From Gloucester to Maine and Back to Gloucester

(Sorry about the long delay in updating this blog. There wasn’t very good Verizon coverage where we were as well as we were often too tired to try and write.)

We departed Gloucester, MA, on Sunday, August 26, and arrived in Cape Porpoise, ME, later that day. Although we had to motor a good portion of the way, we had some great wind in the later part of the afternoon. We got to use our whisker pole as the wind was directly astern. For those unfamiliar with it, the whisker pole is used to keep the headsail poled out when the wind is behind you. The technique for setting the pole is somewhat complicated and so, we only do it when we know we’ll be going in the same direction for a good length of time. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank John from Moonlight, who gave us some very helpful tips regarding how to set the pole without too much drama. This was our first opportunity to try his technique and we’re happy to say it worked great. In fact, we used the pole on two other occasions in the following days.

After one night in Cape Porpoise, we sailed to Portland where we took a mooring. Friends Tita and Corning Townsend came down from their home in Edgecomb, ME, and took us out to David’s, their favorite Portland restaurant–actually in South Portland. It was a fantastic meal and we are very grateful for their effort to visit us and their generosity for taking us out.

The next day, Amy arranged to meet up with Ingrid, a friend from her Rockport Film Studies days. Ingrid was in the area visiting family and came out to lunch with us.

Wednesday was clear and with a distinct touch of fall in the cool air. The wind started out around 10 knots of the northwest but picked up throughout the day and went southwest. After almost 10 hours underway, we decided to anchor in the lee of Burnt Island at the bottom of Muscungus Bay. (There are many Burnt Islands along the coast of Maine.) Despite the strong 15-20 knots of wind, we felt well protected by this island that is a part of the Outward Bound Institute. The only unfortunate part of this day, was the overabundance of flies that nibbled on us along the way. We thought that we were far enough off shore and the wind strong enough, that there wouldn’t be so many. Fortunately, they disappeared in time for us to enjoy our cocktail hour behind Burnt Island.

From Burnt Island, we went to Seal Bay on Vinalhaven Island. We’d been here before and knew it was well worth another visit. Our anchorage was tucked in amongst some rocky ledges and was only large enough for one boat and with beautiful views in every direction. So, we had no company despite it being the beginning of the Labor Day weekend. Amy inflated out kayak while Ken continued to rest and recover from his unnamed illness.

Glen and Sarah aboard Beau Vent

We got a late start on Saturday but we were not going far. We had contacted friends Phil and Karen who live in Brooklin, ME, and they invited us over for a visit on Sunday. On our way to Southeast Harbor, on Deer Isle, we heard a vessel named Beau Ventcalling a fuel dock in Stonington. Although Ken didn’t think it could be the same boat, it was indeed Glen and Sarah, dock-mates from our home port, Shipwright Harbor Marina. We knew they’d be up in Maine in August but with all the nooks and crannies of the Maine coast, who would think we’d actually run in to them. After their mission in Stonington was completed, they joined us at the Southeast Harbor anchorage. Ken and Amy rowed over for some beer and pizza and a discussion about what we all had seen in Maine.

On Sunday, Beau Vent continued heading south while we went up to the Benjamin River off of Eggemoggin Reach where Phil was waiting for us on the dock. He drove us to their lovely home where Karen fed us. We were invited to stay the night but didn’t know whether we should bring all our dirty laundry. But, being cruisers themselves, they were well aware of the needs of sailors out on a voyage. So, Phil drove us back to the dock where we hopped in the dinghy and went back to Mary Tto grab all our dirty clothes. We had met Phil and Karen up in Port au Basques, Newfoundland back in 2009 and cruised in company with them to several of the southwest coast outports. Later that day, Karen took us to see the sights of Brooklin which is mostly wooden boat related. In fact, Brooklin is the home of WoodenBoat Magazine and the WoodenBoat school. We toured the facility and ogled at all the gorgeous craft in the harbor.

That evening, Karen cooked us a wonderful lobster dinner–our first of the trip. The next day, they took us food shopping (another important need of the cruising set) and Phil decided to take us up on our offer of a sail to Southwest Harbor on Mount Desert Island. Challenge, Phil and Karen’s beautiful Alden sailboat, is currently being stored there as they needed to have work done on her. Phil needed a sailing fix and we were more than happy to oblige.

Amy on Mt. Desert Island

Although the wind was light at first, it picked up and carried us all the way through the Casco Passage to Southwest Harbor with a minimum of sail adjustments. It was a perfect sailing day. We picked up a mooring and then went to shore to fetch Karen who had driven to Southwest Harbor by car. She too, needed a boat fix, so Amy cooked and we had dinner on board. As it was rather late, we invited Phil and Karen to spend the night.

The next morning we all went to breakfast out at a local restaurant, after which we bid farewell to the crew of Challenge and went looking for the Island Explorer bus–the free bus service run by LL Bean. Unfortunately, the next scheduled bus would not come by for about two hours. We tried hitchhiking but had no luck. Since Phil and Karen went to check on Challenge, we figured they might be coming by as there is only one road in to Southwest Harbor. We waited and waited and until nature called and we both had to use the restroom in the visitors center. As luck would have it, Ken saw them drive by while Amy was in the head. He called out but alas, they did not hear and drove on by. So, we had to kill time looking at the photo exhibit in the community center.

The bus finally arrived and took us to the closest trailhead that lead to a hike up Mt. Acadia. The weather was great and we had a hearty hike that took up most of the afternoon. Our luck held out as rain started after we arrived back in town.

The next day brought miserable weather that meant we had to run our Honda generator for the first time on this trip. Our solar panels had been supporting our electrical needs until then. At some point during the day, Amy discovered that almost all our toilet paper and paper towel supply were soaked and ruined. Upon closer investigation, Amy saw that the drain for the head sink was disconnected. (We keep all our paper supplies under the sink.) How bizarre! All we could think of was that either Phil or Karen must have crawled under the sink and unscrewed the fitting that made the hose fast to the sink drain. What other explanation could there be? Just kidding. It most likely was due to us stuffing many large rolls of paper towels under the sink that must have knocked the clamp loose on hose and the vibration from our engine did the rest. Anyway, the end result was a major cleaning job and loss of some vital supplies. Luckily, we had some backup rolls sealed in a dry bag just in case. As it was a rainy day, this little catastrophe didn’t make much difference in our tour of mid-coast Maine.

The following day, we went for fuel, water, and a holding tank pump-out in nearby Northeast Harbor then set sail for Frenchboro on Long Island which is basically due south of Mount Desert Island.

Frenchboro Harbor

Frenchboro is a small village of about 65 full-time residents who make their living primarily from lobstering. About two thirds of the island is part of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and has more than 10 miles of beautiful trails. The first day we arrived we took a walk along the mossy trail through tall pine trees and along a rocky beach. The scenery was truly enchanting. We had planned to leave the next day but were hit with pea-soup fog. Twice, we thought the fog had lifted so we let loose the mooring and headed out. Twice we came back. Although we have radar and gps, we didn’t feel like running the gauntlet of lobster pots in the area. And, since we have no schedule, we opted to wait yet another day as bad weather was approaching and our Frenchboro anchorage was quit snug. It also afforded us an opportunity to hike a different trial on the island.

View from the trail in Frenchboro

We departed Frenchboro on Sunday and leisurely sailed to Stonington, on Deer Isle. Our visit was brief but very enjoyable. We just wanted to see the town, have lunch, and get a few items from the grocery. Noting that the harbor was full of lobster boats, we realized that this wouldn’t be a restful place to anchor come Monday morning. So, we continued on a short ways to a beautiful nearby anchorage at Merchant Island where we witnessed a spectacular sunset.

The wind was strong out of the north the next morning and was supposed to stay northerly and gusty all day. It made it a perfect time to go to Moore’s Harbor on Isle au Haut. Moore’s Harbor is wide open to the south and thus is not a well protected place during most of the summer as the prevailing winds are out of the southwest. A large portion of Isle au Haut is part of Acadia National Park, so we had another opportunity for some hiking. The problem was getting to the trail. It ran very close to us but the beach is extremely rocky. We hauled our dinghy as far as we felt was safe for a couple of hours before the tide would come in too far.

The next day, we had a lively sail to Matinicus Island which is about 22 miles out from mainland Maine. According to the 2000 census, there are 51 full time residents on the island almost all of whom are associated with lobstering. That number grows to three of four times as many people in the summer. Still, not a lot of people. We were the only visiting boat in the harbor. After lunch at Angie’s Offshore grill, we hiked along the roads until we found a trail heading through the woods. We were somewhat disappointed, however as most of the trail was through thick brush that cut off any views until you emerged at the beach. Thinking we could walk along the beach for a while and cut back in somewhere to pick up the trail, we scrambled over large boulders, flotsam and jetsam only to realize that we could not find the trail. So, we had to retrace our steps and go back the way we came throughout the thickets.

On Wednesday, we sailed for the next island south and east–Monhegan. Unlike Matinicus, Monhegan is very touristy. Tour boats come in from Boothbay Harbor, Port Clyde, and New Harbor full of day-trippers who walk the 17 or so miles of scenic trails the island has to offer. Our hike went on quite a bit longer than expected due to misunderstanding which trail we were on. The views from Monhegan’s cliffs were spectacular but the trail markers were hard to see.

We were very fortunate that we got to see Isle au Haut, Matinicus, and Monhegan as the guide books make it very clear that the harbors at these islands can be very crowded or uncomfortable due to wind and waves or all of the above. We had the right kind of weather and as it was after Labor Day, very few other cruising boats to compete with.

From Monhegan it was a quick sail up the lovely Sheepscot River to visit our friends, the Townsends. They made room for us at their dock and extended their generous hospitality. We enjoyed their company for a couple of days before heading southward to Cape Porpoise and then Gloucester.

Back in Gloucester we visited with our friends Raffi and Lisa on whose boat we were married two years ago on “Talk Like a Pirate Day” (September 19). Amy’s sister, Molly, and brother-in-law, Tim, drove in from Littleton, MA, to help us celebrate. Arrrrrr.

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