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Isle au Haut

semi-overcast

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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)

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)

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)

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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