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.
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!