River Rat's Adventures

10 August 2014

Maine Adventure 2014

10 August 2014
Monday, 07/07/2014
We barricaded our cat Hanna in the V-berth of our 45' sloop River Rat and at 0745(on the boat we use military time with a 24 hour clock) on July 7, we shoved off in a brisk SW breeze to start our excellent adventure to Maine. Our original plan was to turn south from the Rappahannock River and head to Cape Charles, and then out into the Atlantic, and from there, sail directly to Block Island, RI. But, plans change and the weather wasn't what we'd planned for, so we headed Northward up the Chesapeake Bay. We had great wind for much of the day, and hoped to catch up with our new friends Bob and Pat Sikora on their 42' Endeavor sloop Chanticleer. After the wind died off late in the afternoon, we motor sailed until about 2145, and then dropped anchor in Herring Bay, on the West side of the Chesapeake. The night was a bit bumpy, so I slept little. Debi and Hanna, on the other hand, slept like rocks.
Tuesday, 07/08/2014
At 0530 I yanked up the anchor and off we went to catch Chanticleer, who apparently got up early also and beat us to the C&D Canal, at the very top of the Bay. They stopped at a dock along the canal for the night, and we passed them and completed that passage and anchored out behind Reedy Island, DE for the night. Another boat, Magnolia, was anchored there when we arrived. We tried to hail them on the VHF, but there's must have been off. A storm struck at about 2000, with winds above 38 kts., but not much rain. Debi made us put on our inflatable life preservers with our personal locater beacons (Debi's Dad's idea), and put on Hanna's life preserver, and sent me topside to ride out the storm. We spun around a bit, but after it passed we laid our paraphernalia to rest and slept like babies.
Up again at 0500 and off the hook a half hour later. Down the Delaware River we went, competing with a 2 kt. current for much of the way. Later on, the current turned with the outgoing tide and we benefitted from 2 kts. in our favor. We snuck around the tip of Cape May, barely a ¼ mile off the beach, and wound our way through a series of shoals until we reached open water. From there, it was just a ½ hour run to the Cape May inlet. We fueled up and then anchored out next to the Coast Guard station and prepared for storms again.
The storms came again last night, but after they passed and the temperatures dropped, sleep overtook us and lasted until dawn for me and a bit later for the Admiral. We hopped in our dinghy, picked up Bob and Pat from Chanticleer and went ashore at a public boat ramp in town. We hit all the marine stores and ran into Annette and Anthony who are sailing on Magnolia. We made plans for them for drinks later on Magnolia. After building up an appetite, we ate lunch at the Harbor View restaurant and then made our way back aboard River Rat for a nap. Rain is again on the way, so we did what should be done. We went over to Magnolia and drank some wine and got to know Annette and Anthony, who quit their jobs less than a year ago and have been living aboard and sailing ever since. Rains arrived as predicted and we were snug in bed at 2000.
The sun also rises, or should I say the sky is slightly blue this morning; not gray as it has been for the past few days. At this moment, after looking at passageweather.com for the sea state and the winds for our passage to Block Island from Cape May, we see a good weather window if we leave early tomorrow morning, perhaps before sunrise. Today we'll take a walking tour of the beautiful Victorian styled homes in Cape May. And off we went. We walked about 2 miles from the harbor and found a wonderful outside mall - shops and restaurants. Debi started drooling as she went into the first clothes store, but I managed to lure her away from the dresses with lunch at the oceanfront. On the way we passed so many beautiful Victorian designed homes and hotels; many newly restored. The town was bustling on this beautiful summer day. Good luck for us - an art show was set up at the oceanfront, so we meandered through that as we started our walk back to the harbor. Lots of beautiful stuff, but Debi only bought one thing. With a little sweat dripping from our long walk, we boarded our dinghy and went back to our "floatel". Two couples who were about to make the run to Block Island came over for early cocktails, and then it was off to bed at 1930.
Up at 0215 to prepare for a 0300 departure with 4 other boats. Navigation and steaming lights are turned on, but the red/green lights won't work consistently. A project to undertake in the daylight. Out we all went into the Atlantic in light air and seas. Debi stayed up until 0500 and then retired for a good long while. We all stayed together and talked on the VHF radio every 4 hours. We kept the NJ coast in sight as we headed in a northeasterly direction. At 1347 we passed Barnegat Bay and thought about our friends and neighbors in White Stone, John and Sammie. They sailed there before they moved to our town. The VHF was buzzing with distress calls to the Coast Guard and Tow Boats US - a boat went up and over a jetty, a 28' sailboat went aground on the beach at Sandy Hook, at least 2 boats burned up, several sank and through all that adversity, people on boats in NJ apparently have no faith in their radios, since they are constantly asking for a "Radio Check," even though there is an automated way to do that. Debi cooked a great meatloaf for dinner, and the sun was chased away by a "Super Moon" that lit up the night sky. Debi retired to her boudoir before 0800, and left me on watch until she returned to the cockpit at 0000 hours. She stood watch until 0300, which allowed me to snooze some. Then Sleeping Beauty started the 2nd ½ of her nighttime. While she slept, the autopilot quit working, so I had to hand steer. This may sound familiar to you, as the exact same problem occurred while we were sailing back from the Bahamas less than a year and a ½ ago. Ugh! Throughout all this fun stuff, our beloved Hanna was holed up behind the flotsam and jetsam stored in the V-Berth. We arrived in Block Island at 1030, grabbed a mooring and off I went to sleepy land.
Newport is a sailing town, so it ought to have someone who can fix my autopilot. So early today we left our mooring at Block Island and headed to Newport, RI a few hours away. We had a good SW breeze and were making good headway, until the fog rolled in. This was our first experience with dense fog, and it was a bit frightening. Boats everywhere are reporting their positions on the radio. Radar and AIS were on, the Admiral was blasting the horn twice every 2 minutes, but still we saw small boats pop out of the fog unannounced. After an hour or so of foggy travel we entered Newport's harbor and searched around for the anchorage. We dropped the hook and settled in. I called Lewmar, the manufacturer of the autopilot system and worked my way through the various levels of gatekeepers to get to someone who promised to find a replacement drive and clutch.
Autopilot drive motor and clutch, where are you and can you find your way to River Rat? That question is constantly on my mind now, as we are anchored in Newport harbor. Several calls to Lewmar have confirmed that the part does exist. It's in the UK and is being tested. Hopefully, if it works, it will be shipped out to the USA soon. We went to the library to download last week's episode of "24", which we're hooked on. Our son Kelley sent it via Dropbox, and it will take an hour to download. I found a great hardware store and Debi found a grocery. Back on River Rat, Debi whipped up dinner and we watched our downloaded "24" and then the final episode of the show. Very exciting, as Jack Bauer ......... (I can't tell, as you may not have seen the finale yet). This is really a beautiful town, devoted to sailing and yachts. We've walked around Newport a bit and love it here.
We're off to the Maritime Center at the foot of Anne Street in Newport to do laundry on this foggy and drizzly day. This center is a cruiser's paradise: internet, TV, charts, bathrooms and showers, and laundry facilities. Oh, and it's all clean as a whistle. After our clothes were sparkly clean, we dropped them at the boat and went to lunch at a terrific local restaurant, The Brick Alley Pub, and ate our first lobster roll of the trip. Yummy! Shopping with the Admiral was next. Uggh! Intermittently, I contacted Lewmar to check on the status of the part to be shipped. The promise is that it will go out of the UK tomorrow via plane to be delivered to my Brother's yacht club in Marblehead, MA no later than Friday. We'll see. Debi made salad for dinner and we had a nice visit from Chris and Ed on Freedom (one of the boats that sailed to Block Island with us from Cape May).
Hooray! It's my brother Dirk's birthday. We're planning to meet him and his wife Diana in Marblehead, MA. They're starting a cruise with their club on 7/18, so we'll sail with them for a while, assuming this d... autopilot gets fixed. The newest info is that the part, in the UK will be sent by FedEx International Priority to arrive tomorrow. We'll see about that. Off the anchor at 0700 bound for Onset, which is a really protected harbor just northwest of the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal. Our plan is to anchor there for the night, refuel and then start out in the morning to take advantage of the 4.5kt. current as the tide rises (running from west to east). The canal dumps us into Cape Cod Bay, at a place called Sandwich. Lots of storms in the area today, but we're managing to skirt most of them. Lots of rain though. We arrive in Onset at about 1500 and anchored. I pull out my bucket, fill it with sea water and soap and give River Rat a salt water bath. It's supposed to rain hard so she'll be rinsed off soon enough. A clean boat makes for a happy voyage. A call to FedEx international (yes you can speak with a human) tells us that the part will arrive tomorrow. Can that be true? Pat Zachary's wonderful ham rolls are our dinner tonight. Of course, early to bed.
I call FedEx international first thing this morning and surprise, the part is still in the UK. It should arrive tomorrow (7/18) by 1030. We fuel up and head into the canal and catch the current just right and are spit out into Cape Cod Bay in about an hour. Our plan is to head to Marblehead today and pick up a mooring at Dirk's club for the night. Then tomorrow, if the part shows up, I'll install it and we'll head for Rockport and rendezvous with my brother and Diana for the night. Off the fuel dock at 0810 and into the Cape Cod Canal. We're traveling at over 8 kts., with a boost from the current. We popped out the other end and into Cape Cod Bay, where we find not a lick of wind for our 40+ mile trek up to Marblehead. Another day of motoring. Out goes my fishing pole so we can troll along the way. We see the shore at Marblehead at about 1700, but no luck with the fishing. Dirk has made arrangements for us to stay at a mooring just off his club, so at 1800 we're secured there. Debi marinated a pork loin that we cut into chunks to make shish kebobs to grill. I cook, we drink a glass of wine and off we go to dreamland.
Amazing. At 0630, the part has arrived in Boston getting ready to be delivered. Once it does, it will take a couple of hours to install. Keeping my fingers and toes crossed that it all works. The part is here, installed and seems to be working. So, we cast off from our mooring at the Corinthian Yacht Club and set off for Rockport, MA with my brother, Diana and two of their friends aboard Dream Again, Dirk's 48' Oyster. Light winds, some lobster pots and calm seas on this leg. At about 1400 we arrive in Rockport harbor and are directed to a mooring that secures us at the bow, and at the stern, so we can't turn. This is a small harbor and I guess they figure they can get more boats in it if they keep them from sailing around on their moorings. Cocktails aboard Dream Again. The sun sets over a skyline of old wooded houses, barns and commercial establishments. The story goes that in the late 1800's the town wives were upset that their husbands spent all their free time in the town's bars, so one night, the ladies snuck out and burned all of the bars to the ground, after which the town remained "dry" until very recently. It sure wasn't dry on Dream Again. Good night moon (at 2030).
Up at 0500 and off the mooring at 0518, bound for Boothbay, ME. The water temperature has hovered between 48 and 52 degrees. When we left White Stone almost 2 weeks ago, it was near 80 degrees. What little wind we had was on the nose, so another day of motoring. As we neared Boothbay, we were greeted by our first shark sighting, then dolphins and seals. It's real. We're here! We picked up a mooring at Carousel Marina. No anchoring here, as there are just too many boats. Dirk, Diana and their friend Paul came over for linguini and clam sauce on River Rat. After filling our tummies, we all wound down, I gave them a dinghy ride to Dream Again and another night passed; but this time we slept under a down comforter.
Dirk and I went for a jog and after that I cleaned the Chesapeake Bay mustache off of River Rat's waterline at the bow. Debi, Diana and I went ashore to walk around Boothbay. They wanted to go for a 15-20 minute stroll around town, so I found a coffee shop and waited, and then I waited some more. An hour and 45 minutes later they arrived back. It's amazing how far you can walk when you're jabbering to one another. Dirk and Paul came into town by dinghy and we all went to the Lobster Dock for, guess what: lobster rolls. Great! Tonight, Dirk's club is hosting a cocktail party and then we're going to dinner at the Boothbay Yacht Club. I have to wear a shirt with a collar and slacks. We met lots of nice folks at the gathering and had a great dinner. This club has about 300 members and has a pretty new facility, with wait staff, a bartender, chef and kitchen staff. Dinner was great and many thanks to Paul, who picked up the tab for us. Tomorrow, we're headed to a small cove called Maple Juice, somewhere up Muscongus Bay.
Actually, Maple Juice Cove is a ways up the St. George River, in from Muscongus Bay. It took us about 4 hours to get there. An easy run. This is a beautiful large cove, and the dozen or so boats from Dirk's club fit in here easily. Everyone is invited to have cocktails and appetizers on Dream Again and Pemaquid, which are rafted up. It's appetizer award day, so prizes to the best, most unique and best presentation dishes. Debi's tasted the best, but no prize for her tonight. I don't know how it happened, but I managed to drink a bit too much wine and in the middle of the night, my head was throbbing. Ibuprophen to the rescue.
Today we're headed to Dix Island, on our way up to Penobscot Bay. Dix is a small island tucked in among several others, just off Muscle Ridge channel heading northeast. We had a light SW breeze, so we sailed all day with just our spinnaker flying. This is actually the first day that we've sailed for most of the time. It was fabulous. Once we dropped the hook at our anchorage, we heard someone hailing us. It was Joanne and Jim Matthews on Grayce, a 42' Niagara. Our sailing friends Pat and Lorrie Harris, who we met several years ago while cruising, told Jim and Joanne to look us up and low and behold, here we were in the same small anchorage. We dinghied over to Grayce in the afternoon, shared a beer, made friends and plans to meet up again in a few days to sail together for a while. They've spent time here before, so they have great ideas of places to see. A curious seal popped his head up to see what we were doing. The sun made beauty in the sky as it set and tomato soup was tonight's dinner. Then, off to sleepy time.
Off the hook. Headed to Belfast, way up in the NW corner of Penobscot Bay. The wind is blowing 10kts. from the SW, so out goes River Rat's spinnaker. Dirk is flying Dream Again's spinnaker as well. The wind picks up a bit, and we're sailing at 6 kts. with just that one sail. It's the best sailing day so far. Lots of boats are headed north, and all the captains and crews are smiling in the Maine coast sunshine. After 6 hours of pure joy on the water we arrive in Belfast, where we picked up a city mooring. We go ashore to check out the town, and find our way into a local pub for a beer brewed in Maine. Then back to the boat and to Dream Again for dinner with Dirk, Diana and Paul. This is their last night with their club cruise, as they have to head homeward tomorrow. Sailing with my brother has been great. His long range plan is to sail Dream Again to the Mediterranean.
Off to the coin-operated laundry in Belfast, and what a wonderful gathering place that is. Great people hang out there, passing the time as the machines eat quarters. Debi and I have a cup of coffee at the Co-op grocery, then she's off to the bigger grocery store, up and up and up some more hills. We meet at the dinghy and take our food and clean clothes to the boat. Then, I bring River Rat into the dock to work on the wind generator. It appears that one wire in the generator mast is disconnected, so while it produces energy, it doesn't reach my batteries. The slip I've chosen has a very tall and thick diameter piling, so if I position our boat just right, I can climb on top of the piling to take the generator off the mast. So that's my plan. Should be a ½ hour job. Well, that part of the plan works fine. With the generator off, I can see that my red wire is disconnected. But, to get to the connection point, which is about a foot into a 2 ½' tube that the generator is affixed to, I have to remove the generator from the tube, and it won't budge. So, Jerry, who is a truck driver from Belfast (drives Wyman's blueberries from here to California each week), offers to help. I'm on top of the piling, but no luck disengaging the generator from the tube. About 3 hours later, Jerry offers to take me to a machine shop a few miles away to see what they can do to help, and off we go. Another hour later they've managed to separate the generator from the tube and after stopping for more wire, we return to the boat. I rewire everything and get ready to reinstall it. Jerry has by now gone home. Remember that piling I sat on to remove the unit. Well, the tide has gone out, River Rat is on a floating dock, so the top of the piling is now a good 10' above the deck of my boat. Like an angel, Jerry drops by again, as does Bill, a guy who works on a tall ship that is docked nearby. Jerry drives to his girlfriend's house, picks up an extension ladder, and returns. With all 3 of us, the ladder set from my deck up against the piling, we get the unit back on the mast and the job is complete, 6 hours after we started this ½ hour job. Jerry won't take a penny for his time, and reminds me that people should just help each other because it's the right thing to do. Of course, he's right. By now we're late for a gathering for cocktails at someone's boat, so we slide out of the slip, head back to our mooring, shower and return for the last drink. Then, we're off to dinner at Delvino's Grill and Pasta's here in Belfast, with Bill and Julie, a couple who are cruising with the Corinthian group. Debi and I share a dinner of lobster over braised beef ravioli with a mushroom cream sauce. Finally, we're back on River Rat at 2130, and at 2140 I'm sound asleep. A long but productive day, with a vivid reminder that people can be very nice.
Not much wind as we left Belfast at 0900. We're heading north in Penobscot Bay over the top of Ilesboro Island and then southeast to Bucks Harbor for the night. We'll be traveling with the Corinthians for another couple of days, until we get to Camden, ME, where we'll stay for a couple of days. About 2 hours out, the wind picks up and we have great sailing, with the peace and contentment that comes with the sounds of wind in the sails and waves slapping the hull. Bucks Harbor is beautiful and relatively desolate. No cell service here. Tonight we're hosting 25 folks from the club on River Rat for cocktails. All really nice people who've graciously allowed us to crash their annual cruise. Hamburgers on the grill for dinner, followed by a bowl of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Good night bald eagle up in the trees on the hill. Sleep tight.
From Bucks Harbour we sailed north around the tip of Ilesboro Island and then south a ways to Warren Island State Park, where we dropped anchor for the night. Good winds, although as is the case more often than not, they were against us half the day. This evening we're attending a lobster cook out at the park with the Corinthians. We've never been to one before, so we're excited. Three giant pots are starting to boil over wood fires down by the water. Once they boil, in go live lobsters and corn on the cob. They are then covered with thick piles of seaweed. When we see steam come out of the seaweed, our feast will begin. The cookers carry the pots over to a big flat stone and dump the lobsters and corn on top of the hot seaweed and we dig in. We each get 2 lobsters, corn and as much salad as we can eat. We eat everything, including some of the lobster meat left by our friends. Our bellys are protruding noticeably now, but that doesn't stop me from devouring 3 Somores cooked over the fires. This was a wonderful day experiencing a great Maine tradition.
Today, because of approaching bad weather, we're headed to Camden, just a couple of hours SW from Warren Island. Our small flotilla departs, but with a SSW wind we're motoring all the way there. We pick up a mooring in the outside harbor (more about that later) and notice that our bow thruster is sounding different. It may be that the propeller, which is made of a nylon type material designed to sacrifice itself when something gets caught in the tunnel, has gotten bunged up. Anyway, I'll deal with that another day. We dinghy through the harbor to Wayfarer marine, to sign in and go ashore. Camden is a great town, with lots of shops and stuff like that. First off, we stop at Cappy's for coffee and a Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse Cream Puff. The jolt of sugar from the cream puff gives me the energy I need to keep up with Debi as she pops in and out of all the shops. The rains have come and so we duck into the Waterfront, a restaurant/bar in town, where we meet up with some of the Corinthians for a beer and conversation. When the rain lets up, we hop back into our dinghy and make our way to River Rat, where we dine on ravioli and marinara sauce, followed by some Ben and Jerry's. Off to bed, but sleep does not come easy. The harbor is open to the SE, and the seas are gently rolling in from the east. The operative word here is rolling, so as each roller hits River Rat, she rolls from side to side. (she yaws, as opposed to pitches). This happens all night, so we promise ourselves we'll head somewhere else tomorrow, regardless of the weather.
Tomorrow has come, we head into Warefarer to pay our bill, get a couple of parts and let Debi upload her pictures in a place with lots of bandwidth. The fog is all encompassing now, and rain is on its way. Of course, at about noon when we begin to make our way to River Rat in our dinghy, the skies open and we're drenched. On board, we strip down, turn on the generator and the heat, warm up, redress and eat lunch. We've decided to head across Penobscot Bay for a couple of hours to get to Pulpit Harbor, which is a completely protected anchorage. The rain comes down heavy, but the fog has lifted as we make our way out of Camden harbor, with a vow never to get a mooring in its outside harbor. The alternative is to pay $2.75/foot (X 45 feet) to raft up with other boats on a floating dock, but we're too cheap for that. The rain lets up and our passage to Pulpit Harbor in Northhaven is uneventful until we are about a mile from the entrance. The skies open for about 10 minutes and we can't see a thing, so we head into the wind and tread water until the storm passes. The entrance to this harbor is hidden, until just before you enter it, but it turns out to be easy. Inside, we drop anchor and hail our friends Joanne and Jim on Grayce (who've been here for a couple of days) to come over to share an "arrival beverage". After good conversation, we eat leftover ravioli and head to bed, for peaceful sleep.
It's a sunny morning in Pulpit Harbor, so off we go on our collapsible bikes to explore this beautiful place. Before we leave the public landing, we run into a guy who farms oysters (Northhaven Oyster Company) here and runs lobster pots on an old red boat named Ocean Rider. Then, just a mile or so down the road is a freshly stocked small market. After riding up and down rolling hills for another few miles we come into a pretty little town, with shops and a great lunch place (Cooper's Landing). Debi orders some kind of veggie packed sandwich and I have a crab roll (they're out of lobster). We eat outside on picnic tables and thoroughly enjoy ourselves. On our way back, we take pictures and meet Nick and Bridget (who sailed their 44' catamaran named Isis from the UK to the Caribbean and then up here), who also biked into the town from Pulpit Harbor. All day long, Debi has been trying to buy lobsters for dinner. First she called Randy, on Rock Me Baby, but his voice mail referred her to April, the CEO of Bubba Gump Lobster Company. Debi and April traded voice mail messages all day, so no luck on the lobsters. As evening approached, we pulled steaks from the freezer to grill, but just then April calls. She's pulling lobsters from her pots in the harbor then, and brings 2 she just pulled to River Rat for $15. Away go the steaks for another evening. Lobster is now the main course. Beautiful boats have come into the harbor for the night. Just before sunset, an old schooner sails in (the schooners do a lot of charters in these waters). She's beautiful silhouetted against the setting sun. I steam the lobsters and we devour them along with a salad Debi made from the last half of her sandwich. And as you might guess by now, we had some wine to wash it all down. The sun goes to sleep behind the hills of Camden, directly across Penobscot Bay, and after we bake some cookies, our sleepy heads hit the pillows. Spending today with my bride in this beautiful place was absolutely joyous.
We left Pulpit Harbor at about 0900, skirted the western side and then southern tip of Northhaven, went into the Fox Island Thoroughfare and after 3 ½ hours we picked up a mooring in Perry Creek, which is part of Vinalhaven Island. Let me digress and tell you about moorings here in Maine. In areas where there are no harbormasters, the accepted practice is that if privately owned mooring balls are not being used, boats can just pick them up and use them for short stays; say a day or two. No contact is made with the owner of the mooring and no fee is charged. In this little creek, 3 of the Corinthian cruisers' boats are rafted up, so a reunion dinner was planned. In the afternoon, Debi and I took Hanna on a long dinghy ride across Seal Cove and into a beautiful narrow waterway filled with small rock islands and boulders. It was high tide, so the waterway was navigable. We're told that since the tides swings here average 10', at low tide the area we were traversing was a mud flat. After about half and hour of weaving around the islands and rocks, we went under a tiny bridge and out into another waterway called Winter Harbor. We were worried about the ebbing tide, so we turned around and made our way back to River Rat. Throughout the first part of the trip, Hanna was terrified, and made moves to jump from the dinghy into the water, which she apparently thought was a hard surface. But, as time passed, she calmed down. Back on board, Debi cooked some brownies to bring to dinner on our rafted neighbors. Meantime, I washed the grime off of River Rat's hull. Dinner with Mike, Pat, Martin, Jennifer, Jim and Suzanne was wonderful. Our dinghy ride home (about 100') was uneventful and sleep came easy. Each day brings new adventures, and greater appreciation for the beautiful mid-coast of Maine.
It's foggy in Perry Creek, but not so foggy that we can't venture out, so at 0900 we drop our mooring, say goodbye to our Corinthian friends and head into Fox Island Thoroughfare. Our destination today is Rockland, on the west side of Penobscot Bay. But once we make our way into the bay, the fog has settled in so thick that we can't see the marks. Fortunately, our radar and AIS help us to note when other vessels are nearby. Since we're motoring, Debi is blasting the horn every 2 minutes to signal other vessels that we're in the area. There are several tugs and ferries on reciprocal routes, so we've got to keep a sharp lookout. After 3 hours we're inside the breakwater at Rockland Harbor, or so our chart plotter tells us. We can't see a thing, but religiously follow the electronic chart display. Boats appear as apparitions and then fade away. We grab someone's mooring buoy and hook up until the fog clears. Surprise, we're in the middle of a mooring field in a huge harbor, filled with pleasure and working boats, ferries, tugs and small ships. We eventually pick up a city mooring and check in once we dinghy to shore. Then, we've got to hike to the Laundromat, and I walk another mile or so to get a printer cartridge. Debi's made reservations for dinner at Café Miranda, which is a great local place. Not surprisingly, we ordered lobster risotto and followed that with a lobster, tomato and roasted red pepper pizza. Scrumptious. Tonight is really calm, so the dinghy ride back to River Rat is peaceful. Hanna welcomes us home and we all settle in for the night.
Into Rockland this morning for breakfast and a trip to Hamilton Marine. Hamilton Marine is a boater's superstore on steroids. It has everything a boater might need, so shopping there feels as good to me as Debi does when she goes to TJ Max. But, what I want is not necessarily what I get, so I get a fuel tank for my dinghy motor, to replace the one that sprung a leak. On the way back to our dinghy, Debi picks weeds with flowers on them to brighten up our travels. Off the mooring at about 1130 and headed to Gilkey Harbor to meet up with about 60 other cruisers for what is called a GAM put on by the Seven Seas Cruising Association. It's a great day for sailing. Bright blue sky and a SW breeze blowing at 12-15 kts. So, I'm in heaven sitting in my friend Jim Hatch's favorite seat (one of the seats on the back transom railing on River Rat). Our sail is just over 2 hours, which gives us time to make water. We pull into Broad Cove off of Gilkey Bay, shower, hop in our dinghy and go to a dinghy raft up, where all the boaters meet at someone's boat, raft their dinghies and pass around appetizers and get to meet one another. Great fun! Back on board River Rat we barbeque chicken and have that with frozen cucumbers and some beans and rice and after a few bites of Ben and Jerry's, we head aft into our cabin to rest our weary eyes.
Today is the GAM. It's drizzling a bit, but off we go in our dinghy to a public dock on shore and then walk a ½ mile to Dick and Kathy de Grasse's home. They have hosted this gathering of cruisers for the last 24 years. Everyone brings a dish to share and we meet and greet one another for a couple of hours, and share sea stories. One couple we met is now living on their powerboat, called Ancient mariner. They are 90 and 95 respectively, and are still cruising. Then, there is a speaker, a former captain of a 700 foot oil tanker, who describes a rescue his tanker made of a tug towing a barge on the ocean off of Florida during a hurricane. Chilling stuff. After the speaker we head back to the dinghy and then to River Rat. Later we have drinks with new friends Peter and Barbara aboard Lauri Clare, a 40' Pacific Seacraft, along with John and Eunice Wilcox, who are circumnavigators. Think of that for a second. They sailed their sailboat around the world, while home schooling their 6 year old daughter. Their longest offshore passage was for 28 days, 24 hours per day. Salad for dinner tonight, then off to bed.
Up at 0600 and ready to lift anchor and go, but, no go. Our batteries are dead. I forgot to charge up last night. My bad. So, the Admiral, still bleary eyed, wanders out of our cabin and gives me the evil eye, and we wait and wait and wait for the solar panels to do their thing. I hop in our dinghy and motor over to Grayce, who offers a portable generator, but just as I get ready to put it into the dinghy, Debi yells over that she's got the engine started. After thanking Jim and Joanne for the portable energy offer, I'm back on board River Rat and we're off on a new adventure, this time southward around the tip of Ilesboro Island, east into Fox Island Thorofare across East Penobscot Bay and into Merchant Row, an archipelago of rocky islands, most of which have large pines growing on them. We wander through a sea of lobster pots, many of them submerged, and come upon McGlathery Island, which has a beautiful cove on the north side. We drop anchor in 35' of water, let out 110' of chain and go ashore in our dinghy. The massive granite rock formations are astounding. God was very creative here. Back on board, we feast on marinated salmon cooked on a cedar plank on the grill, avocados and left over black beans and rice. Debi turns in at 1930 and I follow her soon.
Today we're heading toward the Mt. Desert area. Our plan is to go north eastward to Long Island, ME, and to a little harbor town called Frenchboro. There's not much wind in the morning, so we're motoring. Across Jericho bay there's a minefield of lobster pots to scoot around. Many of the pots have a float on the line down to the bottom, and another float maybe 20 feet from the first float, to make it easier for the lobster guy or gal to grab. The second float is called a toggle, and the line between the 2 floats makes it really hard to avoid. So far on this trip, I'm sorry to admit that we've snagged 2 of them. Our line cutter on the propeller shaft did its job. We arrived in Frenchboro, went ashore and walked around this lobstering town. Lobster rolls for lunch, then back to River Rat for a siesta. A small lobster boat, "Rebecca Ann" ties up next to us in the mooring field. He takes the lobsters he caught today from his boat and puts them in floating containers for the night. Debi yells over to the lobsterman asking if he will sell any. Off we go in the dinghy to buy some. Mike, the lobster guy sells us 2 1 ¾ pound beauties for $12. As we're talking about how the lobster guys and gals avoid the posts when they're pulling in their own pots, and he tells us that during any given year, he loses about 50 pots to lines being cut. At about $100 per rig, that's a big loss for a small operator. Then, he tells us that he snagged a pot today and the toggle line is wrapped around his propeller shaft now. He's got to ground his boat tonight before the tide goes out (he'll run the boat up a ramp at high tide and as the 10' tide recedes his boat will rest on the ramp) and then he will clear the shaft. The process will take about 15 hours, since the tide is rising now and low tide is in the middle of the night. Back to River Rat we go, and the angel on my shoulder, Admiral Debi, nudges me into making the right decision, so I decide to dawn my wetsuit and tank and help Mike out. Mike is thrilled, since clearing it now will allow him to get a good night's sleep. I forgot to bring my wetsuit hood, and the water is no more than 50 degrees, so when I dunk under, my head freezes, but 10 minutes of cutting and the shaft is clear. I remember my new friend Jerry who helped me with my wind generator in Belfast, so when Mike offers us lobsters in trade for my help, I tell him to just pass it forward, and he says he will. Our friends Chris and Ed from Freedom come over for cocktails and after they leave, we steam the lobsters and have them and a Caesar salad for dinner. We're feeling pretty good and the sun sets on this town of hard working folks.
Off we go on a brisk walk to the rocky shore on Frenchboro at 0945. Nothing but granite boulders on the southern shore of this island, but the views are spectacular. Back on River rat, we drop our mooring ball at 1130 and head northward to our final destination of this passage, Mt. Desert Island. There are 3 places we plan to go: Southwest Harbor (where Hinckley sailboats are made), Northeast Harbor and Somes Sound (which is like a 5 mile north and south fiord). We choose Somes Sound, and sail wing and wing up the sound to Somes Harbor, where we drop the hook at 1530. We take our dinghy to a dock maintained by the town of Somesville. The town has a little red box for donations to help cover the maintenance cost of the floating dock and pier. Back on board, we watch the sun set as we cook a marinated pork tenderloin on the grill, and are reading by 2000.

Today we're planning to visit Southwest Harbor on Mt. Desert. This will be a land tour, by way of one of the free busses provided to the island by a donation by LL Bean. The bus will pick you up anywhere along the route around the island and drop you anywhere. In 20 minutes we're dropped at the Hinckley boatyard, and we wander around looking at boats we can never afford to buy. Then, we walk back to town and visit some stores and have lunch (lobster Reuben). More walking around the harbor area, which is filled with boats (dinghies up to large power yachts). After paying way more than we should in a local gourmet market, we head back to River Rat on the bus. Storms are coming, so we plan to head back to the library on shore with our computers to catch up on stuff. It's very strange that in the areas we've visited in the past week or so, there has been no cell phone service, and very little internet access. From Vinalhaven northeast through Merchants Row, Jericho Bay, Frenchboro and now Mt. Desert, the only cell service that works at all, and it's spotty, is US Cellular. Anyway, with our phones not working, internet is our only contact with our kids, family and friends. As we peck away on keyboards at the library, the skies open and the deluge comes, for a couple of hours. The library is selling used books in a tent outside, but the tent erectors screwed up and the tent top is filling up with water. The librarian, Debi and I rescue the books and we head back to the boat, with our computers wrapped in a trash back for protection. On board again, we cook a pasta dinner and doze off.
Today we're still anchored in Somes Harbor, but we plan to go exploring somewhere on Mt. Desert. As we went to sleep last night we noticed Steadfast, a Hunter 45 center cockpit pull in to anchor next to us. She's the same make and model as River Rat, so we made plans to get together this morning, with us providing the coffee and the folks on Steadfast providing the home-made blueberry muffins. Our get together was great. Jim and Sherri Deignan are great people. We spent a couple of hours comparing boat notes and then decided to go hiking together up Cadillac Mountain. It took us a couple of bus rides to get to the base of the mountain, which had a small sign that explained that the trip up was 2.2 miles. Off we went on a sunny warm day. About 3/4ths of the way up the thunder boomers appeared, then lightning followed by rain and even some hail. We turned back. It seems that it's not a good idea to be on the face of a mountain when there's lightning all around. But, I assumed that was OK, since Debi is taller than me. So, in a drenching downpour we found our way down the mountainside, caught the bus and went into Bar Harbor, which is a beautiful town filled with tourists. Coffee warmed us up until we could get back on the bus to return to Somesville and River Rat. That night the 4 of us gathered on board for grilled chicken and steaks. As is often the case, it rained while I was grilling, but we had a great time with new friends, as we swapped cruising stories.
Before Steadfast pulled out of the harbor, Jim helped me realign my steering wheel. My wheel folds up when not in use, to give more room in the cockpit. But when I fold it up and keep the rudder straight (headed fore and aft), the folded steering wheel is not straight up and down. Jim had the same problem and knew how to fix it. Ten minutes later, off went Steadfast and off we went to take a bus to Jordan Pond, where everyone told us we needed to have the popovers at the Jordan Pond House. On the bus, we ran into Peter and Barbara, from a boat named Lauri Clair. We met them at the SSCA GAM in Ilesboro last week. They joined us for lunch at Jordan Pond and yes, we had popovers with our lobster stew. The popovers, with butter and jam, were fantastic. We said our goodbyes on the bus and went back to River Rat for dinner and a quiet evening. All's good.
Good bye Mt. Desert. Today we're heading slightly south of west to Stonington, ME. It's a working town filled with lobster boats. Surprisingly, the wind has shifted and for the first time this trip, is blowing out of the northwest, so today's a sailing day. I'm not as worried about the lobster pots when I'm sailing, because if I snag one I won't have to worry about wrapping the toggle line around the prop. So off we go and we sail all day until we arrive in Stonington Harbor at about 0300. In the distance I spy a dark hulled sailboat being towed into the harbor by a lobster boat. Turns out that it's Peter and Barbara on Lauri Clair, who we've gotten to know pretty well since we met them at the SSCA GAM. We connect on the radio. He's called a diver to clear his propeller shaft and I suggest that he cancel that and tell him I'll dive and clear it. The water's not as cold as it was the last time I did this, but still, it's colder than I'd prefer. I feel like Lloyd Bridges, diving with my knife, as I saw through the tightly wrapped toggle line, but after about 10 minutes, it's cleared. After we return to River Rat I see Peter has got something hanging on his anchor as he's trying to haul it up, so I head back to help him with that. It's an old line tied off to something on the bottom. He's having a bad day. Peter invites us over for dinner and we accept. He's a great cook, so we enjoy our night out aboard Lauri Clair and together we watch the sun set and the Super Moon rise. Not a bad way to end the day!
We're lazy on this Sunday, so we're headed on our dinghy into Stonington, which is a small seaside village, to walk around, explore and have a bowl of Lobster Chowder at the Fisherman's Friend, a restaurant we've been referred to. The ships chandlery, the only store I'm interested in, is closed, but Debi has fun wandering through the other shops. For lunch I have a cup of the chowder (milk based, buttery soup filled with lobster chunks) and a small lobster roll. I feel that it's my duty to devour as many lobsters as I can while I'm here. After lunch we up the anchor and head slightly south of west toward Fox Island Thorofare, on our way to Rockland harbor, where we'll spend the night and do laundry. The wind is blowing at about 10-12 kts., and from the right direction, so we've got a great day of sailing (no motor). But still, there are those pesky lobster pots to avoid. We pull into Rockland Harbor at about 1800 and pick up a mooring, cook hamburgers on the grill and settle in for a good night's sleep.
Laundry this morning in Rockland Harbor at the Journey's End Marina. Just $1.00 per load. What a bargain! Debi volunteers for the task, as I've got to figure out why when my house battery bank discharges, my starter battery discharges simultaneously. That's not supposed to happen. At about 1130, Debi calls for the laundry pick-up dinghy to come and as dinghy captain, I dutifully arrive for my assigned task. Debi, as reward for her work, goes to lunch and then for a haircut. For me, there's more frustration, as I can't figure out why the discharge problem is occurring. The day passes, we drop our mooring ball and head to the south side of the harbor to anchor for the night. We drop the hook and as we do, I see a tug moving out of the corner of my eye. A minute later the tug calls River Rat on the VHF radio and says that she's getting ready to tow a barge and where we're anchored may make his work a little difficult. I get the hint and up comes the anchor and we move to a safer location. Our friends on Lauri Clair pull into Rockland Harbor, so we make plans to have dinner ashore, and we do at the Rockland Café, where they serve 3 lobsters for $23.00. Tomorrow, we're off to Tenant's Harbor, which is not too far a run to the southeast.
The fog came in last night and this morning it’s so thick I can’t see any other boats around us. It doesn’t mean they aren’t there though. So we sit, or should I say I sit, and the Admiral sleeps. It’s still foggy when she awakens, but it’s slowly lifting. As it does, we lift the anchor and head out of Rockland Sound and then west and a little south toward Tenant’s Harbor. Within an hour, the fog comes in again and we’re unable to see more than about 100 feet in any direction. Boats are out there though, so we put on radar and listen for the horns. In another hour, this fog bank passes and the wind picks up a bit, so we can sail for most of the day. Debi decides that we should go farther west, to Christmas Cove at the mouth of the Damariscotta River instead of Tenant’s Harbor. We call ahead for a mooring. Our approach is from the east (through a small strait called the Thread of Life), which is not the recommended approach, so we’ve got to be especially careful. As we approach the cove, there are 2 marks (red and a green poles) we must pass through. There’s not much room to spare, and the marks are planted in rocks. It’s calm now, so it’s not a problem. We pick up our mooring, shower and head ashore to Coveside, a restaurant we went to when we were here sailing with my brother 8 years ago. We order mussels, and they’re wonderful in a broth of garlic, wine, tomatoes and capers. Back on River Rat, we watch the ospreys atop the green mark, which is no more than 40’ from our stern, and as darkness comes, after reading for about 15 minutes, we drift into dreamland.

Vessel Name: River Rat
Vessel Make/Model: Hunter 45CC
Hailing Port: White Stone, VA
Crew: Captain Carl, Admiral Debi, First Mate Hanna Isbrandtsen
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River Rat's Photos -

Who: Captain Carl, Admiral Debi, First Mate Hanna Isbrandtsen
Port: White Stone, VA