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