Lobstering 101

When we decided to  try and visit Maine for the summer, I picked up a copy of Taft & Rindlaub’s “A Cruising Guide to the Maine Coast“.  What a tremendous amount of mostly useful information, including the following description of cruising Maine found in the introductory pages:

Cruising in Maine is ruled by an unforgiving triumvirate: rocks, fog and lobster buoys.  The rocks are charted, the fog comes and goes, but the brightly painted lobster buoys are everywhere.

I can tell you that they are not kidding.  I would add to those the challenge of deeper waters and bigger tides than found in our usual cruising grounds.  After seven years of cruising, our habit is to drop the hook in shallower waters, mostly because we can.  Reluctant to commit to the cost of mooring balls for every stop (quite common and sometimes unavoidable up here), we managed to tweek our anchoring system to allow for deeper waters and have managed quite nicely.  The rocks are indeed charted and are quite picturesque when viewed from a safe distance.  I’ve also come to appreciate or at least tolerate the fog a little better;  although stressful to navigate in, it’s also quite pretty.  Lastly, lobster buoys, as well as lobster boats and lobster to eat, are in fact everywhere and are quintessential Maine.  It’s been an interesting education.

My previous experience when visiting Maine by car for hiking and biking trips mostly involved admiring picturesque harbors full of moored lobster boats and drooling over lobster items on restaurant menus.  Sharing the waters with these fishermen these past weeks has offered another perspective.  It’s serious business, hard work and sometimes a family affair with women and children included.   Similar to the season we cruised in the Chesapeake dodging crab pots, a bit of consideration, respect and vigilance so as not to catch a trap have proven to be good karma.  We’ve not (yet) snagged a trap, and have enjoyed the delicious fruits of these labors  multiple times in recent weeks.

I’ve read that the state of Maine issues 7250 licenses, about 3000 of which go to full time lobstermen, with an 800 trap maximum per license.  While not everyone fishes the maximum traps allowed, that’s still a lot of traps.  It’s also not an occupation that one chooses on a whim.  There’s a 2 year long apprenticeship, then one must wait for a retirement in a given coastal zone before a license is even issued.  It’s also heavily regulated… no lobstering on Sundays during the summer, limited to daytime hours only, and lots of rules about what can be kept vs released among the restrictions.

Visiting Maine by boat however, what’s first apparent are the buoys, and it seemed for us that the further east we travelled, the thicker they were.  Imagine some fishing god took a handful of party-colored candy sprinkles and tossed it over the surface of the water,  as if decorating a giant birthday cake.  The photo below truly doesn’t begin to capture it.  Each lobsterman has his/her/their own buoy color scheme and #, registered with the state and displayed on their boat as well, which is kind of cool because it gives a clue as to where the boat may be going next.  Most of the time, however, it appears that they’re running in circles and shooting off in completely unpredictable directions, often at full speed.  Sometimes the buoys are like small floating works of art, other times more mundane in color/pattern.  Then there was the one I saw bobbing about in Casco Bay that sported a flesh-colored rubber glove on top… freaked me out to say the least.  Sorry, no photo of that one.

P1070337 field of lobster buoys

P1070485 toggleWrapping a buoy around one’s prop is a frightening enough prospect.  Then you learn about toggles… an additional float attached to some buoys by a line that lurks just below the surface of the water.  Spacing varies, but sometimes they appear as separate and are spaced so that one might be tempted to pass between.  Bad idea.  Photo at right shows a buoy left attached to a toggle on the right, visible only because the water is dead calm at the moment.

IMG_5635 seaweed on starboard rudderOur shallow draft cat with a liftable drive leg and rudders and retractable centerboards gives us a bit of an advantage should we be so unlucky as to actually snag something.  Truth be told, we’ve had more trouble with collecting the floating masses of seaweed that seem to get funneled between our hulls and then need removed from said drive leg and rudders.  Ugly stuff.

Below the surface of the water is where things get really interesting, but less scary… unless of course you’re a lobster.  The round wood-slat lobster traps, these days seen mostly in nautical decor (photo below was taken at a restaurant in Rockland), have been replaced by the more modern rectangular coated-wire traps.  They hold up better, stack better and are a bit more technical than their predecessors, and include escape hatches for undersized lobsters to exit stage left… kind of a cool feature.  Check out this link for a description of how a modern lobster trap works.  You can usually tell where a lobsterman lives and/or works by the piles of traps and bundles of line and buoys scattered about.


Someone even got creative and turned lobster traps into lawn furniture.  We found several of them scattered about Belfast, ME.  Mike checked them out but wasn’t impressed with their comfort.


Buoys are attached by long lengths of line called potwarp to a trap, which is weighted most commonly by a brick, some single, some connected in long multi-trap strings.  Lobster boats are very specifically designed for the task of hauling up traps, purging, re-baiting, then moving on.  We’ve seen all sizes of lobster boats, similar to the range of cars on the road.

There are some harbors along the coast of Maine that are considered strictly working harbors… where the fisherman don’t take kindly to tourists or cruising boats getting in the way.  Others are a little more accommodating.  One of our favorite things has been to find a harbor that has a lobster co-op, with or without a restaurant on site.  It doesn’t get much fresher than sharing a harbor with the boats that are catching.  As a side note, we’ve been working our way through a list I found of “lobster rolls worth driving to Maine for“; we’ve not had them all, but have had some tasty bites along the way.


For some other interesting factoids and general information about lobstering in Maine, check out Gulf of Maine Research Institute website.

One of my favorite things about cruising, or traveling in general for that matter, is the opportunity for learning along the way.  This summer it’s been about seals, sea birds, the state of the blueberry industry in Maine and lobstering… among other things.  Curiouser and curiouser…



After a weekend of Gam events in Rockland, come Monday morning, with the fridge, fuel tanks and water tanks all full, we headed out to explore the Mount Desert Island region. Here we encountered more lobster buoys than we’d seen earlier.  It looked like party-colored confetti scattered on the surface of the water… but more on that in a subsequent post.   Deer Island Thorofare Light aka Marks Light was a new-to-us lighthouse along this route.  Mackerel Cove off Swan’s Island was a lovely spot to spend an evening; we even met another Gemini there.

We headed north through Southwest Harbor, passing  Bass Head Light and Bear Island Light, along the way making our way up Somes Sound, the cleft in the middle of Mount Desert Island, the heart of Acadia National Park.  Previously described as a fjord, the only one on the US East Coast, it’s recently been downgraded to a fjard.  Go figure.  Either way, it was quite pretty.  Anchoring is free here, but there’s a steep fee for dinghy access.  On the upside, there is fairly easy access to the Island Explorer, the extensive and free shuttle bus system that operates in the National Park.  If it weren’t the height of the busy season, we might have stayed longer, basing here to do some exploring.  We did walk into Town Hill,  had a few good beers and some mediocre BBQ at Atlantic Brewing Co. followed by a short hike about the nearby Blue Horizons Preserve, before catching the shuttle bus back.  Later came dinner aboard with some cruising friends, Dawn & Paul aboard s/v BuBu3 with whom we’ve been hopscotching.  They left the following morning; we opted to stay put for another day, knocked out some boat chores and spent a few hours at the delightful local Somesville Library (summer hours aka July & August:  Mon 1-4, Wed 1-6, Sat 9-2).

Our next stop was Islesford/Little Cranberry Island, an authentic fishing village for sure. Ashore we took a short hike about town and out to the Station.  Formerly a US Coast Guard Life Saving Station, it’s now a vacation rental property.  This 4-bedroom “cottage” sits on 8-acres and can be yours for $4,000/week in the high season.  See link above for interior photos;  mine are below, one distant from the beach and another from the water as we departed the following day.  Little Cranberry is also quite the artists’ haven.  We poked around in a couple of galleries.  Matt Brown (woodblock artist) and Mark Howard (water color) were a couple of our favorites.  As rumored, the mosquitos were quite aggressive on the island.  We test-drove a new-to-us insect repellant (Repel Lemon Eucalyptus) that proved quite effective.  Over morning coffee in the cockpit, we also had an opportunity to chat with a couple of guys who were moving a ginormous granite-based mooring ball for a customer who just bought a ginormous sport-fisher and wanted his ball moved to the outer part of the harbor; quite friendly guys and a fascinating process.  Check out the size of that chunk of granite in the photo below.

In Frenchboro/Long Island we caught up with the crew of BuBu3 again, hooking up for an afternoon of hiking together and later dinner aboard Cheshire complete with blueberry pie from Lunt’s Dockside Deli.   As recently as the year 2000, much of this island was up for sale/at risk for development.  Enter the Maine Coast Heritage Trust who in partnership with others, acquired about 1,000 acres or 2/3 of the island, an area now known as  Frenchboro Preserve.  It’s a spectacular place… largely fishing community, plus a small library and museum, with miles of beautiful hiking trails and lots of opportunity for berry-foraging.  Mike and I stayed on an extra day after BuBu’s departure, took longer hike about Frenchboro Preserve, gathered berries, had a late lobster roll snack, a later lobster dinner, and more blueberry pie, all from Lunt’s.

Our next stop was Blue Hill, with some views of Blue Hill Bay Light along the way, where we again caught up with the crew of BuBu3… we’ll just call them our advance scouting team.

The challenge with visiting Blue Hill by boat is that the tides are wicked high and there is no water at the town dinghy dock except for a couple of hours either side of high tide.  Alternately there is a rock scramble used by a number of lobster fisherman who also use the harbor.  We experienced both; photos below.  High tide at the town landing was in our favor for our first evening in town; we shared beers/pub food at Deepwater Brewing Co.  Tides were equally cooperative the following evening when we met up again for carry-out pizza from Merrill & Hinckley followed by an awesome performance by a regionally  famous community steel pan drum band,  Flash in the Pans. What awesome energy with multi-age generations represented.  They play around the region, but in their home of Blue Hill, it’s a serious street dance.  While in the area we also explored a bit of town including the local library and the Jud Hartmann Gallery where we spent a delightful stretch of time chatting with Jud himself.  Our last morning in town included breakfast at Harbor House where blueberry pancakes fueled my (Lori’s) climb of Blue Hill proper.  A quick dip in the chilly waters of Maine (photo proof below) and we were on our way again.

The next couple of days would take us on through Eggemoggin Reach, including a nice view of Pumpkin Island Light, (now privately owned but nicely restored), followed by  couple of nights boat camping in peaceful but more crowded than we anticipated Pulpit Harbor.

We’d pause for another couple of days in Rockland to visit with new cruising friends Keith and Nicki, collect a bit more mail (most importantly our absentee ballots), re-provision, do laundry, refuel, and top off water in preparation for our slow wander back south/west again, our summer in Maine too quickly coming to an end.

Exploring Penobscot Bay

From the time we were anchor up in Port Clyde, we were enveloped in fog for the duration of our run to Camden, our auto-hailer announcing our presence with a horn every couple of minutes.  Mike’s not convinced that the lobster boat captains can even hear it above their own engines, but it does give some sense of comfort… and more importantly it’s COLREGs-compliant.  Literally as we arrived, the skies cleared, offering a lovely view of the Camden Hills from our float in the Inner Harbor.  Good thing I snapped a photo then, because the following morning, the fog returned to obscure our view. (Comparison photos below.)  Camden is a lovely albeit very touristy town.  We enjoyed wandering about, but especially enjoyed catching up with my cousin Tim who was vacationing in the area.  Drouthy Bear was a fine place to spend some time.



After doing a bit of laundry, we were off again for a bit more “boat-camping”.  Seal Bay off Vinalhaven was a gorgeous spot.  Cruising friends Dawn and Paul aboard s/v BuBu3 found us here the next day.  Dawn and I had a lovely paddle, circumnavigated Penobscot Island.  The boys joined us later for a short hike around nearby Huber Preserve.  Photo credit for Cheshire at anchor goes to a fellow cruiser we keep crossing paths with.  A bit of distant fog the following morning was magical.


A couple of days later we moved on, a few more hauled seals noting our exit. Our next stop was Warren Island State Park/Grindel Point Lighthouse.   We climbed the lighthouse and poked around the attached Sailor’s Museum housed in the keepers’ cottage.  The LED light was not near as impressive as some of the Fresnel lenses we’ve seen, but it’s always nice to get a shot of our boat at anchor from atop a tower.  The museum was small but interesting.  We always appreciate lighthouse towers and keepers’ quarters that are open to the public.


With some nice afternoon light remaining, we opted to dinghy to the State Park dock and hiked the trail on the perimeter of the island.  Plenty of wild raspberries offered sustenance.  The next morning, the weekend crowds were gone and we nearly had the harbor to ourselves.


From Grindel Point we moved on to Belfast Harbor for a couple of days where we picked  up a city mooring.  We ferried our bikes ashore, and pedaled around the harbor to Young’s Lobster Pound for a late lunch.  We’d considered taking the dinghy, but the bike option turned out best as we found a place along the way to have Mike’s i-phone repaired, something we’d been trying to do w/o success since Portland.  After lunch we pedaled along the well-traveled Belfast Rail Trail that runs along the Passagassawaukeag River.  For the more adventurous (not us), the rail trail ends where the pedestrian-only  Hills to Sea Trail  begins, 46 miles long connecting Belfast and Unity.  Instead, we opted for the not-so-traveled Stephenson Preserve nearby.  Back in town, we did a bit of exploring before enjoying some wine and sourdough pizza at a little spot named Meanwhile in Belfast.  Belfast is a pretty little town with some interesting shops (Eat More Cheese was a personal favorite!) and galleries, and flowers everywhere… including atop the trash cans.

The following day was a bit more utilitarian. The local laundromat was well placed next door to the Belfast Co-op from which Mike fetched breakfast.  After shuttling laundry back to the boat, we headed ashore again for another wander through town and up the hill on our way to Hannaford’s for groceries.  The crew of Bubu caught up with us once again for beers at Marshall Wharf Brewery/ Three Tides; the beers were OK, but the service  abysmal so we opted to move on to dinner Front Street Pub for dinner.


With weather coming in in the days that would follow, we opted to leave early the next morning for a run to Rockland ahead of the SSCA Penobscot Gam.  A 05:11am departure had us running in fog the entire way, BuBu3 visible to us on radar but not otherwise. Four-plus hours later, Rockland Breakwater Light, even in the fog, was a welcome sight.  We were anchor down a bit before 10:00am.  Based on vhf chatter, the wind and the traffic picked up as the day went on.  We would stay put, safely tucked into the south end of Rockland Harbor for the whirlwind of potlucks and social activities that would follow.

The official Gam activities included a pre-Gam dinghy drift (think floating happy hour) as well as a day-long potluck/program topped off by a tour of the Sail, Power and Steam Museum led by its founder, salty and colorful Captain Jim Sharp.  While in town, we also visited the Puffin Project Visitors Center  and the Maine Coastal Islands NWR Visitors Center, both of which were quite educational regarding seabird restoration efforts in the Maine coastal islands.  The Maine Lighthouse Museum was of course a highlight as well.  We even managed to catch a brief walk through the Maine Seaweed Fair event (concurrent with the Gam) where, in addition to sampling some interesting nibbles, we met an interesting artist, Mary Chatowsky Jameson of Saltwater Studio who uses incorporates real seaweed into her art. I was so captivated we came home with a couple of her melamine plates… perfect art for a boat we think.

Our final day in Rockland consisted of another potluck, this time a Women Who Sail gathering (an awesome Facebook group I’m a member of), after which I met Mike for one last pedal out to the grocery.  Monday morning’s skies were clear as we topped off fuel and water and headed out past a now clearer view of Rockland Breakwater light, with Owls Head Light as a bonus.  From here, we’re eastbound, off to explore the coastal islands of the Mount Desert area.



The area known as Maine’s MidCoast could keep a cruiser busy for a long while.  Different than the defined bays that are Casco to the southwest and Penobscot to the northeast, the so-called MidCoast is characterized by rivers and narrow bays alternating with long finger peninsulas that run down to the sea. There are a few places to cut through, and in these spots as well as running the rivers, the tides and currents are worthy of respect.

Along our first morning run in this region, we passed a couple of lighthouses.  There are so many lights up here, and while we’ll not see them all, the Captain is very cooperative in allowing for detours along the way to catch views and photos of some I deem more worthy.  Along this morning’s route at the mouth of the Kennebec River, Pond Island Light (pictured left) is a simple tower, all other structures having been razed some years ago.  Some lamented the loss of history, but with the Coast Guard transfer of the property to US Fish and Wildlife, and with the help of the National Audubon Society , a tern colony was re-established.  The link above has details; it’s quite an interesting story.  Unfortunately some great horned owls have shown interest in the restoration as well… too bad for the terns.  A bit later on our route along the western shore of Southport Island is Hendricks Head Light.  It’s now privately owned and not open to the public, but has been nicely restored and is quite pretty from the water.

Our first pause in this area would be Mill Cove off of the Sheepscot River.  More of a working harbor than a cruiser  hotspot, it made my radar for a couple of reasons.  One was the nearby Trevett Country Store, included on a list I found of “20 Lobster Rolls Worth Going to Maine For”.  When in Rome, you know, and in fact the lobster roll did not disappoint, nor did Mike’s haddock.  A leg-stretching walk along the nearby Gregory Hiking Trail was a nice follow-up.

The second reason to stop here was for bicycle access to the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden.  We actually biked into Boothbay first to catch what proved to be a nice farmers market where we picked up a few things, none terribly perishable, then pedaled back to the botanical garden.  It’s a beautiful place, a nice combination of more cultivated/manicured areas balanced with trails that meander through more natural stretches, with several interesting sculptures scattered about, including a couple of kinetic sculptures.  The kid-friendly fairy house section made me smile, and the serene Meditation Garden featuring local granite was of course a highlight for me.  At days end we pedaled back into Boothbay to check out the Boothbay Brewery.  They apparently once had a restaurant onsite… not this season, and the hotdog stand outside was a poor substitute.  Their hours are quite limited and the beers not to our liking anyway; not sure this place will make it long, at least as a tasting room/venue.  We’ll see.  We also concluded that our belt-driven circus-bear folding bikes that are great in the flatlands of Florida and most of the coastal areas we visit, but leave a bit to be desired along the coast of Maine.  We’re definitely missing having some gears.

We were up and moving early the following morning, the Captain having perfectly timed our passage through Townsend Gut, eastbound and through the Southport Island Bridge, the first we’ve seen in awhile.  True to form, the bridge tenders of Maine are less than chatty.  Still, they get it done.  We also saw some early risers collecting seaweed from their boats. And of course there were waterfowl.

After a brief pause in Boothbay Harbor for fuel and water, we headed down around and up the Damariscotta River.  Along the way we passed a couple more lighthouses. Burnt Island Light was constructed on land already mostly cleared thanks to sheep farmers who regularly set fires to improve grazing; there are in fact several islands bearing the same name in the state, but only one lighthouse.  A bit further on was Ram Island Light.  I read that there are 21 Ram Islands in Maine.  Apparently sheep and ram were a thing in years past.  Unrelated to lighthouses, but I can also tell you that there are numerous places named for seals as well… Seal Bay, Seal Cove, etc.

In fact, our goal for today’s run was a Seal Cove where we in fact found seals.  We stayed for a night before moving around to nearby Long Cove which also had seals.  We’d seen a few swimming during our time in Maine, but this was the first we’d seen them hauled out on rock ledges as is their habit.  I was amused to listen to their barking which I like almost as much as listening to dolphin breathe when we’re in waters further south.

P1070035 hanging out in Seal CoveP1070046P1070044

After a couple of days of hanging with the seals, we were underway again, this time on a mission to see puffins.  First though, there was Pemaquid Point Light.  This light is a special one, and in fact is open to the public.  Alas, a land-based visit this pass was not on our itinerary.  The folks clustered on the lower rocks are gathered in “the spot” for the official shot of the tower reflected in a tide pool, which I only learned of some time after our road trip through the area in 2012.  Blog post and photos sans tide pool here.

P1070056 Pemaquid Point Light ME

Our next port of call would be Port Clyde, but with the Captain’s blessing, our route would take us there via Eastern Egg Rock.  EER is a 7-acre treeless piece of rock, dirt and grasses on the way to nowhere in Muscongus Bay, home to the Audubon Puffin Project.  It’s claim to fame is being home to the world’s first restored seabird colony.  The link above has some interesting details about the restoration, including the living conditions of the few researchers who live on the island during nesting season.  For the truly geeky, check out this blog by the Maine Coastal Islands NWR researchers, the folks who live and work on some of these islands during nesting season .  On the day of our motor-by, it was overcast, but fairly calm.  Photos are passable but… Puffins! Click on the photos for a larger view if you’re so inclined.


We arrived in Port Clyde (apparently mostly owned by Linda Bean of LL Bean fame) to pick up a mooring from Port Clyde General Store, catching a quick shot of Marshall Point Light from the water on our way in.  Always challenging to be on the bow ready to deploy the anchor when a photo op arises.  Squirrel!

P1070095 Marshall Point Light ME, from the water

After a late morning arrival, we walked to Marshall Point Light where we toured the small but nicely done museum housed in the Keepers Quarters and took a few more photos.  Some will recognize this light from Tom Hanks’ film “Forrest Gump”; Gump runs out to the tower during a scene on his cross country run.  Apparently quite a big deal here. I just think it’s a pretty and very photogenic light.  Apparently the movie-makers thought the same.

Wandering back into Port Clyde, we paused to check out a few art galleries, one featuring the well-known Wyeth family and another the lesser-known but quite accomplished Barbara Prey.  She does some interesting Maine landscapes, and some commissioned pieces for NASA but I was particularly captivated by the story of a recent commissioned piece for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA).  Wow!  Of course being in Maine and not Boston, we didn’t see this piece in person, but the story is impressive.  Mass MoCA has apparently undergone an expansion, and Prey was commissioned to do a huge watercolor depicting the pre-renovation of the previous industrial space, currently housed in that very space.  I absolutely love seeing older structures re-purposed, but seeing depictions of the old together the new together is extraordinary.  Oh a whole different level of art… we found a puffin sculpture at water’s edge.

The following morning we were ashore again for a bite of breakfast at the dockside coffee shop, Squid Ink, followed by a much needed haircut for yours truly.  Not so long after, we departed in fog after disentangling a lobster pot from our starboard rudder that had managed to get twisted up while we were on a mooring ball.  Not kidding.   We dodge them on the water and they attack us in a mooring field.  Foggy shots of Marshall Point Light followed.


On to Penobscot Bay…


York to Casco Bay

After some wifi time at the local public library and a bit of exploring around York, we continued our sampling of Maine beers at SoMe Brewing Co.  The beers were quite good, as was the pizza we carried out from nearby York 54.  Maybe because it was a holiday, but York 54 Pizza was a crazy disorganized zoo; take out was definitely the way to go.  The only downside to the evening was Mike’s phone taking a dive from the table, face down onto the concrete floor, shattering the glass face.  We’ll have to see about sorting that out.

The following day we took our laundry for a walk into town to the coin laundromat, followed by a yummy breakfast at Rick’s, where someone has a sense of humor.  After dropping laundry back at the boat, we ferried our folding bikes back ashore for a pedal around, where we visited the Museums of York (free in honor of the 4th holiday!), and pedaled about.  The Wiggly Bridge was only a bit wiggly.  At a local gallery, the George Marshall Store Gallery,  we were introduced to the work of  a number of area artists including Larry Hayden.  His backyard chicken portraits are both impressive and playful.  Find some of his images here.  A stop at the Ships Cellar Pub at the York Harbor Inn quenched our thirsts.  The views from the nearby cliff walk were striking, and much more solitary than the small beach on this holiday.



On our way out of York, we had a nice view of Cape Neddick Light, aka Nubble Light.  We’d opted not to pedal out the previous day as we were worn out; turns out that was probably a good decision as the view from shore, at least of the Keeper’s Cottage, would have been obstructed by scaffolding… apparently some renovations underway.

P1060807 Cape Neddick (Nubble) Light ME, distant

Cape Neddick (Nubble) Light, York ME

From York, we’d planned to make a quick pause in Portland ME, but with some ugly weather in the forecast, we opted to pause for a couple of days of “boat camping” off of Cliff Island to wait for more settled weather.  It was a wee bit rolly, but the storm made for some pretty skies.

P1060809 last light, Cliff Island, Casco Bay

last light, Cliff Island, Casco Bay

When we did make our way to Portland, on a tip from friends, we anchored very near downtown, with not one but two lighthouses nearby, Spring Point Ledge Light and Portland Breakwater Light . A recently closed marina allowed for shore access, though we learned that it’s now under new management, so stay tuned for changes.  The anchorage was a bit exposed and rolly, but the access to downtown Portland made it worth a short visit.  After ferrying bikes in, we took a pedal about.  We were unsuccessful at getting Mike’s phone sorted out but we did find a couple of nice outfitters (Nomads and even better, Eastern Mountain Sports) where we picked up some hiking/biking info for Maine, scored a new backpack (Lori), new camp chairs and Mike found a set of ascenders he’s been looking for (apparently to make climbing the mast a little easier… perhaps to be detailed in a later blog post).  More local beers at Rising Tide Brewing with yummy eats from Hakka Me, the food truck of the day with a Chinese spin, rounded out our day.  A quick stop at Whole Foods for a bit of provisioning and we were back aboard.


From Portland we opted to escape the urban and headed for Quahog Bay near the Harpswell peninsula.  Snow Island proved to be a lovely spot.  We did some exploring by dinghy and checked out a nearby marina, Great Island Boatyard.  Captain Mike is especially excited about their soon-to-be-opening onsite restaurant.

P1060844 sunset off Snow Island, Quahog Bay

sunset off Snow Island, Quahog Bay

Our next stop was Water Cove/Wills Gut off Bailey Island.  The anchorage itself was nothing special, but gave us access to the quite interesting Bailey Island Bridge aka Cribstone Bridge.  It’s a fascinating bit of construction, completed in the 1920’s, added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970’s and recognized as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark a decade later.  It’s constructed entirely of granite slabs, no mortar or cement except for concrete road atop the bridge. I love that it was built to accommodate the forces of nature rather than attempting to tame them.  It’s also quite attractive in my humble opinion.

IMG_5492 Cribstone Bridge, close-up

Cribstone Bridge, close-up

IMG_5515 Bailey Island Cribstone Bridge, close-up, low tide

Bailey Island Cribstone Bridge

We again ferried bikes ashore and took a pedal about Bailey Island, pausing for a short hike at Giant’s Stairs Preserve, and out to Lands End on the southern tip of the island.  Back near the bridge, we enjoyed a delicious meal and local beers at Morse’s Cribstone Grill.


As much as we’re enjoying this Casco Bay area, other rumored-to-be-even-more spectacular cruising grounds await further east, so on we go.  Thanks for coming along.


We left Onset Bay with full fuel tanks and thanks to a day of intermittent rain, full water tanks.  Up and out early, timing the tides for a favorable current through the Cape Cod Canal, we were also in the company of a bit of fog.  We’d best get used to this as we hear it’s quite prevalent during the summer months in Maine.  We managed to not hit any bridges, nor did we collide with any of the sizable vessels that also transit this canal.  Seven miles later we popped out the other end into Cape Cod Bay after a brisk run.  Not only did we make good time in the canal, but we saved a lot of time by not making the trip around the hook of Massachusetts.

Since we were making such good time, we opted to continue on to Boston.  Along the way we caught a few lighthouses.  One was Plymouth Light, although at some distance so not a great photo.  We got a closer look at Minot’s Ledge Light a couple of miles off Cohasett MA; although the water was dead calm at our arrival, I couldn’t help but wonder what climbing the ladder from a boat to gain access to the tower would be like in less favorable conditions.

On our way in to the Boston area, we had some decent views of the infamous Boston Harbor Light.

We passed on visiting the city this time, but enjoyed a lovely evening on the hook in Portuguese Cove off of Peddocks Island.  We had no idea that there were so many little island in Bostons’s outer harbor, thirteen in fact, but only six of them are accessible/open to the public.   The sunset over the city skyline did not disappoint.

P1060604 sunset over Boston

sunset over Boston

The real highlight of our time in Massachusetts though was catching up with cruising friends Tara and Brian, usually of s/v Scout.  For a couple of months though, they’re volunteering as lighthouse keepers on Baker’s Island MA.  Baker’s Island is very private…  and much to the dismay of the local HOA, the Essex National Heritage Commission who currently own Baker’s Island Lighthouse finally won a their court battle a few years back and the lighthouse is now open to the public for tours.  The Assistant Keepers Cottage is also available for rent.  We were thrilled though that Tara and Brian invited us to stay over with them in the Keepers Cottage.  We had a fabulous time with them touring the island, and just generally catching up.  Bonus points for Tara for taking us ashore to Manchester-by-the-Sea for a provisioning run before we took off.

Our timing also had us on island to see some baby seagulls; the Herring Gull chicks were about 3 weeks old, the Great Black-backed chicks a bit older.  Hopefully they survive the neighboring black lab that apparently terrorizes them.


Another day of motoring took us past several more lighthouses (named in the captions).  Our last night in Massachusetts waters found us anchored off of Rockport MA.  This morning we crossed into Maine.  I’m still more than a bit surprised that we’ve actually made it.

Wrapping this up at the York Public Library as phone service/wifi in the mooring field is essentially non-existent.  Off to do some exploring…

Sailing Sounds

Long Island Sound, Block Island Sound, Rhode Island Sound and into Buzzards Bay… we’ve covered some distance this week, but also paused for several days for our very first Gam.  More on this in a bit.  From Port Washington, after a brief pause in Port Jefferson, we headed across Long Island Sound to Connecticut… where we’ve visited by land but never by boat.  From here on out, its new territory for us.

Our first impression was less than positive when we were waked hard by a ginormous sport fisher as we passed through the breakwater entering the Connecticut River.  It rocked us so badly that a Brita pitcher of water (that ordinarily lives quite safely on a silicone mat on the galley counter) got tossed, crashing to the sole (floor).  Our sole is teak and holly laminate insets screwed into the fiberglass mold beneath… with gaps all around the insets (not a great design) where the contents of said pitcher promptly found its way.  While our Cheshire was still rocking I mopped up what I could, but after getting the anchor down a bit later it was time to unscrew the floorboards and do a deeper cleaning.  We don’t do this often so as not to strip out the fiberglass screw holes and in fact had never done these two pieces… the galley and sole in the forward cabin.  Major yuck, but all clean now.  Filed under “it’s not all sunsets and rum drinks”…

Just prior to being waked and a few days later on our way back out, I managed to get some shots of the couple of lighthouses that mark this entrance to the Connecticut River. Looking at the photos later, I was intrigued by the differing perspective, inbound vs outbound.

Inbound, with Saybrook Breakwater Light in the foreground…

P1060477 Saybrook Breakwater and Lynde Point Lights CT

inbound, Saybrook Breakwater and Lynde Point Lights CT

… and outbound with Lynde Point Light on the right.

P1060488 Saybrook Breakwater and Lynde Point Lights CT

outbound, Saybrook Breakwater and Lynde Point Lights CT

I have to remind myself sometimes when photographing these caisson style lights (Saybrook Breakwater Light is one) that in years past, lighthouse keepers and their families actually lived in these structures.  This one is at least within sight of land; many are not.  A bit of research led me to a New York Post article from last year detailing plans for this one to be converted to a clubhouse for its current owner’s grandchildren.  Lynde Point Light on the other hand, belongs to the Coast Guard and is not open to the public.

Not far from these lights, we tucked into North Cove near Old Saybrook CT where we picked up a mooring ball (provided by the town, overseen by the nearby yacht club and free for 72 hours).  After cleaning up our mess (see above), we went ashore and had a lovely walk about town complete with a pause at Penny Lane Pub to celebrate our 7 year anniversary of moving aboard our Cheshire.  The following morning we ferried bikes ashore and enjoyed a nice pedal around the area, and visits to the local hardware store, a grocery and Denali, a nice outdoor store with locations around CT and RI.

From Old Saybrook, it was only a short run up the Connecticut River to Essex for the SSCA Gam.  What is a gam you might ask? From Merriam-Webster…

But what is a gam? You might wear out your index-finger running up and down the columns of dictionaries, and never find the word. So says the narrator, who calls himself Ishmael, of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. These days you will indeed find “gam” entered in dictionaries; Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the noun “gam” as “a visit or friendly conversation at sea or ashore especially between whalers.” (It can also mean “a school of whales.”) Melville’s narrator explains that when whaling ships met far out at sea, they would hail one another and the crews would exchange visits and news. English speakers have been using the word gam to refer to these and similar social exchanges since the mid-19th century.

I thought the reference to whaling was appropriate as we’re on our way to Maine.  In any event, this gathering was one of a number of annual events put on by the Seven Seas Cruising Association, in addition to a scattering of weekly/monthly breakfasts/lunches that some local groups host.  We caught a few of the lunches while in Marathon a few years back, and joined a breakfast in Punta Gorda last winter.  The Essex Gam though was our first.

This gam was a fun combination of informal potluck gatherings, a dinner with a keynote speaker (Paul Farrell, author of “Tugboats Illustrated”), and two days of talks on everything from cruising destinations (the Great Loop, the Northwest Passage and the Windward Islands),  to weather (finally got to meet the infamous Chris Parker in person), to boat bling and maintenance (canvas work, sails, rigging, etc.).  We skipped out on a session on how to choose and maintain an inflatable dinghy… irrelevant for us with our indestructible Portland Pudgy.  Instead we met cruising friends Dawn & Paul of s/v Bubu3 who were in the area by car for an awesome Sunday brunch at the infamous Griswold Inn, said to be the oldest continuously operating tavern in the USA.

IMG_5437 brunch at the Griswold Inn, Essex CT

brunch at the Griswold Inn

There was supposed to have been a US Coast Guard Search and Rescue Helicopter demo, but it got weathered out due to a low cloud ceiling; apparently they’re pickier about weather for training exercises than for actual rescues.  We did get to poke around a smaller CG vessel though, which was a bit different (more high tech and more armed…)  than when Mike was doing small boat stations on the south shore of Long Island many moons ago.  The weekend wrapped up with an after hours potluck at the nicely done Connecticut River Museum.

Following our several day pause, we were anxious to get moving again.  There’s certainly much more to explore along these coasts of Connecticut and Rhode Island, and we hope to be back at some point, but for this season we’re on a mission to Maine.  We had a lively sail to Point Judith RI, a harbor of refuge along this coast.  Along the way though, we skirted New York waters again on the north shore of Fishers Island and got a shot of Latimer Reef Light, another of the so-called Coffee Pot or Spark Plug” style lights.

P1060500 Latimer Reef Light NY

Latimer Reef Light NY

Point Judith has an interesting history.  In the early 1900’s the state dredged the breachway and the Army Corps of Engineers built a 3-mile long stone breakwater on the outside.  Those who are interested will find a bit of history here.  The Google Maps screenshot below captures it well.  We were a small boat amongst much larger commercial traffic and ferries upon our entry, but found a nice anchorage on the pond.  Point Judith Light is an active Coast Guard Station, so there’s no access by land, but I did get some photos on our way out the following morning.

From Point Judith RI we made our way east and northeast into Buzzards Bay headed for an overnight in Hadley Harbor in the Elizabeth Island chain of Massachusetts, where we shared an anchorage with a most interesting vessel, the SSV Tabor Boy.   A ninety-two foot, gaff-rigged, two-masted schooner, it belongs to Tabor Academy, a boarding school in the area.  Beautiful boat, but they presented more than a little bit of a challenge as they sailed in repeating triangles around the entrance to the harbor as we approached.

P1060534 SSV Tabor Boy

SVV Tabor Boy

The following day we made a short run up to Onset Bay, along the way passing a most unusual Art Deco looking lighthouse, the Cleveland Ledge Light.  It was the last commissioned lighthouse in New England and the only one built in the so-called Art Moderne architectural style.  As of 2012 it’s now privately owned with plans for renovation as a vacation cottage, though it doesn’t appear as if much renovation is underway.  On the other hand, the nearby and more traditional Wings Neck Light is privately owned and apparently available for weekly rentals.

We arrived in Onset Bay, once again meeting up with cruising friends Bob and Sandra who we’d seen just a week ago in Port Washington.  Last night they treated us to an evening of dinner and games aboard s/v Carpe Diem.  Today we wait out some weather and plot our adventures to come.  As always, thanks for coming along and stay tuned.



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