August 5th – It felt a bit funny when we climbed out of our bunks, knowing that the cruise to Nova Scotia was off. We made two successful voyages to the Exumas in the Bahamas with perseverance and planning. A trip to Nova Scotia is closer to home, but I must admit I would not have felt great crossing the Gulf Stream with nagging engine issues. So it was time to put the 2nd thoughts to bed and enjoy our cruise of the Maine Coast, with the
emphasis on the Mount Desert – Penobscot Bay region. This has always been a favorite but we have missed out on a number of familiar places in recent years. This has probably been due to the fact our summer cruising was not very extensive when returning from all winter long southern voyages. Northeast Harbor mechanic Jeremy returned one more time with a modification that made the oil pressure alarm sensor installation a success. The used tachometer replacement he brought with him failed in its test, so we will operate without for now. There were clouds about for
the day, but the Admiral and Captain got ashore and made a hike up Eliot Mountain, finding a number of wild blueberries along the way. The return was via Thuya Gardens so the Captain could check it off the yearly bucket list.
August 6th – The clouds broke at 0800 and after a quick stop at Clifton dock for ice and water we were on our way (with three extra jugs of diesel fuel strapped to the deck there would be no need to fuel up again on this cruise!). There was no doubt in the destination. Frenchboro, Long Island, located just to the southeast of much larger Swans Island, has been a family favorite for many years. It has a small year round population and the inhabitants are friendly to yachtsmen. In addition it has miles of beautiful trails that belong to the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. The Captain thinks many trails rival nearby Acadia, except there are no other people in sight! With a blustery west wind blowing, we found the jib was all we needed to fly down the Western Way. Maybe it was our excessive speed that singled us out, but a higher speed Coast Guard vessel came up alongside and queried when we had last been boarded and inspected by the Coast Guard? Knowing that “never” was not the response being looked for the Captain vaguely said it had been four or five years, but that didn’t work either. A uniformed lieutenant and assistant quickly came aboard and directed the Captain to keep sailing toward his destination, which meant the Admiral was now in charge of the safety
inspection! This was not an issue as the Admiral and Lieutenant quickly developed a good working relationship. The fact that there was a life raft and composting head on board scored favorable points and the safety inspection was over quickly with Pathfinder passing with flying colors! We continued on to Frenchboro and found the harbor to be very quiet for mid-day on Sunday. One reason quickly came apparent when we saw that “Lunt’s Deli”, our favorite lobster shack on the Maine Coast, was closed for the day. Another reason is the change in the mooring situation. Frenchboro has an inner harbor that was dredged many years ago with Federal money. For many years the Lunt family rented out moorings for the night to visiting yachts, but his was in fact illegal. So now there were a number of lobster boats on the moorings, as well as some old Lunt moorings that were not being maintained. There are new rental moorings but they are located outside of the dredged inner harbor and due to the wind and surge they were not very desirable. The Captain directed Pathfinder to an empty mooring in the inner harbor, however after a quick trip ashore and a conversation with a member of the Lunt family we were advised to take one of the outer harbor rentals. Reluctantly we moved Pathfinder to a bouncy mooring beyond the ferry dock, and returned ashore. Fortunately the island museum and gift store were open, which allowed stocking up on the desirable
and highly envied Frenchboro logo items. After the shopping trip was over we hiked to the south shore with open ledges that looked out to Isle au Haut, Jericho Bay, Swans Island, and about a zillion lobster buoys. From there we wound our way along the shore and through the woods until we crossed over from the Western Point back to the harbor. When got back to Pathfinder via the dinghy we found conditions much the same as we left. A very large and expensive wooden boat was very happy to have a mooring and we motored north to find better shelter on the north side of Swans
Island. Unfortunately the west wind now decided that northwest was a better direction to blow from which of course meant we were headed directly upwind and against an ebb tide. It was a long slog but eventually we were able to tuck up into a small cove off of the larger Mackerel Cove and anchored in a protective spot for the night.
August 7th – A perfect day dawned with the sun shining on the mountains of Acadia National Park over on Mount Desert. A perfect day for sail, and so we did, crossing Jericho Bay and up Eggemoggin Reach which is formed by the mainland on one side and Deer Isle and Little Deer Isle on the other. The Reach lived up to its name, and we reached the entire length then turned to the west and into East Penobscot Bay and down to a small
archipelago named the “Barred Islands.” Four islands surround the anchorage along with several ledges and they are all connected to at least one other island by a bar at half tide and lower. The entrance is tricky and the GPS not very accurate, but it is one of the prettier anchorages on the Maine Coast. We also found that the holding ground can be elusive as we dragged our Rocna Anchor about an hour after we thought we were set. This happened to at least two other vessels that were there. We found a better spot but in deep water. We were also joined by five other vessels from the Northport Yacht Club and had a gathering with familiar and some new
friends. Pathfinder was joining the group for their five day summer cruise which was a consolation for our aborted destination. The Captain and Admiral did get some brief shore time and hiked around “Bartender” which is connected by bars to “Butter” and “Escargot.” Anyone hungry? The wind became blustery from the south and our anchorage was a bit marginal but we hung on and eventually the winds died out in the middle of the night.
August 8th – The day dawned gray with rain showers. The wind shifted to the north, which was a poor direction for our anchorage so we were underway mid-morning adorned with full foul weather gear. It was a cold, wet motor to the south but we knew our destination was one of the best: Perry Creek on Vinalhaven. Two large islands dominate the south-central area of Penobscot Bay, Vinalhaven to the south and North Haven to the north. Between them runs a narrow channel of deep water named the “Fox Island Thorofare.” Makes sense, right? No place on the chart will you find an island named “Fox.” Actually it is in homage to the early explorers. Champlain or Weymouth, or another early European explorer noted that the islands had many foxes and named them North and South Fox Islands. Apparently somebody named Vinal had other ideas, but the Thorofare keeps the old name and it allows the locals to keep the tourists confused. In the middle of the Thorofare, on the Vinalhaven shore is the A #1 Hurricane Hole named Perry Creek. It starts narrow, opens into a beautiful anchorage and then narrows as it actually becomes a creek. It is also filled with mostly private moorings that
folks from Rockland and other places have placed to hold their spot on a Saturday evening. If it isn’t Saturday, most us feel free to pick them up, and we found one that hadn’t been used in awhile based on the weed on the mooring pennant. Perry was very popular on this blustery, dreary day and most of the boats we were amongst were well worth looking at. The Admiral made friends with a couple from New Hampshire who owned a very beautiful and hefty wooden cutter named “Briar Patch.” The boat was designed by Bud MacIntosh, a New Hampshire boat builder of renown but this boat was built by its owner, Dean Mendenhall, who has been sailing it with his wife since its launching in 1988. They had made two Bahama trips, before Pathfinder’s voyages, but we had lots to talk about and a number of mutual acquaintances. The Admiral wasn’t done making friends however. Aboard a trawler style power boat she met John McCloud, the keeper of the Vinalhaven Land Trust Moorings. Actually the Trust doesn’t own the moorings. John owns them but for everyone who picks one up, John passes out a brochure and asks the boat owner to make a donation to the Land Trust. John is originally from Scotland and his accent is still strong and proud, but his love is for Vinalhaven, his home in Vermont, and for the many Labrador Retrievers he has owned. In fact three of the moorings he owns are named after Labs who have come and gone. The fourth is named after his wife! The rest of the Northport YC boats came in and we now totaled seven. An evening gathering was held on Jeff Jacobs beautiful Hinkley Bermuda 40. With Jeff’s boat “Gold Rush” moored next to “Briar Patch” the scenery was easy on the eyes for classic boat lovers. John Linn’s drone captured some stunning shots from above as the skies cleared and we slept without a breath stirring in the rigging.
August 9th – Occasionally you have a day and a sail that make all the work and worry of owning a boat worthwhile no matter what the rest of the season is like. Today was the day! A blue sky and calm sea greeted the Northport Fleet as we motored out the east end of the Fox Island Thorofare in mid-morning. There was just enough breeze to set the sails and silence the engine, which was a blessing since the lobster buoys run thick in the stretch of Eastern Penobscot Bay between Vinalhaven and Deer Isle. A propeller that isn’t spinning is much less likely to catch a lobster pot line. We were entering a stretch of the coast that some people think is the most beautiful of the entire state’s coastline, but then everybody has an opinion! The waters between the larger islands of Deer Isle to the north and Isle au Haut to the south, are covered with small, roundish islands. They have bases of pink granite and are topped with dark green spruce, balsam fir and hemlock trees. In addition to the islands there are numerous ledges that may break the surface as the tide retreats or may forever lie beneath the sea waiting for the errant navigator to leave his or her mark with bottom paint. Some of these ledges are marked with navigation buoys, but the majority are not. A prudent skipper keeps an eye on the chart, depth sounder, and these days the GPS chart plotter. In addition, the ever present lobster buoys add an interest, and there is always a possibility of fog! All that being said, with the hills of Isle au Haut to the south and the shores of islands in all directions this is a wonderful place to be on a
summer’s day. There are two main routes through all the islands. One is the Deer Isle Thorofare that passes by Deer Isle’s largest village of Stonington, which is also has one of the largest lobster fleets on the coast. The second route is a little further south and is named Merchant’s Row. It is closer to Isle au Haut, and this is the course Pathfinder took with the wind on the starboard beam with steady southerly wind of just under 10 knots. It was the perfect sail with the perfect scenery. To make it interesting one of the other NYC boats that is about the same size as Pathfinder was hot on our heals. A little competition keeps the sail trim sharp and prevents the crew from getting lazy! Eventually we emerged past the final ledges and islands of Merchant Row and out into Jericho Bay. The lobster buoys were thick, the tide ran hard, but in the right direction and we played the light winds until we altered course for the final destination of Burnt Coat Harbor on the southern side
of Swans Island. The boats that sailed the Deer Isle Thorofare ended up converging with those taking the Merchant’s Row route at almost the same time, and Pathfinder was still in the lead. Of course we never take racing seriously, but we made sure we were the first boat to enter the harbor! Burnt Coast is another place where lobstering is number one, and provides the living for most of the year round residents. They may be among the most polite lobstermen on the coast as the boats ran slow both entering and leaving the mooring field. It doesn’t always work this way! We had a great excursion ashore and a walk to the lighthouse on the point. A newly cut trail was found and there were enough raspberries for all to have a snack. A social gathering was held and soon after sunset the cabin lights were winking out.
August 10th – It was another sunny day on the Maine Coast. Winds stayed light for the
most part. We motored until entering the same Eggemoggin Reach that we sailed in on the 7th, so we had completed a circle with the Northport Yacht Club fleet. The wind wasn’t quite so steady this time, but the Captain and Admiral had patience and persevered and eventually sailed up to the entrance of Buck’s Harbor at the northwest end of the Reach. For those who have read Robert McCloskey’s children’s book “One Morning in Maine,” Buck’s is the place where Sal and Jane bought their ice cream cones and where the outboard motor was repaired. In fact Condon’s garage is still there and looks very much
like it did in the book. The yacht club (tether ball is still there) and marina business still look almost the same as they did when I was a wee lad. The big difference is the number of boats moored in the harbor. It is packed to the brim. Although we did not get ice cream cones, we did go to dinner at Buck’s Restaurant behind the general store. It was one of the best meals I have had all year and rivals the best in Portland. If you are in the area, don’t miss it!
August 11th – It was time for Pathfinder to head back to the “westward” so we said farewell to the NYC fleet and motored down Penobscot Bay, through Mussel Ridge Channel and
across Muscongus Bay. There was a very short sail when the wind briefly strengthened but it was mostly a motor trip. The destination was new for us: Harbor Island, a place we had
heard much about, but never managed to get to. Usually Muscongus Bay is a place we go by on our way to Penobscot Bay or back home toward Casco Bay. Harbor Island’s harbor is actually made up by Harbor Island to the west and Hall Island to the east. It is deep except where it is very shallow and there are a number of ledges that need to be avoided. Fortunately the prime anchoring spot was available and soon we were ashore to find out why Harbor Island has received so many accolades over the years. First off, it is a privately owned island, but the owners have generously allowed public access for years. One of the owners is the daughter of our friend Carrie Thomas in Cumberland. Harbor Island is on the Maine Island Trail, although there is no camping allowed. There is a nice sized beach at the head of the
harbor and was popular with a number of day trippers while we were there. The highlight of the island however, is the trail that leads to the west side, where beautiful granite cliffs are made to scramble over and provided a wonderful view of the western side of
Muscongus Bay. The cliffs have numerous crevices that need to be avoided and the sea surges under some of the cliffs and undoubtedly provides some “thunder” on a stormy day. Beyond the cliffs are several true caves that beg for a flashlight and have probably been explored for pirates treasure by numerous search parties over the decades. This is all topped off with low cliffs and a beach to the southwest. The trail back to the harbor passed through an “enchanted forest” where numerous fairy houses have popped up. Back at the harbor’s beach we met a large party of folks (15 or 16) that had arrived on a powerboat
from Christmas Cove near Boothbay. They spend the evening swimming and having a ball
before making a night run back to the west. Pathfinder enjoyed a peaceful night and the Admiral and Captain agreed that they would need to return someday to Harbor Island.
August 12th – There was rain in the morning but it stopped and started to clear by the time we were underway in the mid-morning. We had an easy motor around Pemaquid and past Boothbay. At the Cuckolds Lighthouse we shut off the engine and sailed close hauled on one tack to Small Point and made our entry back into Casco Bay. The wind died out and we motored to an old favorite anchorage in Quahog Bay, which is bordered on the west by the town of Harpswell. Most folks in this era refer to the area as “Snow Island” but since it was only known as Quahog when I came with my folks for the first time at 6 years old, it will remain Quahog for me! We had a
beautiful evening and anchored in one of our old favorite spots, along a wild shore that has a number of cedars growing at the water’s edge. The last night of the cruise was very quiet.
August 13th – The Admiral made bacon and eggs to celebrate 40 years that she and the Captain had been making voyages together. We were aboard a Sabre 28 named Pathfinder for our honeymoon so it seemed fitting that we were afloat 40 years later! The last day provided a sail, tacking out past Orrs and Bailey Islands. We entered Broad Sound via the channel by Mark Island, and suddenly it was a Sunday afternoon in August and every powerboater in the Portland area was out and running hell bent for leather (According to Google: The use of hell–bent in the sense of “recklessly determined” dates from the first half of the 1800s. Leather alludes to a horse’s saddle and to riding on horseback; this colloquial expression may be an American version of the earlier British
army jargon hell for leather, first recorded in 1889.) So there. The Captain felt that he might be back on the Florida ICW but the scenery was a bit nicer. A dry front passed through and suddenly the wind was from the northwest and right on the nose. We powered on, taking spray over the boat and finally picked up our (slimy) mooring pennant off the Portland Yacht Club in Falmouth. Our Maine Coast Cruise was over for the year. The charts for Nova Scotia will have to wait.