Sunday, May 6, 2018


We are slowly catching up with our blog posts.  We cruised Maine from July 27, 2017 to August 31, 2017.

We actually welcomed the bad weather that hit Gloucester as it forced us to take a respite from break-neck speed at which we’d been traveling, if there’s any way to construe five miles per hour as ‘break-neck’.  Our schedule had been rigorous (for us) with trying to press the most miles out of every day for what seemed like weeks on end.  As with many modern cruisers, we were looking for a ‘weather window’ with which to make our passage to Maine, even though it was only a short distance.  The winds were light but we were able to sail the entire way and made landfall at Rockland, Maine, after an easy overnight sail.

The Seven Seas Cruising Association was coincidentally holding one of their ‘gams’ in Rockland Bay that weekend and the bay was full of cruising sailboats.  I was answered almost immediately after I had released the key on the VHF’s mike, asking for a recommendation for anchoring.  Not only was the information helpful but the person who answered said they had been following our progress north and had been expecting us.  Were people talking about us?  Had we done something bad?  It wasn’t us!  It was a boat that looked like us!  Even though we weren’t members of the SSCA, they invited us to participate in their events, which we politely declined as we were eager to make it up to Castine.
Sailing north up Penobscot Bay was both uneventful and thrilling at the same time.  It seemed like years ago we promised Joe and Judith Sandven that we’d sail there.  Our guide book had cautioned that visiting yachts should pick up a mooring, which we did, but we later anchored out as there was nothing to be concerned about.  Our rendezvous with Joe and Judith was properly celebrated and Ruthie and I fell in love with the picture-perfect New England community immediately.  The farm just outside of town that Judith was raised on hasn’t been active agriculturally for many years and she allows the fields to be hayed at no charge and no shares.  The old barn remains mostly the same as it has been for almost 100 years but the house has been modernized and has all the creature comforts anyone could ask for, including a nearly idyllic setting and pastoral views.  Joe gave us the keys to his 2005 Ford Crown Victoria and I hadn’t driven a car that large in years but it was not just convenient but fun to be able to drive the back roads of Maine.

One of the errands we took in the Crown Vic was to find a very hard-to-find butcher shop as we were looking for something special to cook for Joe’s 88th birthday.  Google maps directed us to this obscure area that might have been at one time a commercial district but all we could find was an abandoned warehouse.  We called the number and complained to the person that answered the phone that we couldn’t find the place.  “All we can find is an abandoned warehouse,” I whined.  “Come on in,” the person answered.  Inside the ‘abandoned’ warehouse was a huge walk-in refrigerator, complete with display cases and a cashier.  We selected fabulous steaks, appropriate for an 88th birthday party.
  I nearly caused a wreck as I was trying to pull over to a roadside stand that had wild blueberries for sale.  Ruthie bought six quarts of berries, a case of Mason jars and canned 24 half-pints of blueberry jam on board.
Unbeknownst to us, Joe had contacted the Ellsworth American, the surprisingly-well written newspaper for the community of Ellsworth, Maine, telling them that his circumnavigating daughter and son-in-law were in Castine and it would make a worthwhile story.  Neither Ruthie nor I expected any follow up but we were delighted when Stephen Rappaport contacted us and asked if he could interview us.  After all, talking about us is our favorite thing to do!  Stephen, a recovering attorney, was taking a summer vacation from New York about 25 years ago in Ellsworth and never went back.  He spent almost two hours aboard, questioning us and listening intently, only giving information about himself after we prodded him.

If one was to merely give the navigational charts of Maine a cursory glance, it would be easy to deduce that sailing those waters could be complex and challenging.  There must be millions of rocks, ledges and other hazards that the wary sailor must be vigilant about.  However, the charted obstacles are only a small part of the difficulties one is faced with while sailing in Maine.  The first hazard one you won’t be able to spot from studying the charts happens to be the Maine Department of Marine Resources, which grants permits for lobster fishermen to place traps – and their associated floats – in the Maine waters.  Last year, the Department issued permits for over 2 million traps.  Granted, there are strict regulations regarding the size of lobster a fisherman can harvest and it has become a sustainable industry but trying to keep those 2 million traps from becoming fouled on your prop or keel takes constant attention.  It is unknown if we did foul our prop on one of the traps as Rutea’s prop shaft has a line-cutter attached but we zigged and zagged continuously in an effort to keep clear of them.

145' Rebecca Under Main and Mizzen
The other challenge we found sailing in Maine that we couldn’t have detected from the charts was the pea soup-thick fog that found us.  We could be sailing along on a bright, sunny day and it would seem like a wall of fog would suddenly descend and envelope us without warning.  Of course, we have radar that can pick up very small targets but maneuvering between the lobster floats, the lobster boats and the other hazards found in Maine waters was very intense at times.

As we made our way further ‘Down East’ – which describes the northeastern coast of Maine – another issue that we had to contend with was the increasing strength of the currents and the higher tidal ranges the further north we traveled.  Rutea draws almost 7 feet and, usually, if we find 15 feet of water, we think that it’s plenty deep to anchor but that isn’t so if you have a 9’ tidal range.  We would make every effort to time our passages through anywhere narrow to include a favorable current.

The furthest east we went was to Roque Island, a privately-owned island and one of the few in all of Maine to boast a sand beach.  The owners of the island allow cruisers to use the beach (but not venture inland).  It was delightfully remote and a few boats came and went while we were there but we loved the coniferous-covered land.
Ordering Lobster Rolls at a Lobster 'Pound' in Blue Hill
On our way back west, we anchored in the lovely Blue Hill Bay and took advantage of the dinghy dock at the Killegewidgwok Yacht Club as a place to leave the dink while we hiked up Blue Hill.  It was a pleasant climb and kind drivers would stop as we walked the sides of the road, offering us rides.  We also made a final rendezvous with Joe and Judith there but made promises to share Thanksgiving dinner together in San Diego.

Someone had told us of a special anchorage in between Harbor Island and Hall Island – they were absolutely right – unless the wind was out of the north and the wind was howling out of the north.  We dropped our anchor there anyway and stayed for about 10 minutes before we weighed anchored and bashed about 3 miles north to the lee of Friendship Long Island.  We had hoped to leave the following day but the wind hadn’t abated at all.  Small craft advisories had been posted by the Coast Guard for strong winds and rough conditions.  Ruthie and I ‘debated’ about what to do.  Throwing caution to the wind, we weighed anchor, tucked a double reef in the main and headed back to Gloucester.

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