04/09/2007/6:02 pm, Pulpit Harbour, Maine
The excellent sailing continues. We were the recipients of good scouting by Strathspey yesterday. They headed out toward Merchants Island - our planned destination - while we were at the Frenchboro Library. Just as we were dropping off our mooring line, they called to say that the wind was right on their nose and they had decided to head for Swan's Island instead. That allowed us to go off north instead of east to meet up with them, and gave us a great sail.
The wind was forecast to be 15 -20 knots with gusts to 25 so we started out with just our yankee up. That was OK for a bit but we found we were getting too much drift so we put up a reefed main. The wind never did get that strong so we hoisted the main the rest of the way, and then hauled in the yankee and put out the staysail. That ended up being the best combination for today's conditions and the direction we were headed. We did lots of tacking to get into Mackerel Cove, but because the distance was short we could take our time and do it. We had a wonderful view of the mountains of Mount Desert Island from there, and sighted five or six tall ships cruising across the bay. This truly is a beautiful place to sail.
Anchors were up at 8am Tuesday, and we set off through York Narrows and the Deer Island Thorofare into Penobscot Bay. We had to motorsail the first bit because of wind direction and the narrowness of the passage, but once we passed Stonington, the engine went off and we sailed all the rest of the way up the Bay. A few long tacks took us up to the top of North Haven Island where we wove our way in and around Sheep, Bald, Burnt and Grass Islands, and Dagger and Grass Ledges to the east side of the island and down to Pulpit Harbour. I was at the helm most of the day today and Jim was getting a good laugh as I issued sail handling orders while I tried to get all the angles right for the turns so we wouldn't have to turn on that noisy engine. The winds were nice and strong - averaging 15-20 with the highest gust to 26.2. We managed it wonderfully under our main and staysail. This is the kind of wind Madcap likes, and while we could have gone faster if we hadn't been beating into it, it was very satisfying to do most of the trip under sail. I will get my turn soon at being crew while he makes the decisions and issues the orders. We mostly take turn about at the wheel, and consult each other on sailing decisions, but once in awhile it is nice for each of us to just be the skipper!
The lobster buoys were everywhere again of course, but we find that our approach is one of alertness not anxiety, and so they are just one factor to watch along with depth and wind direction. As Jim says, however, that feeling would change considerably if we got a line wrapped around our prop so we'll keep on being alert.
Pulpit Harbour is a lovely anchorage. We stayed in little Cabot Cove just inside the entrance and had a couple of ospreys as chatty neighbours. There is an enormous osprey nest on Pulpit Rock just at the entrance and we could see several birds soaring around as we sailed in. Millions of stars appeared as darkness fell; the silence was complete, and the night air crisp - perfect for a good nights sleep.
We'll do a short hop to Camden on Wednesday. It's time for laundry, provisioning, and e-mail, along with some sightseeing!
03/09/2007/9:06 am, Frenchboro, Maine
We have had a fabulous couple of days of sailing! It feels like we've been explorers and adventurers - but now we are sailors again.
Jim and I spent two days in Northeast Harbour, enjoying the atmosphere and the sights of this pretty place. The harbour is filled with mooring balls - we were at town ball 359 - and beautiful yachts are moored right alongside fishing boats. The shops in town are geared mostly to the summer crowd, and indeed, Jack (who sells the most wonderful blueberry pies and breads and cookies from his truck opposite the Pine Tree Store) says that by today one would be able to lie down in the middle of the street and not have to move for quite some time.
We climbed the winding path up to Asticou Terraces and Thuya Gardens and had a most wonderful time absorbing the beauty and peacefulness of the garden, as well as learning about Mr. Curtis who left such a legacy to the people of the area, and Mr. Savage, who developed it over the years into the place it is now. It is well worth a visit.
On a sunny Saturday morning we headed out into the lobster field again, put up our sails and sailed all the way to Somesville at the head of Somes Sound. Somes Sound is described as a fjord with soaring mountains and deep water - and I suppose it is - but after having traveling in the Saguenay, it pales in comparison. Nonetheless, it was a pretty place and even though the wind was on our nose yet again, we were able to tack back and forth all the way up. We dodged lobster buoys and even managed to avoid getting ourselves into the middle of a group of boats racing toward us with their colourful spinnakers billowing out ahead of them. Sailing among the buoys is MUCH more comfortable than motoring among them. The engine is off - the propeller blades are not turning and there is far less chance for misadventure. By the time we dropped our anchor, we felt like we had really done some sailing. Our arms were tired from the frequent hauling of sails, our cheeks were rosy from the wind in our faces, and our spirits were high.
Several more yachts arrived during the evening - we figure one of them had to be 75 or 80 feet. The two masts soared far into the sky and were lit up at night like spires, and the two crewmembers were busy cleaning and wiping and ferrying guests back and forth. As Jim said - "Just think - two very different boats, and we both have the same view."
Strathspey arrived on Sunday morning and we rafted together long enough to share a pot of tea as we consulted the guidebooks and charts and made decisions about where to go and what to do next. We are always finding the compromise between traveling southward and exploring the area. This is supposed to be some of the best sailing in Maine and we don't want to leave it too quickly.
On Blair's recommendation, we headed for Frenchboro on Long Island. It was one of the best decisions of the trip! We hoisted the mainsail, motor sailed back down Somes Sound, coasted around Southwest Harbour and gawked at the magnificent boats moored outside the Hinkley boatyard. We put out our staysail as we got into open water and had a glorious sail past Great Cranberry Island, Gott Island, Drum Island and onward to Long Island.
We pulled into tiny, remote-feeling Frenchboro after a very fine 3-hour sail. This is so very picturesque with small well-kept houses lining the road, fish sheds on wharfs, and a horseshoe shaped road that runs along both sides of the harbour. The Strathspey dinghy carried us all ashore to explore, and as we passed a fisherman on the dock, Mary had the bright idea to see if he had any lobster for sale. He did, and we bought it! That was a brilliant decision, since the man we spotted was David Lunt, written up in our guidebook as the man who runs Lunt and Lunt, and closes down sharp at noon on the Saturday of Labour Day weekend so his workers can enjoy a well deserved party in Ellsworth. We picked out our lobsters - $6.00 a pound for softshell - brought them back to Madcap and after a leisurely stroll around the bay, we prepared our repast.
I had brought a big seafood pot with me for just such an occasion, so the feast was held on Madcap. Mary made delicious scones and mouthwatering chocolate chip cookies. I roasted potatoes and steamed the lobsters. The wine was poured and we enjoyed a perfect evening savouring the sweet meat and toasting to our incredible good fortune in being able to be here.
This morning, we dinghied to the end of the harbour, climbed up many stairs (low tide) and walked up the hill to the library. This is one of the most delightful discoveries - it is open 24 hours a day. In an airy pine walled room are shelves and shelves of books - and not raggedy old ones either - comfy beanbag chairs, rocking chairs, a big pine table in the middle of the room, computer and wireless internet access - everything a library should be, and open all the time to everyone. Just imagine! Through the big windows I can see the evergreen trees swaying gently in the wind and the sun streaming down. Jim sits beside me answering e-mail as I send this post, and I feel like I am sitting in the middle of something that is just right!
We'll be off in another hour to Merchant's Harbour as we make our way to Penobscot Bay. I hope all of you who read this can find yourselves in the middle of something just right today too!
30/08/2007/8:48 am, Northeast harbour, Maine
I wish to report the successful crossing of the Gulf of Maine and safe arrival in Northeast Harbour of the sailing vessel, Madcap.
On Tuesday evening, Strathspey and Barefoot left Shelburne to go out the harbour and anchor at Cape Negro, while we opted to stay in Shelburne to glean some local knowledge from some folks who have done the crossing several times. That meant a verrrry early start of 3am for us to meet up with them in Cape Negro at the agreed upon time of 6am Wednesday, but we were up for it - literally and figuratively!
The moon was bright, the air still, the water like glass as we quietly dropped our mooring line and turned Madcap's bow toward the mouth of Shelburne harbour. As we passed Charlotte and Leroy's house I waved our big spotlight in an arc to offer a silent farewell and thank you for their hospitality. Three hours later, we saw Strathspey and Barefoot moving out from their anchorage, and for the next several hours the three boats moved along within sight of each other. The rising sun cast a rosy hue over the water as it swirled around us. Then the fog moved in, and for much of the day we motor-cruised along with the sun shining over our heads and grey mist all around us, seeing the other boats only as blobs on the radar. Barefoot eventually peeled off to take another course for a destination further down the Maine coast. Strathspey generally travels faster than we do so they moved off in the distance ahead of us.
When the fog lifted, we caught sight of an occasional seal spy-hopping to take a look at us; a couple of whales surfaced and dove gently, and a group of porpoises (or dolphins?) cruised by. I had our bird book open in the cockpit for much of the time, trying to identify the birds we saw. I'm pretty sure some of them were Wilson's Storm Petrels - black with white bands across their tails - and some were Greater and Sooty Shearwaters. There were of course, the graceful terns and ever present gulls, and also small black birds that I still haven't identified darting in close to the boat and then swirling away. I'll have to consult with my bird expert brother-in-law! Apart from a few fishing boats early in the day, we saw no other vessels out there until we got close to the Maine coast.
Jim and I take roughly two-hour watches during the night. During daylight hours we are often both awake, but one person is at the helm and, if we are not sailing, the other gets to relax or do other chores. At night, we have learned to be really good nappers. We can both fall asleep almost instantly and then wake up in reasonably good shape to go back on watch. During one of my off-watch periods in the morning, I made a big pot of chicken soup and a pan of cornbread. The smells drifting up through the companionway apparently helped Jim perk up during a sleepy stretch, and there is nothing better than chicken soup on a cool day.
The temperature was quite comfortable during the day, but at night it was downright cold! I had layers of fleece on under my foulweather pants and jacket, two pairs of socks, wool cap and gloves. And I still wrapped myself up in the quilt my Healing Pathway friends in Ottawa gave me before I left.
We could feel the effect of the famous Bay of Fundy tide as it pulled us one way and then the other over the course of the trip. At tide changes, the water would get choppier and from time to time we'd see our knotmeter register a boost of speed as the tide helped us along, or a drop in speed as we moved against it. We thought we might notice a more dramatic difference but it didn't happen. The wind didn't rise past 10 knots so unfortunately we weren't able to truly sail even a tiny bit of the trip. We filled up with diesel in Shelburne, and set our engine to 2600 rpms for the first part of the trip - a setting that allowed reasonable speed and good fuel efficiency.
In hindsight, we'd have taken a more careful look at exactly what the time frame could be for the crossing. We were working on a rough figure of 30 hours, and wanted to arrive in daylight. The 6am start from Cape Negro was too early but by the time we figured that out, it was too late to change the prearranged plan. As it turned out, we kept dropping our speed back during the night so as not to arrive off the coast before daylight and we still encountered our first lobster pots before the sun was up. By the time that happened, our rpms were down to 2100 and we were trying not to make more than 4 or 5 knots an hour - a very odd feeling since we are usually trying to get the most speed we can.
And now for the lobster buoy part of this narrative! I don't think there is any way to truly know what the Maine lobster buoy picture is without seeing it with your own eyes. The closest description came from a friend of Mary's who likened it to a great scattering of smarties all over the water. For the first while, we encountered them in singles and duos - in the fog - and swerved our way around them. Madcap has a full keel with no protruding parts that are liable to catch, and we read extensively on the best methods to avoid getting a line wrapped around our prop, so we weren't terribly worried, but were determined to proceed cautiously. We wanted our super sharp knife, and wetsuit for the unfortunate person who might need to dive down to untangle a line to stay tucked away in a locker!
We took turns at the wheel and keeping a lookout on the bow, and soon got into the rhythm of it. I felt a bit like I did when I used to play with the children's Nintendo game after they went to bed - go this way, that way, around this corner, back on the track again. Thank goodness for the chartplotter and compass, because all this swerving around in the fog can get disorienting very quickly. We had to rely on the instruments to keep us moving toward our destination. Whenever we'd have a near miss, we'd put the engine in neutral so the propeller wasn't turning, and with our foresail picking up the little bit of breeze, we would slip on by.
Once we got close to the channel past the Cranberry Islands and along Mount Desert (pronounced like dessert) Island, the fog lifted to show us the most amazing sight of hundreds and hundreds of candy coloured buoys scattered all over the bay. These were in lines, but the lines crisscrossed in every direction. I have never seen anything remotely like it, and we were too busy weaving through them to take pictures. Because the water was flat calm and the sun picked up the colours, they were clearly visible and making progress was just a matter of looking for pathways and taking a zigzag trip along them. Soon enough, we came to the entrance of Northeast Harbour, turned in and wiggled some more along through lobster bouys and mooring balls. By the time we located one and hooked the line over a cleat, the fog had dropped again. We had a perfect little window to do this last bit. How lucky is that?
Jim had called the 1-800 number for Customs as we came in and received word that an officer would meet us on the dock. We had thought that perhaps our Nexus passes would allow us to do it all over the phone, but that wasn't the case. We dinghied in to register with the harbourmaster and just as we finished that, Officer Hutchins came along, climbed into our dinghy and came out to the boat to do the paperwork. It was straightforward and pleasant. We had our cruising permit already so he just copied down the information and welcomed us to the USA. Blair came by to take him go over to Strathspey, and we laid our weary bodies down for a few hours of sleep. It was a good trip, and a good beginning to this next stage of our journey.