¬ÝFor the past ten years, the anticipation and planning of my cruise to Maine each summer has made those cold, bitter February days just a little less dreary; and this past winter and dismal spring were no exception. The winter seems a bit more bearable, as I sit inside looking out at the snow swirling around, if I can look forward to the times when we will be boarding MUSCOBE each weekend for day trips to watch the whales, bask in the sun anchored off nearby islands, enjoy dinner cruises with friends to places like Manchester and Gloucester, or simply sit on the mooring and watch the activity in the harbor as I putter with the endless little projects required of boat owners. This year my buddy, Al Cristofori, would accompany me, and throughout the winter we talked frequently of the places we would be visiting.
DAY 1: FRIDAY, AUGUST 2nd.
As the seasons have passed, fresh water has somehow been getting into the laminations of the plywood that formed the sides of the wheel house and trunk cabin, causing the wood to rot in places. So, among other things, the entire wheelhouse had to be reconstructed last winter. At the same time, I replaced all the windows, added bronze ports to the cabin, and replaced much of the trim and the toe rails with teak. As spring turned into summer, my usual anticipation was somewhat diminished because of the tremendous expense I knew this would entail, compounded by a discrepancy of many thousands of dollars between the yard estimates and the actual amount I was billed. Throughout all this, I was preparing to sit for my Coast Guard master's license, which took nearly all my free (and not-so-free) time, so that even after the launching I hardly saw MUSCOBE until I finally passed the exam on July 16th.
But the worst was yet to come: that night I called my old pal, Steve Snyder, to tell him the good news and to talk about the flight we were planning together to Grand Manan, Halifax, and Prince Edward Island in September. The following evening Stevo boarded TWA flight 800 from Kennedy to Paris to give a check ride to another pilot and, as Dennis Nelson later so beautifully put it, "At 8:47 PM on the night of Wednesday, July 17, flight 800 experienced a kind of 'equipment change,' and Captain Snyder carried his passengers out past the stars, and into the arms of God." (I am still unable to say - or even write - this, without breaking into tears.)
Suddenly, a tremendous segment of my future - flying in 2054Y, those wonderful late-night marathon discussions about so many different things, kidding him about the holes he consistently burned in his clothes with his pipe and, of course, cruising Down East with him disappeared. I doubt if I will ever fly in a light airplane again, nor do many of the things I enjoyed almost exclusively with Stevo; it just could never measure up. These journals are supposed to be about happy experiences, however, so I will not attempt to describe the anguish my family and I are experiencing as we grieve over losing someone we loved so much.
Suffice it to say, I was definitely not looking forward to leaving for Maine on August 2nd and actually thought seriously about not going. To see all those places we had visited so many times and enjoyed so much together was going to be just too painful. And I could hardly go there without talking about things Stevo and I had done, which would certainly be unfair to Al. I just knew I wouldn't be very good company for him.
However, like Steve, Al is a very caring friend. He had known Steve and understood what I was going through, how hard this trip would be for me. But he also told me it would be good therapy: good to go back to those places and remember Steve and the good times we'd had, to forget my other problems, have a few laughs - and cry a little too. And so we went.
On Thursday, August 1, I rushed to complete the last of my office chores before preparing MUSCOBE for our trip. Fuel and water tanks had to be topped off, the dinghy and outboard brought aboard and stowed properly, food and drinks obtained for breakfasts, snacks, and lunches, clothes packed, along with a myriad of other little tasks. Late in the afternoon Al arrived and, my mother who was visiting us, took us to Pellino's for dinner. Afterwards, we brought the boat in and secured her to the float (we would be leaving before launch service started) and went below to bed.
I had set my alarm clock for 5:00 but woke up before that. We had arranged for the cleaning people to let us into the club for a shower, so well before six we were idling across the harbor, the early sun reflecting off the boats at us, to have breakfast at the driftwood. At 6:30 AM we were on our way, the seas calm and oily, and the sun shining through a haze that limited visibility to a mile or so.
DAY TWO: SATURDAY, AUGUST 3rd
We had decided to try a couple of new places this year and were going to East Boothbay, a bit farther than our usual first-night destination of Boothbay Harbor. Since this would entail even more than the long 8-1/2 hour normal trip, and because the seas were calm, we proceeded outside Cape Ann and Thatcher's Island on a course direct for the Cuckolds, a lighthouse just east of Seguin Island and south of Boothbay. This would keep us out of sight of land for nearly the entire trip, and we knew we were in for a long day.
At about 9:30 we found ourselves in the midst of a pod of Minke whales, so we slowed and circled to watch them for a few minutes before resuming our northeast heading. As the day progressed, the visibility improved, but we were so far out we never saw another thing except for an occasional tuna boat. It would show up as a faint green speck on the radar, and we would scan the horizon in anticipation as the target moved progressively down toward the center of the screen. It was so monotonous that we even regretted not being able to see "goddamn" Boon Island Light!
We alternated half-hour watches, and as the hours slipped by we both sat in quiet contemplation, without much conversation. I simply couldn't help but think of Steve; there were so many little reminders here: the fly swatter we had used to beat off the little biting flies, the chair he sat in back in the cockpit while he smoked his pipe on my watch... Of course, Al knew what I was thinking about, and I knew he knew. But it was all right. We just hadn't figured out how to address it yet. That's one of the luxuries of being with good a friend: even when things aren't quite right you don't worry that it's going to endanger the relationship. Al and I have known for years that there simply isn't anything we could do that would damage our friendship. I suppose there are people who spend their entire lives without enjoying such close feelings for anybody. Perhaps they are unable to let loose the kind of emotions such friendships require, or maybe they are simply selfish. Anyway, I feel sorry for them.
By noon the hazy fog had disappeared, and the day was bright and sparkly. At long last we began to make out the hump on the horizon that would become Seguin, and soon we were one of many pleasure boats enjoying the beautiful waters off Boothbay on this Friday afternoon.
Upon making our long-awaited waypoint, the green bell just south of the Cuckolds, we bypassed Boothbay Harbor and continued on to a new stop for us: East Boothbay, the former home of Goudy & Stevens, builder of many famous vessels of all kinds, located on the northeast corner of Linekin Neck. The scenery was very attractive and the water quite deep as we proceeded up the Damariscotta River. These estuaries were all carved out by glaciers 10,000 years ago, leaving them with amazing vertical walls in some places, which continue on down beneath the water.
At 3:30, after a long nine hour leg, we pulled wearily into C. & B. Marine (formerly Goudy & Stevens.) MUSCOBE took 94 gallons of fuel, for an average burn of just over 10 gal/hr. We were disappointed to find a host of Bayliners lining the dock and the slips of the marina. They must have been a dealership, as I've never seen so many of these boats in one place. To avoid hassling with the dinghy, we took a slip near the gas dock. Cost: $41.95. At these prices we knew we weren't "Down East" quite yet.
As if to add insult to injury, as soon as we were secure, two big ugly Carvers from New York pulled up for fuel. They were typical of exactly what we had come to Maine to get away from: big, clumsy-looking Clorox bottles driven by people who have no business being on the water. They couldn't even get alongside properly, though they had twin screws, and wound up throwing their lines with the stern out at a 45-degree angle, as the bow crashed against the dock with everybody in the vicinity trying to fend them off. Finally, to make matters even worse, two couples in a big Bayliner backed skillfully into the slip adjoining ours, and the men proceeded to light up horrible-smelling cigars. Al, who smokes an occasional cigar, proposed to light up one of his own, but we quickly realized that we were to leeward of them, so it would be futile to fight back. Fortunately, they soon left.
Al went off for a walk, while I checked out the showers and the immediate vicinity. After he returned, we walked over to the Lobstermen's Wharf, a restaurant next-door, where we ate out on the deck. After a pound of steamers apiece, Al had a mixed grille of salmon, swordfish, and halibut covered with melted cheese and I had a huge prime rib.
After dinner we sat on my new teak deck chairs in the cockpit, with our feet propped up and enjoyed our first "corner" in Maine. As usual, we listened to our tapes of "Sketches of Maine." Weary after a long day on the water, we turned in early, yakking in our bunks for a while. Al dozed off rather quickly while I droned on. But whenever I asked him, "Are you awake?" he'd say "Yeah, keep talking." Too polite to tell me outright to shut up, he simply asked, "Just don't ask me if I'm awake any more." I have no idea how long I talked after he was asleep.
We were jolted awake at 5:30 by a loud POP! POP! POP! POP!, followed by the deep-throated roar of an unmuffled diesel, as the tuna fishing boat directly astern of us started her day. Al stuck his head up to the port to check the weather and muttered, "Oh, no..." I didn't know whether he was kidding me or not, but I didn't see any sunbeams shining in on us, and - sure enough - when I looked out all I could see was Maine's proverbial "pea soup."
DAY THREE: SUNDAY, AUGUST 4
So we slept in a while before getting up to shower, followed by breakfast at a nice little place just at the head of the gangway. We relaxed over coffee for a while, finally leaving East Boothbay, for what certainly will be the first and last time, a little after nine.
We were headed for "The Gut" in Bristol Cove, directly across from us. This is a narrow passage separating Rutherford Island from the mainland. The river is less than 1000 yards wide at this point, but we could see no more than a few boat-lengths in the fog. Feeling our way along at mere steerage way through the abundant lobster pots, using radar and Loran, we made the nun at the harbor entrance, then the spindle and, finally, the east side of the harbor, which was filled mostly with yachts.
Fog does interesting things to your mind, similar to flying an airplane on instruments. It is very easy to become disoriented, and you must have absolute faith in your instruments, especially your compass, because if you begin to doubt them you can get into serious trouble. On this occasion I could swear the boat was turning in circles, but my compass told me "no." Without it I would have been helpless to determine the proper direction to proceed. My senses of sight and sound, and my alimentary canals were completely useless - in fact, they were sending me false messages.
A swing bridge runs over the gut, allowing cars to pass overhead. The chart reads "vertical clearance: 3 ft." but that is at mean high water. It was now dead low, so we had plenty of room to go through once we lowered our antennas. I was a bit concerned about water, though, as I watched the depthfinder creep toward the five foot level (MUSCOBE draws 4-1/2.) Just as we passed underneath, a big truck roared across the steel grating on the bridge causing poor Al, up on the bridge, to just about jump out of his skin. It's pretty spooky, when you are in tight quarters proceeding very cautiously, and there's a sudden loud noise like that. You don't quite know whether you hit something, or what's happening, until the brain finally interprets it for you.
The west side of the harbor was quite pretty, and definitely a working harbor filled with fishing boats and draggers, as opposed to the other side. Not a lot of water in there at this tide which, combined with the fog, caused us to continue just idling along until we were well clear. Nevertheless, this is a very picturesque place, which I'm glad we took the trouble to visit.
Once we found the nun and can just outside the harbor to the west, we cranked on the rpm's and turned southeast toward Pemaquid Point, which we made easily using our electronic navaids. Rounding that, we turned northeast for the long leg across Muscongus Bay. It was here on a rainy, gloomy day years ago, that I had to go into the freezing water for the second time in one day for a lobster pot. But today the pots were not numerous, and we avoided them easily, knowing that even if we picked one up our cutting blades would free us while we remained warm and dry in the wheel house.
The visibility had improved somewhat by the time we got to Allen Island. I was glad for this, as the winding route from there past Port Clyde to open water at Mosquito Island is filled with lobster pot buoys, shoals, and other hazards. But this was short-lived, and we never even saw Mosquito Island as we made the bell there and turned up toward Whitehead Island Light at the southern entrance to the Mussel Ridge Channel.
The sun was visible from above, and the fog apparently didn't go too high; but from our vantage point it was really thick. We heard the horn but saw nothing as we entered Mussel Ridge. I have no actual waypoints entered into my Loran here, so we had to use the chart carefully, estimating range and bearing of the next mark, then trying to find it using the radar. On more than one occasion the "nun" I was heading toward turned out to be a lobsterman. At one point, as I approached one buoy the radar indicated a second, tiny blip just behind it. As we passed the buoy we learned the cause: a large sailboat had discovered she was on the wrong side of the mark and was now just crossing in front of us! I had to alter course sharply, as she was to starboard.
This was all very disappointing especially for Al, as the Mussel Ridge Channel is an extremely beautiful passage, filled with lovely little islands upon which harbor seals are usually present, but he never got to see any of it. Our progress was also extremely difficult. There were many boats maneuvering in both directions up and down the narrow channel, and they were hard to differentiate from the numerous rocks in the area and the buoys we were looking for. We were finally able to locate and visually identify the green day mark on Garden Island Ledge (but not until we were barely a boat length from it). This meant that we were now more than halfway through, and from there it was a clear shot to the two cans and the bell off Ash Island at the other end.
Interestingly, as we approached them we suddenly popped out of the mist, and as we rounded the bell and turned for Owl's Head we could look back on this wall of fog for some time. It was actually quite beautiful to look at, as it hugged the water and then rolled up onto and over the shoreline. Fog is completely unpredictable: one minute you're blind and the next you're clear. I've heard it said that one fog bank Down East lasted an entire presidential term. We hoped we were now in the clear for good. Little did we know...
Clearing Owl's Head light, we turned north-northeast, passing by one of our favorite stopovers, Rockport, which we would visit on the return trip. This course took us between Islesboro Island to port, and Vinal- and North Haven Islands to the east. The visibility remained clear for the rest of the afternoon, and by 3 PM we turned into the mouth of the Bagaduce River, passed the ships of the Maine Maritime Academy, and entered Castine.
We pulled into Eaton Marine and pandemonium. Boats were tying up everywhere and others were Iying off, waiting for fuel. Ken, the owner, was running around endlessly, telling first this person that he'd examined his shaft and wheel and found a ding but no real damage, then another that his boat wasn't ready. Other people were buying lobsters, ice, or looking for dock space for the night ("I've got just one space left, sir!")
Finally, Ken came over to us and complemented us: "Boy! I just love this boat! Brand-new, is she? Who built her?" This, of course, always makes me feel good, but it's especially nice coming from a man in Maine who knows boats and has probably seen hundreds of thousands of them.
We got fuel and ice, and as it appeared in all the confusion that nobody was going to ask us to pay, I asked Al to wait while I walked up to the "office," a tiny room jammed with books, papers, hardware, a cash register and a phone all piled on top of each other. Ken explained that he worked here every day from 5 AM to 10 PM and didn't have much time to keep things neat, but he knew where everything was.
While I was in the office, a young guy who was waiting for fuel got impatient and yelled to Al, "I'll just come in and lay alongside you, OK?" Al told him no, that we'd be leaving in just a second. But the man persisted, putting out his fenders and steering for MUSCOBE. Al, who knows the pride I take in my boat and how fussy I am yelled, "Hey, pal! Don't even think of coming alongside here!" And it's a good thing, as we watched him make a very hard landing after we had pulled away.
A few minutes - yet only a few hundred yards - later, we moved from the chaos of Eaton Marine to the peace and tranquillity of the Castine Yacht Club. After securing MUSCOBE at the far end of the float, we walked into town and up to the Castine Inn, where we'd had a wonderful dinner with our wives two years ago, to look at the menu.
Al has successfully reduced his weight from 225 to 185 over the past few months, through diet and exercise and takes an hour's walk every day. Since this is difficult to do aboard the boat, he was itching to get started. In past years I had discovered on a map that in the 1700's the British had built a canal across the northern end of the peninsula, to discourage desertion by their own troops and to provide a defense against attacks by Indians and other enemies. The route to it, Wadsworth Cove Road, appeared to be a nice, scenic walk, and I had promised myself to do it on my next visit.
Assuming Al was visiting the head, I waited for him on the inn porch for about fifteen minutes. After a while, when he failed to show up it became obvious he had started out alone, so I walked up Maine Street (a long, gradual hill) past the numerous beautifully restored colonial homes. Castine is full of gigantic, stately American elms, and this street was lined with them. Though they still lose a few to Dutch Elm disease, the town has gone to great effort to protect and preserve those that are left. As I walked, I noticed little tags on many of them, indicating they'd had some sort of treatment.
At the end of Maine Street I cut diagonally across the Maine Maritime Academy campus toward a cleared area surrounded by what appeared to be ramparts or bunkers, with an American flag flying in the center. This turned out to be Fort George, named after King George, I assume, which the British had constructed on the highest ground in Castine after they took possession of it. I continued across the parade ground, allowing my imagination to go back a few hundred years when British regulars, in their bright red field jackets, white knickers and stockings, and black hats must have practiced close-order drill in this very spot. I wondered, did they feel alone and afraid, out here in such a wild place so far from their homes and families? It must have been for them like being on another planet.
At the far side of the fort I at last began to walk downhill onto Wadsworth Cove Road. I was immediately impressed by the nearly cathedral-like feeling there, as I ambled along the narrow road surrounded by tall, dense conifers. The fragrance was wonderful, like one of those pine scented pillows you buy at tourist shops, and the silence was luxurious. Though I couldn't see it, I knew I was close to the sea, because wisps of fog came over the hill to my left, mingling among the treetops.
Soon I came to yet another British outpost, Fort Griffith, a fortification where once had stood the barracks housing soldiers who formed a sort of "rear guard" for this part of Castine. Descending further down this long hill, I came to an area where the trees opened up onto Wadsworth Cove. I moved off the road onto a lovely, sandy beach. The breeze was refreshing, cooled by the moisture of the fog. The sun was bright but low in the west, giving everything a lovely soft, golden glow. Across the road was a low, swampy area filled with bright green cat-o'-nine-tails: the remnants of the British canal.
Now the road swung around to the right (east), and after a short distance I came to Hatch's Cove on the other side of the peninsula. On this side the "canal" was more defined, but it certainly was a barrier no more, just a depression in the ground filled with marsh grass, emptying and filling with the fall and rise of the tides.
I was now on the lee side of the peninsula, out of the wind, and it was quite warm. My boat shoes are not made for walking, and I had that long hill to go back up now. Halfway along, I was wringing with sweat, and my legs, back, and feet were in agony. I have always walked with my toes pointing directly ahead, but now I appeared like Quasimoto, shuffling along with my right foot aimed off to starboard somewhere, cursing Al for leaving me to get into this mess alone.
After what seemed like an age, I reached the summit and walked out onto the Castine golf course, where there was a magnificent view, and that delicious breeze. Walking downhill again at last, I finally made it back to the boat after a walk of at least five or six miles. (We learned later that it's only two.)
Not finding Al, I rested a bit, then walked back into town to look for him at the Castine Inn, then down at the places along the waterfront, again without success. Returning once again to the boat, I decided to stay put, since I figured he would eventually show up. At this point, I was so tired of walking that I moved MUSCOBE from the far end of the string of floats up to the one nearest the gangway. This would save us a few steps and gave access to the hose, so that I could wash down.
When we arrived it had been high tide, with the water lapping the supports of the many homes lining the waterfront. Now the edge of the water was over a hundred feet from there, exposing many ancient pilings and railways, and uncovering vast mussel beds feasted upon by thousands of starfish.
I soon became restless, however, and once again set out to locate Al, whom I finally found him coming toward me halfway back to town. By now it was time to eat, but we were too hot and tired for a fancy place like the Castine Inn, so we went to Dennett's Wharf on the water, where Al, Midge, Elise and I had had a few Pearl Harbors two years earlier.
After the sun went down it got cool, so we moved in from the deck to the bar to order dinner. As we were waiting a young couple came in and sat next to us with their little girl. She was quite precocious and, as kids will do when they are bored or restless, she continuously kicked at the bar with her feet, which I found quite annoying. When Charley, the bartender took their order she demanded, "And I want my drink right now, so hurry up!"
All eyes turned to see what would happen next. Charley simply said gently, I'll bring it just as soon as I can, honey. But you should know that it's not very polite for children to talk to grown-ups that way, so please don't do it again."
The little girl's father piped up, "Uh, I'll discipline my own child if you don't mind." I was pooped and irritable, and the constant banging of her feet against the bar was really getting to me. I turned to him and spat out something like, "Yeah, well why don't you start right now; and while you're at it, tell her to stop banging those feet!" With this, he asked to speak to the owner, but seeing the hostility, all around him, he realized he was in the wrong camp and they quickly got up and walked out.
Al ordered a two-pound lobster, while I ordered a delicious-sounding Black Angus T-bone steak. The lobster was terrific, but the steak was awful - less than 1/2-inch thick, overdone, and tasteless. It must have been the oldest Black Angus in town. I have often said that, after a long day on the water even cardboard tastes good; but this was the exception. After dinner we went up to the local convenience store to pick up some garlic, an onion, and a small bottle of wine with which to cook mussels when we got to Roque Island. Then we walked along the waterfront back towards the boat, passing Eaton Marine, where I noticed things were still a little crazy out front.
After another "corner" we slept easily and soundly.
I awoke at sunrise and looked out, happy to discover that I could see the far shore of the river. Unfortunately, by the time we rolled out and showered, fog had set in again.
DAY FOUR: MONDAY, AUGUST 5
The little breakfast place where we used to have the "Eggemoggin Muffin" was closed down, so we went into "Castine Variety," on the corner of Main and Water Streets. This was your real country store, where you could get a sandwich, breakfast, newspaper or magazine, fishing gear, T-shirt, and rent a video. The young couple who owned it kept it open from 4:30 AM to 8:30 PM three hundred and sixty-five days a year! Al and I each had "egg McMuffin" and coffee.
At 8:50 we were under way, through fog with a visibility of about 1/8-mile. This was again unfortunate, as the scenery along the shore of Cape Rosier is spectacular, and there are usually many seals in this area. Gradually the fog intensified, until we were simply proceeding along blind, seemingly suspended in time and space. As before, all around us was gray mist, yet we could clearly see the sun above us.
Rounding Cape Rosier toward the entrance to Eggemoggin Reach, we decided to stop for a while at Buck's Harbor. I needed a break from the tension, and this little hurricane hole is a beautiful spot. Besides, all we were doing was burningup fuel and seeing nothing.
The yacht club here is a neat old cedar-shingled building with green trim, so typical of Maine, with a big fieldstone fireplace and a Ping-Pong table inside. The porch has many caned rocking chairs (also green), much like those on the Corinthian porch.
We walked up to the general store for coffee and bought some bananas (Al: "We need our potassium") When we returned, the fog had become so heavy we could no longer see the short distance across to Harbor Island, which forms the protected cove of Buck's Harbor, so we played a few games of Ping-Pong. But after three games, I again became restless. We had a long way to go to get to Roque Island, and I was hoping "it would burn off by ten (or so)", so we (I) decided to press on.
It has become a little tradition with us, that one of the most-frequently-spoken phrases aboard MUSCOBE (Al says also at home, and perhaps even all around the world,) is: "You're right, Al." But this time I was right. As had happened the previous day, we suddenly "popped out" of the fog just before we got to the bridge to Deer Island. Here again, we could look back at it, as it hugged the water and then crept up and over the shore. Very interesting, and hauntingly beautiful.
The day soon turned into a "lazy, hazy, summer day," and we easily made the passage down the reach and across Blue Hill Bay, where we entered the treacherous Casco Passage. I gave a little prayer of thanks that we didn't have to go through here in low visibility, though I'm sure we could have done it if we had to.
We had turned off the radar and were up on the bridge passing the time pleasantly, with both the sun and the wind at our backs as we crossed Frenchman's Bay toward the bell that marked the passage over Bass Harbor Bar. There is an interesting phenomenon here: the water is only eight feet deep at low, and invariably one side or the other is millpond smooth, while the other is choppy. It's a very distinct line separating the two surfaces too, rather than a gradual change. I have no idea what causes it.
Al was driving at this time, and for some reason I was in a rather dispirited mood. As such, little things began to bother me, and I'm sure it showed in my responses to Al's questions and our conversation in general. At times like this I could be cruising with Francis Drake himself, and he wouldn't be doing it right. So, when Al announced his intention to go 'round the wrong side of the bell at long ledge I got rather snitty; and for the next ten minutes or so we were pretty testy toward each other as we turned up past Great Cranberry Island toward Northeast Harbor.
We were also disagreeing about our destination for the night. I spend a fair amount of time each winter, planning these stops so they are an easy day's run, and if you start changing things around it can foul up the whole trip. You either wind up with an extremely long day to catch up, or you have to skip someplace. Because we had been delayed by the fog this morning, we were behind schedule and still had a long way to go to make Roque Island.
Al wanted to either skip Roque altogether, or stop now and postpone it a day. In the past he has chided me for being in such a rush all the time: "You always are in a hurry to get to Cockleberry Cove, or someplace. You should slow down and take time to smell the roses. Smell Maine, for Chrissake!" As usual, I wanted to press on in this instance. He finally won the day, however, but I wasn't happy about it just then. To add insult to injury, Al had forgotten to remove his black-soled walking shoes, and I tossed him a parting shot, reprimanding him for the black scuff marks they were leaving. I was being a real noodge, what my mother used to call being "ashy."
Poor guy! No sooner had I relieved him at the wheel upon entering the harbor, than he went silently below to change his shoes, reappearing with towels and Fantastic to clean up thebridge. This brought on an immediate guilt trip, and soon after we tied up I apologized for being such a butthead. Later that evening we talked about this and Al, with his usual sensitivity and good sense, told me he realized what was wrong: we simply weren't communicating.
He had been taking long walks, as he thought I wanted to be alone to reminisce over my memories of being in these places with Steve. Yet I really wanted his company, his conversation, his humor, and his understanding. We talked about my feelings for a long time, and from that point on the problem ceased to exist.
At Clifton Dock in Northeast Harbor we got fuel and ice,then idled down to the town landing to tie up and have lunch. Unfortunately, as it was Sunday afternoon, the place was a zoo and there was no float space available. I called the harbormaster, but the only place he could give us was against some pilings, so we declined.
We had decided on Little Cranberry Island as our port-of-call that evening, so we headed directly there. After motoring slowly along among the many beautiful sail- and power boats enjoying the afternoon, we reached the float at the Islesford Dock Restaurant, a nice little place built on pilings above the water. We were directed to a mooring and, as it was only around 3:00, we launched the dinghy and rowed ashore to explore the island.
Islands, especially in harsh climates like Maine, are special. Their isolation creates in their people streaks of obstinacy and independence found nowhere else. Also, there is something quite unique about being on an island. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's a feeling there that you just don't get on the mainland.
Great and Little Cranberry Islands are named for their once abundant cranberry bogs. Unfortunately, these bogs were also the breeding place for hosts of mosquitoes, so years ago the islands underwent an immense drainage project. This eliminated the cranberries, but the mosquitoes remained. Today there are about twenty or so resident families on Little Cranberry, most of whom, quite naturally, are fishermen. It's quite a little community, complete with churches, post office, and many little family cemeteries.
After walking for a time down the quiet road we came to a vast beach, covered with fist-sized stones, rounded and smoothed by centuries of rattling around each other in the surf. Al decided to continue along another road, while I chose to walk the beach. We had walked away from Islesford Dock along the road, and now I was headed ninety degrees to the right. Soon, over my right shoulder, I could see MUSCOBE nestled among the other yachts and fishing boats. She looked really fine in the afternoon sunlight, her brilliant green topsides and white superstructure standing out clearly. There were at least two more Young Brothers there that I could identify, both fishing boats.
At the end of the beach, which was on one side of a long, narrow peninsula, I cut across to the other side. There were a number of little summer cottages here, which looked quite cozy and comfortable. I passed yet another small graveyard, beautifully maintained and manicured, with little flags or bunches of flowers set beside many of the stones. I read some of the epitaphs; while there were quite a few who had lived to a ripe old age, many were young people. Some had been "Lost at Sea," and one had died at the age of 20 in Korea in 1953. How sad it must have been for this boy's family, to watch him grow up here in this beautiful little place, then see him go off to the far side of the world, never to return. Suddenly I felt very melancholy.
But the beauty and serenity of this place soon cheered me up again. In a few minutes I was walking past piles of fishing gear and lobster traps at the fishermen's co-op, and as I got to the Islesford Dock I saw Al just arriving from another direction. It was hot inside, and the bar was full of local "red-neck types," so we sat out on the deck a while, where the afternoon breeze was quite cool after our walk in the sun. Too cool, in fact, and I soon decided to row out to get the two dark green "Chatham Yacht Basin" sweatshirts Al had brought for us.
When I returned he was involved in animated conversation with a young local couple. The girl turned out to be the daughter of Jock Stanley, one of the best-known builders of boats in the area, located in Somes Sound. Sitting out there in our twin sweatshirts, we realized we probably appeared to be a couple of gay blades on tour, but we didn't care.
Soon we started getting hungry and went inside for a look at the menu. We decided on roast leg of lamb in curry sauce. Our waiter was a young college kid named Ethan. He wasn't very efficient, forgetting things and leaving us for long periods without service, and he had absolutely no sense of humor. Al told him he wanted his lamb done fairly well, "So I don't contract Mad Lamb Disease," and he never even cracked a smile. When it finally came, our lamb was hardly cooked. We called our waiter, and Al said, "Ethan, this lamb is so rare it's still "baa-ing." Stone faced, he took it back to the kitchen.
As we sat at our corner table, watching the sun recede over Great Cranberry Island, we were annoyed by a number of flies, mosquitoes, and greenheads buzzing on the inside of the windows. I dispatched the ones that might bite us, but this made our meal even less appetizing and detracted from the beauty around us. We both agreed that, though we were happy to have visited here, we would look around for other places to stay before returning.
Later, aboard the boat, we hashed out our differences, which I described earlier. We talked about many things, and somewhere along here Al described to me one of his childhood friends, a kid known as "Tuffy Mahoney." Apparently he was quite small and had an extremely vile mouth. He was very insolent and fresh to adults, and also to most other kids, whom he continuously got into fights with. Because of his small size, he always got the stuffing beat out of him, but he never gave up and kept on picking fights. Thus the name "Tuffy."
In later years, Al lost touch with him after he got into trouble with drugs and substance abuse and wound up in jail. He eventually became a counselor for kids in trouble, but because of the havoc he had wreaked on his body, he died at a relatively young age. (Stay with me, folks. There's a reason I'm telling you this.)
We awoke early and, as there were no showers here, left directly from the mooring at 0700. This was a glorious day, bright sunshine, pale blue seas, light breeze, with a bit of haze on the far horizon. The view of Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert was spectacular as we ambled along eastward, bound now for our second try at Roque Island.
DAY FIVE: TUESDAY, AUGUST 6
Earlier, we had discussed visiting Corea, where MUSCOBE was built, but decided against it. This morning Al asked me how far out of our way it would be, and when I told him it was only fifteen minutes, he said, "Well, then, let's go in." Soon after, we were passing Little Black Ledge ("covers over at high tides" according to the chart), headed for Corea Harbor. As I understand it, rocks and shoals identified in italics on the chart are not visible at high tide. There are plenty of them around here, and it was nearing dead low tide. While this meant many of the dangers would be visible to us, there were also others (asterisks on the chart) which never surface. Some of these Vid Young himself - who grew up here - admitted hitting on occasion. Needless to say, I entered very cautiously, with one eye on the depth sounder and the other down on the bottom, clearly visible beneath us.
From his office, Vid had seen us approaching and was waiting on the dock to greet us. I had first met Vid in 1983, when J.P. (age 5) and I drove to Corea for the first time, to discuss the possibility of having Young Brothers build a boat for us. It was good to see him, and he had changed very little in appearance from that day thirteen years ago. We chatted briefly, then drove up to the shop to look over the two new boats under construction. One was just being removed from the mold; the other, a "foughty-two footah," was having her stringers and deck carlins assembled. She looked absolutely humungus sitting there in the shed, all open like that. Her destiny was to serve as a freight carrier somewhere in the Caribbean. I gave Vid a picture of MUSCOBE all finished off with her new teak trim and bronze windows, to put into one of their many photo albums, and we were on our way again.
As we left the harbor, I tried calling Colby on VHF Channel 70 and was pleasantly surprised to hear him answer cheerfully. I was glad to reach him, as we had made arrangements to have dinner with him in Southwest Harbor that evening, but would not be there because of the change in our schedule. It worked out well, as he couldn't have made it tonight, but he agreed to meet us tomorrow night.
Conditions had diminished somewhat, and we were now proceeding along in something between thin fog and heavy haze. This was virgin territory for MUSCOBE: she had never been further East than Corea. But we were looking forward to this. The book (Cruising the Maine Coast) describes this area as the real "Down East" where, though it is one of the foggiest places in Maine, you will find the most spectacular beauty.
As we crossed over the bar at 'Tit Manan, we viewed gray silhouette of the tall, slender lighthouse rising above the mist to our starboard. The sun was shining brightly, as the fog was low to the water, but it still was sufficient to limit our visibility somewhat. It gave the day a feeling of mystery and adventure as we headed off into these unfamiliar waters.
Our plan was to proceed northeast among the islands, into Moosabec Reach, which runs between Jonesport and Beals Island, home of absolutely, undeniably, the best lobster boat hull designs in the world. The only problem is that their is fierce competition between the two, and each maintains that theirs is the best. (MUSCOBE is a Beals Island.) We would stop for fuel at Jonesport, then continue on to Roque, just beyond the far end of "the reach."
I always enjoy navigating along through new waters, and today was no exception. I was excited to be this far Down East, where every harbor is truly a "working harbor" and there are literally no facilities for yachts. Only the hard core cruisers, who know what it's all about visit here, and I felt just a little smug in becoming a member of that exclusive fraternity.
We located the town landing, behind a breakwater, and proceeded very cautiously toward the float. The tides run twelve to fifteen feet here, and it was dead low. MUSCOBE's depthfinder read five feet (she draws 4-1/2) as we tied up and shut down.
The gangway appeared to be at an angle of more than 45 degrees, but we struggled up to the pier. All around us were signs of a true Maine lobstering town, just as they all must have appeared fifty years ago. It seemed as if tourists simply didn't come to this place, nor did they belong here. There were a few expensive new Duffy's and other fiberglass boats moored here, but there were many more rustic, wooden Beals Island and Jonesport hulls, with their low quarters, windshield propped open with a stick, and little diamond-shaped windows in the cabin.
In the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath there is a wonderful lobstering exhibit I always enjoy visiting. In part of it you sit in the cockpit of a fishing boat," where you can view a very nostalgic video of one day in the life of a fisherman who using one of these boats sometime in the 1960's. Here in Jonesport, as in that film, we were suddenly transported back to a time when life's pace was slower, and its problems seemed fewer and less burdensome.
As we walked up toward town, I thought of Ann McCollom, a long-time Marblehead acquaintance of mine. She had lived next-door to one of my childhood friends, and I remembered her as a warm, caring woman, with a friendly, hale-and-hearty way, who was always smiling and generous to a fault. She had been coming to Jonesport for over 25 years and recently retired there with her husband, Bob. On the rare occasions I'd seen her in Marblehead since then, she'd warned me, "If you ever get to Jonesport and don't come to visit me, I'll neverforgive you. "
After asking for directions to someplace we could have lunch, I inquired about the McColloms. "Oh, yes," I was assured; they lived about a mile up the road. As we walked toward the restaurant, I thought about attempting to find her. However we were to be here for just a short time, were uncertain of the time to our next destination, and would be further delayed if we ran into afternoon fog. And so, mulling these excuses over in my mind, we walked into a little restaurant for a bite to eat, and there was Ann right in front of us, just finishing coffee with her mother-in-law, whom she'd brought downtown for a doctor's appointment.
As always, she was delighted to see us and, after giving her a hug and introducing her to Al, she insisted on bringing us back to her home for lunch - even though she was already entertaining seven additional house guests. Out of courtesy, we attempted to decline but she would have none of it - "Absolutely not! You come home with me right now for a crabmeat sandwich!" and bustled us out into her pickup truck.
Of course, as one who absolutely loves the area, she first had to give us a very welcome tour of the area, including a ride across the bridge to Beals Island to see the fish harvesting operations there, the boat-building shops, and as much of the beautiful scenery as possible.
Back at her home, she was momentarily dismayed when she discovered that her kids had eaten all the crabmeat. Al and I again tacffully tried to give her a way out and began to thank her for the tour and head back to the restaurant. "You sit in that chair and don't you move!" she commanded, jumping back into her truck and disappearing down the road, leaving us no other choice.
She seemed to be gone a long time just for a run to the store, but then we knew how Ann loves to talk to everybody. When she came back we she said she had tried no less than three different places - God love her - before she finally found any crabmeat. It was delicious, but even more so because of Ann's efforts on our behalf. She was genuinely glad to see us, welcoming Al like a member of the family, and he liked her immediately.
Finally, however, it was time to press on. We returned to the pier and brought MUSCOBE to Look's Lobster Company for fuel, before once again turning east for Roque Island. Fortunately, there was no fog, and we enjoyed a sparkling summer afternoon for the remainder of the easy leg to our destination.
Roque Island has been called "one of the most beautiful places in Maine." However, I've heard that said of so many places that I don't give it much credence any more. The island is formed in the shape of a large "H," and it has many smaller islands around it, offering several protected anchorages and lots of places to explore in your dinghy. There is a working farm on the island, operated by the Gardner family, which has been there for hundreds of years Their sheep roam the island and are often seen in the open areas. Signs are posted along the shore, asking people to respect their privacy and not to proceed inland, so exploring ashore is limited pretty much to the beaches.
We entered the area from the west, through what is known as The Thorofare, a narrow, winding channel which passes between Roque, Great Spruce, and Little Spruce Islands. We were at once tremendously impressed by its beauty. Al was quite literally "ooh-ing" and "aah-ing" the entire time. It took no time at all to realize that we had truly arrived in paradise: here, indeed, was most certainly "The Most Beautiful Place in Maine."
The bar of the "H" on Roque Island has a beach nearly a mile in length on the southern side. The sand is pure white, like the Caribbean, and just about anybody who gets this far visits here. As we turned out of The Thorofare idling toward it, we saw several yachts anchored, ranging from modest size to a rather large and fancy 60-70 footer. We observed several prospective places to anchor, but I hadn't come all this way to be in a crowd, or even - if possible - to be within sight of another boat.
On the far side of the "H" we entered the protection of Lakeman Harbor, formed by Roque, Marsh, Bar, and Lakeman Islands. We dropped anchor in about twenty feet of water but, even letting out all 100 feet of scope, I couldn't get it to set and hold when I put any strain on it. Finally, she seemed secure, and we shut down the engine.
Peace and tranquillity, beauty and serenity, immediately encompassed us. Here the water was absolutely smooth, protected from the wind outside. A pair of sparrow hawks flew about, chirping at each other in one corner of the harbor. A few crows barked, hidden somewhere in the trees. Overhead, the sky was a perfect pale-blue, devoid of clouds, without even the blemish of a vapor trail The sun, low in the west, reflected brilliantly off the baby-blue water and cast a warm honey-colored hue over everything around us.
Al and I looked at each other and said, almost simultaneously, "We have fnally, fruly, arnved at Cockleberry Cove."
We immediately launched the dinghy in order to explore this wonderful place more thoroughly. First we went to the eastern edge of the harbor, where we exited the cove briefly to the east between Bar and Marsh Islands, barely clearing the shallow ledges there. (This would mark the furthest extent of our travels "Down East.") The nearby exit between Bar and Lakeman Islands showed a two foot spot at low water, but MUSCOBE could have made it at high. We motored slowly back inside, past vertical walls of rock which appeared to have been laid down as sedimentary, rather than the more typical granite of Maine. In the little cove with the sparrow hawks, we turned off the motor and just sat for a few minutes, drinking it all in. The solitude here, as well as the appearance, was much like a quiet backwater on an inland lake, rather than the sea.
Once outside our private little cove, we were pounded and sprayed by the chop as we headed at full throttle toward the great white beach. Here we pulled the inflatable up on the sand above the pounding surf, so we could walk the beach, as did the pirates who frequented the place, 300 years earlier. After a short time I looked back and saw that with the rising tide the waves had reached the dinghy, so I told Al I'd go back for it and pick him up further down the beach.
When I reached him, he had found a really neat walking stick, formed from a branch which had long since lost its bark and been smoothed and bleached from time spent on the beach. He kept it to bring home and plans to engrave it, "Cockleberry Cove - 1996."
From this point we retraced our earlier route back up into The Reach to explore those places too shallow for MUSCOBE. However, I am not going to make even the slightest attempt to describe the exquisite beautify of this place. In past journals I have piled adjective upon adjective in my endeavors to portray Maine's scenery and its effect on me. To try now would only result in frustration. Suffice it to say, for those of you who have read those previous descriptions, nothing can compare to this place. Al agreed that any attempt to describe it would be an exercise in futility. Even photographs could not capture it. The only way our wives, children, or friends could ever truly appreciate this would be to see, hear, smell, feel, and experience it first hand. We were truly grateful to have come this long distance. It was certainly worth the effort.
Unfortunately, as we explored further I noticed that the little tell-tale, which squirts water out the back of the outboard to indicate your cooling system is working, wasn't functioning. Though the engine itself was not hot, and water was exiting from the other places it was supposed to, it was nearly two mile back to MUSCOBE. Though the line was probably just blocked with a few grains of sand from the beach, it was a very long pull on oars, even with the wind in our favor. So we decided to splay it safe, terminate our expedition, and proceed slowly back "home."
We arrived at the boat with enough sun to take a few pictures, so we got our cameras and circled 'round MUSCOBE to record this lovely anchorage. I know these pictures will warm us up on some of those long winter nights ahead.
For dinner we cooked a mixture of beans, and soup, tossing in the remainder of our lunch meats. I don't know how good it was but, as I've often said, aftera day on the water almost anything is delicious. Though we had the wine, garlic, and onion necessary to prepare steamed mussels, we never got any. I'm sure they would have been great, but our troubles with the outboard precluded us from collecting them. After dinner, we had our usual "corner," toasting Stevo, and listened to "Sketches of Maine." There were a few mosquitoes, but a little repellent kept them away.
That night, I slept lightly, nervous even in my sleep about the anchor's holding. At around 3 AM I awoke and stepped out into the cockpit to check our position. The moon was high in the sky, a brilliant disk which illuminated everything around me and cast my shadow across the deck. MUSCOBE was sitting motionless in a vast sheet of black glass, surrounded by equally-black spruces and hemlocks along the shore. From somewhere nearby came the wonderful, eerie laugh of a loon. The sound of crickets was barely audible in the woods. And far off, I detected a mysterious "whooshing" sound, which after a while I realized was made by the surf, as it pounded and crashed on the rocks along the outer, exposed shores of the islands that formed our protected little anchorage.
For a few minutes I drank all this in, realizing I was once again experiencing one of those very special "Maine moments." This could have been a thousand years ago, and I might have been the only person in the world. It is a memory I will always carry with me.
We awoke to a bright, sunny morning, with the crows squawking again in the nearby hemlocks and spruces. Dew covered everything, scattering the sunlight through thousands of tiny prisms. My concerns of the anchor holding had been unfounded: we hadn't moved a bit on the glassy surface.
Once again seated in the dining room of The Moorings, we looked out at the wonderful "billion dollar view." I still don't know if the billion dollars refers to the splendor of Cadillac Mountain and Acadia National Park, or the combined prices of all those Hinkleys, Wilburs, Jarvis Newmans and one lone Young Brothers - moored before us. Surely all those boats are worth far more than that. I'm told that nothing goes out of Hinkley today for under half a million dollars, with perhaps the exception of their new jet-powered picnic boat which sleeps only two and starts at around $350,000.
We washed up and Al made coffee, as I brought in the anchor. The difficulty in setting it soon became apparent: up with it came fifty pounds of red seaweed which had initially kept it from digging into the mud.
We were away at 7:30, bearing due south between Great Spruce and Double Shot Islands. It was my intention today for us to begin our westward journey toward home by visiting Head Harbor and Great Wass Islands, which are just south of Beals. Here are found some interesting and beautiful spots such as "the Cow's Yard" and "the Mud Hole," which has a little spring-fed pool warmed by the sun where you can swim and bathe.
However, it became apparent as soon as we reached open water that, though the sun was shining brightly, a low layer of fog clung to the water, limiting our visibility to about 1/8 - 1/4 mile. We had a long way to go to get to Southwest Harbor which, even in the best of conditions would limit our explorations; and I wasn't about to spend the entire day navigating along in unfamiliar waters, picking my way among the shallows without benefit of seeing where I was going.
So I soon turned directly west, picking up the bell at the western entrance to Moosabec Reach, where we retraced our prior route past Jonesport. As we proceeded along among the many small islands further on, the fog lifted suddenly for a moment, and there, soaring along and across our path was a superb bald eagle - a sight I'd never seen in all my years cruising Maine.
Watching the eagle for a moment, Al said, "Well, Joel. I guess we knowwho that is... just checking up on us to see how we're getting along."
Noting that the eagle was being harassed by a gull, perhaps because he had stolen a fish from it, I responded, "Yeah," And that's Tuffy Mahoney behind him, giving him such a hard time."
After we re-crossed the bar at 'Tit Manan and approached Schoodic Island, we gave Colby a shout on the radio. He never responded, but we picked up some interesting conversation: There is a bird-watching excursion from Bar Harbor that takes people out each morning to view the puffins and other birds on Petit Manan. Apparently the driver, boiling along on radar, had passed too close to a local fisherman, as we suddenly heard him scolding:
Fisherman: You have no damned respect for anybody out here; you just keep going along full blast all the time.
Excursion Boat: I'm very sorry, sir. I didn't see you on my radar.
Fisherman: I don't give a damn whether you saw me or not! I'm out here with my boy, trying to make a living, and you don't give anybody any respect at all! It's bad enough, you go through here and cut off a!l the gear! One of these days you're damn well going to cut somebody in half! Why don't you slow down and watch where you're going?
Excursion Boat: I apologize sir. I'll be more careful from now on.
Fisherman: You bet you will! You got no respect for those of us out here trying to make a living...
I was stunned, unused to hearing that kind of talk over the radio. That fisherman was really angry (rightfully so.) There's nothing like going about your daily tasks of finding, hauling, and working your traps, when some yo-yo with a huge wake roars past, rolling you upside down, your gear flying all around the cockpit, your head narrowly missing the snatch block, and traps falling all over one another.
The sun was still well below its noon zenith as we passed Schoodic Point. If we continued on toward Manset, we'd reach it in an hour and a half, so I decided to turn north so we could visit Bar Harbor, which Al had never seen. Though very busy and crowded with tourists, it is an interesting and quaint little town, worth going to at least once.
The fog thinned to a slight haze now, as if Maine were telling us she kept it in reserve only for genuine mariners, who dared enter the waters of the real "Down East," beyond Schoodic Point in such places as Corea, Jonesport and Machias. We saw the humped form of Bald Porcupine
Island, which forms Bar "Harbor," and made the passage easily, enjoying the spectacular view of Cadillac Mountain and Acadia National Park.
Arriving at the town landing at 11:15, we tied up opposite a gorgeous 125-foot ten million dollar schooner from Hamilton, Bermuda (according to the harbormaster), equipped with four radars, plus every conceivable device and appliance known to man. Several college-aged kids were busily cleaning, polishing, and scrubbing everything in site.
We went ashore - it was very hot and quite crowded - and walked to the far end of Main Street. Al wanted to get his hour walk in, so we agreed to meet at a waterfront restaurant at 1:30. I took a walk myself, picking up some postcards, then went back to the boat to check on things and write my cards.
Finished, I found the post office, mailed the cards, and went to the restaurant to meet Al, who was waiting for me on the top deck. We both had a grilled chicken sandwich, with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. It was a delightful afternoon and the scenery around us (both in the restaurant and the surrounding islands and mountains) was gorgeous. But it was hot and the service wasn't very good, so we were glad to leave.
At 1:30 we pulled away, passing inside the breakwater and following an excursion boat down along the coast of Mt. Desert. The shoreline rises sharply here, forming spectacular pink granite, glacier-polished cliffs, for which Acadia is famous. There are huge homes built on them, and this real estate is some of the most expensive in Maine. Most of this island was owned at one time by the Rockerfeller family, who bought it up in the late 19th century. Whatever your political leanings, we can all be thankful to them for donating it to the government for this wonderful park.
Sitting on the flying bridge, we drank in the sunshine and advanced steadily southward, passing the big rock, Old Soaker (can anybody tell me where that name came from?) and rounding Otter Point. As we passed Seal Harbor, I mentioned to Al that this was a very nice little harbor, full of lovely boats. "Let's go in and check it out," he suggested, so we did.
Like Northeast Harbor, this particular Seal Cove (there are many "Seal Coves along the Maine coast), is full of absolutely mint-condition lobster yachts (I hate that term), Hinkleys, and other well-known and pricey boats. There's a nice little yacht club with launch service, and a couple of restaurants nearby. On the opposite (west) side is a large building and floats, with a very pretty Hinkley Talaria (their 42-foot power boat). We learned later that this is the private boat shed of the Rockerfeller family, who own several homes in the area. Though it's exposed to the south, the seas couldn't get too bad with Little Cranberry Island across the way, and this might make an interesting stop some time in lieu of our usual SW Harbor layover.
We arrived at Clifton Dock (for the second time in two days) at 2:30. As Al stepped off with the bow line and I grabbed the stern, I chided him (in jest) for hanging the fender over the stern line. "You really blew it this time, buddy," I teased.
Those who know us understand that this banter goes on all the time, but a middle-aged woman employee, who took me seriously, turned to Al and said, "How in the world can you stand that ballbuster?" I didn't hear her, or I surely would have said something. We had purchased $150 in fuel at that place over these past two days, and when he told me later what she had said, I was furious, vowing never to purchase another drop of fuel there again.
From Clinton Dock we crossed the bay to Hinkley's in Manset, where I sneaked MUSCOBE around and onto the float nearest the pier, where she had lain so many times over the years,
and shut down at around 3:15. At this time, the height of the season, the place was jammed with boats, people going everywhere, and Hinkley employees overseeing it all.
Al went for another walk (to make up for the one he'd missed while at Cockleberry Cove), and I paid for our mooring. Tonight Colby would be visiting, so I made certain to wash off all the salt and get things as shipshape as possible. I had even instructed Al to pick up some peanuts for us, as I remembered Colby always asks for them. Finally, I was ready for a shower and a shave, but had to wait for a while because things were so crowded, so I walked over to The Moorings to make our dinner reservation.
After showering, I wandered up to look around in the Hinkley Ship's Store and found a brass bottle opener I'd been looking for to mount in MUSCOBE's galley. I looked for some gifts for my family but couldn't find anything appropriate. When I returned, Al was chatting with a young couple with two kids who had also come here from Roque Island. It turned out they lived in Beverly, but belonged to the Eastern Yacht Club in Marblehead and, incredibly, had sailed from there to Roque with their two young children nonstop. Yesterday they had sailed down to Manset but picked up a lobster pot along the way and couldn't use their engine. Limping along all day in the light air, they coasted up to their mooring just as the sun was disappearing. With good reason, they were planning to rest up here for a few days before going on.
No sooner had we made ourselves comfortable with a "corner" and Sketches of Maine, than down the gangway came Colby Young and his wife, Nana. She was quite embarrassed, because on the day we were at Young Brothers she had failed to recognize me and walked right past me with barely a word. At the time Al made some comment like, "Well, Joel, it's nice to see what a big wheel you are around here." Of course, I understood perfectly and would hardly have recognized her had she walked up to me on the sidewalk in Marblehead.
MUSCOBE had always been - and she still was tonight- the most beautiful boat out there.
For dinner I had my usual: Seafood a la Gina. Nana had grilled chicken and I think Colby had fried shrimp or scallops. Al had lobster again. Unfortunately, the Youngs had to leave early. The are taking care of a little girl who was home by herself, so we said good-by and they were on their way.
By now the only available moorings were quite a way from the float, but we slept peacefully and free from mosquitoes. I looked around after dark for that dreaded sign of winter, the constellation Orion, but thankfully could not find it.
DAY SIX: WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 7th
A lobster boat awoke us early. I love the showers here, and at the little store at the top of the hill are to be found the best fresh-baked muffins ever. But we were miles from the float; Hinkley opens early so I dared not bring MUSCOBE in, and I didn't feel like hassling with the dinghy, so Al made us coffee and we were off the mooring by 6:15.
It was a beautiful morning, with a warm rosy glow to it - so nice, in fact, that I took a few pictures. I noted "Beautiful" under the weather section of the log, but we were soon to learn differently.
As soon as we turn south between Great Cranberry and Mt. Desert the fog thickened, and by the time we approached Long Ledge Bell it was pea soup - the thickest we had yet encountered. Once we found the bell, I turned west toward Bass Harbor Bar. Like 'Tit Manan Bar, there's a bell on each side here to guide you across.
The problem, however is, while you think you know where these buoys are, there are many other targets on the radar: other cruising yachts, working fishermen, other navigation marks, and of course, rocks. The Loran is supposed to help you sort this out by keeping you informed of your exact position. However, Maine is notorious for having "Loran anomalies," where your machine may be positioning you as much as a mile away from where you actually are located. I have generally remedied this situation in the past, and I'd done it this trip, by "re-initializing" it: entering the local LAT/LON position into the machine; in other words, "telling it where it is." Nevertheless, because of these anomalies I have come to learn that you can never quite completely trust Loran. (A good reason to change over to GPS, which I plan to do soon.)
For all of the above reasons, most especially because several lobster boats were working close by, I became somewhat disoriented at the bar, missing the first bell completely. Upon finding the second (which I thought was the first) I quickly re-established my bearings and proceed across Blue Hill Bay toward the Casco Passage. This is a very dangerous channel which passes through a fairly broad area of water which looks perfectly navigable at high tide. But at low you find numerous shoals and ledges exposed, limiting safe passage through only two places: Casco to the north and York Narrows to southard.
Fortunately for us, Mother Nature cooperated by lifting the fog just as we arrived, so we took the more hazardous (but more interesting) York Narrows. Visibility remained fair for a bit as we crossed Jericho Bay to the Deer Island Thorofare, but as we approached the entrance we were socked in again, hard. I had no waypoints entered in the Loran here, as visibility is usually pretty good inside, but today we were really blind. I did okay until I missed one mark, finding instead a lobster fisherman, so I crept along, keeping a sharp eye on the depthfinder, radar, loran and charts, peering out into the gloom, until we came upon an island I was pretty certain I recognized.
Gradually we found ourselves among the gray shapes of vessels moored in Stonington Harbor. I wanted just to tie up to the town landing and walk up for a cup of coffee, but we had slipped well past it in the fog and were across from Crotch Island. At least now I knew where we were, so I ever-so-slowly crawled into the welcome protection of Billings Marine, where we bought some fuel so they'd allow us to lay alongside for a while.
By now everybody was stopped - even the fishermen. I hadn't worked through fog this thick in quite some time, and I was tense and irritable, in need of a break. Behind us on the float was a lobster boat, a Duffy 35 with the engine all apart. The owner and his stern man chatted with us for a while and, though they recognized my Young Brothers, interestingly, they had never heard of Marblehead.
Soon I looked up and saw that the fog had thinned ever so slightly, so I called to Al and we set off again. We groped our way past Mark Island Light (whose horn we heard but never saw) to the nun just beyond, and made a course for the Fox Islands Thorofare, four miles across East Penobscot Bay.
Once again, Mother Nature seemed to be co-operating, lifting the fog as we approached. I consider this passage one of Maine's most beautiful, and it was nice that we would be able to enjoy it. At the western end is a black and white lighthouse, Goose Rocks Light, which is perched on a tiny rock only slightly larger than it's base. This light flashes red, except for a narrow white sector shown on the chart, which extends to the southwest. By making certain to stay in the white at night, one can successfully enter the thorofare and avoid the numerous navigation hazards in the area.
Once past the light, you turn to port and follow the marks between Vinal Haven and North Haven Islands. In the town of North Haven proper- just a small settlement, actually - we generally pause for fuel at J.O. Brown's, followed by a hamburger across the street. But as we had just topped off in Stonington, we continued past without stopping.
The western approaches to this thorofare, like the east side, are dotted with many dangers. These are easily avoided in good visibility, if you pay attention to the chart. But as we turned down between The Sugar Loaves and Brown's Head Light, bound for Rockport, the fog set in again - thick as mud, blotting out everything, including the sun.
Though Rockport was one of our favorite places, with a wonderful meal awaiting us at The Sail Loft, I'd had it by now with the fog. "Enough!" I said to Al. "I'm through trying to wander around blind among all these rocks and ledges. We can't see any of the scenery anyway, so we're skipping Rockport, staying outside, and going direct from here to Boothbay." Al agreed. (But he didn't have much choice; he could tell from my tone that I couldn't be convinced otherwise.)
And so, I spent the remainder of the day, running along through the fog, keeping track of our position with a combination of ded reckoning and our nav-aids. We slowed at each bell or whistle, to be certain it was the one we assumed it to be (and we had to get within a boat length or so before we saw them), but otherwise we saw nothing. On several occasions the radar identified boat traffic coming in our direction, but we couldn't make out anything visually, though we felt their wakes after they had passed.
By 2:00 PM we were nearing Boothbay Harbor, and the traffic picked up considerably. One problem with cruising in these waters in such restricted visibility, is that everybody else out there is using the same routes to get where you are going. At 2:30, as we were making for the red and white bell south of Linekin Neck, the radar picked up a squadron of small green targets coming at us. I purposely steered for them until, when we were close enough, we could look over and just make out the forms of some sailboats, ghosting past.
Once we made the bell, we had to find a can and three nuns before turning up towards the harbor. These we made easily, though we had to reduce speed substantially because of all the boat traffic. At one point one of our "nuns" turned out to be a 40-foot sailboat, headed in the opposite direction, with a woman standing in the cockpit blowing on one of those ridiculous little tin horns that can only be heard when used at midnight when there's absolutely no other sound.
I've never been able to understand that part of sailor mentality, where you spend $300,000 for a boat, yet refuse to pay $20.00 for a good, effective Falcon horn. Back home I've seen people in small sailboats sit for an hour on their mooring, blowing those stupid little things until they're blue in the face, and wondering why the launch never comes to pick them up. (Of course, they're also too cheap to buy a hand-held VHF.) These are the same people who spend all sorts of money for a boat, yet buy the cheapest ground tackle they can find for their mooring and are amazed to find their boat up on the beach after a good northeaster.
Anyway, I digress. After locating the marks we needed, we were soon inside Boothbay Harbor proper, though the fog was still so dense that we never saw the bell at Tumbler Island, marking the entrance. We even had difficulty finding Carousel Marina, but finally managed and at 3:00
we were tied up to take on fuel and ice. It had been nine hours, traveled almost exclusively in thick fog. A very long day, and I was pooped.
This is a busy place at any time, but it seemed just then that everybody was coming in out of the fog with the same idea, looking for a mooring. Carousel had none left, but we didn't want to stay there anyway, so I discreetly called the Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club and reserved one for us. Our fuel consumption that day turned out to be 9.3 gallonsthour, which meant I had been tooting along at a pretty good clip, in spite of the fog.
I literally had to lay out a course on the chart (285 degrees) in order to find our way over to the yacht club. Amazingly, no sooner had we tied up to the float than the fog lifted and the sun came out. I walked up to make dinner reservations for us in the dining area of this wonderful little yacht club. Like so many places in Maine, it's much less formal than the big clubs back home. Though they still require jackets and ties in the dining room proper, you can eat in casual dress in the lounging area. In spite of its size, I have always been served excellent food here over the past ten years.
I paid our fee and thought about a shower. Though I hadn't had one in the morning, I was just too tired to care, so I simply washed my face and hands. Then, after recording the necessary information in the log, I put MUSCOBE on the mooring while Al went for his walk.
He joined me a bit later, and at 6:00 we took the launch in for dinner. At the club we chatted with two retired couples from somewhere around Long Island, if I remember correctly, who were cruising but were delayed by the fog. One man had been a broker on Wall Street, and it was obvious they had the big bucks.
Many - if not most - people simply sit on the mooring and wait it out when it's foggy. I've always considered that wimpy behavior. (Got to get to Cockleberry cove tonight, remember?) But who knows? Maybe they're right. While I'm motoring along through the gloom, getting all tense and bothered, seeing nothing and burning up fuel, they're back at the yacht club playing scrabble or meandering through town, having a good time.
For dinner we both ordered a Caesar salad, with twin filets smothered in a cream sauce filled with pieces of shrimp, crab, and lobster. Delicious!
The launch shut down at 8:00, so we went back "home" for a "corner" and some Sketches of Maine. I predicted that the fog would be gone tomorrow, and we would enjoy a glorious day traversing the inland waterways of Townsend Gut, the Sasanoa, and the Kennebec, winding up in Kittery at day's end.
DAY SEVEN: THURSDAY, AUGUST 8th
We woke up early, and Al looked out his porthole: "Oh, no!"
"Al," I said. "Maybe it's just the screen you're looking through that makes it look foggy."
So he removed the screen. "Nope, it's fog."
DAMN ! Enough, already!
"We're outa here," I exclaimed. "Forget Townsend Gut and the rest. I've had my fill of weaving around the rocks in the fog with a lump in my throat. We're going home today - direct!" He agreed, so we brought MUSCOBE to the float and I headed for the showers.
As I entered, I found a Vietnamese or Chinese man cleaning the heads. "Good morning," I said cheerfully. "Olay," he responded. "Is the men's shower free to use?" I asked. "Olay!" he answered again, smiling and nodding vigorously.
Back at the boat, Al had our coffee ready. But I suggested, "Since we won't be having lunch, I need a good breakfast. How about going downtown for some?" As usual, he was agreeable. (I am, after all, the captain.)
We found the town landing without too much difficulty but were too early for the restaurant I wanted, so we wandered up the waterfront until we came to the Ebb Tide restaurant. After a hearty breakfast, I looked across the room and saw some neighbors from down the street, the Hogarty's, being seated. I got their attention, and they came over to say hello. They, too, were leaving for Marblehead today, but by automobile.
As we chatted, Al said to Anne, with his best deadpan, "I suppose you're wondering, Anne, why two men like us would be cruising alone without our wives. Fact is, after a great deal of consideration, Joel has finally decided to come out of the closet, though this isn't known in Marblehead yet, so please don't say anything."
For the briefest of moments, by the stunned look of disbelief on her face, we knew we had her. After a good laugh, we said good-by and headed back to the waterfront, leaving the dock at 7:40.
Under way, visibility was less than 1/4-mile but I didn't mind, since once we cleared the Cuckolds bell it would be one straight, open, 90-mile shot to Cape Ann and Gloucester. There were some strong swells as we went out, but these are common here as the ocean surge meets the shoaling bottom. Little did I know what we were in for.
There are basically three choices of courses home from here: 1) Hug the coast all the way, which provides scenery and easy opportunity to stop somewhere if you change your plans. This, however, adds a fair amount of time and fuel consumption to the trip. 2) Follow the series of navigation marks which lie approximately five miles offshore southwestward,, passing through the Isles of Shoals. This offers a more sheltered route than the one we were taking and is also more interesting, as you have waypoints (the navigation marks and the islands) to break the monotony; yet it only adds 20 - 30 minutes over the most direct route. 3) The shortest distance between two points, a straight line, which is the one we were taking.
I had chosen this over the other two, even though on past trips we had on a couple of occasions been knocked around out so far (30 miles or more) offshore. But on the past few trips I'd used it, and the seas had been smooth, so I was spoiled. While there are times when it's lumpy no matter which route you choose, it's generally more calm closer to shore.
The sea is an unforgiving teacher, and it often doesn't give you a second chance to correct bad judgment. For hundreds of years it has deluded thousands of unfortunate mariners, by innocently enticing them into potentially dangerous situations, then turning nasty and slamming the door behind them. This is exactly what happened to us.
As we left Maine behind, It soon became apparent that the seas were not abating as expected, but were becoming rougher. The weather channel called for "two to four foot seas in 15 - 20 mph winds," but by 9:00, when we were well on our way, MUSCOBE was pounding through chop coming at us from two different directions: one caused by the wind, and the other from the swells.
I was unconcerned. I'd seen what MUSCOBE could handle. However, before long we were crashing through seven-foot waves, the tops of which were viciously ripped off by the wind. These were not rolling swells; they were nasty, breaker-like waves, with convex faces only half a boat-length apart. MUSCOBE had no chance to ride over them. She crashed and pounded through them - and they over us, throwing continuous sheets of water as high as the bridge.
Every so often two waves from each different direction would combine to gang up on us. MUSCOBE's bow would rise thirty degrees and come crashing down. But there would be nothing there, as the trough of such a wave is far below the normal water level. So she'd fall even further, pounding into the water and shaking our bones, while we hung on and gritted out teeth. When she hit in such waves, I felt that the entire superstructure was going to be shaken off. The propeller would cavitate, and on a few occasions actually broke the surface.
There was no turning inland now. Turning for shore and taking these seas broadside for thirty miles would have been even worse. We had no choice but to reduce power to 3000 rpm's (9 knots) and grin and bear it for the rest of the day.
Soon, all the new ports and the new windshields were seriously leaking. Apparently they had been installed and sealed to protect them mostly from water coming from above. But vast sheets of water were continuously thrown at us, and I assume it was entering from the bottom. (These will all have to be removed and re-bedded this winter.) Everything below was soaked: Al's clothes and sleeping bag, which had long since been thrown off the bunk, the cushions, my charts, books, everything. Each time I looked up at the Loran, it still seemed to say we had eight more hours of this to go!
And eight more hours we did. This leg from Boothbay Harbor to the Annisquam Canal, normally a 7-1/2 hour trip, took us ten hours, due to the necessity to reduce our speed, combined with the way the waves diminished our progress forward! Ten hours of getting beaten up incessantly. Though Al has become quite capable at steering, I dared not leave the wheel in these conditions.
Using the head was out of the question, but at one point I could stand it no longer and asked him to take the helm for a minute. While I was sitting on it, MUSCOBE dove into one of those "mother of all waves." I went airborne, crashing into the overhead, then back down onto the seat, breaking it. (After that I simply couldn't relax enough to get the job done.)
At long last we sighted Cape Ann on the horizon, and soon we were among the hundreds of tuna boats fishing at anchor a few miles offshore. How they could stand it, sitting there all day in these conditions, I'll never know.
Shortly after 5:00 we were able to take some shelter in the lee of the cape, and I was a with great delight that I finally let Al relieve me after nearly ten, gut-wrenching hours at the wheel. (When Elise looked at my back the next morning, she was appalled at the black-and-blue marks she saw.)
Beautiful as ever, and free from those dreaded greenhead flies at this time of year, the Annisquam River and Canal was rather busy for a Thursday evening. I have never appreciated its tranquillity as much as on this day; it was absolutely wonderful to be relatively motionless for a change.
We had a fifteen-minute wait for the drawbridge, but were soon on our way up past Norman's Woe, where we turned to two-four-zero degrees, our last leg home. Exposed to the open water, we once again encountered rough seas, though nothing like we had experienced "outside."
At 6:30 we tied up alongside the Corinthian Yacht Club float. Al said, "I have never been so happy to see this place." We both could have gotten off and kissed the ground. After unloading the inflatable, we carried Al's soggy things to his car and returned to the porch for dinner. I was looking forward to seeing Elise, but she wasn't feeling well, unfortunately, so we ate by ourselves.
Thoroughly exhausted, I didn't envy Al, who still had the long drive to Chatham. As we sat there, enjoying the sunset, the awful anxiety of the day began to diminish. Al commented that he was still "rocking back and forth," even though we were now well-planted on terra-firma. Neither of us was especially anxious to get aboard another boat right away; in fact Al told me he was thinking of sinking his as soon as he got home. He was expecting company for the weekend and was praying they would want to play golf.
All things considered, we agreed it had been a good trip. In spite of my initial problems, adverse weather and sea conditions, and the emotional difficulties of visiting so many of these places, to paraphrase Caesar, "we had gone, we had seen, and we had conquered" our adversities, having a good time along the way.
I will always miss Steve, of course. But with each trip Al has become more proficient aboard MUSCOBE. In our years of boating together, he learned first and always to be cautious whenever he handled a boat. Where he once could barely hold a steady course, he now steers as well as I do. He is learning to read the charts and is anxious to be able to bring MUSCOBE into the float and maneuver her under all conditions. I am already looking forward to our next trip together.
And as for you, Stevo, I'll see you on the other side, ol' buddy.