The Trip South Begins

The last blog update was sent from Bar Harbor, Maine on Mount Desert Island. This was as far downeast as we managed to travel. 

After leaving Bar Harbor we made a couple more stops in the Mount Desert Island area before heading back southwest along the coast. 

A final view of Mt. Desert Island as we departed

The first day we traveled to Little Cranberry Island, one of five islands that make up the Cranberry Isles. The town of Isleford on Little Cranberry has a year-round population of all of 56 people. Ferries and a mail boat service the island and of course the residents probably all have boats. 

A Bald Eagle we saw on Little Cranberry Island

During the summer months visitors arrive on a daily basis, but the population shrinks to that low number during the colder months of the year. There is a one-room schoolhouse on Great Cranberry Island serving first through eighth grades with 12 students. For high school they must take a boat to Mount Desert, move in with a relative on the mainland or attend a boarding school. For all supplies, the population must travel by boat, since there are no stores on the islands for clothes or groceries or other needs. (Shop-a-holics would find life here impossible.)

Lobstering is the one major industry on this island group. I heard that last year they took in more than a million pounds of lobsters. Of course for most of them the lobsterung season does not last 12 months, so the remaining winter months are long and isolating – one of the real challenges to island life. 

We enjoyed our short visit on Little Cranberry as we tried to imagine what life was like for those who call this home. From there we began to work our way back the way we had come.  We spent two nights at Vinalhaven before heading over to Rockland. 

  We saw 4 schooners like this one leaving the harbor as we arrived.

Once there, we walked the mile-and-a-half to a grocery store. In Rockland and I enjoyed a nice meal of mussels, perhaps my last this season,while Sandra tried some lobster bisque. From there we traveled through Muscongus Bay to a quiet anchorage at Cow Island. This  bay is a quieter one than either Penobscot Bay up around Rockland, Vinalhaven and Camden or the more Southerly Casco Bay near Portland. We did a bit of kayaking from our anchorage at Cow Island and managed to see a few seals on the Rocks resting at low tide. They slid into the water as we approached but came closer to check us out – great fun! 

A seal checking us out

From there it was a Rockin and Rollin day getting back to Casco Bay and one of our favorite anchorages at Snow Island where we spent the night. We couldn’t pass up one more chance to visit South Freeport so we could walk the three miles into Freeport to L. L. Beans as well as a few outlet stores. The hard part was walking back the 3 miles with our backpacks full of groceries – the challenges of cruising without bikes. We left Casco Bay as the sun rose the next day to aim for our last stop and Maine. We traveled to Kittery and spent the night on the mooring just north of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Our travel from Kittery to Boston was a much smoother ride and more enjoyable for that reason. After a night in Boston Harbor we set out for Onset and managed to pass through Cape Cod Bay while small craft advisory had been established. It was a bit bouncy with lots of spray but we managed to get to the Cape Cod Canal just as the tide was supposed to be turning and we could use the tide current to help us get to Onset. Of course the theoretical slack tide time turned out to be a little off and we did have to fight the tide for the first portion of the journey through the canal. We anchored in Onset just where we had anchored here back in June. 

During the first weekend here it seemed that Onset was celebrating the coming end of summer. A sidewalk painting competition was held during the day and a grand illumination took place after the sun set. We still aren’t too sure about this, but we saw what must have been people holding red lights along the shore all around the bay. More than 100 people must have been involved.

A sample of the sidewalk art

A portion of the grand illumination

We will be here for about 10 days as we get a number of projects taken care of, visit Sandra’s sister Paula and brother Scott and then travel to New Hampshire to visit our daughter Sam and her family one last time before heading out of New England. So we will be here till Labor Day or longer, and depart depending on the Marine weather and on that topic we keep a close watch on the tropics to be aware of any hurricane development that might impact our travel. My next update is likely to be coming in September as we move south of New England. 

Carpe Diem 

Captain Bob


Yes, We Are Still In Maine

Well actually it would be better to say that we are back into Maine. After completing the last blog post, we went to New Hampshire and spent 2 weeks with Samantha and our grandsons and family including a birthday party for Jeremy Chris and Ryan and had a good time there. We then all returned to Maine  and enjoyed a week at a cabin on Great Island, not far from Great Island Boatyard where we had left our boat. Everyone enjoyed time at the beach, climbing among the rocks and eating the seafood (except Jenn, our vegan daughter). Jenn joined us there after two weeks of camping as far as Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.

The sunset view from our cabin’s deck

At the end of the week, Sam and her family left while Jenn stayed for a couple days so we could take advantage of her car to get some provisioning accomplished. The she headed back south, and we headed downeast. 

We continued to be blessed with good weather as we headed to Rockland. The harbor is large and full of all sorts of boats including a Navy ship. It’s also protected by two lighthouses, one at Owls Head and the other at the end of the harbor breakwater. ( I got pictures of several others on the way there.)

Lighthouse at the entrance to Rockland Harbor

We were surprised to learn that the annual lobster festival was under way as we arrived. Hence the town was a bit busier and noisier than normal. That didn’t prevent us from checking out several shops downtown or enjoying a great lunch at Clan McLaren.

We were contacted by Donna Schlahman, a cruiser we had met in Marathon who was to be  in Rockland with a group from Boothbay Harbor visiting the Sail, Steam…Museum. She invited us to join them for a tour led by the curator. It was fascinating, and we learned quite a bit about the history of Rockland and the importance of sailing ships that were built there. 

Next we headed east again to Vinalhaven. Thanks to our Active Captain app, we learned of a great protected anchorage in Seal Bay, complete with the seals for which it was named. We spent a couple of days there exploring the islands, watching seals and generally enjoying this beautiful spot that represents so well the rugged coastline.

Some of the seals of Seal Bay

Below are results of our exploration of the Bay.

Even Maddy enjoyed our exploring.

Lots of rock

And of course beautiful sunsets

 We then moved further downeast to Mt. Dessert Island and Acadia National Park. We spent our first night here anchored by Southwest Harbor. We went in for a meal, lobster for Sandra and mussels for me. The next day we sailed up Somes Sound, the only fiord on the East coast. The steeply rising hills on each side were quite spectacular.

This is what portions of the shoreline looked like in the Sound. 

 Anchoring in a great spot at the end of the Sound, we dinghied in to the town dock of Somesville and checked out the town. The commercial center is comprised of a bank, post office and a general store – not too exciting. But the anchorage made up for any shortcomings of the town.  And we even saw and heard a loon that was swimming near us. We were surprised to see one in the ocean during the summer, but we did.

This may be a good time to digress a bit to focus on the lobstering that we see here on the coast. Lobster pot bouys dominate the coast – as much as we’ve seen at least. We rarely traveled anywhere that didn’t have bouys around, and in some areas they were so numerous that one had to steer carefully to avoid catching one on the prop. 

Lots of lobster pots

In Somes Sound alone there were hundreds, and the Sound was narrow and less than five miles long. In one area during our transit to Mount Dessert Island, we saw eight lobster boats picking up traps. They were all less than a quarter of a mile from each other. It’s just hard to imagine how many lobster are down there to be caught. Last year more than 100 million pounds were sold, and all the studies indicate that this is a sustainable level!  

We bought these two from a lobsterman as he was hauling traps near our boat.

While I’m not sure how accurate this info is, I did hear of a couple of reasons for the increase in the lobster population in spite of the expansion in the number of traps. The coast of Maine has been over fished, so the predators of young lobsters are gone. The other part is the lobster trap itself. When a camera was placed in traps, it was learned that these devices are not really trapping them. The bait put in the traps is feeding the lobsters who then get back out as easily as they got in. The ones unlucky enough to be in the”trap” when it’s hauled up are the only ones caught. Some call this operation farming rather than trapping. The bottom line is that the lobster population is not shrinking in spite of the increases in the number hauled each year. Of course for us the real bottom line is to enjoy eating them while we’re here and to watch carefully to avoid getting tangled in a trap line.

This schooner returned to Bar Harbor from a foggy sail.

As this post is being written, we are anchored by Bar Harbor. We’ll be here another day before checking out a few other great stops in the area before getting serious about heading south.

Till the next time we have good Internet coverage.. .

Carpe Diem

Captain Bob