Friday, July 30, 2010

Time to start thinking of turning around

Somes Harbor, Mt Desert Is, ME 44 21.63 N 68 19.62 W

The past week we have continued on our east by northeast course along the Maine coast with stops in Christmas Cove, Poorhouse Cove, Port Clyde, Tenants Harbor, Perry Creek and Seal Bay (both on the island of Vinalhaven) and arrived at Somes Sound on Mt Desert Island this afternoon. With the exception of two different overnight rains followed by mornings of lifting fog, the weather has been spectacular; warm sunny days with low humidity and cool clear nights.

Following our last post, we left “The Basin” last Fri morning; traveling south back down the New Meadow River, slaloming around dense lobster pot buoys once again and rounded Cape Small, officially leaving Casco Bay.
East of Casco bay is known as the “mid-coast region” of ME. We crossed Sheepscot Bay, past Boothbay Harbor. and then up the Damariscotta River to a small harbor village known as Christmas Cove, located on Rutherford Is. (We never did find out how it got that name). After the past 4 days of blissfully remote anchorages, we needed to find a harbor that had enough civilization for us to pick up a Wi-Fi internet connection so that we could upload the last blog. The hop from “The Basin” to Christmas Cove was only about 24 miles. As is proving typical, the developed harbors are so crowded there is no room to drop anchor so we have no choice but to pick up a mooring ball, which we did from the Coveside Restaurant. We needed to stretch our legs and there are only 3 roads on the island, so we walked up one road a few miles to the swing bridge at South Bristol that spans a narrow passage between the island and mainland called the “gut”.
The Gut at South Bristol
South Bristol is your quintessential Maine commercial fishing harbor with plenty of lobster boats, colorful tackle and wooden wharfs. That evening we ate at the Coveside Restaurant overlooking the harbor. We were both hoping for lobster but none were on the menu – go figure!

We awoke to thick fog on Saturday but had decided one night in Christmas Cove was enough. Mark hated to pay another night’s mooring fee, preferring to anchor on our own ground tackle and we were both spoiled by our previous two quiet, secluded anchorages. So we waited until the visibility improved slightly in the afternoon, then motored about an hour around the south end of the island and up Johns Bay to a place known as Poorhouse Cove. There are so many small little coves and bays along the Maine coastline that offer secluded places to anchor. Since they’re not included in the cruising guides they are not frequented by the many. They typically don’t have any navigational buoys so you just thread your way in following depths and charts. Our favorite and most memorable locations we’ve experienced have been in these gunk holes.

Poorhouse Cove panorama
Poorhouse Cove is rimmed with evergreen conifers, granite ledges, a smattering of cottages, docks and unoccupied boats. It reminded us more of being on a fresh water lake. The cove was named after a large former “poorhouse” situated at the north end that is now just a large stately manor overlooking the cove. We stayed two nights in Poorhouse Cove – with one other cruising sailboat the 1st night and all by ourselves the 2nd night. We really enjoy the peace and serenity of being in your own private little anchorage.
Ready to dinghy back with purchased
lobsters from the Fisherman's Co-Op

We were in need of a lobster fix for our evening meal so in the afternoon we dinghied about 1/2 hour back down to the Gut in South Bristol to where we had taken our walk from Christmas Cove the day before. We bought 3 lobsters at the Fisherman’s Co-Op dock. The fellow that sold us our lobsters stated that this one co-op receives 4000 to 5000 lobsters per day! The lobsters were great and we finished our wine as the full moon was rising over the cove that night.

We left Poorhouse Cove on Tuesday morning, rounding Pemaquid Pt through Muscongus Bay, on a northeast course towards Penobscot bay. We made a short lunch stop at a small town know as Port Clyde.
Port Clyde
The General Store and lunch on the patio
We picked up one of the free moorings provided by the Port Clyde General Store and dinghies into the dock. The General Store is reminiscent of the old-time traditional general stores. Worn bare wood floors, a soda fountain / ice cream counter with stools, and everything else in between from liquor, groceries, meats, bakery to hardware, sundries and gasoline.
We had had another lobster dinner at their outdoor patio cafe. Afterwards it was only another short distance around the point into what begins Penobscot Bay.

We anchored in Long Cove, adjacent to nearby Tenants Harbor and then took a short dinghy ride over to the town dock of Tenants Harbor and walked around town. Of course we did stop at the Cod End Fish Market dockside for a small order of succulent fried oysters.

Tenants Hrb. - Long Cove anchorage
Kathy kayaking back to Carina on
the Perry Creek, Vinalhaven Is
On Wed. we traveled from Tenants Harbor up the Muscle Ridge Channel, across Penobscot Bay to the large island of Vinalhaven. The Fox Island Thoroughfare is a wide channel that divides the towns & islands of North Haven (on the north) from Vinalhaven (on the south). We spent Wed night in a snug anchorage on Perry Creek, kayaking all the shallow headwaters of the creek.
It still amazes us how undeveloped and unspoiled all of these bays and coves are compared to what would be the case down in southern New England. Overnight a passing cold front gave us our 1st rain in a week and helped wash the salt off the fore deck.

Thursday was only a short trip 7 mile trip down the east side of Vinalhaven to Winter Harbor and Seal Bay. The bay is quite large with expansive views however it is quite protected because of the many small islands and rocky islets scattered throughout. Another colony of seals was sunning themselves on one of these islets. It was a little too windy to go kayaking in the afternoon so we went exploring all around by dinghy. The winds finally calmed enough after 5PM to take in a kayak tour -unfortunately just after having our afternoon cocktails.
Approaching Mt Desert Island

Somes Sound

Carina anchored in Somes Hrb
Friday we crossed East Penobscot Bay continuing east by northeast to Mount Desert Island. We entered Somes Sound which is the only fjord in the eastern US. We are presently anchored at the head of Somes Sound in Somes Harbor. We expect to spend the next few days in this harbor and take in Acadia NP. There is a free island shuttle bus that we can pick up on the road the town dinghy dock is located on.

This will also probably be as far down east that we will travel. After 5 weeks cruising, it's time to start thinking of turning around to head back south. We have a family wedding to be at on Labor Day. Some stats: Since departing Farm River on 6/23 we have traveled about 450 nm., put about 60 hours on each engine (1/4 tank of fuel), only used the generator on two occasions (more to make hot water than to charge batteries) and we have not been plugged into shore power since departing. The solar panels and the engine alternators (when they are running) handle all of our electrical power needs more than adequately. As for the two of us, we have thoroughly enjoyed every day.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Land of Fog and Lobster Pots

The Basin, off the New Meadow River, Casco Bay, ME 43 48.37 N 69 51.15 W

We left Annisquam, MA last Thursday and hop scotched our way along the southern coast of Maine with stops in York Harbor, Biddeford Pool and Portland, followed by two wonderfully secluded anchorages in Casco Bay.
Walking along the Marginal Way
Our first port of call in the beautiful state of Maine was York with the intent of meeting up with our friends Bob and Rod who are vacationing in York. We motored in light winds over the calm, mill-pond-smooth waters of Ipswich Bay. Along the way we did some whale watching as we spotted several Pilot whales on either side of us. Anchoring is not permitted in York harbor due to the very strong river currents so we picked up a town mooring. Later that evening we dinghied over to a dock where our friends Bob & Rod picked us up and took us back to their vacation house back on Cape Neddick for a home cooked dinner.
Lunch on Ogunquit Beach 
We spent a 2nd day at York Harbor and Bob & Rod took us on a sight seeing tour of nearby Perkin’s Cove and Ogonquit. We walked the Marginal Way which is a scenic path along the shoreline from Perkin’s Cove to Ogonquit Beach. Heavy fog hung just offshore on the morning walk. After a lovely lunch in Ogonquit followed by some gelato we retraced our steps back to Perkin’s Cove. The fog had lifted giving us some spectacular views of the rocky coast of Maine. After a stop for some provisions we headed back to the boat prior to forecasted thunderstorms.

Thunderstorms did go through overnight and left us with a clear (i.e. fog-free) day, but light winds directly at our stern, so once again we motored the 26m to Biddeford Pool to spend the night before continuing on the meet up with our friends and fellow Manta owners, Phil and Maryanne von Stade in Portland.

Carina on a mooring in Portland Harbor
Sunday dawned bright and sunny with no fog and favorable winds for a nice sail up to Portland. Portland is Maine’s busiest commercial harbor with all sorts of vessels coming and going at all hours of the day and night. Needless to say it did not make for restful sleeping. Phil & Maryanne picked us up and drove us down to their home in lovely and quiet Prout’s Neck. We joined them and others in a traditional every-Sunday-night sunset dinner out on the rocky shore followed by a sing along at the Prout’s Neck Yacht Club.

Sunset dinner at Prout's Neck

Downtown Portland
 Monday was a work day as Phil &Maryanne graciously offered us use of their car and condo so we could do laundry, run errands and re-provision. We took in a little of the Portland waterfront including lunch. Although the anchorage was not our favorite the city has a lot of charm.With chores complete we bid farewell to Phil and Maryanne after a wonderful Sushi dinner on Monday night. Tuesday morning we left the bustle of Portland to stern and traveled a short distance into calm and scenic Casco Bay. Just 13 miles but it was a total change in appearance.

Seals at The Goslings

The Goslings
We anchored off of Lower Goose Island & 4 smaller uninhabited islands known as The Goslings in upper Casco Bay. After spending two days/nights in the rolly and bustling Portland Harbor, this anchorage was gloriously quiet, secluded, calm and picturesque. We kayaked over to a small rocky island to see a couple dozen seals sunning themselves on rocks. We also went exploring on one of the Gosling Islands which is an island in the Maine Island Trails system.

A sea of lobster pot buoys !
A word about lobster pot buoys: Ever since Rockport MA the density of pot buoys around in-shore areas is beyond mere words to describe. Likewise, photos do not effectively capture the image of a sea of hundreds upon hundreds of brightly colored pot buoys spread as far as the eye can see. In most areas the spacing is less than 50’ apart so it appears you can leap from one to another. The concern is that lines get wrapped around your propellers if motoring. Even sailing with folding props lines can get hung up either between one of our rudders or on our sail drives. It can be quite tedious to steer around them making navigation and sailing quite a challenge. Since we love lobster we’ll accept the fact that cruising in ME and lobster pots go together.

Wednesday morning, again in light winds, we motored about 17m down and around Harpswell Point and up the New Meadow River to a place known as “The Basin”. We spotted several harbor porpoises along the way.

The Basin
The Basin is a fully protected cove or hurricane hole about a ½ mile in diameter with excellent mud bottom holding. A few houses are visible along the north side but most of the perimeter is undeveloped and unspoiled. We went exploring by kayak during low tide and soon discovered an exposed gravel bar teaming with mussels so prolific we could reach down and pluck handfuls of them while still sitting in our kayaks. In less than 5 minutes we each had a pile of mussels in each of our kayaks. After returning to the boat to deposit the mussels in a net bag overboard, we resumed our kayak trip around the entire cove. We returned back to Carina a few hours later just as the clouds and fog began to fill the sky. It took us 45 minutes to clean what turned out to be over a 100 mussels and one clam. After showers and afternoon cocktails we watched TV to check on impending severe thunderstorms.
Fresh mussels( between T-storms)
A 1st thunderstorm with a short blast of rain came and went – no big deal. Kathy made steamed mussels in a sherry cream broth using freshly picked Oregano, Basil & Parsley from our onboard planter. It was a delicious meal. As we finished the meal a second thunderstorm came upon us, much worst and longer lasting than the first. Lightning was all around us with wind driven rain so heavy that it flattened any sea smooth. This was our first real long & heavy rainfall in a month and it helped wash the boat decks clean. Carina appreciated her shower.

The photos below are from our 2nd night at The Basin, under much better weather conditions. Kathy made a fabulous paella with our left over mussels as well as some shrimp, chicken & chorizo that she just happened to have provisioned on board.  
Another fabulous meal by the chef
Paella with freshly plucked mussels

Lastly, another observation: Today marks one month’s time since we departed Farm River. In some ways it seems like we’ve been cruising a much longer time. The days seem to fly by and we find ourselves loosing track of dates and the days of the week. We are enjoying each day and look forward to exploring new harbors and towns as well as meeting up with old and new friends along the way. We have not been bored for a minute and even need to set aside time to write this blog. Knock fiberglass… All systems on Carina have been performing excellent.
Barnacle chillin on the jib cover at York Hrb.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cuttyhunk to Annisquam

Annisquam, MA 42 39.12 N 70 40.58 W
As we were enjoying one more day on Cuttyhunk we were surprised to see another Manta Catamaran enter the pond. We soon realized it was Mattie & Ed Sears aboard Piscataqua. We first met Mattie and Ed in 2007 during the Manta Migration in the Abacos. They've been cruising for the past eleven years between Maine and the Bahamas so we were eager to pick their brains about favorite stops along the way. We all enjoyed dinner and (too much) wine aboard Carina that night. It turned out that we both had Onset, MA as our next planned destination. Mattie’s daughter works at a horse farm in Buzzard’s Bay and they were planning an extended stay there. Our plan was to stay in Onset for a few days to wait for a favorable weather before transiting Cape Cod Canal for a possible overnight to Maine..
We left Cuttyhunk on Thursday and had a nice casual sail up Buzzards Bay in light winds and calm seas. About half way to our destination we caught a 24” Bluefish. Believe it or not this is the first fish we ever landed and it was quite exciting. He was quickly dispatched with about 1/4 bottle of Jim Bean whiskey. It was the first thing available and although we probably over-did it he definitely went to fish heaven with a smile on his face. Next time we will be better prepared with a small squirt bottle of booze. Mark filleted him on the trampoline and he became a delicious dinner of bluefish au gratin.

Onset is a quaint village with many Victorian era and styled houses, similar to Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard or Cape May, NJ. It is located just off the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal so it’s a very convenient place for boats like us waiting to transit the canal. We planned to spend a few days in Onset to wait out some forecasted thunderstorms and favorable winds but it turned out to be four days.
We anchored off Wicket’s Island for the 1st two nights but on Saturday chose to rent a mooring ball from the nearby Point Independence Yacht Club. This allowed us use of their dinghy dock, laundry, Wi-Fi, trash disposal and fresh water. Mark was able to wash the boat and top off the diesel tank. Although we didn’t really need fuel we couldn’t pass up the very low price at their fuel dock.

We enjoyed our four days in Onset visiting with Mattie & Ed, exploring the town and harbor by foot, kayak and dinghy. Mattie had use of her daughter’s vehicle and they were gracious enough to take us along for errands and re-provisioning as well as dinner out. Kathy had a few much appreciated days off from galley duty as a result.
We left Onset early Monday morning to ride the flood through Cape Cod Canal. You are not allowed to sail through the canal so under engine power Carina was pushed through the 15 mile long canal with the help of a 4-1/2 kt current in about 45 minutes. There are three bridges you pass under: the 544' span, spire-tipped railroad lift bridge, the Rt 28 Bourne Bridge as well as the Rt 3 Sagamore Bridge. We raised sails in Cape Cod Bay in what looked to be a perfect sail to our next destination of Rockport, MA on the Cape Ann peninsula.

After a few hours the winds shifted to our stern and became very light so down the sails came and we fired up the engines for what proved to be a very long day of motoring. As the afternoon progressed the thunderstorms that had developed over the mainland began approaching us with darkening skies and lightning. We were able to safely alter course around the storms by tracking the rainfall returns on our radar and the thunderstorm cell movements on our sat weather as the chartplotter images show.
We finally anchored just outside Rockport harbor in Sandy Bay,
 amidst a sea of lobster pot floats, exhausted from traveling 65 miles and being underway for over 9 hours. The anchorage proved to be a bit rolly from ocean swells wrapping around the point so we did not enjoy a restful sleep. We awoke Tuesday morning to heavy fog and more unsettled weather forecasted for the next 24-48 hours. The hot and muggy weather that afflicted the northeast this past week was unfortunately perfect conditions for producing fog over the colder northern waters. We’ve been in our share of fog and choose to avoid traveling in it if possible, gladly waiting for a better day(s). We also awoke that morning to a significant amount of condensation – like rain, on all of the hull walls, cabinetry and floors below waterline. Just the right combination of 57 degree outside water temperatures, high air humidity and warm engine compartments from all the motoring done the previous day. It was clear we did not want to spend another night in this location. Thinking the inner harbor of Rockport (which we’ve visited before) would offer us more protection, Mark called the harbormaster to check on availability of a mooring ball for the night. As (good) luck would have it there was no room for us so we opted for plan B which was to motor and hug the coast just on the edge of the fog bank for the 1 hour trip to Annisquam (which we had never visited) on the north side of Cape Ann.

Annisquam is actually a village of Gloucester. The Annisquam River flows into Ipswich Bay but it also connects via the Blyman Canal to Gloucester Harbor on the south side of Cape Ann, essentially dividing the mainland from the cape. Many power boats and small sailboats use the 4 mile river and canal as a short cut avoiding the need to deal with the open ocean around Cape Ann. We knew as we entered the river passing by a beautiful lighthouse to port and a long powder white sand beach to starboard that this was going to be a nice place. We picked up a mooring ball from the aptly named Lobster Cove Marina. Lobster Cove is a small protected cove rimmed by elegant homes with cut granite wharfs. There is a 10’ tidal elevation change in this area. Note the two photos of high tide vs low tide taken adjacent to where we were moored and where we dined that night.

We spent the day exploring the river and surrounding marshes by dinghy. Later in the afternoon we took a walk through “town” to stretch our legs. The town consists of quiet streets, well tended homes & gardens, a library and a church – no stores, banks or commerce. We met a local resident who suggested we visit Squam Rock Land Preserve just a short walk away. We were not disappointed as the preserve has a trail that leads from a very impressive granite outcropping “Squam Rock” down through a rolling meadow to a beach and the very same lighthouse we passed on the way in. We ended a perfect day with a memorable meal at the Lobster Cove Marina restaurant followed by a very restful sleep.

That brings us to today, which is Wednesday with more fog and rain – but thankfully no condensation inside. We decided to sit out today and wait for all this nastiness to pass before moving on tomorrow … if the weather and sea gods are agreeable.

Sinbad is wondering where were going next.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

From One Extreme to the Other - Newport to Cuttyhunk

Cuttyhunk, MA 41 25.62 N 70 55.44 W

We did not travel very far over the past week since our last posting. We spent 5 days anchored in Newport Harbor over the busy 4th of July holiday weekend. Needless to say we were ready to move on to a quieter place.
Newport is one of those glitzy yachting towns that attracts boats from all over the world. The harbor was very crowded with many "weekending" boats, but we were also anchored near other sailing boats voyaging from the Netherlands, Germany, France, Great Britain and France. Mega-yachts (mostly of Cayman Islands or other tax-free island nations) were docked at every marina surrounding the harbor. The town itself was also a mob scene of tourists over the holiday weekend with crowded streets, boutiques and over-priced restaurants.
We opted for anchoring in the designated harbor anchorage area (for free) as opposed to the $45/night mooring balls that riddle the majority of the harbor. One never tires of watching all of the activity while swinging on an anchor in Newport Harbor. Boats of every size, shape and expense are coming and going in the main channel we were anchored off. Harbor launches, inflatable dinghies, and smaller sailboats are cutting through the anchorage in every direction, passing mere feet from your hull and kicking up wakes that rock the boats. The harbor was just too crowded for simple boater etiquette that one would typically expect.
July 4th afternoon we dinghied over to a town park and dropped an anchor just off to hear a local reggae band while we drank Margaritas. Newport put on a fantastic fireworks display at Ft. Adams point on Sunday which was surpassed only by Mother Nature who gave us one of the most spectacular sunsets in recent memory just before the show.

We left Newport on Monday morning in light winds and calm seas. With the help of the “iron genny and then some beautiful spinnaker sailing we traveled about 25 miles to Cuttyhunk.
Cuttyhunk is the smallest and the outermost island of the Elizabeth Island chain that extends off the “elbow” of Cape Cod. This also has been one of our favorite places to visit in the past and we looked forward to spending an extended time here.
Cuttyhunk is the antithesis of Newport. This is the place to come to get away from it all. No sounds of highways, cars, horns or sirens. As a matter of fact there are no cars. The preferred mode of transportation is battery powered golf carts!! There are no bridges or public airports to the island so the only way to get here is by boat or ferry. The island presently has over 500 summer residents that dwindles down to 34 winter residents  residing in 184 homes.
For the island residents the highlight of each day is the arrival of the daily ferry from New Bedford bringing provisions for the local market. No Super Stop & Shops, CVS's, hotels or restaurant's here. There is a bed & breakfast that serves breakfast and a home that serves pizza that you can eat at picnic tables in their driveway and that's about it. The island is dry if you don't have the foresight to bring your own booze. 

We have spent the past 3 days in Cuttyhunk sitting out the northeast heat wave. We were shocked to hear the record breaking temps back home while here the air temps remained in the mid 80’s with a cooling sea breeze during the day which tempered the heat and humidity. There is too little wind to even attempt to sail anywhere so instead we spend our time kayaking and swimming whenever we feel the need to cool off. We dinghied a short distance to the town pier and took a walk along a deserted beach searching for sea glass. We found a few small pieces but the big prize was a pair of fishing gloves.

Afterwards we stopped at the small island store for eggs and fresh produce.
Both cats have adjusted well to the cruising lifestyle. Barnacle has really surprised us. He is hissing less at his “brother” and seems to be very content. We have even broken him of his habit of prowling the decks all night. This makes for a much more restful sleep for all. Barnacle gives a "thumbs up' to cruising !