The Chocolatier

Isle au Haut is one of Maine’s 15 island communities.  When Rode Trip visited the island last summer, Brian and I took advantage of the hiking trails within the boundaries of Acadia National Park (comprises five square miles of the island’s total 12 square miles).  This year we had a much different agenda; to find chocolate!  Our friend, Candace, told us about the Chocolatier on Isle au Haut and thus we’d found the day’s event.  Eating chocolate!  But first we had to get there…

From our rafted boats we dinghied to the town dock, taking a detour around this mini-island to determine that it was in fact an island and that there was just barely enough water to circumnavigate it.  IMG_4466

Over the river and through the woods to the Chcolatier we go!IMG_4471IMG_6093

We paused to admire the views from atop Black Dinah Mountain. IMG_4485IMG_6098IMG_4484And then…out of the woods…VIOLA!  The Chocolatier’s cottage! IMG_6109

Welcome to Black Dinah Chocolatiers.  Here, Kate and Steve have made magic happen at their island home by combining their creative culinary skills with the most delicious locally grown ingredients to create a delectable treat.  Kate and Steve are year-round residents of Isle au Haut and they’ve contributed their talents to this small community.  Brian, Dennis, Candace and I stood, mouths watering, deciding which of the scintillating flavors to sample.IMG_6103

Blueberry Black Pepper, Rum Ginger, Strawberry Balsamic, Sea Salt Caramel, Lavender, and Earl Grey were just a few of the flavor combinations set before us.  We sat in the funky cafe at the edge of the forest admiring the delicately decorated truffles for mere seconds before Candace and I selected the first morsel.  IMG_6108


With each, tiny bite we determined that these were by far the best chocolates we’d ever eaten!  We wanted to postpone the end to our lavish treat so we put forth our best will-power and closed the box for our walk and dinghy ride back to the boats.

Wind in Her Sails

It was our last hurrah in Maine; Brian and I were excited to do a buddy boat cruise in Penobscot Bay with our local friends, Dennis and Candace (s/v Solstice).  Our friends were excited too, they’d taken off Friday to make a long weekend of it.  After a quick trip to the grocery store for the bare essentials (beer, tonic, bacon and tortilla chips) we loaded up the boats and got underway.

We were so efficient that morning that we departed before noon. True to our experience in Maine, there just isn’t any wind before noon. So getting started took a bit of patience as we bobbed our way past the Owl’s Head Lighthouse and into Penobscot Bay. Dennis made certain that we did not have an itinerary but just go where the wind would take us. Having been a schooner captain for several years, Dennis also knew all of the wind’s hiding places, shortcuts, and less traveled thorofares. I’ll confess both boats fired up the engine to make tracks across the bay. But mid-way across, right on cue at about 12:30pm, a nice northwest breeze came through. Rode Trip followed Solstice heading south along Vinalhaven. We breezed right past the entrance to the Fox Island Thorofare and sailed down through the Leadbetter Narrows. Our route is best viewed on the track, but here is also a zoomed screen shot of our chart. The Fox Island Thorofare entrance is marked by a green/red can (GRC) at the top left corner. You can see in the bottom right Leadbetter Island and a tiny, narrow passage marked by one green can (GC “1”) between Leadbetter and Vinalhaven. Despite our doubts, the wind held through the narrows and we had a beautiful sail and plenty of room.


The scenery continued to be lovely as we sailed along through The Reach. You can see in this screen shot that this was another narrow passage. But we still had plenty of room and a beautiful, scenic sail. Yet again the wind held and we were thrilled to have Solstice’s insider knowledge in the lead.






IMG_6075IMG_4450We sailed roughly 20 miles all the way to Isle au Haut. We rafted the boats for the night. Rode Trip was anchored and Solstice was tied alongside as if at a dock. What a superb idea! Now we had double the deck space and had no need to dinghy back and forth. We baked pizzas simultaneously in both ovens, then enjoyed our feast along with gin and tonics aboard Solstice. We marveled at the differences between the two 32′ boats; each was just right for its intended purpose, Rode Trip the ocean passage-maker and Solstice the coastal explorer.


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.


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.



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.


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.



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.


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.


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.








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.




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.




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.



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!