Sailing in Maine
My brother Bob invited Cathy and me to join him and his daughter Julia on a 10 day cruise of the Maine coast on his 41' Cambria sailboat Wager. Cathy felt that her schedule wouldn't allow her to go, but she encouraged me to spend some very quality time with Bob and Julia. I immediately arranged the flight schedule and made preparations to go. The week before the trip was to start, a terror scare in England put the airport security rules in flux. Bob suggested that I pack a box and send it to him via UPS. I packed everything that I thought I'd need and shipped it to him on Monday, August 14, 2006.
Day 1 (Thursday, 08/17/06)
Our next door neighbor Tom had recently started work on a contract at the Philadelphia airport, so thanks to his generosity, I got a free ride to the airport at 5:15 AM. We arrived at Terminal F at 7:00 AM for my 11:35 AM USAir Express flight to Portland, ME. I was traveling light with no check-in or carry-on luggage. Going through security was a breeze since the only items I offered for inspection were my sandals and cell phone. I bought a NY Times and breakfast consisting of a latte and blueberry muffin and settled down for a long wait. The flight took only an hour. The sky was clear so I was able to get a spectacular view of the whole coast between Long Beach Island and Portland. Bob and Julia met me at the airport. We stopped for lunch at the Humble Gourmet in Brunswick, where Bob and I both had corn chowder. We shopped for provisions at Shaw's Supermarket in Bath and then headed to the Robin Hood Marina. We loaded (pics: 1,2) our gear and provisions on the boat and then filled the fuel and water tanks. Due to the late hour, we decided to stay in the marina overnight. We had a good dinner at the Osprey Restaurant in the marina, where I had Sea Bass. We dodged mosquitoes on the way to the boat and put up the screens. We watched "The Simpsons" on DVD which is one of Julia's favorites. I went out for a shower at the Marina's facilities and found that the mosquitoes had disappeared. I have heard and experienced that saltwater insects only bite for an hour after sunset, but freshwater bugs bite all night. We all retired relatively early. Bob and Julia occupied the Captain's Cabin forward; I slept in the very comfortable quarter bunk aft.
Day 2 (Friday, 08/18/06)
I arose at my usual hour of 6:00 AM and took a small walk around the marina at sunrise. It was a cool morning in the 50s, so I bought a hot cup of lousy coffee at a machine and picked up a day-old copy of the local paper. Bob got up around 7:00 AM, put on some freshly ground coffee, made some oatmeal, and we shoved off and ate while we motored out of the harbor. We had to wait for a while to pass through a swinging bridge that opens on the half-hour. I started to see the beauty (pics: 1,2,3) of the coast all around me with the varied sky, the water surface, rocks on the shoreline, other boats, the trees on land, and the interesting buildings along the shore. At one point in the trip Bob suggested that one could randomly aim a camera and consistently come up with calendar quality photos. Bob needed to get online with his laptop computer, so we motored the short distance to Boothbay Harbor where we tied to a mooring for a couple of hours. We took the dinghy to shore and Bob got online in front of the library while Julie and I visited a bookstore where I bought her an activity kit. When we left Boothbay Harbor, we sailed for a while and I got some preliminary instruction on "crewing" on a sailboat. Depending on the wind speed and direction, we also motored with the sail up (motor-sailed). We saw a Harbor Seal and Harbor Porpoise swimming and lots of flying and sitting birds. We threaded our way amongst some of the thousands of islands that dot the Maine coast. It was amazing to see lobster floats everywhere in vast numbers, allowing no channels. There were even lobster floats under the swinging bridge! I quickly discovered that sailing in Maine consists of 90% picking a zigzag route through the lobster floats. Sailboats are very susceptible to catching a lobster line on the keel, which will stop the boat and maybe foul the prop or rudder. We stopped for the night at a mooring in Port Clyde (pics: 1,2).We took the dinghy ashore and visited the general store and a playground. Bob cooked one of his special shipboard recipes: pasta with sweet onions, chick peas and sun-dried tomatoes. We also had salad and bread. I discovered that I had no bars on my cell phone.We went to bed with some small waves rocking the boat.
Day 3 (Saturday, 08/19/06)
I arose at 6:00 AM and spent an hour in the cockpit taking photos (pics: 1,2,3) and looking through the binoculars. We had a good wind for sailing as we left Port Clyde. The ocean had moderate swells and some chop, but it was a comfortable ride. We saw a classic old coastal cruiser and the vulnerable looking Whitehead lighthouse. I enjoyed steering the boat through some moderate waves.We knew that a weather front was approaching and decided to stop in Rockland Harbor (pics: 1,2,3) which would provide some rainy day activities.We tied up to a mooring and took the dinghy to the town dock. We enjoyed coffee at The Bakery and then took showers at the dock facilities. Bob made delicious burritos on the boat for dinner. It was a very pleasant evening.
Day 4 (Sunday, 08/20/06)
It rained overnight and most of the day. After breakfast, we moved the boat to tie up at the dock for more convenient access. We ate lunch at The Bakery and then went down the street to Second Read, a used bookstore. I saw a featured book that made me think back to April 2004 when we were in Savannah. At that time we enjoyed the paintings of Ray Ellis on display at the Telfair Museum and visited the Ellis Gallery in Savannah.We discovered that Walter Cronkite and Ray Ellis had co-authored a book, North by Northeast, an exposition of sailing the East Coast, illustrated by Ray Ellis. We really wanted to buy the book but found that it was out of print. In Rockland, at the Second Read, I found a used copy of the book and bought it as a gift for Bob and Marty. We visited the headquarters for the Puffin Project, where we saw a 20 minute film about the Puffins. Bob bought me a souvenir Puffin coffee mug and Julie a Puffin stuffed toy which makes the weird sound that Puffins do. Next, we went to the Farnsworth Art Museum and enjoyed the art of three generations of Wyeth. In one of the galleries, housed in a converted church, we got to see and hear Victoria Wyeth, granddaughter of Andrew, giving a lecture about some of the paintings. Afterward, to the great pleasure of Julie, we went into Planet Toys, which is a gigantic place that welcomes people playing with their toys. After we finally returned to the boat, I took a 6 mile walk in a driving rain to the harbor breakwater. It was pretty miserable, but at least I got a bit of exercise. When I got back to the boat, we ordered pizza and I went out in the rain to get it. After dinner, I went back out in the rain to get a shower. Luckily the bunk was cozy and I slept well and warm.
Day 5 (Monday, 08/21/06)
The rain stopped sometime during the night. When I arose at 6:00 AM, I took a walk around the town. After breakfast, we filled the water tanks and left the harbor around 8:00 AM, just as two Monhegan Island ferries crossed paths. This was a great sailing day, where we sailed on one tack all day long. The only blemish on the day was that Bob had to cut away two lobster lines that had fouled in the keel. The sky had many moods and some rain fell, causing Bob to break out the foul weather gear. We were very close to a windjammer for at least half of the day. We arrived at a mooring in Bass Harbor on Mount Desert Island at 6:00 PM. Around the same time, 3 windjammers sailed into the harbor and anchored. The windjammers provide a unique vacation opportunity on the Maine coast, but it couldn't beat the cruise that we were on. We took the dinghy to shore for a short walk. Bob made another of his pasta specialties: onions, raisins, and pine nuts for dinner. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset at the end of a great day of scenic sailing (pics: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8).
Day 6 (Tuesday, 08/22/06)
I arose at 6:00 AM and took some photos (pics: 1,2,3) of the early morning in Bass Harbor. After breakfast, we took the dinghy to shore for showers. Then we motored to Northeast Harbor, also on Mount Desert Island. It was a gorgeous day, but the wind was light. We attached to a mooring in the very upscale harbor, which had 4 megayachts visiting. We took the dinghy to shore and ate lunch at the Full Belli Deli. Bob and I ate very good sandwiches, called "Veggie Flair." We walked around the tiny village for a while and visited the library. Then we took the dinghy over to the other side of the harbor and hiked to Thuya Garden, which was in full bloom (pics: 1,2,3). I began to understand why Bob considers NE Harbor his favorite spot on the island. In one container was a large and beautiful Castor Bean plant that would look great in our container garden back home. One of the two full-time gardeners told me that I could get seeds at Johnny's Selected Seeds. We ate an early dinner at the Docksider Restaurant, where I got a lobster dinner with blueberry pie for dessert - good stuff! We walked to a nearby playground after dinner and Julie had a great time playing with a couple of other sailing children.
Day 7 (Wednesday, 08/23/06)
I arose at 6:00 AM and experienced cool, dry air at dawn. After breakfast, we took the dinghy to town and wheeled a cart to buy provisions and to do laundry. Bob bought an ill-fated red bucket which was lost at sea that night. We ate an early lunch at the Full Belli Deli and enjoyed the Veggie Flair sandwiches. When we returned to the boat, we motor-sailed into Sommes Sound (pics: 1,2,3,4), up to the end. There was a variable wind and lots of boats. We cruised into the lovely Valley Cove around halfway up the sound. Then we cruised into Southwest Harbor (pics: 1,2), much larger than NE Harbor. We returned to another mooring in NE Harbor and went on shore for showers. Bob prepared another great pasta dish accompanied by organic 7-grain bread and strawberries for dessert. Julie and I played a game which had her doll Spring bundled and protected by a sign we made.
Day 8 (Thursday, 08/24/06)
I arose at 6:00 AM and took some photos of the glassy harbor at dawn (pics: 1,2,3,4). Cathy called and we had a good chat. We took the dinghy to shore and took a nice walk (pics: 1,2,3) to the Asticou Azalea Garden (pics: 1,2), which is of the Japanese style. When we got back to town, we had coffee at the Full Belli Deli. We returned to the boat and departed at noon. We passed by the Bass Harbor Head Light and headed to the "Holy Grail" of Maine coastal sailing, the Eggemoggin Reach, which Bob was able to sail the whole way. Julie and I sat in the bow for some time and while we crossed under the Deer Island Bridge (which Cathy and I crossed in our RV last Fall). I took an interesting photo up the mast at the mainsail. We passed by Pumpkin Island Light and stopped at a mooring in Buck's Harbor (pics: 1,2) at around 6:00 PM. Before we moored, I got whacked in the forehead with the boom when unsnagging a line caught under a hatch. I bled a bit but stayed conscious and on the boat. Bob made a delicious Portabello Lasagne for dinner. The mosquitoes were fierce and kept us inside. We saw some lightning and heard thunder after dinner, but the storm passed us by.
Day 9 (Friday, 08/25/06)
I arose at 6:00 AM and viewed the early morning at Buck's Harbor. After breakfast we took the dinghy to the dock for showers. We left the harbor at around 9:00 AM. The day started out very calm with no wind, so we motor-sailed for a while. We passed the very picturesque Owl's Head Light as we went by Rockland. Then we had a good sail through Fishermen's Passage with some nifty tacking by Bob. We passed the Whitehead Lighthouse and then we passed the Tenants Harbor Lighthouse, home to a couple of generations of Wyeths, and took a mooring in the harbor at 5:00 PM. We had a fabulous dinner of Mediterranean Chowder and swordfish at the Cod End outside dock (pics: 1,2) and enjoyed traditional English folk music by the Dock Boys. I had a mixed berry pie for dessert to get my last taste of Maine blueberries for this trip. We saw a Bald Eagle as we ate dinner on the dock. Afterward, we walked to a playground where we saw another Bald Eagle. There were beautiful colors in the sky and water after sunset.
Day 10 (Saturday, 08/26/06)
I arose at 6:00 AM on our last full day of cruising and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise on the calm water (pics: 1,2). I saw a pair of Belted Kingfishers on a nearby dock rail and little fish splashing at the surface. After breakfast, we took the dinghy to shore for a bit of shopping. We left the harbor under motor-sail. It was very calm and sunny with little wind. We began to sail when we got to Muscongus Bay (pics: 1,2). There were lots of islands and narrow passages. We arrived on a mooring at Hog Island, owned by the Audubon Society, around 3:00 PM. Julie and I did some kayaking while Bob supported us in the dinghy. We explored the area and circled the wreck of the Cora F. Cressy nearby. Then we all took a hike (pics: 1,2) on Hog Island. It was neat being the only visitors on the island. When we returned to the boat, Bob and I put up a screen room around the cockpit to ward off the mosquitoes. Bob cooked a wonderful vegetarian chili, which we ate on our "porch" with a view. After dinner we watched half of "Master and Commander". I talked with Cathy on Bob's cell phone before we turned in for the night.
Day 11 (Sunday, 08/27/06)
I arose at 6:00 AM and found that it was foggy. There were lots of birds calling and I saw a fight between a Cormorant and a Black-backed Gull over a fish. After breakfast, we loaded the kayak on the boat and left the area at low tide through a very narrow, shallow channel. We motor-sailed to Pemaquid Point and then sailed to Boothbay Harbor. We saw two jetskis, which is unusual on the Maine Coast (but, unfortunately, not unusual in a lot of other places). We passed by the Burnt Island Light, last lighthouse of the trip. While we were waiting for the swinging bridge to open, we saw 4 birds standing on a surfboard. We arrived back at Robin Hood Marina around 2:30 PM. We had lots of work to do packing and unloading the boat. It rained for over an hour while we were carting loads to the minivan. Two men, a father and son team, who were to sail Wager to Portsmouth, Rhode Island for possible sale, arrived at 5:00 PM. Bob briefed them for about an hour. Then we loaded the kayak on the minivan and left the marina at 6:45 PM. We stopped for dinner at Beale Street BBQ in Bath, where I had halibut. We arrived at Bob and Marty's house at 9:00 PM in the rain and partially unloaded. Bob made my room ready for me. Then I printed my boarding pass, took a long, hot shower, and read myself to sleep.
Day 12 (Monday, 08/28/06)
I arose at 6:00 AM and looked at the weather on my cell phone. It looked like rain would continue in southern Maine for a couple of hours, but Philadelphia looked OK. I went down to the family room and read until Bob came in. We had a last oatmeal breakfast together and then had a slide show of my 203 trip photos on their new plasma TV. I got a chance to greet Marty, who had returned late the night before from a Colorado rock climbing trip with her son Andrew. We looked at a few of her dramatic photos of climbing cliffs until she had to go off to work. Around 9:40 AM, Bob, Julie, and I drove to a UPS outlet so I could send my box back home. Then they dropped me at the airport in Portland. My plane was over an hour late, but I enjoyed reading the New Yorker while I was waiting. The flight to Philadelphia only took 55 minutes. Our neighbor Tom picked me up on his way home from work and I was home around 6:00 PM, just before Cathy arrived home from work. We went to the Black Duck restaurant for a good dinner. Then, I watched "Deadwood" and "Entourage" from 8/20 before heading to bed.
I thoroughly enjoyed the sailing adventure with its interesting route planned by Bob. My companions, Bob and Julie, couldn't have been more companionable. It's been long overdue for me to be able to talk in depth with Bob, and we made the most of it. It was great fun to talk and play with Julie. After many years of experiencing Maine on its highways and the trails of Acadia, it was fabulous to see so much of the coast from the water.