Skipping Across the Bays

We have not done much sightseeing in Maine and there are two reasons for that. First, we’ve been scooting between Penobscot Bay and Mount Desert Island for mini-vacations with our family and friends. Second, FOG! There isn’t much to see when fog consumes the coastline. It seems each time we are on the move we travel in fog and rain with the wind on our nose. Not ideal conditions, but that social calendar beckons us forth. Each time upon arriving, however, we’ve been blessed with dry, warm days.  We’re thrilled that our family and friends can enjoy their time off with us in good weather.

From Rockland we traveled to Union River where we’d spend our next mini-vacation. It rained all morning the day we started out and we forced ourselves into the cockpit to make some tracks later that afternoon. Our first stop along the way was Carver Cove, Vinalhaven. We’d not anchored here previously and thought it good protection from a southwest wind. We began our sail with a reefed main and stay sail across Penobscot Bay, adding the genoa to the mix just prior to entering the Fox Island Thorofare (a thorofare is a passage between two islands; this marked channel runs between Vinalhavel and North Haven Islands).

We sailed into Carver Cove, which is HUGE, and tacked past several boats anchored there. We tucked all the way into the cove near the nine-foot spot, and could have gone farther! There was a large, lovely home just across from us on the shoreline with a long dock extending into the cove. We received some entertainment from the inhabitants of this house. At sunset, as the flag came down the flagpole the song Retreat was ceremoniously blasted across the cove via loudspeakers. Then at sunrise, a time of day Brian and I haven’t observed for at least two months, as the flag rose the song Reveille ceremoniously blasted us out of bed.

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From Carver Cove, Vinalhaven we motored across East Penobscot Bay and into the Deer Isle Thorofare. It was cold and raining. In the thorofare we dodged lobster pots, lobster boats, and islands as we navigated the foggy, narrow passage.

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Through the thorofare we entered Jerico Bay and were able to raise the main sail. Once again we found ourselves anchoring at Mackerel Cove, Swan’s Island for the night. We were eager to get the stove lighted in the cabin to dry ourselves and our gear from the dreary day.

Ahhh…the next morning warmth and sunshine greeted us in the cockpit! Maine mus know that our friends have arrived. We set sail out of Mackerel Cove, Swan’s Island and had a beautiful reach up into Blue Hill Bay. Finally, smooth sailing and a clear view! (Mount Desert Island in the distance.)IMG_5807

Mosquito Head to Long Cove at Orrs Island, July 30, 2012

We decided that for our long sail to Casco Bay we would get an “early” start. We were up at 7am, and headed to the cockpit to start moving for breakfast enroute. As we have learned earlier in our trip, Maine does not actually wake up early. After opening the hatch to the cockpit we learned that all we could see was the cockpit. We were completely fogged in.

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We decided that this meant no early start and made a sit down breakfast! Sourdough pancakes with Biscoff spread! Yumm.

Just before 8am the fog started to break and we got underway. Still no wind, so we were motoring for the beginning of the trip.

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We motored about half way across Muscongus Bay until we reached Eastern Egg Rock, where we first saw puffins just over a month ago. They are still cute, and we stopped for a while to watch them swimming around.

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After passing the puffins the wind had built in enough that we decided it was time to sail! Up with the main, up with the genoa and then (insert drumroll) up with the newly rigged staysail! Rode Trip really seemed to like the new sail and the extra sail area in front of the mast seems to help balance out her large mainsail.

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Our sail was upwind so we ended up tacking our way west along the Maine coast. We had a man overboard drill near Damariscove Island when one of our fenders wasn’t tied in as tightly as we thought it was! We looped back and Stephanie caught it with the boathook on our first pass. As the day went on the wind kept building and building, until we were moving FAST. Eventually all that wind caught up with us as we entered Casco Bay and the waves started to grow as well.

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Rode Trip handled the waves like a champ, and pushed right through. The wind as approaching 15 knots, but Rode Trip was still handling all 3 sails very well. They helped give her all the power she needed to push through the waves.

We finally made our turn around the end of Bailey Island, and the waves starting dying almost immediately. We had to take the staysail down, because it wasn’t helping on our downwind sail up Harpswell Sound. On our way up the sound we passed the old cribstone bridge.

20120730-225614.jpgAfter about an hour of working our way up Harpswell sound we tucked into Long Cove on Orrs Island. The guide book tells us that this is a local “hurricane hole.” To us that reads as a great place to get a good nights sleep!

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Foggy Day, July 17, 2012

The alarm sounded and we awoke this morning…slowly…but ready to get the day started! We were anxious to get to Isle au Haut and get our feet on the ground for some hiking. I crawled out of the v-berth and peeked outside only to see…nothing! We were still encased in fog.

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Ok, no big deal. We’re actually awake early and we can just enjoy breakfast while the fog clears. NOPE! Fog stayed…and stayed…and stayed. It was too thick to attempt to leave, the deck was dripping wet with fog. So we busied ourselves inside. I finally sorted and stowed all of the medical supplies that Ryan and Jocelyn had delivered.

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Brian took inventory of our flares, many of which are expired. Expired flares may still fire, however according to Coast Guard regulations we must have at least three non-expired flares on board.

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Brian etched Rode Trip’s documentation number into a structural surface of the boat, as required by the Coast Guard, so that it is within view and cannot be easily removed. I added our EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) registration sticker to the device.

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Brian then prepared the bosun’s chair so that he can be hoisted up to set up the flag halyard. While he was reading the appropriate locations/types/etc. of flags, I was preparing a bite to eat for lunch when I spotted a break in the fog. Hooray!!

At 1300 (1:00pm) we set off via motor from Merchant Island to Isle au Haut. It was still foggy, but our visibility was “ok” versus “poor.” This would be a short trip. We rounded Merchant Island and…rain. UGH! Plans changed again and we headed for Flake Island, rather than our intended Duck Harbor a bit farther south. We were in luck; once at Flake Island we were able to pick up a guest mooring, free of charge! There was one other guest sailboat on the neighboring mooring.

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We waited out the rain with a game of Rummy. The results of this rematch may or may not be published…

Clear skies, warm breezes, and SUNSHINE! Time to get off this boat! About 1545 (3:45pm) I leapt for the kayaks eager to get ashore to explore. It was like a new day! We kayaked to the public dock and beached the kayaks.

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About one-half of Isle au Haut is owned by the Acadia National Park; the remaining land is privately owned. The number of visitors allowed in the Acadia section of the island is limited for day trippers and campers are limited to one stay per year via reservation. There is a ferry that runs from Stonington to Isle au Haut. We walked to the ranger station, had a short chat with the park ranger and picked up a trail map. We had enough tide time for a short hike before returning to the kayaks, so we picked up the Duck Harbor Trail to stretch our legs. What a neat trail! Bogs (looked for floating bogs but not found yet), pine groves, and rock-top viewpoints all within about 1-mile. The mosquitos hadn’t found us yet and we took our time to admire the scenery. Along the way we spotted Acadia National Park boundary markers, a fun cairn adorned with driftwood, a highly unusual swamp rat (aka adorable mouse), and carnivorous sundew plants.

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On the way back to the kayaks we checked out the residential side of Isle au Haut, as this was near our mooring. We walked through “town.” We found the post office to send some mail. We investigated The Island Store, open from 11:00-3:00pm. We enjoyed reading the bulletin board for local goings-on. We noted that gasoline at Isle au Haut goes for $5.25/gal. But there are only 12 miles of roads on the island so one shouldn’t go through gasoline too quickly.

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We admired some flowers on our walk back to the public dock. Can you tell I hadn’t been off the boat for a while!? I enjoyed just walking about and observing island life.

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Kayaking back to Rode Trip we very closely encountered what we think is a loon, possibly a young loon? We heard loons calling later this evening.

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We also enjoyed a nice chat with the neighboring guest sailboat. The couple sails from Falmouth, ME and lives in NH. They made some recommendations for our cruising lifestyle, noting that some of these recommendations are now necessities for them having already enjoyed sailing for 25 years. But “they’re young…” “they’re going to have a great time!” Some of their recommendations are on our “eventually” list in varying priority. It was nice to talk with them as we had visited some of their frequented stops in ME. All in all a good day!