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Madcap Sailing
A Real Find
Beth - a litle rain a little sun
29/07/2008/11:14 am, Seguin Island, off the Kennebec River

We reluctantly left Isles of Shoals on Sunday morning and made an 8 hour trip to Jewell Island. There wasn't much wind at first so we motor sailed, then managed to really sail for about 4 hours, and then as we still had miles to go and we were getting slower and slower, we turned on the power again. Good thing too, because the sky grew darker and the Coast Guard came on the VHF with a thunderstorm warning for right where we were.

We powered up as fast as we could and headed up into Casco Bay and Jewell Island. The sky grew darker and the thunder rumbled and we dropped the hook just as soon as we rounded the red #4. Unfortunately it didn't hold so we kept the engine on as we dragged back, and then when the storm abated for a minute or two, we quickly hauled it up (thank goodness for the windlass) moved forward and dropped it again - in a more receptive place. As we backed on it, it caught really nicely and we dove back into the cabin before the next flash and roar.

I had a couple of good steaks in the fridge, and although we couldn't BBQ, I cooked them up on the stove and we dined well on steak, new potatoes, and squash slices sautéed with onion.

We decided to forgo a walk on the Island in the morning - we'd had a wonderful time prowling around here in the fall - and head out to Five Islands in the Sheepscot River.

No wind again so we motored along - once more going slower and slower. As we started by Seguin Island, two miles off the mouth of the Kennebec River, I convinced Jim to divert from his course and wait for a tide change. It turned out to be a brilliant idea and we stayed till the tide change ...the next day!

Seguin is a high island off by itself and boasts the the second oldest light with a 1st order Fresnel lens - on the coast of Maine. It seems isolated and rocky and is absolutely gorgeous. In the cove at the north end there are two metal Coast Guard moorings there (dangerous to tie to because the boats get bashed against them) and three small white balls placed by the Friends of Seguin. They're well secured and can handle large boats although two of them are too close together. We grabbed one just as another Canadian boat (folks from Quebec City) grabbed the other.

Ashore, we discovered the long tramway that leads up to the light at the summit (and if you zoom in close on google earth you can see it) and paths that lead to the top and other spots worth exploring. In the museum, we read about a lightkeepers wife who was on that tram when it slid backwards all the way to the bottom - terrifying!

Once at the light, we met Lynne and Tim, this summer's volunteer caretakers. It seemed like an idyllic way to spend a summer and Lynne agreed that it's next best thing to being on a boat. She keeps a blog/journal (HTTP:// We thoroughly enjoyed talking with them, climbing the beautiful spiral steps to the light - now automated and exploring the little museum.

We had such a good time that we decided to stay overnight - and that turned out to be not as brilliant an idea. We thought for a bit that we'd have the place to ourselves, but 3 more boats came in, and despite the best efforts of Evergreen, the boat that tied up next to us, we banged (gently) into each other a few times during the night. Because of the way the wind and current worked, the boats didn't swing the same way at the same time, and it was generally a rolly night. Both men spent an hour or so on deck chatting and watching until they pulled away just before dawn.

We're still great enthusiasts about this spot but would probably make it a day stop next time. We headed off about 0700 on Tuesday for our shortest trip to date, arriving at Five Islands in the Sheepscot River by 0845.

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Beautiful Isles
Beth - hot days and cool nights
26/07/2008/11:08 am, Isles of Shoals

We made a nice early start from Gloucester with a plan to reach Isles of Shoals in good time and secure a mooring ball. I say "nice early start" - which for us was 0700 hours, but the fishing boats started leaving the harbour around 0430. We'd feel the roll as they went by and then drift off to sleep again - glad to be in our cosy berth.

The Isles sit off shore about 6 miles from Portsmouth and Kittery, and are divided between New Hampshire and Maine. We passed by the lighthouse on White Island sounding its haunting fog horn and into Gosport Harbour, the one sheltered place between islands named Cedar and Star and my favourite ... Smuttynose! By arriving at noon, we thought perhaps we'd beat the crowds, but the moorings were all occupied and we were just lucky that as we cruised slowly through the field, a tour boat was leaving. As Jim picked up the ball, he noticed that it had a name on it but we figured we'd stay till we got kicked off. Anchoring here is not recommended because of the rock and kelp bottom, but by evening, several boats had dropped their hooks - and we would have too if we'd had to.

These islands are full of stories - of pirates and Indian attacks and a murderous Prussian fisherman. They were centres of commerce back in the 1600 and 1700's when the cod fishery was richer than any seen before by the Europeans. Star Island has a big old hotel complex on it - dating back to 1872 when boatloads of visitors would come to "get away from it all". Now it is used as a retreat centre by the Unitarian Church and groups come in for daily and weekly programs. We watched as boatload after boatload arrived and disgorged people. Thomas Leighton, lighthouse keeper, built another old hotel on Appledore Island. His daughter, Celia Thaxter - a poet - lived here and hosted many literary figures of the day - Hawthorne, Longfellow and others. Most of the islands are open to the public during certain hours and we'd love to have gone over to Star Island but because we were on a private mooring, we were hesitant to leave the boat until later in the afternoon.

Fortunately, Susan and Mike (Tabbycat) came paddling by in their inflatable kayak so despite staying on board we had good company as we caught up with all their adventuring.

At the end of the afternoon, we felt ready to leave, so we dinghied to Smuttynose Island, and braved the resident seagulls to walk along the trail there. A couple of cabins are located right at the top of the path and we discovered that families who come for weekly stints as resident caretakers occupy them. Once upon a time, this little island was home to Captain Samuel Haley who built a ropewalk (not something you walk over but something you make rope on), a saltworks for curing fish, windmills, bakery, cooper and blacksmith shops. The tiny graveyard where he and his family were buried back in the 1700's sits just behind his cottage.

Now the island is home to a couple of sheep - the local lawn care workers - grazed around the meadows as we headed down the trail. Susan and Mike had warned us to beware of the protective gulls, and they were right. We moved along slowly as the adult birds shrieked and squawked loudly at us. The youngsters were pretty much adult sized, but mottled in colour and not yet airborne. We watched as the adults shooed them into the bushes while they took to the air - hovering over our heads and warning us to stay clear.

Boats kept coming and going all afternoon; as soon as a daytripper would leave, another one - or a cruising boat - would take its place. The Portsmouth Yacht Club owns a few of the balls and our guidebook said that folks from there have first dibs on those balls. We watched as a sailboat came along, had a conversation with two powerboats rafted on one of those balls. The powerboats left and the sailboat took its place so we thought they'd been booted out. About an hour later, the sailboat left too and we were wondering if he'd ousted the first boats just so he could stay a short time. Surely not - that seems hardly fair, but who knows?

We went over to Tabbycat in the evening for shared edibles (pork cubes in spicy peanut sauce, tendercrisp pattypan squash slices, smoked oyster-stuffed mushrooms, chocolate chip cookies) and a rousing game of dominoes. Finally we had the opportunity to learn this "cruisers" game. The version we played - and that played by the cruisers in the Bahamas - was Mexican Train Dominoes and it was a blast. Mike and Susan were good teachers and gave us tips on how to use strategy as well as luck. In the end I won and it had nothing whatever to do with skill. A house rule that Tabbycat picked up from Morning Glory was that at the end of each round a score of 50 or 100, 200, 300 etc can be halved. Imagine the surprise when my 400 score got cut down to 200 near the end of the game. Imagine how frustrating that must have been for those who were truly in the lead! It was a fabulous evening with good company in a beautiful place.

Next time, we'll plan to explore some of the other islands - because for sure - there will be a next time!

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Lazy Days
Beth - high 20's inland, cool on the water
25/07/2008/9:58 pm, Gloucester, MA

We finally dragged ourselves out of Boston on Friday, sailed about 3 knots per hour for a few hours and zigzagged our way among the lobster pots to a new port just up the coast.

On Wednesday, Jim went to see the JFK Museum - and he loved it too - while I took myself off to the Public Gardens to visit the ducklings (made famous in Robert McClosky's "Make Way for Ducklings", a well loved children's story set right here. On my way back to the dock, I discovered a real farmers' market by City Hall. Local vendors sell their produce here on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I was finally able to stock up with salad greens and peppers and patty pan squashes and bright red tomatoes. Apples are just starting and I got some of those too.

We had intended to leave on Thursday, but oh how it rained. Visibility was poor, and winds ranged 15 - 20 knots with higher gusts. Even if the wind was OK, we'd have gotten just soaked out there so it was a pretty easy decision to stay put. We managed to make a run ashore to get groceries, but we spent pretty much the whole day and evening curled up with our books while we listened to the raindrops beating over our heads.

By Friday morning, things looked much brighter, so Jim bailed out the dinghy... and bailed ... and pumped ... more than any other time on this trip. After a stop at Mystic Marina down on Pier 1 we were topped up with diesel ($4.29) and had the head pumped out and were ready to go. The water there has a lot of sediment so we didn't fill the tank.

On Cousin Russ' recommendation, we sailed to Gloucester MA from Boston instead of making a longer trip. Because we didn't have many miles to make, we lazed about on the water - making 2.5 to 4 knots for a couple of hours. That is a luxury we rarely allow ourselves, but it was most pleasant to roll back the bimini, bask in the sun and just listen to the waves swoosh by.

At one point, Jim heard a new sound and leaped up shouting "A Whale! A Whale!" Sure enough, we watched several of them (or maybe it was just one or two?) gracefully surface and dive over the next few miles. They were far enough off that we aren't really sure what they were but we're thinking perhaps Fin Whales. They were dark, long and had dorsal fins. We've been hoping to see Right Whales, but these definitely had dorsal fins so we'll keep looking for the Rights. The Coast Guard frequently reports sightings and we always laugh to hear them say at the end of the report, "Mariners should be advised that whales may not remain at reported location."

Russ gave us good advice - Gloucester is a really pretty and active city - very much a working seaport that is big enough to handle lots of pleasure boats too. The large harbour gradually narrows and splits into two arms, making lots of space for the huge fishing boats, large whale watching tour boats, and lots of pleasure boats too. The city maintains a number of moorings, but we spent so many nights on a mooring in Boston that we chose to anchor in the designated area in the Inner Harbour. There was very little wind or current so although we were in 25 feet of water at high tide (there is a 9 ft tidal range here), our 100 feet of chain held us well. After taking a long walk all through the city, we walked out along the seawall to see the Fishermen's Memorial. This was the homeport for the fishermen who were lost at sea in "The Perfect Storm" as well as over 5000 others since they have been keeping records, and their names are inscribed there with so many others. We could see family names repeated from year to year as son followed father and grandfather. A man we spoke to said there have been 6 boats lost this year already, although the hands have been saved. Going out there to earn a living from the sea no matter what the weather is far different from what we cruisers experience.

We decided to take advantage of the opportunity for seafood so we dinghied over to Rocky Neck and ate at the Mad Fish Grill. It was innovative and tasty - I had tuna and Jim had crab stuffed haddock - both artfully presented, fresh and delicious - although not as good as our dinners at Rabia's in Boston.

We're off again on Saturday - possibly to Isles of Shoals - another spot we have not yet visited, with hopes of more whale sightings and a peaceful anchorage.

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