A Travellerspoint blog

June 2017

New Plan

Belfast, ME

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Carol said she needed to do some shopping, not in the sense that we needed stuff on the boat or else we would perish of thirst or hunger. No, she just needed to go shopping. Shopping is elemental for her, like oxygen, necessary to sustain life. So, I told her that the cruising guide said there are lots of stores in Belfast, Maine, a mere 10 nm west of Castaine, so off we went on this Sunday morning.

And a great morning it was. When we slipped the mooring the water's surface was like glass. Great for some photographic shots, but not so great for sailing. A warm sun was shining on us motored west. For a while we were the only boat in motion, at least that we could see. It was like we owned the moment, not having to share it with any other boaters.

After a couple of hours a light breeze came up from the SW, not even close to being a wind. It was just enough to fill the sails and to push the boat. We only topped 4 knots a couple of times and those times were quite evanescent. And with the breeze other sails started to go up. It was like white flowers blooming from the sea.

Belfast was a surprise. A lot of sailboats, including two schooners that take folks out for day cruises. I guess that I still have schooner envy. I would love to sail one of those vessels but I see no way to make that happen. I would guess that there are at least 100 mooring balls here, probably more. Maybe one in three is in use.

For the first couple of days we spent a lot of energy dodging lobster pots. They were thick ... in the harbors, in the channels and in the open water. About halfway through Eggemoggin Reach they almost disappeared. Not coincidentally, we started seeing really nice homes lining the coasts of the islands and mainland. Best guess: this place is too expensive for lobster men to live and too far away for them to waste time and fuel getting here.

For all the time that we spent fogged in we are both pretty red in the face. Some sun, some wind and my face looks like a crispy critter and so do the backs of my hands. For all the sunscreen and SPF 50 clothing, Carols is also pretty pink.

We are now on the western side of Penobscot Bay, an area that I never even considered in the original cruising plan. The trick is to get back east without going over the same ground. So, the new plan is to head to Pulpit Harbor on the island of North Haven. There is an old inn there, the Pulpit Harbor Inn, which is supposed to have good food. I'm sure Carol can be talked into forgoing cooking on the boat. From there, a couple of nights at Isle Au Haut, a tricky bit getting to Mackerel Cove and then back to Bass Harbor.

I had thought that renting a boat might not be a good idea, that I would endlessly compare this boat to ours and not like the differences. And, there has been some of that. But mostly it has been about accepting the boat for what it is and learning to work within those constraints. With our boat we were married. With this boat it's just a first date.

Posted by sailziveli 16:41 Comments (0)

Burnt Coat Harbor & Castine Bay

overcast 64 °F

My whole reason for doing this in June was to avoid the crowds. Did I ever get that right. In Blue Hill Harbor they were having a new employee orientation the day we were there. Tonight, we tried to eat at an old inn and were told that they hadn’t even staffed up yet. Clearly, mission accomplished.

So, left Blue Hill Harbor a little after 0800; got the boat into open water and futzed around with the sails which eventually we got up. Since there was no particular hurry we decided to sail the whole way. Slow going for the first few miles; just not very much wind. Then we came from the lee of Long Island, one of a dozen, or so, in these part with this same name, and things really heated up.

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Without trying very hard, the boat’s speed picked up, and up and up. At one point we were sailing over 8 knots, something that never, ever happened in our boat. This boat flies. Despite all that speed, this schooner went by us like we were at a standstill. That in no way diminished the fun. It was bright, it was sunny and we were sailing. What else could there be on such a day.

I had forgotten, I guess, how physical sailing like that can be. Sailing slow is easy; sailing fast is working the lines and fighting the helm to hold the line with the wind. Boats, sometimes, tend to move into the wind when the boat heels over and the rudder has less purchase in the water. This is called weather helm and it is a constant tug-of-war between the boat, the wind and the helm. Fun first, fatigue second and the sails came down the last mile or two.

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So, finally we made it to Burnt Coat Harbor. There are not any local legends, at least in the cruising guides to tell us whose coat got burnt, when the fire occurred or how the flames started. Inquiring minds will never know. The harbor is a working harbor mostly devoted to lobster, a few scallops, clams and mussels. It was interesting that the men had formed a co-op, vertical integration, it seems. Anyway, this place had a restaurant a couple of miles away in Minturn, which being old and tired, seemed like a long hike, so we did not even bother going ashore. We grabbed a mooring ball and called it a day.

We buttoned up the boat for the night and then there was the problem: no power for any of the boat’s systems. We could start the boat, but nothing else would power up. Big problem because without a chart plotter I wasn’t going anywhere other than to bed. We called Carlton J. who maintains the boat for the owner and he allowed that he would be out the next morning, by boat, probably fifteen miles from Bass Harbor.

I really figured that the trip was over. We would get towed back to port and disembark, then head back home. When Carlton came along side in his boat the next morning, he had brought his wife and two dogs, one of which was bigger than me. Turns out the problem was nothing more than a loose battery cable; easily tightened and power returned.

The weather forecast was lousy: rain, fog and high winds, too high for sailing. So where to go? We had planned on a place called Bucks Harbor but there are no mooring balls these and I did not want to anchor in a strange boat, in a strange place and rely on everything going right in bad weather.

We decided to traverse the whole length of Eggemoggin Reach and head for Castaine Bay with mooring balls and restaurants. It was a tedious day. Some rain but mostly just gray. No wind, so we motored the whole way intent on beating the weather, which we did.

What made the day enjoyable was lighthouses, three of them. One at the entrance to Burnt Coat Harbor, the second in Eggemoggin Reach and the final one at the entrance to Castine Bay. Lighthouses seem anachronistic in today’s digital world. But these areas have working boats with local residents, and sometimes electronics fail, and sometimes they fail on a dark and stormy night.

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This evening, after dinner, as we were walking back to the boat, we saw the fog rolling in, just like in San Francisco Bay. You cannot call Castaine Bay big although it is bigger than the other places we have been. It is a quaint village on a pretty bay.

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They claim to have real elm trees, 300 or so, that have not been infected with the Dutch elm disease. The leaves looked about right; this tree is in the town square next to the library next to which these flowers were blooming.

As we had driven, and now cruised around these coasts of Maine I have been struck by how lush the greenery is. In the woods you see lots of ferns, moss and such and reminds me of the Olympic peninsula in Washington state. It seems to be a kind of rain forest, just skip the word tropical.
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The weather has been a frustration, of course. But after all those years on our boat we know that it is just part of the deal. What has been getting me is the lack of good cellular coverage. Everywhere we have been on the trip has had only 1X coverage. This works for voice, but forget about data, it just cannot happen. I am at the library in Castine using their free wifi and I am greatly appreciative for having it.

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The fog is still with us but the high winds never did arrive. Laying over in this place was a good choice. We get to eat out both night, a haddock fish fry last night, get some ice and other supplies Tomorrow, Sunday, we'll head south to Isle du Haut, a remote island mostly owned by the US Park Service. It is considered part of the Acadia Nat'l Park and has hiking trails. The island actually has a little height, topping 500-ft. I think. There are only three places to anchor, no mooring balls, and all three anchorages have liabilities. I doubt that the cell phones will actually work there, but even if they do, no data so, no blog.

Posted by sailziveli 12:30 Archived in USA Tagged sailing sailboats maine Comments (0)

Underway for Blue Hill Harbor

At Long Last

Things were different this morning, Wednesday, as we awoke to greet the summer solstice; actual sunshine was pouring through the port holes. This was a most pleasant and hoped-for change. As the sun brightened the harbor it also brightened our outlook. Writing off Sunday was no big deal; Monday and Tuesday at the dock was not so great.

The only real task we had to perform before getting under way was to top off the water tank, a five-minute chore. The boat’s owner happened to be on the dock and we chatted for a few minutes and, of course, got the whole story of the name Diane, his wife and true love. I’m happy for him, but not critical information for us.

The slack water for the high tide was at 0842 so we left just about then. The harbor exit, without the fog, was pretty simple. We only had to dodge one small ferry and voila, open water.

I had not been feeling too great, maybe a cold or such; the weather was a definite downer and my mood as we left the dock was lacking in enthusiasm, something that is never true of Carol. There is something magical for me about being at the helm of a sailboat. We had not gone a ¼-mi. and I felt invigorated. We were under way, finally; I had not screwed the pooch getting away from the dock; life in the sunshine was suddenly great, again. Maine was, once again, a great idea.

Our plan was to get to Blue Hill Harbor, about 16 nm north and a little east of Bass Harbor. The cruising guides rated it very high as a sheltered harbor and as a picturesque place. And, why not? A simple, no-brainer is always a good idea for day one.

We motored for a bit to get ourselves in decent position away from any land or shallow water and decided that it was time to hoist the sail. This was a genuine first; we had never actually hoisted a sail before since our boat had in-the-mast furling. This was not quite a complete Mongolian cluster f__k, but it was fairly close. First of all, I had not attached the mainsail halyard to the sail. At the time, it seemed odd to me that they did not do this as a standard procedure. No hay problema and quickly done. The rigging on this boat is way different from that on our boat. It is set up to rig a spinnaker, which we decided not to use. It has a different reefing system than our boat did. The jib furling line is handled much differently than ours was.

After an indecent and frustrating interval, the sails were up and “sorta” trimmed. And it was way cool. We were sailing at about six knots, almost an impossible thing on our boat. A little weather helm but not too bad. Carol was “challenged” with the rigging but we got it done. At one point, we even did a down-wind run with the sails set wing on wing, a beautiful thing to see. It took me a while to figure out some of the intricacies of the chart plotter which is several generations newer than the one we had on our boat when we were cruising.

There were some “holes” in the wind. This is all new to us and it may be that sailing in the lee of the islands affects the wind. I had been looking at the charts for a good while and all the islands had contour lines indicating elevation. In the event, the height of these islands does not get much above 100-ft. On the chart is looks like going through Norway’s fjords; on the water, not so much.

Driving around the island we saw all the houses of the regular folks. On the water we saw the homes and estates of the not so regular folks. These are impressive, not so much for their size as we saw along the ICW in Florida, but for the setting in which the homes are placed. It would be hard for anyone to say that they are not beautiful. My New England roots seem to run deep and these appeal to me. But, not enough to leave our mountain fastness, a place I truly love.

So, a little sailing and a little motoring and about 1300, we were in Blue Hill Harbor. I’m guessing that the rise in the middle of the picture is Blue Hill; navigation charts are mostly agnostic about land features. In point of fact, the hill looked to be mostly green, although color perception is not my strongest point.

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Today, anyway, it went well enough but I am still concerned about doing this in heavier seas. I suppose I should not worry since it’s not my dinghy and motor.

After getting a mooring ball and taking the dinghy to the marina, we buttoned up the boat and there were some high winds for a bit. Then I saw the reason for removing the main halyard from the sail: there is no way then for the wind to “fill” the sail. So, I removed the halyard from the sail and we settled in for the evening. Since the marina only had cold water showers I decided that I could do that on our boat without the long dinghy ride, so I did. This did not include putting my skinny ass in 500 degree water.

So, on a secure mooring ball, a gin and tonic was the order of the day. We had dinner in the cockpit while this tableau was over the stern.

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We weren't really paying too much attention, but at the time it was about half tide. The next morning as getting ready to leave Carol noticed that the entire rocky outcrop was "gone," buried under a full high tide.

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While we were eating dinner, we saw another couple hunting for their dinner; a pair of seals. It’s hard to see, but the spot in the picture is the head of one of those seals. Those guys can hold their breath for a long while, and they’re quick too.

So, the hard part now: rate the day. While we were not to be confused with an America’s Cup crew, we did OK for our 70 years. The fun is back. We have not forgotten all the moves. We can do this. We are doing this. We can relax and savor the day.

Posted by sailziveli 08:34 Comments (0)

Game Not Quite On

Temporarily Delayed Due to Weather

overcast 66 °F

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We have not seen the sun since we passed through the thin strip of New Hampshire that borders the ocean. Not much of a problem; sun is not a necessary part of cruising although it does make it more fun. No, the real issue has been that ever since we approached Mt. Desert Island the entire area has been shrouded in fog, a real pea soup-er as the say in these parts.

We got on the boat Sunday morning as planned. Zero visibility, not even 100-yards, most of the time even less. Being acutely aware of my limitations, trying to get out of a crowded harbor using the Braille method seems like a bad idea. And even if done and done well, there is the issue of where to go and get there safely in the same fog. It seems that most of the lobster boats are still in the harbor today despite it being a work day.

And to top it off, the Coast Guard put out a small craft warning from Sunday night until Tuesday morning: heavy seas and high winds. I would not have tried getting underway in our boat; in a strange boat in a new place it seems seriously not too bright to try it, so we did not.

When first we boarded the boat it seemed quite commodious, having a very open main cabin. Then we started hauling stuff on board and it shrank a considerable amount. We got everything aboard and Carol, being a serial and unrepentant irridentist, immediately claimed all the storage space as her own. I will be living out of a travel bag for the duration but I do get to control the nav station.

The boat rental manager stayed with us a couple of hours explaining the boat's workings, all of which made perfectly good sense at the time. Everything seems vaguely familiar but nothing, of course, is quite the same. I suppose that we will have it worked out shortly, but there will be a lot of aggravation before that happens. There is so much to remember and it has been a while.

We have gotten a lot of advice on where to go, all of it well informed. I had planned on an loop over to Bar Harbor. That is now out. We will be cruising to the east of Bass Harbor over towards Penobscot Bay. Some of the work I had done on routes and times will probably still appertain, but most will not. The changes should be easy enough to do on the fly, I hope.

This boat was built in 1986 and I was struck by how much it is similar to that of our friend Victoria's. Hers was built in 1980 and is 36-ft. long so this could be its younger cousin. It's almost as if they copied that design.

So, tomorrow, Tuesday, we should get underway for somewhere if the fog will cooperate and the Coast Guard has lifted its advisory. My two most immediate concerns are: getting off the dock since the boat is, more or less, parallel parked and pointing the wrong direction; then getting out of the harbor to open water. At that point we will try to get the sails up. This boat does not have a anemometer so it will all be guess work about how strong the winds are. Reading the surface of the water and the waves provides a decent estimate but only after moving from a sheltered anchorage to open water.

So, we are hopeful for tomorrow, but who can tell?

Posted by sailziveli 16:24 Archived in USA Tagged sailing sailboats maine Comments (0)

Game on

As Yoda said,"Do. Or do not. There is no try."

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We had dinner here, the night before we left. By accident the restaurant is only a 100 yards from the dock from which we will leave. It shouldn't be surprising, I guess. There are no pizza joints around, no burger havens, no taco stands. There are many places that kill and cook great quantities of lobster, along with sundry clams and assorted mussels. So, it is good to like lobster. I had my first lobster roll today and it was good. They cook the lobster and then chunk up the meat and put it in something that resembles a hot dog bun, add a little mayo and some secret seasonings and you have a meal. There may not be quite as much meat as in a whole lobster, but it is about 10 times easier and 100 times less work than cracking a lobster and digging for the meat.

On our last trip, Carol's plan was to "Kill a Crustacean Today." Which, of course, she did wiping out the entire crab population of Chesapeake Bay, an unreported ecological disaster. On Friday she was at it again, lobster this time. It seems that crustaceans, like Montezuma, can extract their revenge. She got bad sick, but recovered quickly the next day. I have got some sort of insidious summer cold that will not go away. It has not blossomed but it just drains and makes me drag. No so much fun.

Mt. Desert Island is quite beautiful. It would be an easy sell to get anybody to spend a couple of summer months here. But, the same thing can be said about Spring Creek and we do get to spend more than a couple of months there. We do seem to be ahead of the vacation crush, at least so far.

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We have glimpsed one or two estate homes on the island. But, mostly it seems that there are lots of regular people living in normal houses with muddy pickups parked in the yard. There is no industry that we have seen; there seems to be the usual gaggle of artists and artisans; Bar Harbor has lots of places to drink beer and buy t-shirts. But every cove or harbor seems to have its own fleet of these craft from which lobster pots are set and gathered. That is probably a hard life. But, looking at the boats and their upkeep, things must be pretty good now for the lobster men.

Cell coverage on the island is very spotty except around Bar Harbor. ATT may be better here than Verizon, which we have. I am not sure how often I will be able to upload the blog.

Posted by sailziveli 16:55 Archived in USA Comments (0)

If It Itches

you just gotta scratch!!!

rain 57 °F

I have a friend who, among other things, writes songs. My favorite from his portfolio is, "I Get That Itchy Feeling." Well, I have had an itchy feeling for a while, a very long while, and it involves sailboats and Maine. On our last trip in 2013, Maine was in the float plan. In fact, Maine was pretty much the object of the whole trip. We made it as far north as Provincetown, MA, on the tip of Cape Cod. From there it was a only a 182 nm overnight run to Bar Harbor, ME.

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As is so often the case, life intervened, bad stuff happened, and we never made that run to Bar Harbor. Our last blog entry showed Carol on the bow of our boat with a for sale sign; the sale closed in November, 2013. Without a boat Maine was, seemingly, an itch that could not be scratched, but definitely unfinished business.

And, that's why the internet was invented. With too much time on my hands one evening, I Googled boat rentals in Maine and, voilà, endless possibilities. We can still do this, we said. It's only been 4-years, we said. Red buoys are still on the right hand side returning to port; starboard is still that side of the boat; the points of sail have not changed; a bowline knot is still made the the same way.... we said. Or, maybe, we said all that, hoping that the saying would make it so.

So, last June we contracted to rent a boat this June and the itching stopped and a plan started to form. We had seen New England after the 4th of July .... not pretty. Entire cities seem to disgorge their populace; that populace then is ineluctably drawn to beaches, parks and coastal climes. Too many people, too close together in too few small places, the exact opposite of Spring Creek. So, part one of the plan was to be off the boat before 07/04/2017.

The next part of the plan was harder: which boat? No boat would compare to ours; we spent the several years we owned her adapting the boat to our cruising needs. Any other boat would be a compromise. The boat on which we settled was the Diane, a 30-ft. Sabre.

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This is 6-ft. shorter than out boat but the same size that Carol and I trained on in May, 2007 at a sailing school. It's only for two (2) weeks so we think that we can live with this. Plus, Sabres have a reputation as being very good boats under sail. This boat has a fully battened mainsail. Ours had in-the-mast roller furling, a good choice but not a great sail. And, it has a 135% genoa, the same size as ours. This boat should really move.

It also seems fairly well set up and has radar and an auto pilot. This area will get fog and our experiences with fog on the last trip made radar a must have feature.

The third part of the plan was helped by blind, dumb luck. This boat is home ported in Bass Harbor, ME, on the same island as Acadia National Park, exactly in the middle of where we want to go. So, if you find this harbor and scribe a 15-mile radius, this is where we will cruise. No long runs; all pretty easy day cruises from one point to another; no merit badges, we have enough of those.

The last part of the plan was hard: what's the least amount of the right stuff we can bring onto a small boat and be both prepared and comfortable? I should also mention, in my case, being skinny and old, comfortable means warm. The June temperatures run to 55o for a low and 74o as a high. The water temperature right now is 50o and only 1/2-in. of non-insulating fiberglass is between us and the water. Cool nights will be the deal, of course not a problem for your average Nordic Princess, like Carol.

So, we made our choices and decided that the car would not be big enough. That's easy, just throw the stuff in the back of the truck. Ooooops! We filled that up and the overflow now takes up all of the back seat. Too late for a bigger boat. And Carol, well you have to appreciate the amount of stuff she needs to be her. I had told her she could only bring as much clothing as would fit into the canvas boat bags that we have used for years. Today, at an L.L. Bean outlet store she found a bigger canvas boat bag, probably big enough to hold a VW beetle; she's happy. The only things we saved from our boating days was our foul weather gear. I'm not sure why we did save the jackets but I'm glad we did. We seem to be in the middle on Maine's monsoon season. Today looked and felt like October: very cool, windy and rainy, not exactly what we had hoped the weather to be.

The trip north has been uneventful but expensive; every road is a toll road. We went over the George Washington bridge, from Ft. Lee, NJ, the place that got Gov. Christie in trouble; that was $20. We went through the "Big Dig" in Boston, probably the most expensive public works project ever. The romans spent less time and money on their aqueduct and it's still moving water two millenia later. Every toll booth has an outstretched arm since we do not have an EZ Pass.

Anyway, on Sunday, June 18th, we will board the boat. This will be our Fathers' Day gift to me. The adventure will begin. It will be fun, or not. We will be wet, or not. We will be warm, or not. Regardless, we will have dared something different, again; we will have refused to act our ages, again; we will make memories together, again. And, the itch will never be scratched, again.

Posted by sailziveli 16:43 Archived in USA Tagged sailing sailboats maine Comments (0)

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