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Dodging Storms

It’s been an eventful month with the dominating theme being the weather. With a maybe/maybe not repaired engine, we finally got out of Onset Bay, MA a day after Hurricane Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach NC. We spent three days on the move while following the news of the devastation unfold. Our beloved Oriental NC got whacked hard again with a storm surge even higher than for Hurricane Irene in 2011. The effects were felt well north. We opted for a lay day in Northport Bay on the north shore of Long Island as the remnants of Florence passed through. A day later we moved on, picking up a mooring in Port Washington where we staged for a run through the East River and hooked up with cruising friends Dawn and Paul for a low-key birthday celebration for Captain Mike at a local pizza place.

From Port Washington we caught a favorable tide and had a nice but overcast run through the East River/NYC on our way to Atlantic Highlands/Sandy Hook NJ where we spent another couple of days with Dawn and Paul waiting out yet another bit of weather. Finally, on Saturday morning, we opted to haul anchor on the tail end of a small craft advisory and started what would be about a 27 hour offshore run down the Jersey coast. Alas, our cruising friends made a last minute decision that they wouldn’t make the run south afterall, opting to leave their boat north for another winter season. Oh, to have such options. We pressed on.

Sailing was challenging, but we persisted until the daylight on Sunday when it looked like we were at risk for a night time arrival in Cape May. Sails down, engine on, we motored the rest of the morning and into the afternoon to an anchorage off the Coast Guard Station in Cape May. We had plenty of company as we waited out… you guessed it, more weather.

Come Wednesday morning, we made a break for it again. An early early morning departure found us motoring through the Cape May Canal, after which we caught a favorable tide for a run up the sometimes ugly Delaware Bay. In fact our tide was so favorable that we carried it all the way north to the C & D Canal where we caught another favorable tide through the canal. We were anchor down in the Bohemia River after a 71.5 nm run, which might in fact be a one day record for us. At this point we’d accomplished our ever shifting goal, to be past the outside runs and at least into the Chesapeake Bay before having to tuck our Cheshire in while we make our 5th annual “Driving Miss Rita” road trip. We took one more lay day to make some final arrangements, booking a marina slip, a rental car, etc. before moving to a marina situated a comfortably safe distance up the Sassafras River on the Eastern Shore.

Chapter Next…

After a few days of getting Cheshire tucked in, we were off on our road trip. For five years now, each October, I (sometimes we), travel from wherever we are to collect my Mom from what’s been her home in Indiana to shuttle her and her car to the panhandle of Florida where she winters. This year though would be our final trip as Mom’s sold her place in Indiana. Early Monday evening, we pulled into her driveway just as the auctioneers she hired to clear out her place we cramming the last of her stuff into the back of their truck… except for small truck load they ended up returning for the following day, and the couple of car loads we donated to the local Christian Center of things the auctioneer couldn’t/wouldn’t take. Suffice it to say that despite Mom’s efforts over recent years and in particular these past summer months, it was a big project. I had flashbacks to our own pre-Cheshire purge back in 2011.

Early on Tuesday, October 2nd, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) began monitoring an area of low pressure that had developed over the southwestern Caribbean. Meanwhile, in Anderson, we spent a couple of days wrapping up the details, visiting family in the area, and swapping our rental SUV for a 10′ U-Haul to ferry the last of Mom’s belongings, final packing. Two driving days later, Sunday afternoon, we arrived in Panama City Beach for what we thought was the end of this season’s Driving Miss Rita trip and the beginning of some family time. This was to be the first time in nearly 6 years that my siblings (4 of us) and I were all in the same place at the same time. Mother Nature however, would have a different plan.

On Friday, October 5 th, while we finished day 2 of our drive, the NHC declared this storm a tropical depression, and soon after, upgraded it to Tropical Storm Michael. We spent the weekend unloading boxes, cleaned up and moved patio furniture out to the balcony, stocked the pantry and fridge in anticipation of our family gathering. My sister and brother-in-law  were already in PCB ahead of Mom; one brother and his 2 kids arrived Sunday afternoon.  I managed to grab a couple of photos before things got crazy… and obviously need to work on my selfie technique.

Mike and I began our Monday morning as we do every morning… with coffee and weather checks. The coffee was good; the weather forecast not so much. Michael was now a full blown hurricane and he was coming to visit PCB in a hurry. I shifted into storm-prep mode, started planning for bringing patio furniture back inside, thinking about our water supply, eating without power to cook with, etc., while some of my family suggested I might be over-reacting. A few hours later a mandatory evacuation was issued and most of us were packing.

Early Tuesday morning, most of my family evacuated to Montgomery AL. One brother opted to stay behind.  My youngest brother and his crew of 4 were to be flying into PCB; plan B was skip their Atlanta to PCB leg, rent a car and meet us in Montgomery. We spent the next 4 days, one day at a time with a hotel change somewhere in there, obsessively watching the Weather Channel, scouring social media for updates and generally trying to amuse ourselves in suburban Montgomery. Mid-day Wednesday, Hurricane Michael raged ashore at Mexico Beach, about 25 miles east of where my Mom and sister stay, as the third most intense Atlantic hurricane to ever make landfall in the US. It was horrific and the damage extensive. PCB has been a special place for my family since we started vacationing there when my siblings and I were very small. My parents bought their first rental property on the beach while I was in high school and my parents, now my mother, have wintered there since Dad’s retirement in 1995… ironically the year that Hurricane Opal made a visit and wreaked some havoc in the area.  My family’s condos came through this storm with only minimal damage; many others were not so fortunate.

IMG_0413

Mike and I did check out some of the local tourist sights while we were in Montgomery, found some interesting eats, a hiking trail… details to follow in a later post. Long story a bit shorter, when the storm passed and we got some indication that power would be restored to Mom’s area within a day or two, Mike and I grabbed a return rental and started our way back to Maryland. Mom was in good hands with family and the FL Panhandle didn’t need any more people than necessary trying to reenter. We would have loved to have returned to PCB and volunteered with the recovery efforts, but having our Cheshire so far north, we were not in a position to delay any longer. We arrived home on Sunday night after two weeks away; about a day and a half later, the remnants of Michael made landfall in Portugal.

Fast-forward a few days, our Cheshire is now put back together. She’s had a bubble bath and a bottom-cleaning. We’ve topped off provisions, propane, and water. We’ve dug into our deeper storage to retrieve our warmer clothes. We even did some repair work on our weather-worn cockpit enclosure in hopes of better keeping out some of the cold we’re sure to encounter in the weeks to come.  Tomorrow we cast off the dock lines with a goal to get south as quickly as we can, weather permitting. Even before we get off the dock though, we’re already having to allow for some upcoming weather days/small craft advisories. Mother Nature Always Wins. We can’t complain though when we remember so many who have lost so much in these recent storms. Maybe we’ll get some good fall color out of the deal though.

 

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So, we did check out, and in fact actually left.  We departed Plymouth MA as scheduled, and hit our carefully planned for tides and currents passage through the Cape Cod Canal exactly right.  When we popped out the other end, it was early afternoon, but nonetheless, we opted to wait over a night in Onset Bay rather than fight the now reversed current down Buzzards Bay all afternoon.  We’d been here before on our way north, so rather than head ashore again, we opted to just chill, a relaxing Friday evening.

The following morning, we hauled the anchor up, ready to head out to take advantage of another favorable current… except the Red Queen was once again voicing her displeasure.  Not as awful as before (the flex coupler issue was resolved), but still, there was a shudder.  After a few short minutes of consultation, we decided it best not to proceed.  We dropped the anchor again, and dialed up the nearby marina, ironically another Brewer location.  Of course it’s a Saturday, but we at least got on the radar for their service department. Monday and Tuesday we had weather, like rain on your head in the cockpit/no engine work weather.  Wednesday we had John, the Brewer Onset mechanic, on board in the morning, when of course the engine is now NOT shuddering, but he did find a small diesel leak.  More parts ordered but at least not from England this time, and more waiting.  In the meantime we made a provisioning run one day, spent a couple of hours at the local public library another, and did some laundry.   Friday afternoon our parts arrived and John was back aboard to replace the some O-rings in the injector pump.  Leak resolved, engine sounded OK.

IMG_5840This morning we left Onset Bay shortly after first light and actually managed to escape the state of Massachusetts.  Nothing personal, it’s a lovely state; we just didn’t plan for such an extended visit.  Pedaling about Onset we saw so many fire hydrants with those red/white striped poles off the top, you know, the ones that mark them when they’re buried with snow.  Yeah, those ones.  They make us nervous.  Our Cheshire is not a heavy weather boat, nor are her crew heavy weather sailors.  We definitly don’t relish the idea of wintering aboard in New England.  So we press on.

Maybe we’re paranoid at this point, but we still have a nagging feeling that the Red Queen is not completely satisfied.  The flex coupler and engine mounts were a definite problem; fixed.  The diesel leak was definitely a problem; fixed.  Sometimes she purrs; occasionally not.  Something is just different.  Intermittent problems are challenging.  Stressful.

Whatever we’re dealing with however, is not anywhere near as stressful as preparing for, enduring and recuperating from the devastation of Hurricane Florence as many are doing.  It’s been heartbreaking to read the news out of eastern North Carolina, and now from South Carolina.  Our beloved Oriental got whacked hard again, with water levels exceeding even those of Hurricane Irene in 2011.  We are truly fortunate to have been well away from Florence, but hurricane season is not over, and we have some miles to cover.

As always, thanks for coming along.

OK, stupid title for a blog post (though a spin on a great tune), but it accurately describes our time in this state.  Our plan was to pause briefly in Gloucester to wait out a day of weather, then keep on moving.  We should know better than to think that our plans matter.

In a text exchange the night before we left Gloucester, a friend asked where we were headed the following day;  I replied “Plymouth-ish”.  The route into Plymouth Harbor is long and well off our track.  Our goal was to spend a night at anchor closer to the Cape Cod Canal so as to be able to time our transit through the canal.  In short, we had no intention of actually stopping in Plymouth.  If we manage to get off the dock tomorrow as is our current plan (there’s that word again!), we will have been here 15 days.  15. Days.

We were maybe 5 miles off of Scituate, MA, motoring in very light winds that were mostly directly behind us.  Shortly after 1pm, Mike called me to the cockpit.  We’d developed a horrible shudder.  Thinking we’d caught something on the drive leg or a rudder (think lobster buoy), we went through our usual routine of clearing them. Except that that didn’t resolve the shudder.  Some quick diagnostics let us know that we were fine in neutral, but with any kind of rpms, the shudder was back… pointing to a likely drive leg or transmission issue.  We shut the engine down and put the sails up in hopes of maintaining some steerage and kept creeping south, albeit slowly (remember the very light winds and mostly behind us). Eventually we called TowBoat US (think AAA for boats).  Shortly after 3:30pm, we were under tow by Captain Matt who could not have been more helpful.  We were on the dock  at Brewster Plymouth Marine by about 5:15pm that evening, Thursday.

While we were bobbing around under sail, we caught sight of the Lightship Nantucket, headed somewhere I haven’t been able to determine.  She’s now a museum ship, generally docked in Boston Harbor, one of only a couple of lightships able to move under her own power, so it was kind of a big deal to see her underway.  Find a bit more of her story here.  Our route in under tow would also take us past a couple more lighthouses.  Matt, our TowBoat US guy, would be less likely than Captain Mike to detour for closer photos, but nevertheless, I took photos.

With Cheshire safety tied up to the dock, and marina staff gone for the day, we headed to town to decompress.  On a tip from friends, we stopped into Dirty Water Distillery, followed by dinner at KKatie’s Burger Bar.

The good news was that the following morning we had our new bff/mechanic Colin on board and the problem diagnosed.  Turns out Mike was pretty close.  The Red Queen (our diesel engine) herself was fine, however our flex coupler, the complicated bit that connects the transmission and drive leg, had failed. Mind you, before today, I wasn’t even aware that we had a flex coupler;  diesel mechanics is definitely not my strong suit.  The bad news was that despite this quick diagnosis, we still had to order parts from Sillette in England, who, given the 5 hr time difference, by noon Friday our time were already closed for their 3-day summer bank holiday… translate we couldn’t even order parts until the following Tuesday, at 3am to be precise.

We spent a few days on the dock in a temporarily vacant slip during which Cheshire got some much needed spa time, having not been dockside with access to a hose since our last project stop in North Caroline a couple of months back.  I cleaned/waxed all of the nonskid, always a multi-day project, and the ground tackle (anchor, chain, etc.) got some love.  We did some playing as well though.  Saturday afternoon’s Plymouth Waterfront Festival was not as awesome as advertised, unless of course you’re interested in aluminum siding, tub inserts or really really bad arts & crap.  The afternoon was salvaged though when we found that a local-but-too-far-to-bike-to craft brewery,  Mayflower Brewing, had a pop-up beer garden at one of the local museums.  Come Monday when the slip holder was due back, the marina staff hip towed us out to the mooring field.  End of projects that require a hose and copious fresh water.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that Mike set an alarm for 3am Tuesday so he could be on the phone with Silette when they reopened after the holiday.  Parts were ordered.  Then it got hot.  Wicked hot.  We were thankful for breezes in the mooring field, but still found multiple reasons to be ashore for next few days. We did errands early, then hid out in the public library and restaurants until the evening time when it finally cooled a bit.  Dillon’s Local for beers/snack, then buck-a-shuck oysters at Surfside Smokehouse on site at marina were both quite good.  Wednesday we figured out the public bus system and caught a bus to a local mall which was perfectly awful.  I’ve never been a big mall person, but this one was bad.  The nearby Target however, our really goal, did not disappoint.  Ice cream from Peaceful Meadows back in Plymouth was a nice treat as well.

By mid-day Thursday we’d gotten notification that our parts had arrived.  We were thrilled to have them so quickly, only to be deflated again when the yard staff informed us that there was “no way” they’d get to us before the Labor Day/holiday weekend, and suggested we touch base the following Tuesday.  We consoled ourselves with a visit to Second Wind Brewing Co which was quite good, followed by a great meal at Thirty-Nine Court.

Our holiday weekend involved some windy weather, and a few more errands and smaller scale boat projects (including Mike’s replacing our inverter that also started misbehaving shortly before our arrival here).  We caught a concert at the Spire Performing Arts Center followed by beers at British Beer Co, had our best breakfast in Plymouth at Will & Co. and did a bit of touristing by bike.

Plymouth is actively engaged in a bit of sprucing up in anticipation of its 400th anniversary upcoming in 2020.  Consequently some parks, sites, etc. are fenced off while improvements are underway.  We of course saw Plymouth Rock, which was hard to photograph despite multiple visits… weird shadows, and is a bit over-rated imho.  There’s also some question as to whether this rock marks the real location of the Pilgrim’s landing.  Check out this link for the real story behind Plymouth Rock.

P1070808 Forefathers Monument + Mike

Forefathers Monument, Plymouth MA

A bit off the beaten tourist path but more impressive was the Forefathers Monument commemorating the Mayflower Pilgrims.  Completed in 1888/89, it stands at 81′ and is built of solid granite.  Years ago it apparently was much more prominent a feature overlooking Plymouth.  Today it’s surrounded by trees on mostly private property, so much so that despite its size, you don’t see it until you’re nearly on top of it.  For a bit more info and photos of this monument, check out this blog post. Note Mike in the photo for size reference.

Also worth a visit and unfortunately even more off the beaten path is Plymouth’s 9/11 Memorial.  It was started by a local businessman, a personally funded memorial in front of his produce store.  It’s grown to be a much bigger deal, now managed by the city,  featuring a piece of steel from the WTC, and several granite pillars bearing the names of every person who lost their life in the tragedy, reportedly the first 9/11 memorial to do so.  Other granite pieces feature powerful quotes by FDR and DQ, the latter of whom I’m fairly certain was the memorial’s originator, and another by R Giuliani (not pictured).  The light and polished granite made for interesting photographs.

If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships — the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.  – FDR

Back downtown, tucked into an area called Brewster Gardens is a sculpture I found most captivating, the simply named Immigrant Monument, by artist Barney Zeitz.  I’ve read both that it was a tribute to the original Pilgrims, and alternately, as the inscription on the sculpture appears to indicate, to later immigrants to Plymouth.  Either way, it’s a beautiful piece, commissioned before and installed about a month after 9/11.  Take a look at the link above for a local news piece including some bits about the sculptor who travels from Martha’s Vineyard every couple of years to maintain/polish the piece. 

To the enduring memory of those immigrant settlers of Plymouth who as latter day pilgrims from many cultures and countries over the course of three centuries helped build upon these shores a robust and hospitable community.  At great personal sacrifice, they established new homes in a new world and by their hard work, enriched and transformed this town of their adoption. Precious to a grateful posterity is the remembrance of their lives and labors.  – inscription on Immigrant Monument, Plymouth MA

P1070830 Immigrant Monument, Plymouth MA

Immigrant Monument, Plymouth MA

Obviously there’s a lot more history to Plymouth that I won’t even begin to try and cover here, but the above were some of our highlights.

Tuesday morning, we were out on the mooring ball, enjoying a leisurely morning after a busy weekend,  finishing our coffee, when at 8:30am there came a knock on the hull.  We popped out to find a couple of the marina staff out to collect us for yet another tow into the dock.  Colin was ready to start our repair.  Later that day we encountered another delay when he found that the engine mounts were also trashed, which required another day of waiting for parts.  Wednesday morning we again got towed in a game of musical boats, this time to the fuel dock.  While Colin spent 2+ days on the engine, we finished some last minute chores… laundry, a hardware store run and some final provisioning, including a celebratory dinner out to a nicer-than-our-usual place called the Tasty… yummy Asian-inspired offerings.

IMG_5824 new flex coupler

new flex coupler

Finally, today we moved off the fuel dock, under our own power for the first time in more than two weeks… all the way to the marina’s face dock where we spent this evening  waiting out a nasty blow which thankfully brought some cooler temps.  Tomorrow we’ll be on the move again, keeping a close weather-eye on the storms brewing in the Atlantic.      And that’s as much of a plan as we have for now.  Stay tuned.

 

Lobsters of Plymouth

We’ve seen these public art displays before in our travels… fiberglass creatures of some variety, sponsored by local businesses, painted by local artists, sometimes/sometimes not involving fundraising for local charities.  The turtles of Vero Beach and the pelicans of Pensacola come to mind from recent years.  Not to be confused with the lobsters of Maine, Plymouth had its own thing going on with these crustaceans.  We’d noticed a couple of them, then inquired at the Visitors Information Center where we were offered a Lobster Crawl map.  Turns out that Plymouth is the second biggest harvester of lobster in the state of Massachusetts behind Gloucester, hence their choice of creature.

The Plymouth Lobster Crawl boasts 29 5′ tall fiberglass lobsters (the blanks were produced in Nebraska, go figure), all sponsored by local businesses and painted by local artists.  When we realized that our brief stop in town would not be so brief, I joked to Mike that I’d just kill a day finding them all.  As it turned out, I didn’t dedicate a day and I only saw about 2/3 of them, but given my love for public art, it was a fun distraction.  Some of the names and themes are quite clever.

I present to you, (some of) the Lobsters of Plymouth.

Exploring Gloucester

Because the weather was forecast to be a bit sketchy and the anchoring options limited, we opted to spring for an inner harbor mooring for the couple of nights we’d be in Gloucester.  Although there are a few spots that allowed for dinghy access, we got our money’s worth out of the launch service that was included in the mooring rental.

Although some cruisers pass through, the harbor serves a lot of locals, including fishermen who keep their boats here.  We met a lobsterman and his teen-aged son on the launch who were also on their way ashore after a day on the water.  I asked how their day fishing was and were treated to a great story, complete with video, of their having caught/released a huge 15# female lobster in one of their traps.  It was released because it was well over the size limit for what can be kept.  Amazingly though she was not “notched”.  (If a lobsterman traps an egg-bearing female lobster, he/she is required to cut a small triangular notch in its tail and return it to the water.  If she’s caught again, the notched tail flags her as a breeder, and she again must be released.  Smart way to protect the population. More here, including a photo of a notched tail for, those who are seriously interested.)  We agreed that this must have been one smart lobster to have eluded capture for so many years, to have grown that big.  The son was excited to share his video and both were impressed that we knew anything about lobstering.   We chatted ashore a bit and got some restaurant recommendations.

Our first stop was the Crow’s Nest bar, made famous by Sebastian Junger’s book and film, “The Perfect Storm”.  The bar is real and is a quintessential local watering hole even to this day.  The walls are lined with photos not only of the folks on which the book/movie were based, but also of the actors who portrayed them. While the film crew apparently frequented the place during filming, the ceiling of the place were deemed too low by the camera crew, so a mock-up was constructed in Hollywood.  We chatted with a few of the locals, one of whom told of her efforts to get on “Wicked Tuna“, a National Geographic reality TV series on the boats that fish out of Gloucester.  Not having a TV aboard, we were unfamiliar with the show, but based on “licensed product” for sale around town, it’s  apparently a pretty big deal.  Stone’s Pub for dinner was quite yummy.

The following day we did some touristing.  Walking along the north shore of Gloucester Harbor, it seemed appropriate that we had a bit of fog.  The Gloucester Fisherman’s Memorial, sometimes referred to as “Man at the Wheel” was impressive and sobering.  Artist Leonard F Craske completed the sculpture in 1925 for Gloucester’s 300th anniversary, and since then additions have been made to include the names of those lost at sea from 1716 – 2001, incl the captain and crew, 6 all told, of the Andrea Gail.

A bit further down and of more recent vintage is the Fishermen’s Wives Memorial, per their website “the memorial honors not only the faith, diligence, and fortitude of the wives of fishermen and mariners everywhere but also honors all women for their unselfish contribution to the well being of their families and their communities”.

At our furthest flung, we arrived at the sizable Stage Fort Park where Tablet Rock has a plaque commemorating the landing of the first settlers in 1623, the 2nd permanent settlement of the early Puritans in the New World, though there is some question as to the truth of this claim.  Causeway Restaurant , recommended by the lobsterman we’d met the previous day, made for a filling lunch, which was followed by a walk back into town and a stretch at the lovely public library.  I managed to squeeze in a long walk to the grocery and back to a launch pick-up, arriving back to the boat just ahead of what looked like a nasty storm that never amounted to much.

And of course there were lighthouses, from the water on both our way in and again at our departure, the twin Thatcher Island Lights, Eastern Point Light and a bit deeper into the harbor, Ten Pound Island Light.

 

Rockland bid us farewell with a gorgeous sunrise.  After breakfast ashore (at the quite yummy Home Kitchen Café),  a quick grocery run to top off provisions, and a quicker stop at the marina dock to top off fuel and we were on our way, reluctantly starting our way back south/west.  We had another nice view of  Owls Head Light, then Whitehead Light along the way to Long Cove/Tenants Harbor.

Departing the following day, we had a nice view of Tenants Harbor Light, including a pretty oil house as well, owned for several decades now by various members of the Wyeth family.  A bit later, and inhabited only by birds, was Franklin Island Light.  Franklin is one of eight island lighthouses transferred by the US Coast Guard to the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge for the protection of nesting habitat.  It turns out these islands, ironically because they were at one time occupied by lighthouse keepers, were ideal for this purpose.  Keeping gull colonies from completely taking over a nesting area is key, as they don’t play nice with other smaller species.  Light-keepers were motivated to keep gulls at bay as well as they depended on rainwater collected from their roofs for a fresh water supply.  Find more info on these protected islands here on the US Fish and Wildlife site.

Next up was another pass at Pemaquid Point Light (too many tourists on this fine week-end day for photos to my liking), after which we’d planned to drop the hook in Pemaquid Harbor. We arrived to find it very crowded, full of boats with people aboard, but not appearing to be going any where.  Hmm…  As we pondered our options, several lobster boats, usually quiet on Sundays as lobstering is not allowed,  were suddenly tearing through the harbor.  Then we noticed the Coast Guard boat, seemingly unconcerned.  Then it dawned on us; we’d unknowingly stumbled upon a lobster boat race.  Yep, it’s a real thing in these parts, and they’re apparently quite serious about it.  The Bangor Daily News likens it to NASCAR meets a tractor pull.  We hung around for a couple of races, but it was obvious we weren’t going to be dropping a hook anywhere in the vicinity.  Nearby Poorhouse Cove made a fine and much quieter substitute.

We returned Monday to find a whole different place.  Still a pretty tight harbor, we managed to anchor in the Upper Pemaquid River and ferried our bikes ashore for a bit of exploring.  On site was a small reconstructed fort/historical site, apparently popular for summers and school field trips, but not much going on during our visit.  We biked across the penninsula to New Harbor, pausing along the way at a post office to mail our absentee ballots. We had lunch at Shaw’s Fish and Lobster Wharf, one of the places on my “Lobster Rolls Worth Driving to Maine For list”, overlooking New Harbor Co-op where the fishing boats bring their hauls.   I later learned was also featured in an Epicurious piece on Maine lobster shacks.  Spreading it around a bit, we also picked up a steamed lobster from  Pemaquid Seafood tucked behind another co-op near where we’d anchored. Mike picked this one for freezing, which a few days later made a fine lobster mac and cheese.

Fog and  light rain greeted us the following morning, but we opted to move on anyway.  Today’s lighthouses included Ram Island Light, Cuckolds Light (now operating as an inn) and an attempt at Seguin.  Alas, when we poked our nose in the cove at Seguin Island, a visit ashore just wasn’t in the cards.  It was a bit more rolly in the cove than we’d hoped, and more importantly, so foggy that you couldn’t even see the light tower (photo below).  Views from the island of the surrounding area were not likely to be better.  We opted to pass.  Shortly thereafter, I was granted a consolation prize though, a sighting of a new-to-me seabird, a Northern Gannet.  Of course I was at the helm, in the fog, dodging both lobster buoys and lobster boats, Mike otherwise indisposed, but managed to grab an OK photo despite those challenges.  The Basin off New Meadows River, huge and peaceful, was a fine place to spend a couple of evenings.

 

The day of our departure dawned a bit clearer and we agreed that it was worth a bit of back-tracking to take another shot at Seguin Island Light. Our efforts were rewarded as sunbeams fought to break through the clouds as we approached.  We took a mooring in the cove and dinghied ashore for what turned out to be a lovely visit, including a climb of the tower and a hike about several of the trails.  Some of the gulls were not happy, seemingly accustomed to having the north end of the island to themselves.  A fresh looking chick peeked at us as we departed; ID help welcome on the latter.  The original first order Fresnel lens, dating from 1857, was a highlight; Seguin Light is one of few that have managed to keep such a special lens as most have been replaced with lights far more efficient but less attractive.  For more info, photos, some history and a blog kept by the volunteer keepers, check out Friends of Seguin Light Station.

With the forecast calling for winds shifting north overnight, we opted to make this a day stop only, cast off the mooring and headed  back into Casco Bay.  Potts Harbor/Ash Point Cove was a reasonable place to spend a few days, wait out some weather.  Another fishing wharf, another on spot on my “lobster roll list”, (Erica’s Seafood), and some dinghy exploring kept us entertained.

We spent one more night in York before leaving Maine waters, and caught another (closer than on our way north) view of Isle of Shoals Light as we cruised through New Hampshire waters.

P1070754 Isle of Shoals Light, NH

Isle of Shoals Light NH

Maine, 2018, it’s a wrap.  So glad we made the effort to make the trip up this summer, and definitely on the list of places we would return to.  In the meantime, it’s time to make some tracks south.  Stay tuned.

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…

 

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