WARNING- LONG POST COVERING EIGHT DAYS AND EVEN MORE STOPS
After our whale sighting we stopped for lunch at Isles of Shoals, a collection of small and smaller islands about five miles off the New Hampshire coast. But history is funny and several of the islands are part of Maine. Gorgeous spot, very crowded on the lovely Sunday afternoon when we stopped and anchored in over 35 ft of water.
York, ME became our first overnight stop in Maine and that was fitting since it was our first stop in June 2010 after collecting Ortolan from Maine Cat. The current runs strong as you enter the harbor but we thought we’d found a spot to anchor off the small beach before the harbor’s entrance. We come up, look and guess what? Too many lobster pots. I’m picking up the VHF to hail the harbormaster about a mooring when he appears, headed our way. Now that’s quick! I yell over, asking about a mooring and he says he’s got one and he will lead us to it! The current is running strong as we wind our way in, barely making 4 ½ kts with two engines. We spot our ball from 2010 and he keeps leading us in and around to the further-in area and we pick up the ball easily.
Next stop: Richmond Island 32nm north of York. The lobster boats got an early start; so we did too and caught the outgoing tide. Along the way we spotted porpoises several times then noticed that the aptly named Cape Porpoise lay 12nm north. SW winds blew gently at 4-7 kts and pots were easy to see in the calm water.
Note: we were told that 3million lobster pots live in Maine waters, 65,ooo of them in Casco Bay alone. We work very hard at not snagging one for ourselves.
Richmond Island is owned by the Sprague family since 1913 and they generously allow a teeny bit of respectful camping. Dinghies can land (kayaks too) on the beach and a marked footpath takes you around ¾ of the island’s perimeter. The treed north tip is “owners only.”
I still remain shaken by the situation we found ourselves in the following morning, Tuesday Aug 12. To top it off the fog hung fish stew heavy around us. The prior post shows us in a much improved condition, both location-wise and fog-wise. My headset lasted through the critical times but crapped out when we were raising the anchor; I could hear Russ though which was most important.
The wind had picked up to 11-14kts and by the time we left at 10am the Atlantic coastal waters were choppy, requiring full attention to pot watching. Our destination was the boring sounding and looking Sturdivant Island which sat close to the mainland in Casco Bay. We needed to hide out from Wednesday’s rain/wind event and with NOAA forecasting 8-10ft ocean swells, getting as far in as possible seemed like a really good idea. We spotted seals for the first time; at first we thought their faces were dark pot floats, but no, just seals who dive back in the water before the camera can even be turned on.
Thurs, the sun shone, the wind behaved and we got a visit from a local who owns a cottage on the island checking to see how we fared. We almost couldn’t leave; the anchor was like a pig in mud, so happy to be there and just coated in the stuff. But leave we did without breaking the anchor chute and motor-sailed four miles to Great Chebeague Island, anchoring a ways off the ferry dock and The Chebeague Island Inn.
We walked a lot on Chebeague, visited the museum that was the former grammar/middle school, walked to a beach, the market, the Inn and finally to Slow Bell Cafe. Not all in the same trip. Very friendly people; 9 out of 10 car drivers waved as they went past us.
Friday with high hopes for much diminished swells we headed for Jewell Island on the bay’s outer edge. Cocktail Cove is where one anchors and unless you want to be up close and personal with all your neighbors, you visit on a weekday; so we did. Gorgeous Maine island with the rocks you expect to see and depths you don’t care about as landlubbers but as a boater, cringe when time to drop the hook.
We anchored in 20-something which actually has become a reasonable depth as the days have progressed. A couple we met on the beach arrived the day before and said it was rollier than all their previous visits over the years.
One review on ActiveCaptain said sea glass could be found in the Punchbowl and from the looks of it I didn’t doubt the claim but we didn’t find very much and still, no red.
Walked the path toward the southern end which led to WWII structures and a 5 story tower with bunk rooms and artillery. Jewell is lovely, with pine trees, a couple of campsites and fire pits.
After lunch we departed for Dolphin Marina and Restaurant, located in Potts Harbor at the tip of Harpswell Neck.
I’d called ahead for a mooring and Chase came out in the launch to not only show us the ball but handed me the pennant. I didn’t need help but that’s how it’s done at this family-owned marina. Chris Saxton is a third generation owner/operator; his grandparents started the business in 1966 and the restaurant is known for good food, a relaxing ambiance and blueberry muffins. The boat moored next to us was from Chester, CT and we learned that the restaurant is so good that they diverted from their trip home just to stop here. That and free laundry- what more could I ask for? How about no lobster pots in the mooring field? The mooring field here is fairly small- I’m just sayin’.
Dinner was fabulous and we ended up with three huge muffins; two returned with us to become breakfast the next morning. Mimi, Chris’s mom stopped by every table to do a wellness check. Chris had told us earlier that she and his dad had a winter place on Eleuthera not far from Hatchett Bay so we talked with her a bit about that when she stopped by our table.
This is quite the low key important place; for example we learned that Foxy and his family (you know- of BVI Foxy’s) had visited the week before and Chelsea the dockmaster at Dolphin was best friends with Foxy’s daughter! Go figure.
The weather, while still refusing to provide temps above 75, was a least providing low winds, the kind just perfect for worry-free anchoring and easy dinghy trips to far off islands, not to mention calm enough to run the watermaker.
Sat 8/16 looked perfect for a 2nm dinghy ride to Eagle Island, to tour the summer home of Admiral Robert Edwin Peary, leader of the first successful attempt to reach the North Pole April 6, 1909.(excluding you-know-who, Ho Ho). He was the only man to do this without using mechanical or electronic devices.
Peary was born in PA on May 6, 1856 of French and English heritage. When his father died young, his mom returned to Portland, Maine where Peary attended high school. In the early 1870s he came upon Eagle Island on one his many camping trips and fell in love with it; finally buying it in 1877 from the Curtis family of Harpswell.
We watched a wonderfully done video about Peary’s life, accomplishments, summer home on Eagle and his family. The island is reachable only by boat and thanks to low tide and high rocks, the ramp up from the dinghy dock was just a wee tad intimidating to someone with height anxiety.
The house was built in 1904; Peary was a busy man, advancing quickly to Commander and proving himself a visionary with courage, commitment and a passion for planning. His vision for the “Big House”, as opposed to the “Little Cottage” was this: the rocky bluff was the prow of a great ship heading northeasterly, and he placed his house as the pilot house of the ship would have been located. The original house rested directly on the bare ledge. Once Peary had shown the world incontrovertible proof of his reaching the North Pole, Congress, expressing the thanks of the nation, authorized that Peary be placed on the retired list of the Navy with the rank of Rear Admiral. Whew- now he could finally relax and fix up that summer home. This the home we saw and walked through today.
The three-sided fireplace, each side a different kind of stone found on the island, was designed by Peary and built by master masons. The upstairs contains five bedrooms, one with a small stained-glass window in the closet.
The island contains a few short trails that lead you past several small flower gardens and the beach by the bow of the house contains sea glass if you look carefully. Lots of blue and amazingly, no brown- yes I am not joking.
By the time we left the wind had picked up a bit but since we were both going in the same direction, it was a pleasant and surprisingly warm ride.
Fried oysters for lunch and lobsters to cook for dinner; both from Erica’s located on the pier nearby; ah life is good and greatly improved since our Richmond Island “experience.”
Sunday, we moved all of five miles to the wide and protected Harpswell Harbor, home to only a few pot floats and private moorings. The floats in the river along the way more than made up for it though. We received a shout-out from kayakers who recognized the boat as a Maine Cat. Across the way lay Orrs and Bailey Islands connected by the only cribstone bridge in the world.
The OBYC let us tie up the dinghy on their dock and we walked over the bridge to Morse’s Cribstone Grill for a delicious lunch and superb service from Karen who found out the grocery store’s hours for us so we’d be sure it was open in the afternoon.
The mile-plus walk was leisurely; stopped for locally grown summer squash and found a beach loaded with teeny smoothed pieces of sea glass. You could just plop down, move the coarse sand around and collect as much as 10 pieces in one sitting. The market was more luncheonette than grocery but we did score a dozen eggs; an important ingredient in French toast and lobster scrambled eggs.:-) The lobsters we bought from Morse’s (many restaurants have a separate building from which they sell fresh lobster,etc) may have been our best tasting ones ever. I do believe I’m starting to get used to cruising Maine waters.
Sailed on Monday 12nm to Small Point Harbor, tucking in to a good–sized cove with only two pots to deal with. Hermit Island is mostly campground with easy walking paths and side paths to the first sandy beaches we’ve seen in abundance.
Tuesday we hoped to snag a mooring ball in the tiny Five Islands Harbor and our noon arrival granted us a ball from the FIYC that has free balls on a first-come-first-served basis.
We looked very large in a harbor with lobster boats, small picnic and runabouts and a few sailboats under 40ft. A gorgeous nugget of Maine loveliness, made even better by the NYTimes acclaimed Five Island Lobster Co. They have two buildings- one for cooked whole lobsters and steamers (red) and the other for fried, burgers, rolls and logo trinkets.
Eating well, that we are. Not finding hot lobster rolls, which I prefer and Russ sort-of likes as long as it isn’t a onion-y lobster salad roll, the FILC serves up a cold lobster roll- naked- no mayo, no butter- just delicious perfectly cooked lobster meat in a hotdog roll; toasted if you ask. My veggie burger with L,T,Pickle and cilantro-mayo was excellent. Not a filler burger but the real deal- roasted veggies combined into a delicious pattie- a yummy lunch.
Dinner was an inspired double-sized lobster roll that we ordered to go, separately. Warmed the lobster with a bit of unsalted butter in foil on the grill, toasted the bun and had twice as much lobster as would fit the roll-which meant some left for breakfast.
Wednesday we bopped over (really 4 miles down and 4 miles up the next finger) to Boothbay Harbor- an easy trip with fewer than usual pot floats. The small anchorage is off Mill Point where the depth is 27ft at low and about 36 at normal high tide. No room for 6-7 scope here (or most places in Maine) but with low to no wind, having a 4:1 ratio is not a problem. At low tide we’d only have 5-ish. Stay tuned for more on Boothbay.