Sept. 9/2020: After bringing Lunacy back north back in late May I did during June and July run several short two- or three-day solo jaunts out of Portland, just around Casco Bay. These were certainly enjoyable, but not at all remarkable, so I have not bothered to memorialize them here on the blog. I’ve spent most of the last month on the boat, however, on a much longer cruise that took me further east on the Maine coast than I’ve ever gone before, so I’m afraid I feel compelled to share all this with you.
Be warned: this is a long post. But I’ll try to keep it photo intensive, so you can get thru it as painlessly as possible.
At the outset conditions were very hot, and I anticipated they would stay hot, so I brought along a good chunk of my Caribbean wardrobe, as that photo up top, shot on day one of the cruise, suggests. I departed Portland alone on Tuesday, August 11, a bit before 1400 hrs, in a moderate SW breeze and managed to sail, sometimes quite slowly, clear across Casco Bay and around Small Point, into the mouth of the Kennebec River on a fair tide. By 1900 hrs I’d picked up a mooring at Popham Beach, the epicenter of my long career sailing in Maine (as in… this is where we spent summers when I was growing up).
The very first thing I noticed on entering the Kennebec was this huge construction barge anchored off what used to be my grandmother’s house on Gilbert Head, just across the river from Fort Popham. The current owner, it seems, was in the midst of replacing the old wooden dock with a fancy new granite wharf. Word on the street had it this was being done at a cost of $850K, which I frankly find unbelievable. $85K maybe, but really I’d be surprised if it even cost that much.
The old dock, a classic wood crib filled with rocks, was originally built by my grandfather and one Ellison Moody back in the 1930s. I remember it very well, and I remember too how my grandfather used to complain about how building that dock had permanently ruined his back. This dock lasted nearly 60 years, until my grandmother hired Dickie Lemont, shortly before she died in the early ‘90s, to rebuild it. That rebuilt dock, as far as I know, had lasted until now
Immediately upon arriving in Popham, an old family friend, Derek Lunghino, shot over in a skiff with his new dog, Bernie, to say hey. They were staying across the river, doing the manly bachelor-dog thing, in a borrowed cottage. Derek had me over for dinner (pasta and too much wine) and next morning (when this shot was snapped) he and Bernie took me for a long walk on Popham Beach
Shortly after noon that same day, after saying farewell to Derek and Bernie, I caught the last of the ebb tide to get out the river and sailed east, again in a moderate SW breeze, to Burnt Island, south of Port Clyde. This Navionics screen shot off my iPad shows my approach. Total motoring this day was very minimal, just enough to get off the mooring at Popham, and to get on to an anchor at Burnt
Lunacy at anchor at Burnt Island the following day. Note the nice purple awning over the cockpit. This was the first time I’d ever deployed it for real, an indication of how mercilessly hot it was! Those people in the Friendship sloop only stayed a few hours, but the singlehander in the Cape Dory behind me stayed just as long as I did
After getting some writing done aboard Lunacy in the shade I hiked Burnt Island, in the blazing heat of the day, for the first time in a few years. I really was struck by how ugly it was. Inland was a wasteland of dead trees blown down by storms. All along the east shore I found these very foul tidal pools, filled with black viscous water
I also found lots of stranded lobster pot buoys and other random debris
After one full day at Burnt Island, I sailed clear across the mouths of both sides of Penobscot Bay to Isle au Haut, where I pulled into the main harbor there, in the thorofare between Isle au Haut and Kimball Island. I did have to run the engine for about an hour, during a null time as the moderate northerly I started with morphed into a weak SW sea breeze
Lunacy on a rental mooring in the Isle au Haut Thorofare, with the town dock in the foreground. The first time I’d been here in about 20 years! Last time I saw local celebrity Linda Greenlaw, famous author and ex-swordboat skipper, tooling around in her new lobster boat
Seen in town that same afternoon: the sign, but not the notary
A very fine graveyard… with a view
I spent one night at Isle au Haut and sailed on to Camden the next day, over the top of North Haven, in conditions that ranged from cool and overcast with a brisk NE breeze in the morning to blazing sun and small wind by afternoon. I was forced to raise the awning again as soon as I got there
Camden’s fleet of windjammers, normally super-active in the summer, never shed their winter covers this year, thanks to the Covid pandemic
Surprise, seen here, was one of the smaller schooners still running day trips, pandemic be damned. On arriving I picked up a private mooring with a very foul pennant I figured hadn’t been used all season. Later the mooring’s owner came by to introduce himself… twas none other than Ramiro de Acevedo Ramos, to whom I sold my old Pearson Alberg 35 Crazy Horse many many moons ago. Small world this! He and his wife Nicole own and run Surprise, and also Anjacaa, a 54-foot S&S sloop
I spent two nights in Camden and on my second morning there, Monday, August 17, got a special treat as my old colleague Ben Ellison, of Panbo fame, took me out to haul lobster traps. He’s just gotten a recreational license and runs a string of five pots. We scored six legal bugs, of which I got to keep three
A female bearing eggs. We threw her back, of course, so she can keep cranking out more bugs
We took the bugs back to Ben’s major boat, Gizmo, which lies on a float in Camden’s inner harbor, to boil and pick them. Ben, long a majorly important marine electronics writer, likes to keep his wiring shipshape, as you can see here
Seen in Camden Harbor: a Hobie cat with furniture for hiking out
Something only a sailor would do: right after lobstering with Ben I struck out for Rockland, tacking 11 times and taking four hours to get there, over a distance as the crow flies of just about 6 miles. The following day, Tuesday, I took on fuel and water at Landings Marina and later rendezvoused with my wife Clare, who drove up from Portsmouth to meet me
Clare and I stashed the car at a friend’s house in Rockland and after one night there together struck out east. We had an easy sail across West Penobscot Bay, and then through the Fox Islands Thorofare, the long channel that separates Vinalhaven and North Haven Islands. While sailing through the thorofare I got distracted chatting with my lovely wife, and accidentally banged a big red nun, number 10, just off North Haven’s Iron Point. Oops!!! Later I snapped this photo of the damage done. THIS, my friends, is why you want to own a metal boat!
Once clear of the thorofare, we kept sailing east, across East Penobscot Bay, bound for Merchants Row, and watched with some trepidation as this very ugly-looking piece of weather passed just north of us. Fortunately without ruffling our feathers
We arrived safely at McGlathery Island and next morning stormed ashore for a walk, and to enjoy this fine view of the boat
Clare strolls along an immense granite shelf on McGlathery’s south shore
After just one night at McGlathery we struck out for the Cranberry Islands, just southeast of Mt. Desert Island. This shows our approach to the Cranberries, sailed very patiently in light off-the-wind conditions
We found a mooring in Hadlock Cove off Little Cranberry Island and got to watch this small, very elegant local boat sail off its mooring with the heights of Mt. Desert as a backdrop
Sunset in Hadlock Cove. We went for an early walk ashore the next morning, then kept on trucking east
East of the Schoodic Peninsula! My first time ever this far east on the Maine coast. (Yes, I have been to Nova Scotia, but I got there by sailing straight across the Gulf of Maine.) This is the iconic lighthouse on Petit Manan Island, eight miles past Schoodic
Dead downwind work, sailing with the headsail poled out. By 1852 hrs that evening we’d arrived at the ominously named Mistake Island Harbor, which is actually very pleasant. I had expected more solitude once we got “down east,” but was disappointed to find we were one of five boats there
And very early the next morning, a sixth boat arrived, in a thick of fog
After the fog cleared we went ashore in the dinghy to explore Mistake Island itself
A sign to welcome us
Hiking the boardwalk across the island to Moose Peak Light
From Mistake Island we moved on to Roque Island, a large double-crescent island with beaches on both its north and south sides. The main beach, called Great Beach, is the southern one, about a mile long
Anchored off Great Beach at Roque with plenty of company. This is likely the most popular destination for cruisers roaming the coast between Schoodic and the Canadian border
Clare on the beach. Roque Island has some very cool stuff on it, including a self-sustaining working farm. Visitors were once welcome to roam the island, but now the family owners are very strict, and strangers are only allowed access to the eastern half of Great Beach. We noticed, however, that a group of revelers on local lobster boats that rafted together off the west end of the beach were challenging this, going ashore there, but staying below the high-water mark
The signs telling you to stay the f*** on the beach, posted every few yards, are a bit disingenuous, as the island is obviously cultivated
After one night at Roque we started retreating “up west” again, sailing first to Eastern Harbor, which, as you can see, did indeed involve a lot of upwind sailing, much of it in fog with light wind
It was cold and still foggy when we arrived at Eastern Harbor. So cold we started up the drip-pot diesel heater, and I realized I hadn’t really packed any decent warm clothes. So much for the heat of the summer! I ran the heater again early the next morning, but by the time these clam-diggers appeared (two of several within sight) things had warmed up nicely. It actually had been quite a while since I’d seen such a large group of clam-diggers at work. When I was a kid they were a common sight on most any low tide in daylight. Indeed, I used to dig quite a few clams myself!
From Eastern Harbor we motored (pretty much all the way) to Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island against a very light headwind. This was our first and really only leg that wasn’t mostly sailed. After arriving we strolled about the very spiffy little town there, tried unsuccessfully to eat out, and next morning woke up to… more fog!
In the end we were ejected from Northeast Harbor, as it turned out the guest mooring we thought we were on wasn’t really for guests. So we toddled over to nearby Southwest Harbor, where we had no trouble finding a real guest mooring, and succeeded in eating lunch out (outdoors, of course), where we enjoyed this fine view
Right after lunch we dropped our mooring and took off and soon saw nasty weather oozing along to the north of us. Unfortunately, this time it did not slide by uneventfully and we ended up in the thick of it, in a super-nasty thunder squall, with lightning striking quite close to us. (Sorry, got no pix of that!) I resigned myself, not for the first time, to getting hit, but fortunately in vain
We arrived safely, and thankfully, at Burnt Coat Harbor on Swans Island just before nightfall and awoke to this fine scene in the morning. Clare is a huge fan of the Swans Island Company, which makes very fine handcrafted blankets (of which we own far too many), and was hugely disappointed to find that this company has absolutely nothing to do with Swans Island
Clare walking a fine stone beach on Swans, dwelling on the mythical blankets
Next stop was Isle au Haut again, but this time we pulled into Moores Harbor instead of the thorofare. As you can see from the extravagant track here, we were once again sailing “upwest” against the wind. It was actually pretty breezy, blowing steadily in the mid-20s, with a few gusts to near 30. We sailed under a single-reefed main with a reef rolled also into the genoa
Moores Harbor has a reputation for being an uncomfortably rolly place, but when we arrived, just after the sunset on Wednesday, August 26, with the wind firmly in the west, it felt quite sheltered with perfectly flat water. A welcome relief after a bouncy day beating to windward. Very early the next morning, however, the southwesterly swell was coming in nicely and things got very rolly (as you can see here). We stuck it out, however, and went ashore for a long hike in the national park (Acadia) which comprises most of the island’s acreage
After our hike we skedaddled a very short distance over to Seal Cove, on the west side of Vinalhaven, where we met (on purpose) some friends, Jack and Zdenka Griswold, who were there on their Valiant 42 Kite. We enjoyed some socially distant cocktails aboard Lunacy, then next morning Clare rowed over for another quick chat before we pulled out
From Seal Cove it was back to Rockland, where, alas, Clare had to leave me the following morning, to retrieve our beloved daughter Lucy from the clutches of Camp Covid (long story that). The evening prior we succeeded once again in dining out (a big treat for Clare) and the following day, after she left, there was incessant rain until sunset, when things finally cleared up a bit
A mystery of sorts. It seems this boat was dismasted during the nasty weather that day, but it wasn’t really blowing that hard. Just raining a lot. Lord knows we needed it
When I set out from Rockland, solo again, on Friday, August 30, the forecast was for strong SW’ly wind, 20 with gusts to 25, and I figured I’d just bear down, shorten sail, and thrash into it. Except the wind was much stronger than forecast, in the low 30s, with frequent gusts to near 40. I soon changed my plan and put into Tenants Harbor to hide from the merciless breeze. I picked up a mooring at the south end of the harbor, and soon after watched in wonder as a local Cape Dory Typhoon, all of 19 feet long, trundled out for a daysail… under full sail. They had no fun at all, as the wind was still gusting to the mid-30s, even in the harbor. They banged out of control into another moored Typhoon quite near Lunacy, then quickly (and wisely) retreated back to where they came from
That evening, after the wind died. Moonrise at Tenants
From Tenants Harbor I wanted to make a big leap back west, so got an early start. To start there was a light NW’ly, which kept me going a sluggish 2-3 knots on a beam reach. I thought a lot about getting out the asymmetric spinnaker. Then a southerly sea breeze worked to establish itself, but struggled doing it. I should have known that getting the spinnaker ready to launch would bring more breeze. Soon after I snapped this shot, with the chute all ready to hoist, the south wind got up nicely and the kite never got off the deck
My old stomping grounds. Approaching Seguin Island sailing nicely at 6 knots. By then I’d stowed the spinnaker again. I succeeded in making it all the way to Sebasco Harbor, just on the Casco Bay side of Small Point, by nightfall
The final day, Tuesday, September 1, from Sebasco back to Portland. A slow but steady sail across the full breadth of Casco Bay. Not long before I snapped this screen shot, at 1354 hrs, I heard a mysterious anonymous announcement on VHF channel 16: “There are drugs on the Harvey Gamage, going into Portland.” No updates yet on how that turned out
A very satisfied cruising skipper