12 Sep My Maine Squeeze
What’s it like to be a true Mainer? I still don’t know. But I will tell you that it’s all about the lobsta! We noticed pots after we sailed through the Cape Cod Canal, but it’s a whole new world when you get to Maine. The ocean is sprinkled with multi-colored and patterned buoys connected with long lines to lobster traps dangling below. Autopilot is out of the question as you enter this northeastern state. Sailing is the safer bet when traveling for when you catch a pot on your propeller it could mean a cold swim below to clear it, only IF there is no permanent damage. We had not left Narragansett Bay yet, not far from where we launched, and were getting quite antsy to explore somewhere new. We left the bay, anchored one night off of Third Beach on the east side of Newport and headed towards Maine.
We went straight through to Rockland, Maine, with only one stop at “Sandwich” Massachusetts on the north side of the Cape Cod Canal to refill our fuel and water tanks. We soon pushed off the docks and headed towards what would be our first night practicing our two man-shift, four hours on and four off. These shifts did not work out perfectly this way as our decision to leave so quickly did not leave us the most rested for this journey. Before the sleep could begin, we noticed four large dark figures on the horizon heading in our direction. As they drew nearer, we observed that they were four large naval ships that provided Curt and I some discussion. I suggested he slow down and go around the convoy. Suggesting to Curtis to “slow down” is like asking a fish not to swim! He radioed the ships and asked in true midwest fashion if we could just “squeeze by ya real quick”. Okay he didn’t say it quite like that, but they agreed that we could motor through two of the large vessels and before I knew it, we were on our merry way.
And this is truly where all the pots began. Sprinkles in the Cape soon became an impressionist painting of pots on the horizon. A combined artwork by all the lobstermen in Maine. It was tricky to navigate.
The sun was getting lower in the sky and we lowered sails and motored around Owl’s Head looking for the best spot to anchor in the 20 knots of breeze we were seeing. Curt chose Rockland as our initial spot of landing for its many options to anchor in a variety of wind conditions. We chose a spot in the northwestern side of the little bay which at this time gave us a bit more protection from the wind. The charts suggested a muddy bottom with good holding and quite a few other anchored boats in this area gave us the confidence to drop the hook. However, we were still getting our anchoring communication of gestures down and we took a second try at our spot. Curt did quick math to make sure we had enough rode for depth and swing as the strong Maine tides were something new to us. We chose a spot between some covered rocks (from the high tides) and the mooring balls and successfully wiggled into the mud where we stayed a week completing boat projects we did not yet get to in Narragansett Bay.
People. Perhaps the best part about Rockland was the people. I met a woman on shore that allowed me to interrupt her day by extending her morning with dog play. Roxy the dog got to play with her one adult and one puppy black labs. We discussed different harbors nearby and dog training frustrations. We were complete strangers yet friends in this moment.
The second night of our arrival we noticed Tuesday night racing inside Owl’s head and, where there’s racing, Curt is
soon to follow. He convinced me to dinghy into shore and stop in at their yacht club that we had found online, hoping that there might still be some racers hanging around to chat. Inside, a handful of sailors were enjoying some pizza around foldable tables and chairs and had no problems inviting us in. We stayed to chat for just a brief while and they invited us to their Maritime Education Dedication Race that coming weekend. We thought on it during the week, keeping an eye on the weather and our timeline of not wanting to stay in one place for too long. It worked out perfectly, as did the wind, providing us with ample propulsion around Penobscot Bay for the race. We took 2nd in the cruising/JAM class and brought chocolate chip cookies to the potluck/cookout where we, including Roxy, enjoyed hamburgers and hotdogs off the grill. We were lucky enough to take home an engraved glass to cherish that day and the people we met.
Seal Bay-Vinalhaven Island
We got the sailing itch again and pulled up anchor to head to a new destination. We were ready to get off the grid a bit and made our way to the nearby island of Vinalhaven. There were a few anchoring options as we jib sailed through the split of the island looking at different anchorages. Curt had mentioned Seal Bay and I knew we could get there before sundown. What I did NOT know is that the tight turns around rocks combined with lobster pots would make for a difficult navigation. Add that to a pretty full anchorage at dusk and we thought maybe we had bitten off more than we could chew. We found a narrow spot we hoped would not gain too much current and plopped the anchor down amidst the mosquitos. We stayed for two days and explored the nature via dinghy and even saw a seal sitting on a rock and later, one swimming around the boat!
People. As we finished up our self-provided dinghy tour and “seal rock” we spotted a trimaran anchored just around the bend from us. We noticed a kayak departing from it and decided to motor over and inform them of the sunbathing seal. It was a man and his daughter out for a ride. We chatted briefly about the area and then he told us to get a tour of the boat while his wife was onboard waiting for him. We took him up on the offer and were impressed by the boat and its abilities. Later, we combined resources on Sweet Ruca, with us providing drinks and “Friends”, the name of the trimaran, providing snacks and games. We chatted and snacked and drank the night away. As is the cruising lifestyle, you sometimes run into friends that you haven’t met yet.
In our usual way, we go where the wind takes us. We are familiar with the area in the form of charts, but not so much in the form of activity. Without internet access, we weren’t sure what our next adventure would be. Should we send it far east or make for a closer, more civilized port? We settled for the latter- Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island.
Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island
We sailed some 30 some odd miles from Vinalhaven Island to Southwest Harbor in somewhat foggy and light to moderate windy conditions. When we first pulled anchor it was clear, but we got a taste of true Maine weather when we lost everything but a quarter mile visibility leaving the bay. Dodging lobster pots called for full attention from both of us and autopilot became out of the question listening to lobstering boat motors behind the layers of fog. It was incredibly bright for the amount of fog and as we made it to Merchants Row we enjoyed navigating the tight islands, pots, and rocks surrounding us. We turned off the motor and let the sails breath, just in time for Curt to “oops”, he said as I heard the buoy bounce off the side of the hull. Boat speed slowed and we knew the toggle was stuck under the boat. It looked to be caught at the bottom of the rudder as Curt used a boat hook to push it down and off of Ruca. Boatspeed came back up as we exited Merchants and finally came to Mount Desert Island. We saw some beautiful views as the fog cleared and were happy there wasn’t any damage to the boat or lobster pot.
We decided to “vacation” and treat ourselves to a mooring at Hinckley Yacht Services for a Thursday through Sunday stay. With the comfort of the mooring we could head into town and restock on groceries, hit up West Marine for more boat projects, and order supplies to be shipped to the Marina. But first, we were starving and ready to commend our first foggy navigation in the Straights of Maine with what would be our first lobster dinner at Beal’s Lobster Pier. There we met a couple with “mobility issues”, their words, not mine. They asked if we could save them a seat next to ours. We felt fine about it, until two groups of people at separate times asked to sit at the table next to us, as it was a seat yourself restaurant. Saving seats was probably against the rules, but we held firm and had the best time talking with the couple. We discussed anchor options, old businesses, Maine terminology, and ended the night with a selfie and business card exchange.
Internet was unstable, but relatively consistent and we were able to get a few projects done, and to my surprise, laundry! Hinkley had showers with hot water and laundry! Oh happy day! We had uploaded a few posts on social media about our entrance and trip to Southwest Harbor where an old friend happen to catch the update. Curt’s phone rang on the second day of our stay and it was Thomas Beebe, originally from Traverse City, Michigan, and fellow Melges 24 racer. He had moved to Maine unbeknownst to us and got Curt’s number from a mutual friend.
More people. Thomas and his wife, Kristin, lived about an hour away from Southwest Harbor and offered to show us the “sites” of Mount Desert Island. Although there is a free bus, not having a car to drive made it difficult to explore the parts of the island we really wanted to see. I was eager to get hiking up the mountain and Thomas was looking for an outdoor adventure and mentioned to Curt the Precipice Trail. He mentioned that it was difficult but one of his favorite trails to do. When Curt hung up he did a quick Google search only to discover that it was considered the most difficult trail on Mount Desert Island with vertical climbs, ladder rungs, narrow ledges, and gorgeous views being the highlights of the trail. We started to question our accordance to go along, but were in dire need to stretch our legs.
The next day we met with Thomas and Kristin on the Quietside of Mount Desert Island. We missed the bus and decided to walk two miles into town to “help” shorten their drive to us. They greeted us with fresh vegetables from their garden and a 25 minute trip to the base of the trail. We quickly shed our jackets as the cool Maine weather failed to keep us as so and we warmed up as we rose up the mountainside. We could see 360 degree views before heading back down. Thomas gave fantastic directions to multiple hikers along the trail, and soon lead us to our descent down the backside of the peak. “You don’t need to go down the same way you come up”, he informed us. Midway down the descent we came to a split-the quick way to the road or more paths back to the boulder garden and THEN to the road. We chose the more difficult return and quickly became out of breath. We all escaped unscathed except for the hornet sting on Thomas’ left ankle. We finished with a quick dinner in Bar Harbor before saying goodbye and taking the bus back to the boat.
More Melges 24 Friends
Curt spent the next two days and nights researching anchors for Sweet Ruca. She had a 44 lb Delta on her with 236 ft of chain road that had held pretty well. As we plan on mostly anchoring, we wanted to step up our anchor game so we could expand our anchorage options. Curt nestled in on the Rocna 33 (77lb) as our primary anchor and had it shipped to Hinckley to arrive in a few days.
The phone rang again and another Melges 24 friend was on the other end. Him and his wife happen to have some vacation time and asked if they could join us in the next couple days in Maine. This timing worked out perfect as we needed to wait on the anchor’s arrival. They drove the 15 hour trip from Cleveland to Hinkley, helped us put on the anchor, and then sailed with us Downeast to Roque Island. This is a private island, but sailors can visit its great sandy beaches to the north and south sides. We stayed on both sides for a night before taking Nate and Diane back to their car/lives. We saw seals, ocean birds, lobster pots, waterfalls, cliffs, and a sky full of stars. Having friends on the boat so soon was such a special experience. The places that we went were some that not very many footprints take!
Somes Sound, Mount Desert Island
Castine also had some good anchoring options in its bay as we could move around if needed for different wind directions. Large enough to run if the anchor came loose and protected enough to sleep soundly through the wind and rain. The hurricane mostly missed us and did anything but put more trust in the Rocna and make us cold and wet. We anchored in a spot with spotty internet access, which we decided at this point we would take.
People. In traditional Sweet Ruca fashion, we found ourselves amid a college race course on the day Hurricane Dorian brushed by us to the east. Two regattas were happening right next to our boat via Maine Maritime Academy. About 20 420s and seven or eight Colgates passed by, some displayed a bit of boat carnage as two Colgates collided and rigs went down. We managed to capture it all on video and the local college team noticed and radioed us about the footage. We exchanged information and planned to take more photos and videos of the racers the next day.
After the weekend of racing, Monday came and we connected with the Colgate 26 racers from Maine Maritime Academy. They surprised us with some Academy swag of t-shirts and buffs and we shared our videos and photos on a flashdrive. Later, one of the sailors offered and delivered us a tour of the TS State of Maine, the Academy Ship formerly known as Tanner when it was used by the Navy.
When the tour ended, we invited skipper Thomas and a few of his friends out for a sail on Sweet Ruca. A kind and considerate bunch, I barely lifted a finger as they sailed the boat with spinnaker nearly to Belfast and back. Corinne skippered the whole
way and enjoyed her time off of the bow of the Colgate. The night ended with pizza at Danny Murphys and a promise to stay in touch. Thomas requested we invite him for help in a passage, particularly the French Philippines. We stayed our final night in Castine before getting up early and heading out. We took the long way and swung through Belfast and Camden before dropping the hook at our original starting place- Rockland, the land of the internet. Future route planning could begin.
What does it mean to be a true Mainer? I still don’t know. Just as I still don’t know what “Tack ‘er up and dump ‘er” means. I do know that there are all types from life-long Mainers to out-of-town new Mainers. But the spirit of adventure is alive and well here. Most people have an opinion and aren’t afraid to share it. Maine is aware of what is happening in the world but their hearts are big and they’re proud of where they are from. Many youths are leaving Maine, but there is a treasure here that’s trying to hold on. While the beauty of the landscape is a cause for destination, the true treasure is the people you meet.