Bound for Maine

Or, as nearly every Maine tourist brochure mentions, “Down East”.  Why Down East when cruising up to the northeast?  Well, in the 1800’s when schooners regularly sailed from Boston to various ports in Maine, the wind was (usually) at their backs (sailing downwind), hence the term Down East.  While that’s the general usage, a true Mainer considers only northern Maine to be Down East, while one in northern Maine may consider Down East to be Canada.  So as Maine author John Gould states, Down East is “a never-never land always east of where you are”.

With our sailing days long past, we small power boaters don’t want any stinkin’ wind!  These are our kind of seas out in the mighty Atlantic Ocean off Plymouth, Massachusetts – flat!  In this stretch we almost always see a whale or two in the distance.  This time only one, likely a Minke whale (smaller at around 20′), which put on quite an aerobatic show!  For about 2 minutes, it repeatedly breached almost 10′ straight up, then straight back in with a huge splash.  Unfortunately, we were over 1/2 mile away, so I didn’t even try to take a photo – you’ll just have to believe me!

As we headed off from Connecticut, a tropical storm named Elsa had just formed down in the Caribbean. Even back then, the tracks had it likely coming up to New England, as at least a rainy day.  Unfortunately, it was to be a little bit more!  Above shows wind conditions predicted a few days before – time to find a place to hide!  Never knowing ahead whether the storm would be less or worse than predicted, there would be few options last minute, especially north of Boston.  As we had already planned to stop in Newburyport, Massachusetts (2 donut shops & a great bakery!) we tried to get a spot on their municipal dock.  “Booked solid” we were told …  We persisted, got 1 night, then 3!  Although we were told we must absolutely leave Saturday morning by 10 AM.

Our sweet spot, in a little notch off their long dock, next to this monster 180′ yacht. Hundreds of tourists took our picture – well – only because we were in the way!
Sweet treats from Figtree Kitchen bakery

Elsa ended up here as a fairly minor storm with around 2 inches of rain & winds in the 20’s gusting to 30.

Leaving Newburyport in the AM, we travel down the Merrimack River. The entrance has earned a reputation as one of the most dangerous on the east coast. That is without the predicted leftover 4 to 7 foot ocean swells. Due to the extremely strong currents & eddies, there can be “standing waves” known to flip over small boats. Complicating it all are fishing boats which stop right in front of you & 100′ fishing charter boats roaring thru with their giant wakes! Maybe we’ll plead for just one more night until the ocean calms down!

National Donut Day

We just had to spend National Donut Day (the first Friday in June for you amateurs) … researching!  22 miles north of us in Middletown is Neil’s Donuts. This, their 2nd location, is fairly new so we had never been.  Wow!!  While they don’t look like much due to the way they (unfortunately) pile them into the box, they taste really, really good!  Very moist with fantastic flavors without being not too sweet.

Even better was a long awaited visit from Benj!  COVID cancelled his usual Florida/Bahamas winter visit, so it’s been nearly 9 long months!  We crammed a lot into our fun week together, including a full day in Mystic.  For lunch we enjoyed a great meal at the S & P Oyster House, our go-to Mystic Restaurant for over 20 years, way back when we would take our Sea Ray powerboat to Mystic for the weekend.  Of course, we had to stop at Sift Bake Shop.  Chef Adam Young recently won the Best Baker in America competition on Food Network, so everything tastes as good as it looks.  They now have a large 2nd floor deck with comfortable seating so you can enjoy the view of the Mystic River along with your treats.

Of course, Lobster Landing in Clinton was another required stop with their famous lobster rolls.  Yes, Benj ate both of them!

We didn’t only eat … one day we took the Chester Ferry across the Connecticut River to hike the Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam.  The “castle” was built in the early 1900’s by William Gillette, an actor best known for his on stage portrayal of Sherlock Holmes.  He personally supervised it’s construction with features which include 47 unique doors each with wooden “trick” locks he designed & passageways with series of mirrors allowing him to view visitors so he could ensure his theatrically appearing at the appropriate moment.  Even though I’ve visited dozens of times over 50+ years, I’ve never walked this portion of the property thru his (now abandoned) train tunnel.  Gillette was particularly fond of his 3 mile-long narrow gauge railroad, offering rides to his visitors which included Albert Einstein, Helen Hayes & Charlie Chaplin.  Even though he spent over a million dollars (around 30 million in today’s dollars), he loved it so much that his will detailed that the State of Connecticut could buy it for only $5,000, rather than selling it for millions to any “blithering sap-head who has no conception of where he is or with what he is surrounded”.

During our hike, we noticed an extremely oversized birdhouse high up on a tree. What the heck…?  Seconds later the answer became apparent as this large Barred owl flew out to a nearby limb keeping an evil eye on us – perhaps guarding her little ones still in the nest? Certainly a fascinating creature & only the second time we’ve ever seen one in the wild.

We always notice more unusual nature when Benj is around.  While grilling dinner onshore at our marina’s grill, we noticed a beaver swimming by.  Certainly not a common sight in the wide Connecticut River.  He let us follow him a bit & watched while he took a break, resting on some rocks. He soon tired of us & dove down & away, never to be seen again … until … the week later while kayaking a nearby creek, I spotted a newly constructed, “tiny home” – perhaps his starter lodge?

Researching on-line, we learned the young remain with the adults as a family group or colony until their second year  At that time, the adults drive the young beavers out of the territory, forcing them to migrate and search for mates and unoccupied habitat in which to establish a new colony.  So our friend is likely a 2 year-old freshly kicked out, beginning his new adventures!

Do we get to relax much while at a marina for a whole month?  We always hope to, after cleaning, projects, engine work, oil changes, etc.  Somehow though, there is always more to consume our time.  This paperwork is just a portion of my 8-month battle with Barclay’s Bank with whom we had Uber branded credit cards.  Having a credit card scammed is, unfortunately, a too-common occurrence. While a hassle, you usually simply cancel the cards, let your credit card company know which charges are fraudulent & wait for replacement cards in the mail.  Not so with Barclay Bank.

They must not have any fraud detection software, as they didn’t notice a sudden blast of dozens of Uber rides with amounts as low as 93 cents (Hint: you can’t take a 93 cent ride!).  I immediately called to cancel our cards, but they wouldn’t cancel Lori’s, as they insisted it had a different card number, thus not affected.  Of course, the next week Lori apparently took dozens of Uber rides in Australia!  We then cancelled our accounts completely, detailing the stack of fraudulent charges.  Their customer service is the worst I’ve ever dealt with. Long story short, all these months later, they have charged, credited, re-charged, refunded , re-charged again with now 100+ transactions to sort out.  Moral of my story: If you have any credit cards thru Barclay’s Bank, I would strongly recommend cancelling them!