A Travellerspoint blog

July 2017

Swan Island Swan Song

Mackerel Cove

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After Isle au Haut, we went went to Mackerel Cove on Swan Island. That trip took us through the Casco Passage. On the charts it looked involved. We went through on a rising tide so many of the hazards were not visible. Probably, a good thing for an aged and tired pilot.

About Mackerel Cove, there nothing to say. It was just a place to anchor, and not a very great place for that. Many people suggested this place to visit, but I cannot see why. There is a ferry terminal for the ferry that runs to Bass Harbor; there are a few rocky islands and a couple of buoys. Its sole and only gracing feature is that it is only about 6 nm to Bass Harbor which is why we made it our final stop.

We hit the dock at Bass Harbor about 2 pm, that time chosen for the tide to ensure enough water at the dock in case I screwed the pooch trying to moor the boat. In the event, I did not embarrass myself to any memorable degree.

We were the shakedown cruise for the year. So, I spent some time going over the issues with the boat; there were several but none that were critical. An hour or two to move stuff from the boat to the truck and we were on our way home.

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One evening while we were riding at anchor, sitting in the cockpit and having a drink, and looking at this scene, Carol remarked that she had never imagined that she would ever be doing that again after we had sold our boat. While we were heading to Bass Harbor we made a futile attempt to grab the little wind there was and to sail back; too little wind for that. While the sails were up and hanging mostly limp I also wondered whether that was going to be the last time I ever stood at the helm of a sailboat.

If that turns out to be the deal, then that's okay. For me the question is whether I want that to be the deal. Three quarters of the earth is covered by water and I have seen more of it than most people while standing on the deck of a boat. But there is so much more to see and, I hope, time to see it.

Posted by sailziveli 10:49 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Isle au Haut

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I never studied French, but Google translate says that this means: Isle at the top. That is, more or less, appropriate. It has Mt. Champlain, some 530-ft. tall, which towers over most of the other islands, save for Mt. Desert Island which holds most of Acadia National Park.

It was also an easy run from Pulpit Harbor, maybe three hours. We were steaming against the tide which was running in. All the floats on the lobster pots were leaning against the tide with little wakes pointing the other direction. All the lobster pots must meant that we have left the “high rent” districts of Castaine and Belfast.

This was another one of those days. All that was needed to scream Fall was a yellow leaf or two. The sky, the clouds, the temperature felt like October, not the end of June.

Along the way today we saw many islands that must be privately owned. One acre, maybe three, with a single home. I don’t know why the idea of owning an island seems so outrageous to me. It’s probably not much different from owning 100 acres and we know lots of folks who do. We saw a good bit of this in the Bahamas. For some reason my mind rejects this. Middle class values, I suppose.

We anchored in Laundry Cove, at the northern end of the island. No hints; Carol did no laundry the entire trip. Last night, Tuesday, was our first night exclusively at anchor. There was a storm, some wind and rain, and we were still there this morning. The experience will not get added to our list of anchoring disasters, a good thing.

It is a mile or more from the anchorage to the town dock. The tide was low when we took the dinghy in and we were able to see all of the hazards listed in the cruising guides. I am glad we did not come in through the Isle au Haut Thoroughfare. That was scary stuff and it looked even more dangerous in the actual viewing than it did in the reading.

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We had seen a church spire from the water so we decided to check it out. It is a Congregational church and it is New England personified. Oddly, there was no road to the church only a boardwalk of some 200-yards up the hill. No parking spaces at the church. It is small; 100 people would probably have filled it up. It takes me back. It’s hard to accept that in days past the congregants might have burned a witch.

There is no town to see; a small market, a lady selling lobster, a notary public, the church and a floating dock. I get the idea that folks here don’t really miss the bustle all that much. It’s quiet and has many comparisons to Spring Creek. I cannot imagine, though, what it is like here in January after a nor’easter has blown through. Staying warm must be work. We saw some fuel oil tanks and some wood piles, but I doubt that much of the wood came from the island; very few hardwood trees. The summer folks all leave after Labor Day; but there are a lot of lobster men here that call the place home.

Two Fall days in a row. Today was sunny but with no warmth; breezy, but we were not under sail. So, we went for a walk in the park, a good day for that. The trails were clear but not marked by name, so we don’t really know where we went. One hour in and another hour back. There were some interesting sights. Lots of fir trees, maybe balsam fir, basically Christmas trees waiting for lights and tinsel.

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We saw these, I think they are swamp iris. There were lots of them growing in a swamp, anyway, and they are irises. We also saw these plants in low, marshy places. They look a lot like hostas but the veins in the leaves are a little different. So, maybe not. Mostly, it was just piney woods, ferns and some sort of igneous rocks thrusting to the surface. I don’t think we ever made it to one of the crests of the “mountains” here; there never were any clear sightlines to the water. Mt. Champlain is on private land so we had no chance to go there.

This island’s history is interesting. It used to be owned by proper Bostonians, Brahmins, who later deeded much of that land to the US Park Service. Today, the northern third is private and the rest is public. It also has something I have never heard of: a private ferry owned by the residents. We saw the town taxi, today. It looked like it was a 1930’s something from a movie about prohibition, except it had way more body rust than any car in the movies. Eliot Ness could have stood on the running board chasing a bad guy.

We’ll eat on board tonight. There is more weather coming through.

Posted by sailziveli 07:36 Archived in USA Tagged islands sailing sailboats maine Comments (0)

It's Just Simple Math

Pulpit Harbor on North Haven Island

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The math is pretty simple, probably second grade level. We saw it entering and leaving Belfast Harbor. When we went into the harbor the water’s depth was 26-ft.; when we left the next day it was 13-ft. So, it shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it kinda was.

The trip south to Pulpit Harbor was easy and short. Less than 20 nm, not quite four hours. The harbor’s entrance was a little tricky to see from the open water if you had never been there before; we hadn’t. Between the charts and the cruising guides, no big deal. The charts showed Pulpit Rock guarding the harbor. It was big, it was an obvious navigational issue and it looked nothing like any pulpit I have ever seen. Maybe some rum-soaked sailor was having an attack of conscience when first he spied the rock.

It’s a fairly sheltered place, a good anchorage for any vessel. The shore is lined with nice houses, many of which have docks to the water. There were many mooring balls, all of them private according to the cruising guide, most of them vacant according to a quick assessment. So, despite the vacancies, we decided to be good citizens and anchor for the night, not wanting to usurp another’s property.

Anchoring. Every sailor has stories of what happened during an anchoring gone bad. We have Ocracoke and Awenda Creek, and weren’t interested in adding to that litany. This is the first time we had even anchored with a nylon rode (rope). Our boat had a heavy steel chain and a massive anchor although we did carry spare nylon rodes and extra anchors. So, some aspects of this were new to us. Nylon stretches and stretches even more when it gets wet. First lesson: it becomes a 150-ft. rubber band, literally. It would stretch and then contract as the wind worked on the boat. Not a problem, just new information until on one of the stretches the rudder crossed the pendant of a mooring ball. That took a while to untangle and made us decide to re-anchor somewhere else with more swing room.

Fair enough, learn from your mistakes. It’s hard to pull a 12,000-lb. boat into a 20-knot wind without a windless, but we did and moved to a new spot. A couple of hours later, as the tide was running out I looked at the depth gauge: 6-ft. of water with a 5-ft. draft and a couple more hours before the tide was low.

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We were going to be aground before the tide had completely run out. Rookie mistake!. I had not done the math; the water was too shallow. It’s even harder to pull the boat the second time, but we did, again. All thoughts of good citizenship evaporated and we took and empty mooring ball for the night. No one showed up; no one complained.

We had never seen tides quite like this in all of our travels. Two high tides and two low tides every day, with about 10-ft. to 12-ft. difference between the high and low. Thus means that every hour of every day the water level is changing by 20-in. to 24-in. up, down, then up again.

There were two schooners in the harbor that stayed the night. They were from Castaine or Belfast, or both. This one left a sail up to help it betterr ride into the wind. It was having a cookout that smelled pretty good, but there were no invites.

We never made to the Pulpit Harbor Inn for dinner; closed on Mondays. So, we stayed on the boat and went to bed early.

Posted by sailziveli 10:15 Archived in USA Tagged sailing sailboats maine Comments (0)

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