The sail from Bunker Cove to Mud Hole was short and uneventful. It was our first time since setting out that we were sailing upwind, but we only had to tack once. You can see on our track that we went quite a ways out to sea before making the corner of Stage Harbor Island and heading into Eastern Bay.
For the non-sailors out there, tacking is how a sailboat can sail into the wind. The boat can’t travel directly in the direction that the wind is coming from, but can sail about 55 degrees off the wind on either side. The process of sailing first in one direction and then the other to work your way upwind is called tacking. If the wind is very light it can be quite slow. If the wind is very heavy then heading upwind can be very wet. During the process of sailing upwind a sailboat is “heeled over”, meaning that the boat is tipped partway over by the force of the wind on the sails. The weight in the keel counteracts the tipping motion and the boat will stay tipped up on one side like this.
Things started to get interesting about the time that we entered Eastern Bay. We turned in and headed downwind for a nice broad reach to the entrance to Mud Hole. The wind really picked up and we were screaming along. Moving fast on a broad reach is a great feeling. Moving fast on a broad reach through an unfamiliar bay with lots of rocks on both sides of the channel is a less great feeling… We quickly and successfully reached the entrance to Mud Hole and used the motor to stay in place while we wrestled the sailed down.
The guidebook had a lot to say about entering Mud Hole. First stay clear of the point, then stay close to the south shore until you pass the two rocks that show at low tide. You can’t try to enter when the rocks are visible though because at low tide the channel only has 2 feet of water in it. After creeping very slowly past where we expected the rocks to be and finding the shallow area (14 feet at high tide) the water became deeper and we found a secluded anchorage to ourselves. We just have to be sure that we don’t want to leave at low tide…
Looking out of the entrance to the Mudhole at High Tide
Looking out of the entrance to the Mudhole at Low Tide
After a long morning of kayaking and enjoying the Mistake Island Harbor area we pulled up our anchor at 1530 (3:30pm) and headed for Roque Island. The cruising guide described Roque Island as the goal of generations of yachtsmen. We hadn’t really heard about it until recently, but we were on our way. Once again we set off with crystal clear visibility and a stiff southwest breeze. We passed the lighthouse which was blowing its foghorn into the clear afternoon and turned downwind. We were sailing along beautifully and had just turned around the corner of Head Harbor Island when we were surrounded by sea birds including gulls, terns, razorbill auks, and PUFFINS! Stephanie was very excited to have more puffins around and I was trying to get a picture of some when all of a sudden in a very excited voice she said, “Brian, over there” I turned my head just in time to see the back of a whale about 50 feet from the boat as his dorsal fin cleared the water and he disappeared. No pictures of this event, but it was awesome to have a whale so close to the boat!
We turned the boat around and headed back for a little while in hopes that the whale would resurface and we could get another glimpse, but he had other plans. We did manage to spot over a dozen porpoises while sailing through the area again. Once we decided that the whale wasn’t coming back we continued on for Roque while the winds continue to build until we were screaming along. We continued until we could see our narrow entrance to the Roque Island Thoroughfare, and then turned upwind to take down the sails.
The wind was blowing pretty hard at this point, but everything was going well until a strange banging indicated that we had caught a lobster pot on our prop. This is not good. At the very best we could be hung up for a while and at the very worst the rope could pull hard enough to do damage to the drivetrain on our engine. First we tried to free the prop using the boathook, but it didn’t work. As we began to drift down on the line and it started to get taut, we put a safety line and ladder over the side. I donned my snorkel mask and took our handy blue rigging knife and went over the side to cut the pot free. Several cold wet minutes later I was back on board to a dry towel and Rode Trip was no longer snagged on a lobster trap!
We came into Bunker Cove and used the depthfinder to look for the good spot under the cliff that the guidebook recommended. The book was right that there was water under the cliff, but shallow out in the middle of the cove. We put the anchor down in the shallow water and ran a stern line to a tree on the cliff to keep Rode Trip in the deep water so we wouldn’t ground out in the mud as the tide receded.
It is still taking some getting used to when we enter an anchorage and the depth sounder says 16 feet and we know that isn’t enough water for us…low tide 13 feet later we would be very uncomfortable.
We decided that in being in such a snug little cove on an island that is regarded as quintessentially downeast was a good reason to celebrate so we opened a bottle of Champagne that was given to us by Mike back in Portsmouth and enjoyed it with the mussels plucked from the cliff earlier in the day.