Once upon a blue moon, Matador turns around in Maine.
Thanks to the 3 of you that bugged me about the lack of updates, I guess 3 constitutes an audience, so I will persevere.
Those of you who follow the winlink position (top right 3rd link down) will know that we are all the way up in Maine at the top of the USA, the last state before Canada. This wasn't what was intended. We thought we would potter around the Chesapeake Bay until the hurricane season had passed, then head south again. Well, the main problem with this plan, is that in July and August Chesapeake is hot enough to boil a lobster alive, the water is hot, full of tannin, jellyfish and snakes. It was also having a heat wave, so we came on north until we started to wear socks and put the duvet back on the bed. We naively thought that you went north to Chesapeake to get away from the hurricanes coming up from the Caribbean from July to November. Well, it helps, but as we chatted to people in each location, they remember hurricane Irene, in New York, in Boston, in Cape Ann, and found that superyachts come all the way to Maine to weather hurricanes in the excellent protected anchorages here. Yes, that means hurricanes come all the way up here – sometimes. Well, you probably also know that they go all the way to England and create horrible summer storms too. But, they will be much, much less bad than staying in the Caribbean, or Florida.
Our internet sessions always start with the excellent www.nhc.noaa.gov website, which tracks and predicts tropical storms, and you can check out all the previous years tracks too, and learn the difference between tropical depressions, tropical storms (TS)and each category of hurricane – so I don't have to explain it. Our insurance companies write TS clauses in our contracts that force us to certain latitudes by certain dates to ensure coverage for damages. The tropical storms had a really early start in May this year, we watched them pass us by in the Bahamas, as they went up the US coast. TS Beryl chased our friends up the US coast – their insurers told them to be north of 35 degrees by 1 June. Beryl went right over them at 35N on 2 June, and we enjoyed a few more weeks down in the Bahamas, out of the tracks because of different insurance. Lucky our friends didn't get too much wind, or any damage, but they were forced into that position by their insurance cover!
After Beryl and Chris in June it all went quiet for a while. Now they are lining up one after the other, Leslie being the latest,as they work through the alphabetical names. So we are happy to remain up here for a few more weeks, until long sleeves and trousers become the daily attire, and then it really will be time to head south to the sun again. We don't want to get frozen in for the winter.
Maine is a beautiful cruising ground, with many bays rivers and natural anchorages. Dolphins and seals are all around, and occasionally whales can be seen. The waterline is thick with trees and there are plenty of opportunities for walks and cycles. We like it so much we might even come all the way back next year!!
It's dual drawbacks are frequent fog and zillions of lobster pots. The sea bottom must be crawling with lobsters this time of year, and the cost is down to $3/lb of live lobster. Not even the big ship channels are left free of pots – they are just everywhere, so it doesn't make for very relaxing passage making. We have to be on our guard constantly so as not to run one down and get it wrapped around the propeller or rudder. Add 100m visibility to the mix, and it doesn't make for a fun day on the water. Now September is just around the corner the autumnal weather brings clear blue skies (after the cold fronts), warming sun and a nip in the air, and unfortunately for yachties, a bit of mildew!
Bangor, 26 August 2012 LATITUDE: 44-46.49N LONGITUDE: 068-47.19W
Our northern most point in Maine was Bangor, up the Penobscot river, the venue for the American Folk Festival. It is a 3 day event featuring music that reflects the roots of America's settler history from Indian hoop dancing, tap dancing cowboys (I kid you not), swing bands, blues, cajun, bluegrass, afro-american and latin american music. As well as lots of fiddling and banjo playing it was a history education in itself. There was even a band of guys, all of Croatian descent, looking like the mafia playing little guitar things – they were awesome.
We picked up a mooring at Waterfront marina, 2 miles downstream of the festival and enjoyed peace and quiet on the river between music sessions. We were reminded how much we enjoy pottering up rivers, away from the turmoil of the sea, it is so peaceful and pretty up there.
Now we are back in Camden for the Windjammer festival, pretty old wooden schooners with no engines, beautifully restored to their heyday glory. After racing, they are pushed back into the bay by little boats – traditionally they would have been rowing boats I guess.
There are lots of watery activities planned for the weekend. We're here with Yindee Plus, Daydreamer, Full Monty, Interlude and Moonshadow, old friends and new ones thanks to the SSB radio, and our net at 9am on 8161. It has been really great for keeping in touch with others up and down the coast, and ensured we have had plenty of opportunities for socialising.
Well, here is a run-down of the places we have visited on our way north. Hopefully you can see why we haven't had time to write about it!
Castine &Smith Cove 21 August 2012
LATITUDE: 44-22.34N LONGITUDE: 068-46.83W
Castine is a historic old town, occupied by the Brits in 1812 in a 'humiliating' defeat according to the tourist leaflet. You can wander the leafy avenues and admire the restored homes of the rich and successful. The town has 300 huge elm trees, carefully saved from the the nasty dutch disease. We enjoyed the music on Waterfront Wednesday and an organic farmers market (Thurs) – a bit of an expensive treat, but very welcome after the half-frozen supermarket offerings that turn to mush as soon as they reach the boat.
Smith cove, a 2 mile deep bay is a very pretty anchorage, with exceptional sticky mud. It is a hurricane hole, meaning it has 360 degree protection from wind and waves. Superyachts come from New York to anchor here in bad weather. With a bit more time we would have explored the numerous walking tracks and cycled the gravel track among the gorgeous holiday homes in the forest. Initial explorations ended in a bit of a mosquito misery, so we'll go armed and prepared next time around. It would be a great place to gunk-hole, and see to Matador's peeling varnish and UV degraded canvas work – but the Windjammer Fest and friends beckoned.
Pulpit Harbour, North Haven
LAT 44-09.24N LONG 068-53.07W
Another gem of an anchorage. We wrestled the bikes into the dinghy and ashore. It was such a luxury to cycle in chilly air again. We discovered an oyster store (24 hour with honesty fridge) and Stu gorged on a bakers dozen for $10. Myself, I can't see the appeal of slurping grey blob from a briny shell, but lots of people seem to love it, so I must be the odd'un. For an island store, North Haven is very unusual, having a wealth of good quality products from around the world, and not at crazy island prices. We partied with Kurt and Katy on Interlude and had a lovely dinner and a bit of music practice with them – they played, we practiced.
Camden and the Ocean Cruising Club 20 August 2012
LATITUDE: 44-20.97N LONGITUDE: 069-04.87W
Camden Yacht club were hosting the Ocean Cruising Club meet, so we came here to meet up with a few of the members. There were a bunch of younger cruising couples (Serafina, Saltwhistle III, Egret, Blue Highway and Makushla) in the club. We joined them for the lobster dinner and decided to join up. You need to have completed a 1000 mile ocean passage and be nominated by a member. The benefits are the knowledge and help from a host of Port Officers in various locations, who do their utmost to welcome transient club members visiting their home towns. It must be an extensive knowledge base of people who have cruised all over. Well, we'll see after the first year if we think it is worthwhile and report back. We would have joined them for their mini-cruise-in-company, but we were committed to Bangor Music festival and couldn't do both.
Rockland Harbour Lobster galore
Like many other bays in Maine (and the US in general) mooring buoys have proliferated in the last 10 years, without much thought for us transient folk who like to lay our anchor for whatever reason, cost, comfort, size or preference. Where the charts show a 'designated anchorage area' it is usually stuffed full of mooring balls and we are no longer 'allowed' to anchor between them, being relegated to the outskirts of the mooring field, or in some cases, such as Belfast, outside the harbour altogether and in the swell. But to be fair although some of the best spots or anchorages have disappeared we have successfully anchored almost everywhere with one exception ( see Plymouth) and been welcomed by harbourmaster and the locals, all the same.
Moorings a plenty in Rockland, but still a bit of room for us on the edge. It was a very arty little town, and a comfortable cycle to the supermarkets, which makes a change. We celebrated our 10,000 miles passage from Turkey (and 20,000 miles overall) with a meal at the excellent Lobsterman's restaurant. So called, because, guess what, he is a lobsterman. He goes out at 5am and pulls up his pots, brings back his catch for the day, then starts work in his restaurant preparing pounds of lobster, crab and other shellfish. It was excellent food and really good value – we have not matched it anywhere else in Maine. We plan to go back and Stu has asked if he can go out on the lobster boat to see how it all works. I will eat my hat if he gets up at 5am to go out on a chilly morning without whimpering, but we'll see.
|Is it true that people start to resemble the food they eat?|
LATITUDE: 43-50.88N LONGITUDE: 069-38.08W
We didn't find much to commend this place – well, it was raining as well. Stuffed full of holiday makers and had the tourism takeover. I guess we should give the towns credit for the restoration of their waterfronts, and the proliferation of eateries, but it seems to us that the towns have lost their individuality – they all have the same look and feel and it's hard to see any local people or find real community events. This felt like a roll'em in, rip'em off and shutdown for winter type of place.
(Apparently there are lots of pleasant anchorages around Boothbay so we'll visit those next time rather than the town)
The redeeming feature of towns like this is the pubs serving beer and cider from local micro-breweries and hosting excellent bands. At one such bar, with a very entertaining band, at half-time the guitarist offered around some interesting home-made cookies with a distinctive smell and taste– guaranteed to ensure his audience appreciated the second half even more.
|Yes it is!!|
Jewel Island 15 August 2012
LATITUDE: 43-41.36N LONGITUDE: 070-05.37W
A little get away from it all island, to celebrate our arrival in Maine. There is nothing ashore except some walking tracks leading to WWII watch towers to climb and admire the view. Lovely little place given over to campers and boaters. I even had a swim and as a result of the extremely cold water had an endolphin experience – like endorphins, but you only get them in cold water. To understand you need to read Waterlogged, an sublime book by Roger Deakin.
Ile de Shoals 13 August 2012
LATITUDE: 42-58.76N LONGITUDE: 070-36.79W
A strange little anchorage formed by building low breakwaters to join up 3 islands in the middle of nowhere. Plymouth Yacht Club have laid some moorings here for members, but are free for the use of others when no members are on them. It would be a bit of a bummer at the end of the day to be turfed off and have to go out to sea, but that is unlikely if you avoid visiting at weekends. The island is owned by and home to a large church, and is a private retreat, but visitors are welcome and apparently not subjected to any unwelcome brainwashing activities.
Rockport 8 August 2012
LATITUDE: 42-39.71N LONGITUDE: 070-37.21W
We quickly exhausted the lobster shacks and tourist trap shops of Rockport (who needs to buy overpriced sun-dried tomato paste, or Spanish paprika on holiday in Maine?) we tried to leave for more northern shores. It is quite pretty and looks a lot like North Brittany where we spent most of our summer sailing holidays, learning skills that the average US sailor never gets the chance to practice, like anchoring in strong currents and high tides. Dodging crab pot markers and blind navigation in fog, Still the pink granite boulders on the shoreline and sublime evening light conditions make us reminisce about those crazy days.
At 6am, 7, 8 and 9 we peeked out and it was still foggy. At 10 we left, sailed straight into thick fog, thought 'why are we doing this?' and went back and anchored again. By the afternoon the fog had cleared, and we decided to go back south 10 miles to Gloucester to try for the Blues Festival there. We anchored in the inner harbour and found the harbourmaster very helpful. It was a bit tight among the fishing boats at anchor but asked the harbourmaster's advice and found a spot with swinging room. There are moorings for a very reasonable $25 a night, but no pressure to take one.
Gloucester 10 August 2012
LATITUDE: 42-36.63N LONGITUDE: 070-39.41W
The town is a real working-class hard-man deep-sea fishing harbour. We weren't put off by the noise from the fish-packing factories and a thousand fat seagulls, or even some rain.
Once you get the locals talking they are friendly and fascinating. The Andrea Gale (of Perfect Storm fame) was based in this port, and the deep sea fishing heritage is in evidence all around.
|Old schooners like this would have fished the Grand Banks|
There is an interesting cycle around the classy north shore. We came across a Stop and Shop supermarket on the way back (about a mile from the harbour). Great supermarket with lots of stuff we were despairing of ever finding at reasonable prices - olive oil, cheddar cheese, British tea bags, UHT milk etc. We tentatively asked if they did deliveries and the young manager said, yes indeed, why not? and delivered our shopping to the coast guard station in her own car!!
So the purpose of our stop was to attend the Blues festival - a first for Gloucester. The line up included Eddie Shaw and Lucky Peterson - names which didn't mean a lot to us, but were obviously big ones! It was a great day out, and followed up by free live music in one of many bars in the harbour loop.
So a great little town, friendly people, interesting history and we'll be back for more on our return trip down the coast.
There is a train link to Boston city from Gloucester (about 1 hour and you can take your bike) so that might be the easiest way visit the city, and we might do that on the way back south.
(Note 2 public dinghy docks - next to CG boat and harbourmaster office, for town, or Cripple Creek cove for the north shore. Laundromat, big pharmacy/convenience store, about 5 mins walk from CG).
Plymouth (of the Mayflower fame), Massachusets.
|The Mayflower - a replica|
We aimed here as a convenient stop and to catch up with Full Monty stuck in the marina doing essential boat works, and in need of cruiser company. We found that mooring buoys had been put in the only decent anchorage near town, and the harbour master charges $40 a night ( no facilities). So now you can anchor in a tight spot north of the moorings, but someone has to stay on board, or anchor out in the Cow yard 2 miles out (and keep someone on board). We took a mooring and headed in to pay our dues. We found the rudest and most grumpiest American yet in the harbourmaster/police office. First he growled about us tying up our dinghy (which was well out of the way as it turned out), then barked had we cleared customs, phoned Customs&Border Patrol etc, which we had. Then he slammed down a form and barked - fill that in. There were 2 young officers in the office with him, who were good-naturedly chatting with us at the time - fancy them having to work with such a grump every day. We offered up our cash - but they don't take cash ( as someone has had their hand in the till previously - this being the police!) and no cards - only money orders or cheques - which we don't have, not being locals. So he gave us a business card and told us to post one once we got round to it. “I promise the cheque is in the post.”
We had a great night with Full Monty, and didn't get around to visiting the town, which has far too many tourists for it's own good! Thanks to Mr Grump we decided to move on the next day.