Way back in 1977 My wife Joyce and I had a “sailing trip from Hell” in August on the Chesapeake Bay during which thousands of chickens died on the eastern shore from the heat, we had daily thunderstorms, visibility was ruined by haze, and jellyfish set new density records. Despite the comforts of our 38’ cruising sailboat, we could not escape the icky conditions, or could we? The following summer we hitched up a MacGregor 25 and headed north on our first “northern exposure” trip. We have enjoyed many trips north in the intervening years, and this one on the new MacGregor 26M was one of the best.
On the way to Maine we made several stops, mentioned because a trailerable boat trip is like a family adventure road trip with a boat (and overnight accommodations) in tow. We visited my sister and her family in York, Pa., followed by a glorious day at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa. My wife the gardener loved the landscaping, flowers, fountains etc. Then to Long Island’s Port Washington for a visit with a boating buddy and dinner aboard his 92’ yacht. We were not jealous (much) because we know the trade –offs first hand. The expense and time obligation of a large yacht is staggering. My wife Joyce enjoys writing about the history and people of the areas we visit, and some of it is incorporated here. Joyce’s narrative continues:
“Long Island, across the East River from Dutch New Amsterdam, was settled by Englishmen. Earlier English settlers craving religious freedom in Connecticut drove off fellow settlers who did not worship exactly as they did. Some took the short boat ride over Long Island Sound and began raising cattle after the usual favorable land transaction with the local Indians (who may have envisioned the payments as only rent for a season leading to hostilities later.) The long shoreline with numerous peninsulas simplified fencing. Only enough fencing needed to be built to pen cattle into a finger of land with the shoreline hemming them in on the other three sides. For each 11' of fence a family erected it was entitled to pasture one cow. The back of a house counted too. Houses served as fence gates. The rear yard was pasture and the road in front, Cow Neck Road, is now Rt. 25.
In 1902 a local man and his 16-year-old son took 37 days to make the first private Atlantic crossing to England under motor in a 38' boat powered by a 10-hp kerosene engine. In 1935 the first Pan-Am trans-Atlantic flights were inaugurated here.”
Friday morning we met Jim G at his new townhouse for the walk through before settlement.. It has a bow shaped deck overlooking his yacht Iemanja in the harbor. Sands Point, L.I. N.Y. has among the highest median housing prices in the country: $2 million.(gasp!) Iemanja started life as a 68 footer and was twice sliced in two to extend it into its present 92' length tripling the cockpit space and expanding 2 cabins below into staterooms in the first expansion. Later the galley was expanded adding room for a washer and dryer plus a small cabin across the hall. Altogether there are six cabins, 5 heads, 4 refrigerators, six a/c units, two generators and a host of other equipment. She has new Oriental carpets in the salon and hall. Her spruced up interior and new paint job on the exterior will restore her to her former glory. We'll catch an afternoon sail with Jim this afternoon before she heads to Rhode Island for her repainting.
Next it was off the Newport, Rhode Island to hob knob with the RROC (Rolls Royce Owners Club) at their annual judged show. We surprised Jim's friend Lauren by popping in to see how he was faring. Lauren took 3rd place with his 1935 model. Newport is a great place for sightseeing so we launched the land dinghies (bicycles) and spent a couple days touring. Armed with the Historical Society's 9 walking tours we did the town on foot in the colonial section and by bicycle to take in the mansions of the Gilded Age. Joyce continues:
Rhode Island was the first colony to break with England. The victorious Battle of Yorktown that brought the French aboard as allies was launched from what is now King's Park. The oldest Jewish congregation and the first Black Freedman's Church are here. The religious tolerance helped make this the cultural capital of the country in its early days. The Naval Academy relocated to Newport during the Civil War. Two presidents had summer White Houses in Newport: Kennedy at Hammersmith Farm, Jackie's home, and Eisenhower on the grounds of Ft Adams.
The mansion tour helped unravel a mystery of the rich: why husbands and wives had separate bedrooms. It seems the rich change clothes for each part of the day and for each activity about a half dozen times in all. Ladies entertained close friends with tea in their bedroom. Awkward to have Reginald pop in to don his tennis togs.
Actually, the men did their best to escape the relentless social functions of the Gilded Age by taking to their yachts. The America's Cup was handed to the Australians from Marble House, home of the Vanderbilts for the 6 week summer season.
Speaking of sailors we bumped into Iemanja's crew while on that mansion tour. We had spotted her at anchorage between Ft. Adams and Goat Island as we pedaled around Monday morning. She had gamely flown her spinnaker with just 3 crew aboard on the passage. And poor Jim G missed the sailing! Unless the weather improves they will have no better luck painting her deck now than they had in June. Intermittent daytime drizzle with overnight rains set in Monday and remains the forecast for next week.”
Heading further north, we landed in Scusset on the north end of the Cape Cod Canal. The Canal saves ships 36 miles navigation around the treacherous tip of the Cape greatly improving both time and safety. We are nestled into the trees a short walk from the Atlantic in as rustic a setting as you please. The boat serves as a camper with the boarding ladder and fold-up helmsmans seat providing access to the cabin.
Day 1 At Sea
Like a precision team the Owl and the Pussycat shifted from landlubber to cruising mode Wednesday, Aug 6 in our maiden voyage aboard the all new powersailor, the MacGregor 26M. We launched from Bourne Marina at 3:30 under partly overcast skies. A brisk 15 knot SW wind and an enthusiastic current capable of pulling the channel lobster pots underwater dictates that we explore the Cape Cod Channel to our east.
Once headed for its mouth the current, which had carried us crab-wise now sent us, turbo-charged under the Railway Bridge with genoa unfurled.
The Cape Cod Canal is the world's longest inland sea level (no locks) canal. Its twin bridges (rail and car) are Civil Engineering Award winners. The railway bridge promises enchantment with its graceful long arch between 2 pillars topped by cones reminiscent of castle turrets. By the time we crossed under the auto bridge our genoa was furled against the gusts. "A1 EXPRESS" friskily leaped over the wakes of passing power boaters, and the tug bucking the current carried a "bone in her teeth" (a prominent bow wave in Landlubberese.) Mate Pussycat stepped lively as we tasted the briny for the first time of our vacation: steering, hauling up the dagger board, stopping and unstopping the water vent, fetching the hand-held radio, binoculars, charts and chairs as the Owl settles into shipboard routine.
The banks of the canal are a recreational preserve. The roadways created during construction are now developed as hiking, biking, skating and skateboarding paths with ample access for fishing. By the time we passed below the Sagamore Bridge 40 minutes past launching via the miracle of the 50 hp Honda the sun shone under skies cleared of all but the puffiest white clouds. Crisp air, continuous breezes and ice tea put heart into crew!
A slip at Sandwich Marina in the East Boats Basin ($1.75/ft) seems a song after sailing a 65 footer. Crew easily lassoed dock cleats that previously proved a "gap too far" without a boat hook and several patient (?) approaches by Captain on the 65'. Crew's flawless performance will be rewarded by an evening meal ashore. (Owl knows how to keep Pussycat purring and eager to tour by water!) "Seafood Sams," no frills, low bills, good food, fast service.
Our California King sheets fit the aft berth to a "T". Without our children, now grown too busy to vacation with Mom and Dad, we have our gear neatly stowed on the V-berth.
Zounds! It's 5:30! Time to relax on the cockpit cushions before departing for shore. Coast Guard Station Rangers sponsored an 8pm nightcap of sing along Sea Chanteys.
Day 2 At Sea
Thursday August 7. After overnight rain, morning dawns to 15 knot SW winds in fog. Cape Cod Bay just beyond the canal terminus experiences gentle offshore breezes under these conditions. Should we venture out and sail there? No! We're Gloucestermen! Its back to Buzzard's Bay.
Before departure we took time to invent the on-board dishwasher: our am dishes in our 6 pack Little Playmate cooler, soap, water from the dock, load, lock and wedge her aboard in the aisle. We haven't perfected the rinse cycle yet.
Our goal is to tour the perimeter of Buzzard's Bay. Having adopted the Norwegians axiom, "There is no bad weather, only bad clothes," we are not letting iffy skies keep us in port.
Once past the closely spaced buoys - a testimony to the fogs here-we had a close hauled beat under full sails to Wood's Hole. Purrfection. As we veered westward into the wind the "Iron Jenny" carried us comfortably to our overnight slip on Cuttyhunk Island ($2/ft). At 4:30 the Raw Bar sent a comely dockhand along the piers to take final orders for the day. Newspapers are available on the honor system: the till sits unguarded as the weight. The pizza "parlor"-6 picnic tables in a driveway-is it for restaurants. The island is the tip of the Elizabeth Island chain and boasts being the location of the first English habitation on the coast of New England.
Bartholomew Gosnold arrived in 1602. Gosnold, the namesake town, has 25 year rounders, and 20 times as many summertime visitors on a speck 2.5 by .75 miles with a one-room schoolhouse through Grade 8. Serenity and fishing are the attractions that have drawn guests here since Taft and Teddy Roosevelt enjoyed the little changed Cuttyhunk Fishing Club. We are well provisioned with beer, wine and grog as well. This is a dry island: food and ice only for sale.
I'd chat more but our lobsters from the Raw Bar are ready. I'll bring you the picture.
Day 3 At Sea
With 7 am sunshine beckoning, "A1 EXPRESS" left the slip under sails recrossing Buzzard's Bay wing 'n wing with a preventer on the main (the boom vang cleated to the stanchion base) and a whisker pole on the foot of the Genoa to hold the sails fully splayed through chop and wakes. Brief readings of 8 knots cap steady 5's with Pussycat "autohelm" at the wheel while Owl navigated, reefed and later unreefed the main, all the while keeping a sharp eye out for "weather". Several years ago we experienced a "white squall" that snuck up on us from the rear in Long Island Sound. In unfamiliar waters strewn with rocks near shore with mists that gather into fog instantly being under-canvassed and over prepared is the only way to sail. Well, at least until the dark patch passes.
"Change course from Wood's Hole (our intended storm hideaway) back to 40 degrees for Mattapoisett on the mainland side of the Bay," commanded Owl.
How did the sailing grounds of the America's Cup contenders garner such a name? Our English fore bearers called any broad-winged bird too slow for falconry a Buzzard. The fish-eating Osprey native here fit that description and the name stuck.
Mattapoisett is an old shipbuilding town with its homes neatly labeled by year of construction and original owner. Most riveting were photos in the Harbormaster's Office titled, "August '97 Surprise." Town dock, which stands at 8 feet above water, was awash - its tethered craft a snarled mass as men clad in slickers tried valiantly to untangle them. We understood the reason for the mooring field balls having 4 times the usual scope when we saw a photo of a catboat’s bow lunging into the air and straining at the tether. The harbor is completely exposed to the full fetch of the Bay.
With more ice our noon to 1:30 shore leave was up. "A1 EXPRESS" is enjoying the waves too much to call it a day yet. It's the Captains watch (under Bimini, of course) as we cruise close to shore aiming for the next cove to the east, Sippican Harbor, and the town of Marion.
Just underway with a spitfire jib (Genoa mostly furled in) we headed into 15 - 20 knot gusts rounding Strawberry Point Rocks. Safely past, the full Genoa with pole was set for the downwind run into Sippican-registering 7.6 knots. Jibe ho! With only the Genoa now we aren't taking advantage of our new fangled mast that automatically swivels to adjust on each tack. But it is an attention grabber for folks who see our boat. At 3 pm, it’s off to Burr Brother's Boats ($2/ft) and showers.
While the waterfront of Marion is dominated by private homes, parks, and a large exclusive school, out on 6A we found "Waves", a down home pool hall/bar/restaurant with crowd pleasing prices and menu: Stuffed Quahogs ("co" hogs, local clams) and Filet of Sole. Delicious.
Burr Brothers is a sprawling working marina tucked into the bitter end of Sillican. The last barrier between marina and marsh is a 150' arm permanently lined with dinghies that await owners with yachts moored in the extensive well-protected harbor. Perfect sleeping conditions.
Y-a-w-n. I'll talk to you tomorrow.
Day 4 at Sea
Saturday, Aug 9, 9:30 am
"Ain't no sunshine" for today,
Tropical depression on the way,
The voice of NOAH had to say.
When our customary morning sprinkles failed to give way to clearing, Capt. Jim, clad in swim trunks and foul weather jacket nosed "A1 EXPRESS" into the head breezes of the channel under power, staying snuggly dry beneath the Bimini.
At the Number 5 Can Capt. raised the main and unfurled a working jib portion of the Genoa to yield speeds of 4.5 knots. Plus it smoothed the light chop for Pussycat reading below.
Through the portlights you can see two wooden two masted Concordia yachts with sails lashed on the foredeck and both booms freshly moored from a race or cruise. These are the kinds of yachts that were made in Mattapoisett. The Burr Brother's Boat Yard Carpentry shop, still open, maintains these sleek beauties.
Hang onto your hats, boys! Capt. let the Big Dog all the way out for another knot of speed and tolerable heeling (no squealing) below decks just past Bird Island. We leveled out in a broad reach. Movable ballast was asked to shift to the low side to give us more heel now. Actually, the rain has gone away, and I'll join Captain above decks, help steer while he sets the pole on the Genoa for a wing 'n wing run back to Bourne.
As we made our way back to the Cape Cod Canal at low water there were 18 people wading in the shallows probing for Quahogs in the sand. All in all, you can't to wrong sailing Buzzard's Bay. Every inlet has a quaint town and distances are negligible for a power sailor. Just set your sights according to the most pleasurable point of sail and see where it leads you.
“A1 EXPRESS" can wait for us on her trailer ($10/day) where we launched. I had counted on the rain to make our getaway speedier: fewer admirers at the ramp to "chat up." Our yar naval blue hull and new design turns heads everywhere we go. It's off to Chatham for us to join our daughter, Janet and her husband Duncan at his family's summerhouse at Stage Harbor.
Provincetown to Sandwich,
Monday Aug 11
Provincetown has a lookout tower to commemorate the site where the Pilgrims composed the Mayflower Compact in the Harbor before putting to shore briefly to reconnoiter. They sailed straight across Cape Cod Bay to Plymouth on the mainland to found the first permanent New England settlement in 1620.
Typically, skies cleared by the time we made our driving survey of the beaches surrounding town, the Province Lands National Seashore. Undulating dunes clad in stabilizing grasses and pitch pines have miles of biking trails. We caught a glimpse of a coyote darting by. Bigger than a fox with buff fur it looks like a wild dog with a very bushy tail and no owner in sight.
Now heading south we enjoyed the dozen towns we drove through on 6A (Old King's Highway). I read from our Guidebook about the distinctions of each one until I got to Sandwich, which is just above the Cape Cod Canal terminus. Opposite on the mouth of the Canal is Bourne where our boat is stored.
Sandwich is home to the Heritage Museum and Gardens. "Jim, it has antique cars for you and flowers for me."
Into Shawme Crowell State Forest we pulled at 3 pm to a primitive campsite with the previous camper's fire still moldering in the firebox. Our bicycles were launched for the 1 mile wooded trail ride to the adjacent gardens for their final 2 hours of the day.
Heritage Gardens began as a rhododendron breeder's property. He created 5 fragrant cultivars through hybridization, and the plants here are found nowhere else on earth. Eli Lily purchased the grounds upon the breeder's death and planted numerous-what else-daylily beds. Included at the Heritage is a display of Cahoon's art of New England. His motif is the Mermaid. Each scene is one of whimsy: mermaids on bicycles, dancing with sailors, feeding geese who are tugging down their fishscale panties. Pure fun.
As I strolled past each variety of daylily Jim hotfooted it up the hill to do the same by each auto in the museum. Hydrangeas, Sea Roses and all manners of English Garden flowers flourish here and all along the roadside flowerbeds.
With our boat back in tow we seek suitable ramps with trailer storage for further sea excursions. It is Jim's aim to continue north until he needs long sleeve shirts. In 220 miles we saw all of coastal New Hampshire and some of southern Maine. It seems these northern exposure folks take to the outdoors with gusto in August, their true summer month. Tiny cabin clusters are popular here, although giving way to modern landscaped places in towns. Perhaps the Gulf Stream heats the water here higher than Chatham's 53 degrees.
Rt. 1 in Maine slices across numerous peninsulas of land projecting "Down East." Just outside Bath the restaurant sign, "Taste of Maine", beckoned. In the lobby of Taste of Maine two Bull Moose racks locked in mortal combat are on display. The human combat over them that ensued is just as riveting as their final struggles. It seems a fisherman came upon the fallen stags and cut off the racks from the corpses. Upon return he excitedly showed his find to the game warden, who unsportingly, seized it in the name of Maine on the flimsy pretext that denying people racks deters killing of animals for the horn. The fisherman, undeterred, brought suit for their return. The State, shamed in editorials for its bullying, settled for the right to borrow the rack display for 3 months per year from the finder who cannot profit from keeping it.
August 13 & 14
We took time to take a bicycle tour of Boothbay Harbor, a town with a feel much like Annapolis. A shipbuilding spot of yore, it has an active lobstering industry, which we supported at lunchtime. A pedestrian footbridge crosses the narrow end of the harbor with a house built midway across, the former home of a fish merchant who found it handy for receiving his wares, and as it turns out, amongst the cod liquor bottles were concealed during prohibition.
Later Beagle Puppy sniffed our Lake Pemaquid, a campground with something for everyone and activities galore for all ages of kids-EXCEPT SAILING: the sail on their lone boat tore out. Warm, fresh water for an afternoon swim, and a canoe paddle in the cool of Thursday morning. As the lake narrowed we were surrounded by lily pads in bloom. The channel that leads to the next lake is closed off by a beaver lodge in winter, now cut away for boaters. An hour of paddling-as opposed to floating downstream is enough for Ma and Pa Kettle.
It's on to the historic sights of Pemaquid Point bordering one of the larger bays, Muscongus. Settlers of the 1600's first built fishing villages here. When Europe depleted its beaver population the economy shifted bringing the French trappers of the north into head to head competition with the English fishermen/trappers. This hotly contested piece of real estate was fortified by the British as a strategic outpost to secure Maine. In all four forts were built on the site of the reconstructed Ft. William Henry. Settlements thrived, failed and were later rekindled numerous times.
Today the harbor is dotted with moored vessels, some of which are just now casting off to enjoy postcard perfect skies as we watch from the waterfront restaurant. We capped the day at Camden Hills State Park, snagging the last campsite, and a chance to drive boat and all to the top of Mt. Battie. Camden is where the coast meets the mountains. We had a 360-degree panorama of water and forest.
From Mt. Battie's highs and peaceful camping we wended our way into Thomaston sight of Montpelier Mansion, once home of General Henry Knox. When America had only 10 millionaires, 7 of them had residences in Thomaston, country places to wait out the heat of New York City or Boston. Montpelier put us in mind of Monticello. It's builder, Gen Knox, lived here for 10 years after retiring when his close friend, George Washington, left office. He served Washington as an artillery expert whose knowledge he gleaned entirely from books: he never saw a cannon before becoming an advisor on their deployment. But it was his concept to use them in field engagements rather than to buttress fixed fortifications. He rose to the rank of Secretary of War under the Articles of Confederation and was left in capitol in NY (DC had not been built yet) for one week as acting president when the rest of the government was evacuated as a precaution during a cholera epidemic. In retirement he founded numerous business ventures but overextended himself financially. His death brought financial ruin for his heirs. He did it all himself; he didn't delegate, nor did his successors have his prestige to substitute for collateral.
We have been hanging around the area to return to the Chamberlin Post Office on Long Cove, Pemaquid to drop in on friends from Derwood Maryland who have a log cabin he and three siblings use for a week or two each in the summer.
We stowed the boat at a nearby boat yard, gouged the pavement on our way up the steep drive and nestled in for a stay at Camp Hendry over the weekend. We enjoyed the lobster with 13 at table, the gourmet feast prepared at home, the blueberry pancakes, the water tubing, the history of kidnapped Indians who when returned to their natives homes acted as interpreters for fur traders. I never realized that when the pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock they were greeted by the words, "Welcome, Englishmen" in English by Samoset, who, with Squanto, another repatriated kidnap victim ensured those Pilgrim's survival--along with fish sent up from the camps at Pemaquid.
Ah, Camp Hendry. Jim, can we come back again next year?
Sun, 8/17, Penobscot Bay, Day 5 at Sea
The siren call of soft landlubber ways at Camp Hendry couldn't deter us from rounding out our tour of Maine's mid-coast by sea. Glaciers long ago scoured deep valleys, bold waters (deep all the way to shore), outcropping ledges, and so many islands that it has the highest concentration of lighthouses in the world. Just the place for Beagle Puppy to paddle around!
Tides here are about 9' requiring floating docks often jammed to capacity in August. But remember the 15' canoe we brought with us from home? We'll take it in tow as our dinghy.
The town ramp in Camden saw dozens of Kayaks launched and retrieved. But nobody went in the water with as much style as "A1 Express”. As a test of our dinghy we poked around the corner, dropped anchor at Sherman Cove for a FREE night, gingerly lowered ourselves from the transom into "Tippy Canoe" and paddled ashore for victuals and grog. Jim couldn't quite bail all the water from our tender. Close inspection reveals chips along the stern admitting a slow seep. As long as we're not awash in the morning, our non-traditional dinghy will suit us to a "T": the snappy naval blue color mirrors that of "A1 EXPRESS."
"Did we bring a blanket along”? asked Jim about dusk. Shafts of sunlight shot overtop Camden Hills and glinted in golden reflections off our bow at sunset. We had one aboard all along, but hadn’t needed it until now.
August 18, Day 6 at sea
Bangor or Bust!
With full fuel tanks we headed out into Penobscot bay in the early morning mists and set a compass course for Islesboro. Gradually increasing speed and adjusting the towing bridle until we were comfortably towing the canoe at 15kts.
This 3-island group with secure harbor was once the playground of the wealthy, whose “cottages”, rivaling Newport in grandeur, can be seen along the shore. At the north end of the harbor local lobstermen had created small “islands” of their own, one even had a travel trailer on it, to keep their pots and nets easily available despite the high tides and expensive real estate.
Further up the bay we found the town of Belfast, where the old chicken rendering plant has been replaced with a considerably more pleasant town park. Continuing north, we picked up a mooring at Searsport and paddled over to the town dock for our eagerly awaited visit to the Penobscot Bay Maritime Museum.
The Museum brings to life a bygone era, when schooners set sail from the town docks bound for faraway ports. Sea Captains often took their wives along and one family boasted 35 members whose birthplaces were denoted by latitude and longitude. Most exciting was a film made in 1929 by a 17yr old sailor who added sound narration at age 80, recounting with glee his adventures rounding Cape Horn and showing footage from 17 stories up of decks awash in a storm. We were thankful for our Honda 50 hp, which keeps up moving in calms rather than helplessly awaiting the next “blow”.
So we used it to move on up the Penobscot River under the Knox Bridge to Bucksport. Bangor was another 25 miles up river but we were lured ashore by a delightfully landscaped waterfront. MacLeods restaurant was acclaimed as the finest eating anywhere and after a sumptuous feast, we quite agree. The town had a picture perfect waterfront except for the large paper mill just upriver. Across the river stood formidable Ft. Henry Knox, built after the war of 1812 to protect the area from marauding British, and it worked! The British fleet never returned! We still had some daylight so returned downriver 6 miles to Ft. Point, sight of pre-Revolutionary Ft. Powell. It saw action in the French and Indian wars, but was destroyed by Loyalists who feared it’s strategically advantageous position would be seized by patriots.
Docking with the canoe in tow was a learning experience. What worked best was stopping a short distance from the dock and securing the canoe with fenders alongside the boat, then docking the other side along the pier in a normal fashion. We reversed the procedure upon departure, moving away a bit before letting the canoe slide back behind us in the towing position.
An evening stroll through tall pines to the 1826 lighthouse and fog bell tower and back in time for sunset cocktails drew day to a close.
August. 19 Day 7
The day began crisp, clear, and perfectly calm. Mr. Honda cut a powerful swath, quickly transporting us 5 miles south to Castine. We appreciated the spotless and free town docks where we tied up and inspected our leaking canoe. We were early enough for breakfast at the Castine Inn, where, for $5 ea., they treated visiting boaters to luxurious hot showers. Typical marina/campground facilities are adequate but…. Refreshed, we commenced the mandatory walking tour. Castine had a Dutch fort, secured by French allies, who were driven out by the British, who were later attacked by the Americans. Many homes of loyalists were removed by barge to New Brunswick. After a bit of shopping and a closer look at the 640’ flagship of the Maine Maritime Academy which dominates the town’s waterfront, we puttered across the river to Smith cove and anchored for some rest, relaxation, and lunch. Joyce enjoyed basking in the warm sunshine while I studied charts under the Bimini.
Soon it was “weigh anchor”. The rocky bottom sends up a clean anchor, unlike the muddy Chesapeake where each chain link is often full of sticky clay. Back out on Penobscot Bay the afternoon breeze had picked up and whitecaps were evident. Of course the tide was flooding in. Serious sailors, or those who are powered with eggbeaters, contrive to avoid situations such as sailing against the tide, but we are free to sail however we wish, and the 50 hp Honda guarantees out arrival on time. 4 hours of pleasant, upwind sailing with the boat self- steering perfectly gained us about 4 – 5 miles. Joyce brought along a book of poetry to share and read aloud while I lounged comfortably in the cockpit while granite islands topped by tall pines and houses perched on shore of the larger ones made for one of the most scenic afternoons afloat we can remember. Pussycat paused in her rendition of “The courtship of Miles Standish”, for Owl had nodded off.
We dropped anchor about 5pm in Wells Cove by Deer Isle, near a former granite quarry, now fish packing plant, and watched the comings and goings of the fishermen. In this peaceful setting our one burner stove served up steak, onions, rice, and warmed rolls with cold wine and salad. Why go into town? Settling in for the night, Joyce finished up ‘Miles Standish” and it was time to turn in. A beautiful day to be remembered forever. Thank you Mr. MacGregor for our boat and Mr. Honda for our motor, and thank You God, for Maine.
Wednesday August 20 Day 8 “Fairyland” or “Ferryland”?
Today’s calm winds and overcast skies are omens of change. NOAA says a front is due Friday, so today is a good day to poke around the granite islands. We can imagine Dixie Bull, a 1700’s pirate who preyed on shoreside villages, lurking in one of the numerous coves. It is dead low tide. Hells half acre, an islet owned by the National Park Service, lies ahead. It sports a shaggy fringe of seaweed covering barnacles, and canoe access is over slippery algae covered rocks.
Above the high tide line there is sun-bleached granite, mosses, low grasses, and a sudden shock of tall pines. Park service picnic tables stand guard over deserted campsites. While we are not far from the town of Stonington on Deer Isle, we are almost completely out of sight of any human habitation. The islands appear as so many Mohawk warriors with faces submerged.
Back aboard A-1 Express we made for Isle de Haut, the southernmost of Penobscot Bay. At low tide the barnacle encrusted ladder ascended 20’ up to the small general store. There wasn’t much that couldn’t be seen from the boat. Ancient metal crane derricks, evidence of the former granite industry, were used to lower granite blocks onto barges.
We set a course through Fox thorofare on Vinylhaven to the small town of North Haven. A vacant mooring ball gave us a chance for a lunch break. Joyce served up a heated rice/pasta au gratin dish over toast points for an al fresco lunch under the bimini top. At 12:30 a half dozen local sloops started a race, which we watched intently. The wilier skippers threaded their way through the mooring field and found a bit of wind, quickly outdistancing their competitors gamely tacking out the channel.
We were almost directly across from Rockland but our destination was Carver’s harbor and the town of Vinylhaven on the south shore. Ferry’s bring everything to these remote lobstering outposts, some say the “real Maine”. In a harbor thick with moorings there were only two pleasure sailboats. The town boasts several restaurants, one in the driveway of a townhouse, reminiscent of the pizza place on Cuttyhunk in Buzzards Bay.
Most of the cruisers anchor away from town in nearby coves and dinghy in. We dropped out hook next to an abandoned dock on a rocky outcropping at the head of the harbor, and I felt a sudden urge to purchase the quiet little spot, refurbish the dock, and build a small home nestled among the rocks. We’ll swagger into town for lobster rolls and fresh blueberry pie, a local favorite, and, of course, the mandatory walk from one end of town to the other. We turn in early, figuring we will be rocked by wakes starting at 5:30. It actually started at 4:30 with a cacophony of V-8 engines warming up to a grand prix start for the lobstermen. Maybe those other cruisers in the adjacent coves were on to something.
Thursday, August 21 Day 9
With the morning's glassy calm, the steady purr of the Honda carried us towards Rockland. The perfectly smooth water made spotting harbor seals and dolphins easy. Usually the seals were shy, but in the harbor they were real beggars, hoping for a fishy treat. Soon we were past the long town breakwater to the spacious, nearly vacant and well-manicured town docks. Here were hot showers and an information office, perfect for the visiting yachtsmen. The farmer’s market was setting up stands for sales of local produce and products. We got fresh bread and goat cheese and raspberry jam. The town was a little too big for a walking tour, but the trolley tour worked out fine. Nearby Snow Park had excellent ramps and free storage for tow vehicles and trailers for a week, would have saved us $100. if we had launched here instead of Camden.
Rockland and nearby Rockport were world export leaders for lime, baked in kilns along the shore and added to mortar and cement. Another sweep through the Farmer’s market netted us homemade chicken salad and our lunch underway was complete.
Motoring north the few miles to Rockport, we noted the harbor was unprotected all the way to England, and storms with south winds wreak havoc. At the little town harbor park was a statue of Andre’ the seal, a Rockport harbor attraction for many years. The friendly harbormaster told us the “real” story. Legend has it the seal pup was found abandoned by his mother and raised by a local waterman. Actually, the mother seal was killed for the lobsterman’s winter larder, and two pups were raised, one of which swam off and the other, Andre’, returned each spring for 24 years. Locals bet on the day Andre’ would turn up. Rockport was small and charming, a perfect town for a walk, with a drugstore and soda fountain, and resident artist’s community.
With only a couple miles to go the wind came up so we unfurled the genoa for a leisurely afternoon sail to Camden Harbor. The blue sky and mackerel clouds, the chartered schooners hoisting sail, and the dark pine covered rocky shoreline formed a picture of Maine sailing we will not soon forget. Too soon we were back on land, mast lowered, and continuing on towards our next destination, but we definitely plan to return to the shores of Maine in the future.
Friday August 22
We spent the day enjoying the computer facilities at the Camden and Rockport libraries with a long bicycle ride along the coast we had sailed past yesterday, before retracing our route along the shore of Penobscot Bay. We had a closer look at Belfast, larger than we thought, and Searsport, home of the PBMM (Penobscot Bay Maritime Museum). We toured Ft. Knox, which we had seen from Bucksport across the river. Joyce’s narrative continues:
“It was here that Paul Revere’s reputation as a patriot was damaged when as a member of the Massachusetts militia he participated in the battle of Penobscot Bay which ended in a debacle. It seems an attempt was made to capture the fort at Castine. Due largely to the fleet commander’s delay, British gunships arrived and forced the continentals to flee up the Bay where they hoped to be able to defend the narrow river. They were routed and forced to beach and burn 40 vessels. The commander, Wadsworth, had Revere found guilty of disobeying orders ( he was slow to torch his boat) thus ruining his military career. Ironically two generations later his relative, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, immortalized Revere in the well known poem, “ The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” and made his name synonymous with patriotism.”
August 23 Saturday
Mt. Dessert Island, sight of Acadia National Park, lay to the north of Penobscot Bay a bit too far for the sailing trip (this time) but quickly accessible by road. Acadia was the first national park created from donated lands. Mt. Cadillac, at 1580’ the highest in the east, served as a landmark for mariners up to 40miles away. The wealthy had built Newport style cottages outside Bar Harbor but a devastating fire erased all evidence of industry or wealth, allowing the Rockefeller family to purchase and donate the land. In addition, Rockefeller built 47 miles of horse-drawn carriage roads which still exist and you can recreate the turn of the century experience for yourself.
With the front very cool western winds created perfect visibility for our skyline and coastal drive through the park, ending in downtown Bar Harbor. The 20kt breeze beckoned us to hop aboard the 4 masted schooner “Margaret Todd”. Joyce: “Despite Capt. Jim’s urging to put out for open water under full canvas, our cargo of lily-livered landsmen held us to half her sail area. Her 150 tons smoothed Frenchman’s bay’s whitecaps. The two hour sail whetted our appetites to have our own helm again.”
Sunday August 23
“Rustication” – the paintings of the Hudson River School of artists depicting nature’s beauty sparked the vogue of rustic recreation, or rustication. Then as now people headed north to the Woods extolled by Thoreau. We headed for Moosehead Lake, largest lake in Maine at 32x10 miles. One of my MacGregor 26 customers told me about it. He rented a cabin on an island in the lake for several years, enjoying the fishing and fresh water sailing. We camped at Rockwood, mid-lake on the western shore. The fresh winds churned the lake waters to froth, but we had arrived too late to participate in the frolic. Predicted overnight lows of 47degrees had us snuggling under blankets.
Monday August 24
The lake is a dazzling setting for the jewel, Mt. Kineo, jutting 700’straight up above the sparkling water. We launched at 9am into diminished winds, still capable of pushing us at 3-5 kts , with overcast skies and chilly fall temperatures. We had hats, coats, scarves and gloves, in August! Seabirds flying above emit cries that reverberate across the shimmering reflections of pine topped islands. Bliss! We’re headed south on a beam reach with only the occasional fishing boat for company. Rental cabins tucked into the pines are the only evidence of civilization.
A-1 Express and Mr. Honda are enjoying their fresh water bath (and the trailer). There are no tides or currents to contend with when we step ashore in Greenville for dinner. Across the cove is the last remaining lake steamer out of a fleet of 40 or more that used to ferry vacationers around the lake. The “Katahdin” still gives passengers the thrill of a bygone era. Greenville is the center for wintertime festivities, auto and snowmobile racing on the smooth, frozen lake waters. Summer is almost the off season here. We anchored in crystal clear water (the anchor and each link of chain clearly visible in 15’) between Deer island and a tiny speck, Whisky Island, for a memorable evening with a lovely sunset.
Tuesday August 25
The Honda was once again called into service in the damp morning calm for a tour of the mid-lake area including a breath-taking visit to the vertical cliffs of Mt. Kineo. There is a resort with hiking trails and available dock for the hardy. Water depths were 40’ alongside sheer rock walls reaching skyward 700’. Our camera picked an unfortunate time to fill up, so we’ll have to return for those pictures another time. There is a little river that connects Moosehead with another lake but overhead power wires deny us entrance (unless we elected to lower our mast). We beat the rain back to the launch ramp for a quick exit. Later that day as we were heading home, having come within 16 miles of the Canadian border, the skies cleared for a beautiful, sunny afternoon and we wished we had stayed on the lake longer.
We beat feet down interstate 95 and made it to a suburb of Boston for dinner and a 4-hour snooze aboard. Awakening just after midnight, we put Connecticut and NY City behind us with light traffic, stopping at 6 am on the NJ turnpike for a few more winks and to let the rush hour traffic ahead around Baltimore abate. We pulled into Mayo, Md. At 11am, just 24 hours from Moosehead Lake. So stop complaining about the August heat (which hit us like a sledgehammer when we returned) get a MacGregor and trailer your boat north. It’s what they were made for.
Cheers and happy sailing from Capt. Jim and First Mate Joyce