54. A Month in Maine - Part III
12 September 2012
Rockland's redeeming feature is the Farnsworth Art Museum, which has some fine paintings by Maine artists. There are works by three generations of the Wyeth Family: the illustrator N.C., his son Andrew, a realist, and grandson Jamie. Also featured are Winslow Homer, with his beautifully observed pictures of people in small boats, and the impressionist Frank Benson. Otherwise, Rockland is a rather unattractive ferry port with a large harbour, of which the area set aside for anchoring is exposed and a long dinghy ride from the quay. Whilst there, Kurt and Katy (of Interlude) offered to drive us to Bangor for a day at the American Folk Festival. Matador and Indy Plus had made the long journey up river, and a couple of other crews also got there by car, so it made for quite a social gathering. Some twenty bands were playing on five stages over three days.
It was time to leave Penobscot Bay and start heading back south, and, with some bad weather expected, we sought shelter in Maple Juice Cove, off the St. George River. We stayed for three nights and managed to get some useful jobs done, including fitting a wash-down pump for cleaning off the mud that clung to the chain and anchor every time they were raised. One morning, we took a dinghy tour of the bay but found nowhere to land as the entire shoreline was taken up by private homes. It rained for most of the third day, compounded by a thunderstorm. That evening, a pair of small, open luggers from the Outward Bound School sailed into the cove with eight bedraggled crew members in each. They seemed happy enough though, as they anchored, erected tents, cooked supper and settled down for the night in what must have been very cramped conditions.
We set off down river with a cold and gusty north-westerly blowing, dodging the inevitable dense conglomeration of lobster pots. However it was a good sail on a route that weaved its way through a maze of islands to an anchorage off Boothbay, a busy fishing harbour and holiday town. Like many such places, it is served by a free "trolley" bus service for the benefit of tourists. The driver of this one was particularly helpful: she took us to the laundrette, picked us up when we were done and drove us to the supermarket, telling us to leave our laundry bags in the bus, then picked us up again on her next round and dropped us, laundry and shopping right by the dinghy dock! And all the while she gave us a running commentary about everything we wanted to know about Boothbay. This was the last few days of the service, as next week she would be back driving the school bus.
We had a pleasant sail of about thirty miles across island-studded Casco Bay to Portland, the State capital. It is apparent that the city has undergone some major clearances of run-down areas, including the waterfront, but there is still much to be done as there are still many ugly gaps between the new developments. This is the first place on the coast where we encountered beggars and other down-and-outs. There is plenty of culture available however, including the Portland Museum of Art which has a good collections of Maine, American and European art. To remind us of familiar territory closer to home, there was a temporary exhibition of pictures of the Normandy coast. There were also some good sculptures dotted around the city, including one of local boy John Ford, director of many Westerns and "How Green Was My Valley", a film about a welsh mining family.
We would have stopped off at Jewell Island on our way to Portland, but being Labour Day weekend we expected it to be too crowded. We visited a few days after and found only two boats in its wonderful, hidden anchorage. One was Linda Lee, owned by the Florida couple Tom and Linda, whom we'd first met at Somes Harbour. We enjoyed a couple of evenings together, taking it in turns to cook supper. The island is uninhabited now, but had been used as a look-out station and defence battery during both World Wars. It is now reverting back to nature, but every now and then when wandering the trails one encounters a derelict building or piece of equipment, including two tall watch-towers which can still be climbed to get magnificent views of, on the day we were there, the fog blowing in across the tree-tops.
Our final stop in Maine was Great Chebeaque Island, where we went to find protection in its lee from the strong north wind that had been forecast. The island is served by a car ferry and has a large number of summer homes, but also has a sizeable community of permanent residents, many of them earning a living by lobster fishing. We saw one fisherwoman unloading a boat: perhaps the pot markers coloured pale blue with pink spots that we had seen on the way in had been hers! The level, quiet roads made it a good place to explore by bicycle, and we stopped off for lunch at the island's general store, the only place that seemed to be open. It was now well into September with definite signs of the end of summer, so time to leave this north-eastern extremity of America before the weather turned too unfriendly. We'd enjoyed our month in Maine immensely, with its wonderful cruising waters, lovely scenery, interesting places and the people we met there. We just could have done with a little less fog and far fewer lobster pots!