Saturday, July 23, 2016

Rockland Recap

The Monhegan rusting away.
We are at anchor way out in Rockland Harbor, near the breakwater and all by ourselves. Our closest neighbor, on a mooring , is a former ferry/floating restaurant named Monhegan. She is looking a little decrepit after two years of sitting untended. Apparently, her illustrious career ended when her owner died and the inheritance was unappreciated by a daughter. Sad to see any boat fading away.

The breakwater is much more of an attraction than I would have expected. It is nearly a mile long, built by the Army Corps of Engineers, entirely out of locally quarried granite, in 1890. There is a small park and access trail on shore. There is a constant stream of people making the long trek out the uneven stone wall to the lighthouse at the end. So popular that, despite warning signs at the park regarding the possibility of being struck by lightning and killed, people continued to hike the wall in the afternoon storms. Near the shore end, there is a dinghy dock which makes access for us very easy. Tilly has been very happy with the arrangement.

The breakwater - so long that you can barely make
out the lighthouse way out at the end.
Our dinghy at the dock in the foreground.

The huge granite blocks make for uneven walking.
Another of the warnings posted indicates possible
serious injuries from falling on the rocks.

Clearly, we are not the first people to find the
breakwater an interesting place to stroll.
The original Samoset resort on the bluff - long
since burned down but quite a place.

The Samoset Resort sits on the bluff at the beginning of the breakwater overlooking Penobscot Bay. It has been there in one form or another just about as long as the breakwater. We didn't visit but it looks nice - golf course overlooking the water, nice grounds. All of these things together add up to a nice view from SeaClearly while we sit for a couple of days.

Part of the Samoset golf course overlooking the Bay.

Tilly on the beach. Not really a swimming beach but
she enjoyed the walks, the sights and the smells.

SeaClearly - a long way from town.
But, we are way out of town. It is a long dinghy ride to anything other than the breakwater. Fortunately, we did get permission to access a dinghy dock that provided the shortest possible walk (two blocks) to the grocery and laundry. The dinghy rides were long and a bit damp but easy enough.

Our outboard continues to give us trouble. Either we picked up some horrendously foul gas or the fuel lines have been eaten by ethanol. I have removed and cleaned the carburetor three times now. The motor runs great right after cleaning but gets progressively worse with use. We need to entirely replace the fuel and maybe some lines. For now, we keep nursing it along. I'm getting faster and faster at removing and cleaning. It occurred to me that there have been several occasions in my life when I thought to myself, 'Why am I, once again, getting really good at something I don't even want to do?'

When we went to bed last night, we knew there was a chance of thunderstorms but the last look at the radar indicated that the next band might miss us. It did. But the 3:00 am batch of storms rolled right over us. I heard the wind coming across the harbor (yes, from a sound sleep. It was loud.) and we jumped up to close the few ports and hatches that were open. The winds clocked up to 35 knots in the middle of the storm but it wasn't too bad. We still put an assortment of radios and electronics in the oven for safe-keeping just in case. Tilly joined us on storm watch as we kept track of our position to make sure the anchor held. No issues. By 4:00 we were all back in bed and back to sleep.

We spent today relaxing and hanging around. We fixed our grill last week by replacing the controller with the correct type so, today, we could grill hot dogs (for chili dogs) and fresh corn that we picked up at Hannaford's (yet another grocery chain). We are ready to move on again. Junie has several Penobscot Bay stops laid out as we work our way towards Bar Harbor by mid-August to meet son Jeffrey. Our next destination is Pulpit Harbor for a couple of days then on to new places!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Spirits are moving us - to Rockland

Let me preface this post by saying that we have nothing to complain about. We know how lucky we are to be doing what we do. We know that a lot a people would be glad to take our place. We know that nothing we endure remotely resembles suffering. That said, yesterday was a bad day. Nothing traumatic, no injuries or damage or anything like that. Things just did not go according to plan, expectations or common sense.

It started off innocuously enough. We got an early start leaving Linekin Bay. It was a beautiful morning and the breeze built as we moved out of the bay and turned east again. We raised the mainsail in anticipation of some breeze from the right direction and, indeed, we were sailing in no time. Despite Tilly's pouting at our audacity - leaving a perfect place yet again - we were having a nice sail. For several hours.

Somewhere past Monhegan Island, and about the time we were turning more to the north, we got blasted out of nowhere with 25 knots of gusting wind followed by sustained 22-23 knots. Totally out of the blue after jogging along nicely on 10 - 14 knots steady breezes all morning. Then came the lobster pots. Now, we have had lobster pots surrounding us at all times since we arrived in Maine. But these were thick. Had we done a better job reading this section of the summary of Maine sailing provided by our friend, Thierry, we would have known to avoid Muscle Ridge Channel for this very reason. They were everywhere and on top of one another. Sometimes, the floats were intertwined in groups of three or four because they were just so close together. There we are, trying to lose some of the sail power to deal with the suddenly gusty winds and weaving through lobster pots. The joy of sailing dissolved quickly.

We finally emerged from the worst of the thicket in time to make our last couple of turns into an anchorage between Birch and High Islands. We wove our way into the area we wanted and the downhill slide continued. Somehow, we couldn't quite get aligned to where we wanted to anchor. The area is a bit tight, the two charting options we use had a slight disagreement regarding depths and shape of the bottom and, of course, there were lobster pots. Trying to locate a spot to put SeaClearly in amongst all the pots and drop an anchor and miss the ledges and shallow spots (which will be called 'rocks' at low tide) became too much.

We finally picked a spot and Junie started winding out the anchor chain. As she did that, I sat at the wheel and watched as a lobster pot float drew closer and closer to our stern quarter and disappeared under the boat. I had already shifted to neutral and could not grasp exactly what happened. Two seconds later, Junie yells, 'We ran over a float! I just watched it go down!' I thought, really? Two floats? Wonderful. I ran to the bow to see a float underwater and wrapped on our chain. We started pulling the anchor back in to untangle but the float didn't come up with it. Turns out we must have laid the chain across the pot line - which explained why I saw one float moving on its' own and Junie saw onesink - same float.

That was the final straw for me. An impending sense of doom and frustration took over and I said, 'That's it. We are out of here'. We have a 'One No vote Wins' rule so we secured the anchor and picked our way back out into the deep water. It may be a lovely anchorage but not for us and not this day.

So, now we are disheartened and disillusioned. I'm upset about not making it work. We are sick to death of lobster pot floats (no matter how much we like lobster). Junie, rightly, says we need to get off of the water. So, we head to Rockland. Big harbor, mooring balls. We can regroup and restart.

But No. We call and find a mooring ball available at the Rockland Landings Marina - Ball # 3, just off the marina fuel dock. It is a very tight mooring field with every type of boat imaginable. We weave in to the ball, ready to wrap this day up. Alas, the mooring pennant, the piece of line attached to the ball, is wrapped around the ball's downline tightly and Junie can't get it with the boathook. Seriously? Do we need this?

Junie calls the marina and explains the situation and the guy, reluctantly, agrees to come out and free it. Once he finally came out in his boat, it took him 10 minutes to fix the issue. Ultimately, he had to disconnect the pennant and reattach it. I am sure he had been thinking we were idiots so we felt absolved of any stupidity on our part.
Our view from the mooring ball...

... of Rockland.

We spent a quiet evening wondering what had happened to the optimistic morning. And why did we leave Linekin Bay. Tilly was looking just a little too smug to me.

But, never fear. We have regrouped and revived. We decided that, since we are here, we will take advantage of the resources Rockland has to offer. We dropped the mooring ball this morning and moved out into the harbor and dropped the anchor. We are feeling much better and once again celebrating the adventure and the sunset. We are not, however, going back to the Birch-High anchorage anytime soon. I'm convinced that we were warded off by helpful spirits saving us from certain doom.
Our upgraded view at anchor out in the harbor

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Linekin Bay - Boothbay Harbor

Sailing through the fog. This is later in the
morning and the sun was trying to come out.

We had a wonderful sail as we headed for Linekin Bay. It was one of those rare occasions when the wind was blowing from the right direction at the right speed to take us where we wanted to go. A quiet, comfortable sail. Oh, and there was fog. When sailing in the fog, you can hear the lobster boats working all around you. We could see them on our radar. But we rarely actually saw any of them. When we did, they were amazingly close before they appeared in the mist. It was a real treat and we enjoyed the day. Eventually, the fog cleared up and we were approaching our destination.

There is a lobster boat right in the center

Another sailboat as we passed - OK, they were passing us

When our Colington neighbor, Jack, came to visit us last week in Harpswell, he enlightened us about Linekin Bay. His family had come here often and it held a special place in his heart. Another friend, Thierry, had recommended this bay as a good anchorage that he had used on his trips up the Maine coast. With two good recommendations, how can you go wrong?

Linekin Bay Resort
Let me paint the picture. We are anchored in a beautiful bay with decent protection from most directions. There is a park on the shore just to our west where we can easily dinghy in and let Tilly run and swim. Just to the northwest of us is the Linekin Bay Resort - a family oriented sailing resort and restaurant. The quiet nature of the resort only serves to add to the charm of the bay. The water is clear, the scenery is amazing and the people are super friendly. There is a tide of about nine feet. Islands come and go as the water rises and falls. Sometimes we can land the dinghy on the beach at the park. Sometimes, we tie up to a wall.

We have been here several days now. There are quite a few private moorings, a few resort moorings that are mostly empty and some lobster boat floats (that look like small, floating wooden docks where they store pots and equipment) and hundreds of lobster pots. Sometimes, we are the only boat anchored in the midst of all this. Sometimes, there are 5 or 6 other boats at anchor. It is always peaceful.

Work boats waiting...

The other evening, at the end of a sunny, perfect day, wisps of mist started drifting in from the ocean. Soon, it was more like swirling smoke. A couple of sailboats showed up to join us. The last arrival looked as though it was towing a wall of fog behind it. No sooner had they dropped the anchor than the world closed around us. The hills and the resort disappeared in the fog. We could barely make out the boat next to us. The quiet settled in and all you could hear was the water droplets falling from the rigging.

Barrett Park
Our dinghy at the park - high tide.
At low tide it would have to drag it
across the sand to reach the water from there.

At the same time, a world away but only a short walk over the hill from the park, Boothbay Harbor is hustling and bustling with a constant flow of lobster boats, windjammer cruises and general boat traffic. The harbor is surrounded by restaurants and shops, packed with tourists and traffic. We can easily dinghy to the park and walk there.

Boothbay Harbor

The town is extremely dog friendly so Tilly gets to go too. She meets many new friends every day. We went to Herringbones's for, yet again, lobster rolls and then on to the Downeast Ice Cream Factory for the best blueberry ice cream ever.

We took the dinghy in to Linekin Bay Resort on a drizzly Sunday morning for breakfast. We were the only people sitting out on the covered porch. We thoroughly enjoyed the blueberry pancakes and french toast and the conversation with the restaurant manager.

Because of this well-balanced yin and yang, we just stayed. We had planned to leave two days ago but convinced ourselves that maybe we should hang out a little longer. We used that time to go back to the park and let Tilly swim with a pack of dogs while we talked with the pack of dog owners. We took another walk over the hill to Boothbay Harbor and ate lobster at the . Then a short walk over the footbridge to eat more ice cream.

Tilly after a hard play.
Asleep on the sheets.

The plan now is to leave tomorrow morning, Wednesday, to move to somewhere in Penobscot Bay. Assuming, that is, that we don't change our minds again and go back for more lobster and ice cream.

Dolphin Marina and Restaurant - Harpswell, ME

July 11 - 15

Calm seas as we passed near Portland
The weather improved steadily as we sailed towards Harpswell. The sun came out full and strong, the fog burned away and the ocean was as calm as could be. We had already made arrangements with the marina for a mooring ball for the first night and then a slip for three more days. We had, once again, accumulated dirty clothes, towels and bedding. We needed some groceries. As much as anything, we needed to dry out the boat. Several days of rain and fog left SeaClearly a little soggy. Everything feels damp. Nothing ever seems to dry out completely. When we park at a marina we can run the heat / AC and it feels better.

We make it a rule to go directly to the fuel dock whenever we arrive at a marina. It is usually an easy approach. It also gives you a chance to survey the surroundings. How is the marina laid out? What slip are they planning to put us in? Additionally, we can get Tilly off the boat for a quick land trip even if we aren't staying long. In this case, it gave us a chance to see that the marina was pretty tight. Only a few slips would be workable for our size. The marina owner offered for us to head directly to a slip instead of taking a ball for the first night. We filled our diesel tank and cans, water tanks and cans and even one gas can while deciding what to do.

Unfortunately for us, in that short time frame, the wind started building out of nowhere to 18 knots with gusts around 25.  It made it difficult to even get SeaClearly off the fuel dock because the wind had us pinned. In retrospect, we should have probably either taken the mooring ball until things settled down or just stayed at the fuue dock for a while. We didn't. Docking is almost always a calamity even when it goes well. Add a tight slip and wind and it becomes no fun. Without going through all of the details, I'll skip to the end of the episode. Nothing got broken and nobody got hurt. The four dock helpers helped immensely and we landed successfully.

We were just a bit too big for the marina
The restaurant

The operation at Dolphin Marina is just awesome. They are more focused on customer service than anywhere we have stayed. We had received a confirmation email anticipating our arrival. When we showed up at the fuel dock, they were expecting us and knew our plans. They were flexible with arrangements and helpful with boat handling. They checked on us regularly to see if we needed anything. Chris, one of the owners, stopped by to see us later that evening - not at the dock - in the restaurant to make sure we were settled in. One last thing. Each morning at a few minutes past 8:00 am, there was a knock on the boat and one of the marina folks delivered fresh coffee and blueberry muffins. Can you believe that?! And, not only to boats in the slips but also to the boats out on the moorings. How awesome.

All of these good vibes helped dim the memory of our arrival and we had a great stay. Harpswell is about 15 miles from Brunswick where we were able to arrange for an Enterprise rental car on Tuesday morning.

Tilly and her Black Lab friend, Louie

We took Tilly out in the morning to the 3 acre field behind the restaurant for some much needed exercise. What a beautiful spot to play with your dog - a mowed grass field, overlooking the bay, ringed by bushes that form sort of a natural fence. Really nice. Once she was worn down a little, we left her in the boat and met the Enterprise person. Yes, they did come pick us up. In the only car they had available - a Ford F250 Crew Cab - the same truck we drive at home. Except their truck was new and ours is 15 years old. We had all of our laundry with us so that when we dropped the driver off we could jump right into washing clothes.

We came back in the afternoon, and stopped at the lobster shack next to the marina, Erica's, for lobster rolls and blueberry ice cream. Then we took Tilly out again for a while and left her again (she was starting to get a little pissed off) to go to Walmart for groceries and supplies. We got pretty familiar with the road to Brunswick.

The next day was tourist day. First, we went to Cundy Harbor, one peninsula over, for another lobster roll at Holbrook's which was recommended by June's friend Mark who had some local knowledge. Cute place, working harbor and the best roll so far.

Cundy Harbor

Nice place

Lobster Roll, hand-dipped onion rings and fried pickles!

Then we drove to Freeport to visit the LL Bean flagship store complex. It was incredible. While we were out, we got a propane tank refilled. Everywhere we went, people were just so nice! We are loving Maine. One last stop - Ice Cream - always.

LL Bean boot

Tree carving at LL Bean
Really good ice cream

On Thursday afternoon, we had a neighbor drop by. Not a boat neighbor. A North Carolina neighbor from across the street back in Colington. Jack had a business trip to Portland and made arrangements to drive out to Harpswell to meet us at the marina. Jack and Marcia's son, Tanner, went to Bowdoin College in Brunswick so he was familiar with the area and the marina restaurant. It was great to see him. He even brought gifts - Billy's Seafood coozies from Colington and a Bowdoin Sailing cap. Cool. We had a nice visit and a great dinner. He also gave us some good, first hand information about our next planned stop Linekin Bay.

We left early Friday morning while the weather was calm but before there were any dockhands around. It went very smoothly even though it was just the two of us and we were on our way. Darn it! We left before the muffins showed up!

Gosport Harbor - Isle of Shoals

July 7 - 11 

We made our escape from Rockport and headed toward Gosport Harbor inside a group of islands called Isle of Shoals. Interestingly, this group of islands straddles the New Hampshire-Maine border and, as such, one side of the harbor belongs to each state. Several of the islands have been joined together by huge rock breakwaters that form the harbor. This gave us perfect protection from the northeast winds that ran us out of Rockport and were now predicted to last for days.

Still foggy arriving in Gosport Harbor
There are some mooring balls in the harbor that were placed there by a yacht club in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and, unofficially, anyone can use them for free as long as no club members want them. You run the risk of losing your spot at any time but, supposedly, no one has ever really been run off. Most of the balls are deep in the harbor close to Star Island which is in New Hampshire. But there are two balls out at the end near Smutty Nose Island which is Maine. We sailed in and took one of those. So, technically, we made it to Maine!

Star Island is a 'resort' of sorts. Kind of an old school hotel in a really isolated spot. They have group meetings, conventions, apparently some religious affiliations and positive energy kinds of events. You can take your dinghy there and visit, which we did. It's a bit weird, artsy in a way. The scenery is just amazing. There are several trails around the island including the main perimeter road which made for a nice walk. 

SeaClearly in Gosport
Star Island

Junie in the turnstile

SmuttyNose Island is uninhabited except for a small conservator's house that can be used by volunteers that support the island. There is a bit of sordid history associated with this island involving gruesome ax murders back in the day. Naturally, there are rumors of hauntings and such.

SmuttyNose Island also has a beach. Well, at low tide they have a beach. At this particular time, low tide came at mid-morning and again just after dark. Tilly was happy with the beach trip and took very well to scrambling around the rocky island. At one point, she was climbing on some rocks a few feet above my head and decided she needed to get down quickly. In one giant leap for Tilly-kind, she flew off the top of this 8 foot boulder wall and, without breaking stride, ran to the beach. It's great for her to be young and strong.

On Saturday, we decided to drop the mooring ball and move north despite the remaining swell and some wind from the northeast. We left the harbor and motored into the waves. Once we lost the protection of the islands, the waves were sloppy, the swell was slightly askew of the waves and the ride was annoying. After about an hour we were all thinking, 'Why did we leave that nice spot?' So we went back. We don't need practice at being uncomfortable. We have no schedule. We cruised back in, picked up the same mooring ball and waited for a better day. Tilly got to go back to the beach and we heated up some Chicken-Sausage Gumbo.
We finally left in an early morning fog on Monday that slowly yielded to clear skies moving in ahead of us. Looks like it's going to be a good trip. Next stop - Dolphin Marina in Harpswell, Maine.