06/09/2007/11:13 pm, Camden
Camden is a lovely little New England town on Penobscot Bay. We have a great memory of visiting here on a camping trip one summer when our car caught fire, Alex broke out in measles and we celebrated Mary Beth's birthday with a candle in a piece of delicious chocolate cake while we waited for the car to be fixed. Fortunately there were no "incidents" during our stay this time.
Like so many of the towns we visit in Maine, the harbour is filled with mooring balls and there is little or no space to anchor. That makes us a bit cranky from time to time since our anchor would hold perfectly well in most of these areas and if we are not getting power or water and the holding is good, there are no particular benefits to a ball. However, it seems to be a revenue stream for many individuals, municipalities and businesses. The rental varies from $20 to $30, and in beautiful little Five Islands, they are free for the first 2 nights courtesy of the Five Islands Yacht Club.
In Camden, Wayfarer Marine owns the balls for transient boats, and while we would have preferred to keep the $30.00 in our pockets, we were impressed by this facility. They offer launch service to and from the marina and the town dock across the small harbour. The shower/laundry/lounge area is spotless and the staff is most helpful. We spent some time gazing at the magnificent yachts tied up on the dock and being hauled out for end of summer maintenance.
It took us about 3 hours to sail across to Camden from Pulpit Harbour. The first part was fast; the second part - tacking against the wind - was slower. We took advantage of a short sail day to try out different combinations of sail again, and as we entered the harbour we checked in with the Wayfarer dockmaster who assigned us a mooring. Once the essential chores of laundry and the showers were taken care of, we explored the town a bit. We admired the beautiful wares in the shops and purchased fresh bread, plump chicken and colourful produce at the local market.
We had decided to make a long day of it on Thursday so we were up early to get diesel, water and a pumpout when the marina opened at 7. It was calm and cool - one of these days we'll get a thermometer so we know just how cool it really is. It's definitely sweater weather in the mornings and evenings, and often gets quite warm on land during the day. The wind never did get as strong as we expected, but we needed to go straight into it for the first part of the day and then we took some curvy little trips inside islands so the motor was on for all except the last 2 hours of an 8-hour trip to Christmas Cove.
When we passed Old Hump Ledge a bald eagle was sitting atop the highest rock, and on Eastern Egg Island where we hoped to spot some of the puffins that have been reintroduced, we saw another eagle - but no puffins.
Christmas Cove is an interesting little place. We took a walk along the road in the evening and discovered many large and beautiful homes in the area. They have the look of summer homes - many of them unlit after dark this time of year - and they have fabulous views of the water while being tucked away among trees and shrubs on the road side. I can picture generations of family members coming here for the summers. All the Maine coast that we have seen so far has had pockets of houses like that, and I recently read that 30 and 40 rooms in some of these "cottages" is not uncommon.
We fly a big Canadian flag off the backstay of our boat, and it was fun to see it flying straight out as we looked out across the bay. It was even more enjoyable to see two other red maple leaves - Island Song II from Barachois, NS with Patricia and Colin on board, and Strathspey with our sailing partners Mary and Blair. We haven't seen very many Canadian boats down here, although I expect that will change once we get a little further south and we encounter the boats that come down the canal from Lake Ontario.
As I wrote this in Christmas Cove - on a mooring ball again - the wind was howling through our rigging and we were rocking and rolling. Jim decided he was grateful for the mooring because there would be no middle of the night anchor checks to do!
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!