Thursday, 29 August 2013

More Lobster Pottering in Maine ….. August 2013

21 – 24 August 2013:  Castine to South West Harbour, Maine – 44 16N 68 18W

P8200185Centuries Old Castine

We left Camden late in the afternoon after our hike up Mt Battie.   With a good sea breeze following us, the 20 mile hop up to Castine which lies tucked away at the top of Penobscot Bay shouldn’t have taken too long at all – but then the breeze died. 

We drifted in just after the sun dipped over the horizon, picked up an empty mooring (not usual practice for us), turned off the motor and looked at each other questioning if that really was a steel band we could hear!

There was a free concert underway on the waterfront and had it not been for the cooler air temperature and the lack of 20 knot trade winds howling through we could have been back in the Caribbean. 


cute buildings in Castine

Castine is a sleepy village, tourism hasn’t quite got here and it’s not a busy fishing port either. P8200199 The main industry appears to be the Maine Maritime Academy, dozens of the old wooden houses have been restored to house the Academy: what a great spot to come and study – or have tug of war competitions as was the case when we walked by the grounds!!

Castine hasn’t always been a sleepy backwater, it has a very long history going back to its first European settlers arriving in the early 1600’s.  It was handed backwards and forwards between the French and English, even had a short stint at being Dutch, then it was finally the last British post to surrender at the end of the American Revolution.  Nowadays the entire village has been declared a National Heritage Site, its getting a face lift, has a laidback feel to it and can be see in an hour!  

Lots and Lots of Pots

P8110259We left with the tide and had a great run back down the bay, sailing in flat glassy waters has become the norm. We peaked at 20 knots wind, still with flat waters, it’s going to be hard to get used to “normal conditions” again!  We wound our way down narrow Eggemoggin Reach, ghosted under an 80 foot bridge that really didn’t look high enough, then sailed into the densest sea of lobster pots we had seen yet. 

We called it a day as the sun slipped low in the sky as it makes it even harder to “spot a pot” in the glare.  We found yet another stunner of an anchorage, surrounded by islands that looked like overgrown boulders with pine trees bursting out of the cervices.  Ashore was the Wooden Boat School of Boatbuilding, which also houses the very popular Wooden Boat Magazine.  It appeared to be such a remote spot for successful businesses.  We didn’t get to visit the school as we needed to work with the tides the following morning to head further east.

Going Lobster Potty!!! 


Each lobster fisherman is permitted to use 800 lobster traps, when you consider that each harbour has at least 10 lobster boats working out of it, yep, that makes around 8000 traps with colourful floats on them.  They look ever so cute in piles ashore and they actually look rather attractive at sea too, but the novelty sure wears off very quickly when you have to weave through them all. 


We carried on in the morning in very light winds and swift currents, not a combination conducive to threading through pots dropped in deep water. P8210206 Of course the deeper the water, the longer the line up to the float needs to be, combine that with a 12 foot tidal range and a 2knot sidewides current – well there are an awful lot of lines down there not quite where you think they should be.  Then there is the issue of our long fin keel, skeg rudder and propeller – all just waiting to ensnare you.  So we caught our first line, after a fair amount of manoeuvring under sail (well you don’t want to start the engine and get the line wrapped around the prop or it would be time for skipper to take a dip!!!) we finally managed to shake it free. 

On we went towards Mt Desert Island, unbelievably the floats became even denser, in the light winds it was impossible to steer a course through them.  Suddenly we observed that although our sails were set, the scenery was going backwards, we had snared another pot and the float line was acting as a kind of bungy.  Quite an odd sensation.  P8210237With steerage and momentum lost we were in a bit of a pickle, especially when we snared yet another.  It seems though that patience is the name of the game and the rounded floats will free themselves if we sit quietly in the glassy water and gently turn the rudder one way and then the other. The current eventually seems to float them off.  Phew !!

Once in a Blue Moon

Thankfully we pulled into the busy anchorage of Southwest Harbour without any further mishaps. The mooring field was packed with gleaming Hinckley yachts, most of them blue, all of them in pristine condition – this is home to world renowned Hinckley Yacht Boat Builders, their yachts are absolutely beautiful – certainly a class act.  We watched as a full “blue moon” rose in the east and silhouetted these classic craft. 

A Magical End to a Potty Day

2013 USA Maine

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Pottering Around Penobscot Bay ….. August 2013

13 - 20  August 2013:  Port Clyde to Camden, Maine – 44 12N 69 03W

P8120041Quintessential Maine Fishing Port

We had another easy sail in light winds and crisp clear skies the 20 odd miles eastward from Boothbay to Port Clyde, a tiny working fishing harbour tucked away at the bottom tip of the western peninsular that flanks Penobscot Bay.  On our final approach we peaked at the most amount of lobster floats yet sighted, finding enough room to turn to windward and drop the mainsail really was a challenge, but in fairness to the local fishermen at least all these floats were brightly painted and easy to see, just not so easy to avoid.  Still we were here to experience a real working fishing/lobstering harbour so it was all part of the experience …. wasn’t it???


Port Clyde is a tiny place, there is the General Store with attached outdoor restaurant, an art gallery, the fishing co-op, a bakery/cafe (no lattes or bread!!), a kayak rentals and the Post Office.  The main drawcard is the ferry service from the mainland to neighbouring Monhegan Island, a few carloads turn up daily and spend 10 minutes here either side of catching the ferry – basically it is a very sleepy place and we loved it.P8130085 

Things That Start Hooting In The Night

At around 2am we woke up to the sound of the lighthouse fog horns.  Maine is infamous for its fog, I read in our cruising guide of one place that had 36 days of unbroken fog in 1967. We got off lightly – ours ONLY lasted 36 hours!!

It had almost cleared when we got up so we planned a shore excursion to the nearby lighthouse, but then it closed back in and basically we spent the next 36 hours wrapped up in soggy cotton wool.  We could see the sun above (for a while) and just expected it to burn off but it never did.  Still we had been in Maine well over a week without fog, it was our turn!

My Names Forrest Gump


The other place of note here is Marshall Point Lighthouse dating from 1833 and we can confirm that the fog horn at the lighthouse works really well!!  But this lighthouse is famous for another reason, this was the end of Forrest Gumps mammoth run across America, skipper retraced Forrests final steps with a sprint up the road.    


We had a eerie walk in the fog through the woods out to the lighthouse, one house had marrows sitting on their letterbox with a “free” sign above, so one of them went in the daypack.  Then further on a trestle was set up with a great selection of vegetables for sale straight out of the adjacent vege patch – prices were written on cardboard, a set of scales were ready and a jar full of money provided necessary change, not a soul in sight, country life is truly priceless.



Pretty Port Clyde, in sunshine and fog

P8160114Sun’s Out Again

After several false starts the fog finally decided to break by 2pm on Day 2.  As much as we enjoyed Port Clyde there was lots more of Maine to see and time was ticking away.  We hooked into the late afternoon seabreeze, and moved another 20 miles around to the town of Rockland.

Rockland had been on our places to go list while in Maine, but we were supposed to have been here for the Lobster Festival, which this year was held the first weekend in August – we were 2 weeks late!!  We had a couple of other reasons for coming to Rockland, you can walk to Home Depot and Walmart - always a bonus for us carless cruisers.  P8170139

We didn’t get what we wanted (2 folding bikes) at Walmart, their appalling lack of customer service and care almost leaves me speechless.  This was not the image of shopping in America that is so often portrayed – the land where everything is available, and if not they can get it for you: well actually they can’t and couldn’t care less.

Amusingly though we were asked ”if there was anything else they could help us with” which was a totally inappropriate question and of course we were then told “to have a nice day!!!”  At this point it is probably a very good thing we do not carry firearms as I was very much in meltdown mode.P8170134

Still, we had success in buying a small portable propane gas heater that we are expecting to need before much longer.  With more supplies on board, laundry done, and an evening ashore sampling clam stew and “Samuel Adams Summer Ale” we were ready to move on to somewhere with a calming influence.

Back to Nature

We did a late Friday afternoon hop across to one of the loveliest anchorages we have ever stopped in.  The tiny entrance to Pulpit Harbour is fringed by jagged rocks but once you gain entry inside you are totally surrounded by pine and spruce forest all the way down to the rocky shoreline.  There is nothing there, and that in itself was much of the attraction. P8160132

We took a leisurely long walk ashore, filled a bag up with wild raspberries, conducted an unsuccessful search for the reputed Oyster Shack, visited 2 Trawlers flying Australian flags on the way back to Balvenie and then stayed a second night when they kindly invited us to a barbie dinner.   

The 3 couples, all serious water people, were here on holiday from Perth and had chartered two trawlers for a fortnight to explore Maine.  We had a delightful evening on board, got introduced to a very interesting collection of wine labels (most bottles already empty!) and thank Greg, Maren, Ian, Amanda, Glenn & Caroline for making us feel so welcome.  P8190180

Charming Camden

We zigzagged back across to the western shore of Penobscot Bay.  My sort of sailing around here – 10 miles in almost glassy seas but with a light zephyr on the beam to push us along,  bright blue skies, just enough warmth in the sun to negate wearing a fleece,  and dozens of yachts going our way to keep skipper entertained enroute.      

Camden is another tiny harbour, chokka full of floating mid harbour pontoons (a new concept to us), a couple of hundred mooring buoys, as many again lobster floats and a channel that needs to be kept clear (by all but lobster pots it would seem).  But once again persistence prevailed and we squeezed in for another free night at anchor.P8180159

We dinghied ashore to the town dock, weaving our way through the majestic windjammers under full sail, gliding out, brimming with tourists on their evening sunset cruises.  What a gorgeous sunset they got, fluffy clouds in pastel pinks, shades of blues as the backdrop and the dark Camden Hills in the foreground, magic. 

We slipped into a busy restaurant perched on stilts over the waters edge to enjoy the remains of the day, appreciating the spectacular sunset.  It was time for a break from Maine seafood and we had excellent American fare – burgers and fries, yummy they were great ones.  Beer tasting of the day was “Samuel Adams October Fest”, should we be concerned that Boston based Samuel Adams has stopped producing their “Summer Ale” and moved onto their autumn offering??  Might be needing that heater sooner than we think. P8190171 

Time To Take In The View

We woke to yet another Maine stunner of a day so decided to get ashore early and do the hike to the top of nearby Mt Battie before it got too hot.  Now that plan would have worked well if we had not stopped to visit British yacht Serafina enroute to town.  I had found their blog about a month ago when researching anchorages up this way  and it was time to say hello and thank them for their information. Rob and Sarah kindly invited us onboard for coffee and somehow the time flew by as we swapped cruising yarns. 


Our mountain top hike was therefore undertaken in the heat of the day!!


Sunday, 18 August 2013

Maine or bust!!! ….. August 2013

06 – 12 August: Portland to Boothbay Harbour, Maine – 43 50N 69 38W

P8070223Made it to Maine

All our cruising friends that have been this way before us highly recommended putting in the extra miles and cruising Maine, the jewel of American cruising grounds. 

We had had our reservations however: we were much later leaving Florida than we had planned, I really don’t like the cold weather - especially while on the water, it is a short summer season, it’s quite some side trip and it’s full of lobster pots, oh and then there is the fog!  In addition Long Island Sound and the surrounding area had offered a plethora of anchorages, plenty enough to entertain us until the weather starts to cool.  But we went with Plan A and continued through the Cape Cod Canal and headed for Maine. P8070234

One week into our Maine experience and we are very happy to report it was worth sailing those extra miles (and excellent sailing it has been), dodging all those lobster pots and pulling out the winter duvet, fleeces and sheepskin lined ugh boots.  So far has exceeded our expectations, and apparently we haven’t got to the “good bits” yet!!

Portland, the Capital of Maine

We had another cracker of a sail the 50 miles from Portsmouth to Portland, bold blue skies and warm sunshine all day, and with the breeze off the land we had flat seas.  I will confess however that the wind was downright chilly out of the sun and colder than we were both expecting – time to dig out more fleeces, thermal beanies, woolly socks etc, last used for cruising in Tasmania during summer 2005!
The Streets of Portland, another English look-a-like
view from the top of Portland Observatory, all the white dots in the left photo are sails!
P8050198It was a short dinghy ride ashore and then only about a 5 minute walk into downtown Portland.  Although it is the capital of Maine it is relatively small and has a functional feel to it with just a touch of tourism on the side.  We enjoyed spending the day wandering the streets, feasting on a huge bowl of steaming hot clam chowder for lunch, undergoing a tour of the historic observatory, visiting a chandlery (always an essential stop) and then Mark continued in his quest to find the perfect New England beer, todays participant “Samuel Adams Vacation”.

The Tides They Go Up …. and Then They Go Down

P8070225We had forgotten just how much we enjoy the changing of the tide.  There is very little tide variation further south on the USA coast, hardly any in the Caribbean, around a foot in the Mediterranean, and similar in the parts of SE Asia we visited.   Last time we experienced tides comparable to what we have now is back in Darwin, Northern Australia in 2006.  So now with around a 10 foot tidal range everything changes so dramatically with each ebb and flood of the tide. 

Our view changes, the smells change (definitely a less seasidey smell at high tide); the abundance of seabirds change as they feast themselves silly in the rock pools at low tide, squawking away endlessly,P8100242 then spend the next 12 hours quietly sleeping it off; the whole contour of the landscape redefines itself.  We are enjoying immensely the tides and the changes they bring with them. 

Hunkering Down in Harpswell Sound

With an approaching cold front forecast to bring heavy rain and 50 knots of southerly winds offshore in the Gulf of Maine we thought it sensible to seek excellent protection.  We left from Portland weaving through the islands in the extremely picturesque Casco Bay in glassy seas, then headed inland 4 miles, and tucked ourselves behind a horseshoe shaped headland into lobster pot free Harpswell Harbour.  With only 2 other yachts at anchor we waited out the weather which barely touched us this far inland.  Ashore we found the worlds only ever cribstone bridge, built in 1927 out of Maine granite it is constructed in open cribwork and held together by gravity.  Quite clever really but the design obviously didn’t take off if it is the only one!
Getting Even With The Lobsters

If we are going to have to put up with avoiding hundreds of lobster floats every time we move then it seems only fair that we start eating some of these big clawed critters, and Morses Cribstone Grill just across the bridge on Baileys Island couldn’t have been a better introduction to dining out on lobster in Maine, sensational.  Marks beer tasting to accompany his lobster – “Allagash White”, served with a slice of orange to enhance its citrus tones, hmmmm.
Now Look at These Beauties

After the front passed the skies cleared again and it was actually warm.  The seas still had a residual swell and we had a wobbly slow trip along in light winds the 30 miles to Boothbay Harbour.  P8110277What we weren’t aware of is that we were visiting Boothbay while the annual Shipyards Cup race weekend was on, entry requirements were a minimum length of 70feet so sadly we could only spectate.  There was a select few super yachts partaking, they were just beautiful and we shared the anchorage with the 180 feet long Marie, she certainly made us look very very small!

Boothbay was a delightful little harbour and village, narrow cobbled streets led away from the waterfront in a random fashion, it had a higgledy-piggledy cute feel to it, and as with everywhere else we have visited on this entire coastline the village was very well cared for,  and such pride is taken in their history.

We had a lovey walk around in warm sunshine then took advantage of the free trolley bus and hopped on it to explore a little further afield and jump off at the supermarket.  Like good cruisers we never turn down the chance to stock up, we waited for the next tourist trolley bus laden with all our supplies!!

All Stocked Up & Ready To Explore Points Further East