Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Lovin' Maine

I'm loving Maine.

I'm loving the natural beauty, the lightly populated towns and small cities, the historic architecture, the many lighthouses, the seafood, the cool temperatures, the variable weather, excellent sailing conditions and the strong maritime character, both contemporary and in heritage. There is an interesting mix of progressive and libertarian politics which I can be in conflict, yet also compliment each other on some issues. Reported rates of COVID infection are very low and people are taking reasonable precautions to keep it that way. Though the tourism industry has suffered and I'm sympathetic to the people whose livelihoods depend on visitors, I also appreciate that there aren't the normal crowds of tourists in towns and more boats crowding the harbors.

Looking at the charts, one could spend a lifetime exploring the hundreds of bays, coves, rivers and islands here. If you include all of the islands, Maine has over 5,000 miles of coastline! I'm only getting a little taste of the giant cruising feast laid out in front of me.

We enjoyed a nice downwind sail, the main and jib "wing-on-wing", from Quahog Bay to Tenants Harbor on Thursday (August 20). We anchored in Long Cove, a well-protected lagoon about three-quarters of a mile from town and hunkered down for the evening, enjoying the scenery and peacefulness of the place.

In the morning, Lisa hailed a passing lobster boat, "Did you get any?", which caused the lobstermen to turn around and offer us two small lobsters for $10, just plucked from the bottom of the sea. They later made a nice dinner.

After breakfast and a few boat chores, we took the dinghy to town. Tenants Harbor is a pleasant little town, off the beaten tourist path and it didn't take long to explore on foot; a general store, a bakery, a couple of restaurants, two art galleries, a fishermans wharf, a little league field and nice, modest, tidy homes. We ventured beyond town a bit to get some exercise, me jogging, Lisa on the bike. After my run, I enjoyed a nice imported German pilsner at the local beer garden...two, actually.

The next day (August 22), we set off for Rockland, a big harbor with a pretty good-sized town. We anchored in the southwest portion of the harbor, just outside the large mooring field in front of town. We arrived midday, which gave us the afternoon to walk around town, visit the Atlantic Baking Company, where I picked up two delicious raisin rolls, and enjoy a nice IPA at the Liberator Brewing Company and listen to some live music, something I have been sorely missing in these days of COVID.

On Sunday (August 23), Lisa left for a week's break from the boat (and me) to visit a friend in Washington DC, taking the bus to Portland to catch her plane. I took her departure as an opportunity to do a huge load of laundry, which I hauled to the laundromat along the sidewalk in my big roller duffel. The COVID precautions at all the laundromats I've been to recently include prohibiting folding of clothes inside. Fortunately, this laundromat has a big picnic table nearby, which I used for my folding. The saying, "Don't air your dirty laundry in public" came to mind, but my laundry was clean, so it didn't apply.

Monday morning I cleaned the salon, mostly straightening up and polishing the woodwork. It's a lot of work keeping a boat clean and I've fallen behind, inside and out. Afterwards, I managed to lash the propane tank to the bike's luggage carrier and pedal it about a mile to get it topped up. It looked a bit unwieldy and I imagined getting a ticket for illegal transport of flammable gas or falling over and exploding into a giant fireball.

I had learned via Instagram that an old friend from California, John Kuony, was working on his boat at the Lyman-Morse yard in nearby Camden. John apparently learned via social media that I was in Rockland. This led each of us to get in contact with the other and John invited me to take a look at his boat, Perseverance, and join him and his wife, Jeanine, for drinks and dinner.

I rode my bike the eight miles to Camden, mostly on busy Route 1 but with a nice stretch along a bike path through Rockport (home of L.L. Bean), and then through the scenic local streets of Camden. Historic Camden is a really nice looking town and its harbor is really lovely, as is Rockport's.

I met John and the Lyman-Morse yard where Perseverance, a Celestial 48 built in 1983, was blocked up inside a shed. John had been scraping away old paint for the last four days and had just finished the big, tedious job. I clambered up a ladder onto Perseverance's deck. She is a beautiful, tough, bluewater yacht that completed two circumnavigations prior to John's ownership. I toured below decks and was impressed by the layout, fit, finish and equipment. A proper yacht.  I would really enjoy a long-distance cruise on this boat.

John, Jeanine and I enjoyed a nice dinner on the Camden waterfront, eating outside but under cover as it was raining. It was great meeting Jeanine, catching up on life with John, and sharing sailing stories and dreams. John and Jeanine are really wonderful people and they love Maine waters and know them well. It was hard to resist their urging me to stay longer and consider another summer of sailing here.

John and Jeanine gave me a ride back to the dinghy dock as the weather was pretty gloomy. Thank goodness for a folding bike, which fit nicely in the back of their sporty Volvo wagon.

This morning I set sail singlehanded to Castine, about 25 miles north. I always get a little nervous sailing by myself. Not from a lack of confidence or being afraid of anything, more from not having anyone around that might catch my mistakes. Though I do enjoy having to think things out beforehand, move more purposefully around the boat and focusing on sailing and nothing much else.

The trip started off in foggy conditions. The fog was patchy, visibility decreasing to less than a mile and then opening up to several miles showing land shrouded in semi-transparent mist, the sea a steel grey. I was grateful for radar and for the automatic foghorn feature on the VHF/hailer, which I set to sound its one long, two short beeps for making way under sail. I blew the foghorn in the dense patches, turned it off when I emerged. I was the only vessel doing this, but better safe than sorry, in my book.

The fog lifted and we turned downwind for the main leg to north Castine. I rigged up an outboard sheet to fly the jib better "wing-on-wing" with the main which worked great, a big improvement of the normal configuration. It was easy sailing with pine covered islands in the distance on either side dotting the shores of Penobscot Bay, tall, rounded hills rising further away on the mainland shore to the west.

I practiced reefing the mainsail downwind by myself, easing the halyard from the mast a couple of feet at a time, then winching in the reefing line to stop the sail from billowing out by keeping some tension on the leech. Ease a little, tension a little until I could make fast the reefing cringle.  It worked like a dream under the calm conditions and I'm pretty confident this method would work pretty well in higher winds, too.

I entered Castine harbor and dropped the sails just as the thunderstorm predicted for the afternoon was building. I motored around a bit checking out places to anchor and selected a spot in Smith Cove called "Indian Bar", tucked behind a point of land that provides protection from the northwesterlies forecast to blow tonight and tomorrow.  Another beautiful scenic Maine anchorage.

Right after I dropped anchor, the thunderstorm came and dumped heavy rain but, thankfully, was accompanied by very little lightning. After the storm, I watched a seal fishing for its dinner, the school of fish breaking the surface of the water with a whooshing sound as they tried to escape. The sun set among the remnants of the storm's black clouds.

I'm loving Maine.

The mooring ball float I cut away from the propeller in Saco River, just before disposal

House in Tenants Harbor

Another nice house in Tenants Harbor

Scenery form the shores of Tenants Harbor

Low tide in Tenant's Harbor

Lighthouse on the way to Rockland

Foggy sunset in Rockland Harbor
Propane tank refill by bike

Lighthouse at the end of the breakwater in Rockland Harbor.
Sunset after the storm in Castine Harbor