Exploring Maine, 2008

Nate’s Notes #6:


Boy has it been a busy month aboard Idyll Time. As head engineer (HE), I’ve been consulting and advising Captain Dad on a variety of boat projects while in Maine this summer. The biggest, and a surprise to us all, was the haul out of IT by Hinckley Yachts in Southwest Harbor, ME. Capt. Dad managed to get a huge ball of junk lobster pot lines caught on the starboard stabilizer fin. He wasn’t paying attention. I had him go overboard to dive it once we were in port. The lines had wedged themselves between the fin and hull. Capt Dad had quite a time pulling them free. While he was wet (and cold), I had him check the line cutters on the propeller shaft and the bow thruster prop. Both were missing. If we were to catch anymore line, the cutters would not work and our propeller would become disabled (ie-we would be “dead in the water”). That was not good news. To fix them, IT would have to be hauled out. I knew the Hinckley Yacht Yard nearby is just the facility to do this big job. They are one of the few around with multiple lifts, the largest being a 100 ton monster. IT weighs 34 tons, so as HE, I knew we would be o.k. Hinckley has been building some of the finest sailing yachts in the world for over 70 years and is known for their engineering expertise and experience in handling fine water craft. After much discussion and engineering, I had Capt Dad arrange for Hinckley to manufacture and install a new line cutter block, make and install stabilizer fin deflectors ( so lobster pot line can’t wedge between the fins again), and install a new port side bow thruster prop to replace the missing one.

The big day arrived and we were quickly on dry land for eight hours while all the work was completed. It is interesting to note that I had them check the starboard bow thruster prop to see if it too had been properly replaced in April. Just as I suspected, once we got it apart, there was no cotter pin in front of the prop nut nor locktite on the shaft threads. Luckily this prop rotates in the same direction as the threaded nut so it wouldn’t come off on its own. Because the left turns the opposite way, that is why the nut loosened and the prop came off. Capt Dad was at the boat yard in April when the props were re-installed after painting but I guess he wasn’t paying attention (probably talking) when the mechanic put them back on. I’ve asked that he go through a remedial “attention to details” class this fall. We’ll see if he goes. Admiral Mom says he doesn’t pay attention to her when she’s speaking either so I know this isn’t an isolated incident.

Capt Dad says he feels much better knowing the line cutters are 100% and that line can no longer get between the stabilizer fins and hull. He’s also pleased to have the bow thruster back to maximum thrust. Now he has no excuses when approaching a dock or mooring and Admiral Mom gives him an order to move port or starboard. I suspect he’ll think up something else to blame it on, as it’s never his fault when things go wrong.

Several weeks later, Tropical Storm Hanna came to call on us while we were moored in Boothbay Harbor, ME. It just so happens that, based on my calculations, the oil, oil filter and fuel filter for both the main engine and generator needed to be changed. Since the winds were forecast to reach 45 knots, I had Capt Dad call ahead and reserve some dock space at Carousel Marina so as to secure IT before the storm hit. I believe that having the boat 100 % is critical when a storm is approaching. Hence the need to change oils and filters. Capt. Dad agreed and cheerfully accomplished his maintenance chores well before the rain started. I told Capt. Dad you can never be too prepared for a storm. I also had him add extra dock lines to IT in case of stronger than forecasted weather. He also cheerfully did this. The storm didn’t hit as bad as expected and rapidly moved east. With all this good cheer around here I’m thinking of asking Admiral Mom for a pay raise. I figure I’m at the top of my engineering duties and IT is running smoothly so now would be a good time to ask for it. I wonder how I can do this without Homer finding out about it. You know how he likes to complain! Wish me luck.


Tenants Harbor to Boothbay:

We are up early for our trip to Boothbay. Winds are forecast to increase this afternoon and we hope to be on our mooring in Boothbay before any bad weather arrives. As we reach the abandoned lighthouse which marks the Tenant’s Harbor entrance, we once again must navigate the lobster pot gauntlet.


The Lobster Pot Gods are with us, and we make it safely out of these traps and into the Gulf of Maine. We have a lumpy ride with the seas 2-4 feet and building. We soon find ourselves back on mooring ball #24 at Carousel Marina. It almost seems like coming home as we spent several weeks here earlier in the year. The fog rolls in thick and heavy this afternoon. Glad to be on these 2000 pound granite block moorings.

The hurricanes seem to be popping up one after another in the southern Caribbean. We are happy to be this far north, as the odds of a hurricane hitting here are much smaller. However having said this, tropical storm Hanna is now racing up the east coast and is headed for this area. We decide to go into the docks rather than stay out on a mooring ball. The winds are forecast for 45 knots this evening. Everyone is busy battening down their boats in preparation for the storm. We secure double lines to the docks from IT as do most other boats. Jack, the marina owner, also has everything battened down around the marina. All of the flags and loose odds and ends are taken down. Everyone is well prepared. The winds never do materialize and all we get from the storm is a lot of rain. While at the docks, Jeff uses this time to also change the oil on both the generator and main engine. He also replaces the fuel filters on both engines. We also meet Joe on the docks. He is a member of the Power Squadron and does Vessel Safety Checks. He is willing to do one for us. We voluntarily have this done each year in the belief that you can never be too safe. He spends an hour going over our documents and safety items to make sure they meet Coast Guard requirements and are up to date. We pass the inspection again with 100 %. We now have a 2008 sticker to display in our cockpit window.

Our time in Boothbay seems to go quickly. Boothbay is the host of The Shipyard Sailboat Races over the weekend. There are many nice yachts from all over the world in the harbor for this event. “Freedom”, a 130 foot participant, is docked at Carousel Marina. Almost all the yachts are 100 plus feet and are worth many many millions each. We enjoy watching Freedom’s comings and goings each day during the races.


One evening we watch her crew as they race their miniature remote controlled sailboats around the harbor.


We enjoy daily walks around town and several visits to the local ice cream shop along the boardwalk. One morning, we decide to go for breakfast at The Harborside Restaurant. When Jeff orders the three blueberry pancakes, our waiter tries to talk him into ordering only one or two. He cautions him that each pancake is the size of a plate and about ½ inch thick. Jeff sticks to his original order and receives a very large plate full of pancakes. Just as Jeff is finishing the last bite, our waiter comes by the table. He says “WOW! I have never seen it done before.” Obviously he doesn’t know Jeff. My blueberry and cream cheese stuffed French toast was also very delicious.

Daisy and Sebastian have especially enjoyed being back at Boothbay. Each morning they get to go for long walks to a nearby park. Sebastian is always in a hurry to head back to the marina for his morning treat. Jack, the owner of Carousel Marina, gives both Daisy and Sebastian morning dog biscuits each day. This especially appeals to Sebastian. What more could a little dog want? While out on the mooring one day, Daisy again uses one of her nine lives. We had the hatch on our back deck to the lazarette open, letting it dry out. Daisy was sitting next to the opening when she decided to scratch a bothersome itch. In the process, she lost her balance and tumbled into the lazarette. She fell over four feet onto the hard fiberglass deck, landing on her back with a very loud thump. We were sure she had broken something. She quickly jumped to her feet and although a little stunned seemed to be fine. We found her peering up at us with a look on her face that seemed to say “what just happened?” She was lucky.


Unfortunately the time has come for us to start heading south. The temperatures here are rapidly dropping as fall approaches and many shops and restaurants are closing for the season. We have enjoyed our time in Maine and hope to return in the future. The Maine waters have been some of the most challenging cruising grounds that we have experienced with IT. The fog, lobster pots, and rocky shorelines certainly don’t make things easy. We have been well rewarded for the efforts with beautiful scenery, nice anchorages, and quaint little towns. Like most good things in life, you have to work for them. IT is ready for our return trip. We have topped off both our fuel and water tanks while in Boothbay. Our cabinets are once again stocked with groceries. We are eager to get the boat back down the coast and onto the Chesapeake. We know there will be some difficult ocean passages over the next few weeks. The constant threat of hurricanes during this time of year makes us a little nervous and is constantly on our minds. We are now developing a list of hurricane holes and also marinas which could accommodate IT should a hurricane approach during this next stretch of travel. We will be very cautious and respectful of the weather while we travel the next 1200 miles. It is sad to start heading south as we kind of feel the vacation is over and we now must go home.

Total Miles Traveled Tenants Harbor to Boothbay: 31
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 1562

Belfast to Tenants Harbor:

We spend some time this morning exploring the town of Belfast before departing for Tenants Harbor. Just up the hill from the town docks, we find Main Street which is full of interesting looking shops housed in the grand old brick buildings.


Unfortunately it is still early and they haven’t opened their doors yet. We can only peer in the windows. Chases, a really nice coffee and bake shop, is open. Since we have the dogs with us, we take turns going inside to pick out our breakfast of homemade blueberry muffins and berry scones. We enjoy these delicious goodies while sitting on a wooden bench designed to look like a lobster trap which is on one of the corner streets. The town has all kinds of interesting locally produced art work and sculptures along the street corners and sidewalks.


We wish there was more time to spend here as Belfast seems like a great place. Unfortunately there are several tropical storms and hurricanes brewing down south and we want to make sure we are back in Boothbay Harbor before they reach this area.


Today is another beautiful day for our trip to Tenants Harbor. The seas are flat calm and the sun is out in full force. Just after leaving Belfast, we pass the island of Islesboro. This island stretches for 10 miles north and south along Penobscot Bay. The island has several inviting anchorages and nice places to explore. We will have to save this for another year as fall is near and our time is rapidly approaching for our trip south. We soon pass Camden, with its high hills in the background, and then Rockland and Rockport.


Several of the tall ships are out today in the bay for a sail. Today’s trip is uneventful until we reach the harbor entrance for Tenants. We then have to navigate the gauntlet of florescent colored buoys covering the channel.


Somehow we manage to make it through this mine field of lobster traps, and we are soon on one of Cod End Restaurant’s mooring balls.

Before exploring the area, we stop in at Cods End Restaurant to pay our mooring fees.


They are all closed up for the season. It seems a lot of restaurants in the area close after Labor Day.


Daisy and Sebastian enjoy a nice walk around this small village. There is not much here other than several lobster pounds, a local grocery store, and two restaurants. Tenants Harbor is primarily a working fishing harbor.


We enjoy a nice peaceful afternoon on the back deck. Around 6:30 PM, a lady in a small boat makes the rounds around the harbor collecting mooring fees from the boaters. We had thought we might just get to stay here for free but are more than happy to pay her our $25 fee.

Total Miles Traveled Belfast to Tenants Harbor: 46
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 1531

Castine to Belfast:

We have only a short trip across the Penobscot Bay to the town of Belfast. It is another gorgeous day on the water. The upper Penobscot Bay is very wide, deep and easy to navigate. Having very few lobster traps to avoid, we have a leisurely cruise. We soon see the bell buoy marking the entrance into the Passagassawakeag River (glad I don’t have to pronounce that one). The town of Belfast is just up this river at the base of the bridge. Today the “American Star”, a large cruise ship, is at the town docks.


All of the rental moorings here are managed by the town Harbor Master. We hail her on the VHF and she quickly and efficiently assigns us to a nearby mooring. We had arranged for our mail to be sent here and are happy to find the packing awaiting us in the Harbor Master’s office.

We have a great afternoon visiting with Linda Montgomery, another family friend of the Parker family.


After giving her a tour of IT, she graciously offers to take us to the Belfast Co-op. Other boaters have told us that this co-op is one of the best in Maine. We find the shelves stocked with a wonderful variety of food products. Linda’s daughter, Tamara and her husband Ralph join us later in the day. After giving them a quick tour of the boat, we head over to Young’s Lobster Pound for a great seafood dinner overlooking the harbor.


Young’s is the only lobster pound in the harbor and is one of the best we have seen in Maine.


Jeff’s steamed clams were the largest he has ever seen before. The lobster stew and lobster rolls were equally as good. It was a great day visiting with Tamara, Ralph, and Linda.

Total Miles Traveled Castine to Belfast: 13
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 1485

Blue Hill to Castine:

Our next destination is Castine. The weather forecast is for 15-20 knot winds today with gusts of 25mph. We consider staying in Blue Hill an extra day but since our trip is mostly through inside passages, we decide to push on. We leave Blue Hill at low tide. The tides here are quite high at 11 feet. We cautiously exit the narrow channel watching our depth finder as we pass just a few feet from the rocky shoreline.


Once out in Blue Hill Bay, we can now see the beautiful cruising area with the mountains of Mount Desert in the distance.


This area was completely obscured by fog on our trip up the bay just a few days earlier. We soon reach Pond Passage which is a buoyed channel connecting Blue Hill with the upper part of Jericho Bay. As we reach this passage, the winds and seas increase. It becomes increasingly difficult to see the lobster buoys in these seas. We also have the sun directly in our eyes, which makes spotting these traps even harder. The seas and winds continue to build as we traverse this passage. We are starting to question our decision of leaving this morning. We soon see the eastern entrance to Eggemoggin Reach. This 10 mile passage will take us from Jerricho Bay to the Penobscot River. The winds are funneling down this bay and creating white caps at the entrance. As we enter the reach, our wind meter alarm goes off at 45 mph. We have constant 30 mph winds with many gusts of 45 mph. The waves are crashing over our bow and pummeling IT with salt spray. We both wish we had stayed in port today. About half way through Eggemoggin Reach, we hear several sailboats on the VHF talking about the high winds in Castine. This was to be our destination today but now we are rethinking this. From reading our guide book, we know that the anchorage off Castine is not very protected in high winds. We check the charts and see that we are very near to Bucks Port Harbor, which is a very protected harbor. We are ready to be done with this day and quickly decide to make this our new destination. A quick call to Bucks Harbor Marine and we have a new home for the night.

Bucks Harbor is a small but very easy harbor to navigate.


The anchorage is well protected with little Harbor Island blocking the winds from Eggemoggin Reach. We are anchored just behind this island but also have a nice view of Eggemoggin Reach from our location. Other than the many boats moored in the harbor and the one marina, there is not much else here.


We enjoy the serenity and beautiful scenery that this harbor provides.


The next morning we head to the local farmers market, just down the street, before heading on to Castine. It is a great local market.


Here we purchase some fresh cut sunflowers for the boat, goat cheese, and fresh vegetables. While at the market, we run into some fellow Chattanooga natives, Carter and Lee Patten. Their family has had a summer home here for many years. When they hear that we have come from Chattanooga on our boat, they graciously invite us to dinner. Unfortunately we are cruising to Castine today and must take a rain check. What a small world it is!

Today is a much nicer day and we have a wonderful cruise to Castine. What a difference a day can make. It is hard to believe this is the same body of water as the angry seas of yesterday. We have only a short distance to travel and soon see the Dice Head Light marking the entrance to the Bagaduce River.


The huge 500 foot training ship, “State of Maine”, is moored at the Maine Maritime Academy Docks.


The small town of Castine is just past this vessel. Eatons Boat Yard, just past the town docks, is our home for the night. We are instructed to pick up the mooring just in front of their docks. As I grab the mooring line with the boat hook, something doesn’t seem right. I tug and pull on the line but it won’t come out of the water. Jeff comes out to help but the line is all wrapped around the mooring ball and we can not free it. We radio Eatons and ask if they can send someone out to untangle the mooring bridle. She is the only one in the office and directs us to another mooring. This mooring is father out near the river channel and we are more exposed to the swift current of the river. We don’t really like this location but decide to give it a try.

We quickly load the dogs in Time Out and head ashore to explore Castine. As we open the door to Eatons Marine, we are amazed at the sights inside.


Inside his old weathered gray wooden building, we find a working garage full of “stuff”. Rumor has it that Mr. Eaton, the owner, never throws anything away. We can believe that.


We find Mr. Eaton at work on an old boat engine and pay our mooring fee. There is no paper work or receipts, we just give him the cash which he sticks in his pocket and he then goes back to his repair. The small town is just behind the boat yard. Castine is what you would expect of a classic Maine town.


It has been continuously settled since the early 1600’s and is one of the oldest communities in North America. The town is rich with history. During its early years, Castine changed hands among the English, French, Dutch, Spanish, and American Colonists 25 different times. As we walk through town we see numerous plaques on sites of major historical importance. On the corner of Main Street, we find a local variety store with an original soda fountain inside.


Overlooking the harbor we see many 18th and 19th century Georgian and Federalist houses, still in excellent condition. Most of the population of Castine is the students of the Maine Maritime Academy. From the boat, we have a front row seat as these students practice their boating skills of docking, sailing, and tugboat maneuvering with their barge.


One of the academy boats is “The Bowdoin”, which is an old wooden sailboat. In her prime, this boat sailed to the Arctic and back.


The students take this schooner out for a short training sail in the evening. Castine will be high on our list for a return visit.

Total Miles Traveled Blue Hill to Castine: 44
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 1472

Blue Hill:

From Southwest Harbor our next destination is Blue Hill. When we wake up this morning, it is nice and clear with no signs of fog. As our departure time of 9:00 AM approaches, we can see the fog creeping in. We quickly depart from the mooring in an attempt to outrun the fog. As we round the southern tip of Mount Desert Island the fog once again wins and completely engulfs us. The next 30 minutes are tense as we have to doge many lobster pots, sailboats, and lobstermen out hauling traps. Visibility is only about 100 feet. We soon can hear the ringing of the bell buoy marking the Bass Harbor Bar. This narrow channel has been cut between the rocky shoals and is 14 feet deep. Our guide book warns that the current across this bar can be fierce. As we enter the channel, we can barely see the rocky shore line just off our port side through the fog. I knew this channel took us close to shore but am surprised by how close we actually are. We can almost touch the shoreline. We have only a short passage across the bar and are soon in the wide and deep Blue Hill Bay. This area is supposed to be a beautiful area for cruising. Unfortunately we don’t see a thing with this fog.

As we travel up Blue Hill Bay, the lobster pots become fewer and fewer. The fog finally begins to lift and we can see Blue Hill off in the distance.


Our entrance into the harbor is a tricky dog leg which once again takes us just a few feet from the shoreline. To complicate maters a fast speed boat is leaving the harbor just as we enter the narrow cut. It is clear he is not going to wait, so we slow down and let him come out first. We radio the Kollegewidgwok Yacht Club (try saying that over the VHF!) for a mooring. We have a great location nestled along the rocky shoreline with Blue Hill looming in the distance on our bow. Kollegewidgwok is a Penobscot Indian word which means “blue hill on shining green water”. It certainly is an appropriate name for this harbor.


The Kollegewidgwok Yacht Club has a small one room club house which has the feel of a real Maine backwoods lodge with its hardwood floors and rustic pine siding.


From here it is a 1.7 mile walk into the small town of Blue Hill. In town, we find several nice shops and a bakery where we purchase some homemade bread. We have a good dinner of lobster rolls and fried clams at a local roadside takeaway on the walk back to the boat. Daisy and Sebastian are even treated with dog biscuits by the lady at the order window. On Sunday we are able to catch up with a longtime friend off Jeff’s family, Tamara Montgomery-Ginise. She lives about an hour away and drove over to see us. The Blue Hill Fair just happens to be going on this weekend so we all decide to go.


This old-fashioned country fair is one of the best in Maine. We have a great time watching the Northeast U.S. Sheep Dog Trials, an annual event at the fair since 1956.


The dogs and their handlers are amazing to watch as the dog herds a group of four sheep through an obstacle course and into a pen. We also get a chance to watch some of the horse pulling contest. These massive draft horses pull a heavy steel sledge loaded with concrete blocks.


The horses strain and heave against the load giving all they have to pull these loads. The most popular event at the fair was the Women’s skillet tossing contest. Women in three age categories had to toss a 3.5 pound steel skillet down a center line. Women of all shapes and sizes entered the contest.


The winning toss was 47 feet. Jeff is already developing a training schedule so that Susie can enter this event next year. I can only imagine what our neighbors will say when we start tossing skillets in our driveway back home. We enjoy walking around the livestock and produce exhibits with Tamara.


Total Miles Traveled Southwest Harbor to Blue Hill: 27
Total Miles Traveled Year to Date: 1428