spring of 1993. Five years later, he and his wife, Jennifer Martin, bought the schooner, and have “been at it ever since.” Sailing is the primary reason that Jennifer and Barry — the pair met at the Audubon Society’s Expedition Institute while earning master’s degrees in experiential environmental education — have made their home near Camden, Maine.
However, sailing is only half of the equation when it comes to King’s yearlong calendar, and his adopted harbor fits perfectly with his other avocation, skiing.
“If ever there was a town where skiing and sailing come together, it is Camden, Maine, ‘Where the mountains meet the sea,’ “he said. “The Camden Snow Bowl is the only ski area in the United States that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.
Owned and operated by the town of Camden’s Parks and Recreation Department, the Snow Bowl was started as a volunteer effort. It is now operated as a four-season facility with hiking trails, snowshoeing, nordic skiing, alpine skiing and a very active mountain-biking community, said King. At the base of the hill is Hosmer Pond, which offers canoeing, kayaking and “some very decent trout fishing,” he said.
But King traces his skiing roots back to his childhood on Boston’s North Shore.
“I’ve been skiing all my life as well. My father was a PSIA-certified instructor who put me in a pair of skis — wooden Northlands with Dover cable bindings and real metal edges — at a very young age and launched me from the top of the hill,” said King. “I learned to swim the same way.
“My dad raced through college at Boston University,” he said. “He instilled in me a sense of wonder about the pioneering individuals and the evolution of the ski industry in New England. He took me on the first of many trips up into Tuckerman Ravine when I was 14.”
Even to this day, King sees strong parallels between his two favorite activities.
“Nature has a way of keeping one in the present moment,” said King. “As much as any of us enjoy our screen time, I think we all crave being in the present. We don’t realize how much time we spend with our minds drifting away to someplace else.
“In order to successfully sail or ski, you have to be in the present,” he said. “Lose your attention for any length of time, and you either wind up aground or in the trees. Sailing and skiing keep me closest to my natural state. I can lose myself in the moment, tune out all the ‘stuff’ that is really quite meaningless. I get a chance to work with nature to get where I am going. I get to flex my mental and physical muscles when I am outdoors. I feel most alive in those situations.”
King’s father and several friends bought Mount Whittier, a now-defunct ski area in West Ossipee, N.H. They sold it in the late 1970s to folks “who just didn’t quite know what the ski experience was all about,” said King. However, the Marblehead native kept making turns.
“I raced alpine through middle school,” said King. “I did OK, but nothing to write home about. I was pretty distracted by the social scene.
“I raced nordic in high school here in Maine,” he said. “I coached nordic and alpine skiing for a few years in college, and came back to racing when my kids got into it in the local Friday night league. Some very good skiers. I discovered I still had a little something hiding somewhere inside.”
So King decided to give back to the sport and started coaching again.
“This is my third year coaching with the Camden Hills Regional High School program,” he said. “I’ve been working on gaining my USSA credential, and will complete my Level 200 in a couple weeks.”
Coaching allowed King to spend more time with his two children. His son, Sawyer, now 19, raced from elementary school through high school and is currently a freshman at Maine Maritime Academy, studying marine transportation engineering. His 18-year-old daughter Courtney is a senior at Camden Hills Regional High School and still racing alpine at the high school level. Last year, she was a team captain.
“I’m so lucky to be surrounded by amazing coaches here at the Camden Snow Bowl,” said King. “I’ve been told by many folks that visit that something special is happening at the Camden Snow Bowl.
“It is the best ‘village’ I have ever experienced for our family,” he said. “The coaching goes well beyond ski racing. Last year, both our men’s and women’s high school teams earned the Maine State Class A Sportsmanship Awards.”
The success of the Camden ski teams reflects the commitment of racers and coaches, and that earnestness translates to very little down time between sailing and skiing season for King. He and his family live on a 32-acre farm, and King admittedly would sometimes like “to go work in the woods getting in firewood or hunting deer or just enjoying the quiet.”
sailing and skiing keep me closest to my natural stateOpens in modal lightbox
The high school racing season typically runs from late November through the end of February. King said the staff focuses on drills to help with technique. “We set courses, slalom and GS, to put those techniques to work,” he said. “And we talk tactics as we look at different course sets.”
“I enjoy watching racers improve, but what really spins my wheels is watching them gain physical and mental confidence. I think that these young athletes bring so much of their lives to the hill,” said King with obvious pride. “I help them by just listening or maybe asking the right question at the right moment, seeing the light bulb come on over their heads, seeing them skiing in the present moment.
“Personal growth and maybe even a little character development are the end game for me,” he said. “I can tell you that these young adults are going to have their hands full learning to be present. They need to develop the confidence to trust their instincts and well-thought-out ideas. Ski racing gets them off the couch, away from their screens and out into the immediacy of skiing.”
Not surprisingly, King feels the same when he’s at the helm of the Mary Day.
“Teaching aboard the schooner and coaching racing are really the same for me,” said King. “If I do nothing else, I hope that I leave each person I have touched feeling better about themselves. If I can teach a guest to steer a 96-ton schooner or give a young adult the skills to negotiate a long, fast GS course, can you think of anything better?
“I spend most of my time drawing parallels between what is happening on the ocean or the slopes and what is happening in the rest of their lives. I have been told I have a gift for doing that. Maybe for some, not for everyone, I’m sure. My crew are young adults just out of college, and I feel a real responsibility to teach them skills and an attitude of reverence for what they are accomplishing each day.”
That works on the open water. And works on the hill.