Summer Cruise in Maine

We just returned from a cruise on the Maine coast. The woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand an anchor watch, and I set out for a nine-day trip. Our excursions took us first from Boothbay Harbor to Rockland It took just under seven hours to make Rockland and we entered the harbor as the second day of Friendship sloop races was finishing up, a very pretty sight, and it was fun to come in with the tail end of the fleet and tie up. Our Friendship sloop, the Black Star was berthed just forward of Banshee, this years overall winner of the races, and Salatia and just inboard of Gaivota, the Vice-Commodore’s sloop; very good company. What followed was a delightful several hours of socializing with many, many old friends and a few new ones too.  Seventeen Friendships this year gathered on the docks at Rockland, we missed a few friends who had already come and gone, but there is always next year.

Friendships in Rockland

The next day was the last of the Friendship sloop gathering. We woke late and spent most of the day visiting and trying to recover from the trip up. Dinner that night was the annual Friendship Sloop Awards dinner, which was very funny and full of good cheer. A wonderful sing along which defies description was lead by the crew of Eden.

The next morning we took on last minute provisions and cast off, following out Banshee, Gaivota and Hegira, who were bound for Cape Cod, and Phoenix who was headed east. Halfway across West Penobscot Bay, we were still not sure what our destination should be. We had all lowers and uppers set in light air and finally decided that the winds were directing us through the Fox Island Thorofare, so that is where we went. The thorofare is narrow and winding, and typically has a lot of boat traffic. It was a challenging sail, and one we were probably over-canvassed for, but we headed in anyway. By the time we were off North Haven proper I had struck the jib-topsail, and fifteen minutes later I was striking the main topsail too.  By the time we cleared the Eastern entrance to the thorofare we were moving more comfortably but it was getting on towards late afternoon, so we made for Seal Bay between Burnt and Hay Islands.

An exquisite night, quiet, and cool, fantastic sleeping weather and classic summer-in-Maine scenery, we did spend some time remembering the last time we were here with our lovely ships-wolf, Saxon, now gone, which added just a touch of sadness to an otherwise perfect evening.

The next morning we set out for Isle Au Haut under all sail. We had a delightful if languid sail across to the island, a special place for me since I first visited the island in 1974. I have been back many times since and we looked to make sure that the flag was not flying at the house of friends (no flag means no visitors) before heading by. I can remember my first stay at that house as a child after a long cruise on an Alden Caravel, and sitting on the porch overlooking the Isle Au Haut thorofare, a porch where the then owner had become somewhat legendary among cruising circles for hailing friends in passing boats and inviting them ashore for “hot water and cold Gin”.

We ducked behind Merchant and Harbor Islands in Merchants Row and ran into a 180 degree wind shift, which we decided was going to mean work, so instead we turned back north and west to McGlathery Island where we anchored and went ashore. While on McGlatherly we saw two friendships headed east through the Stonington thorofare, we decided they had to be Salatia and Eden heading home to MDI. McGlatherly is a lovely spot and we enjoyed stretching our legs, but we were still seeing a building south-easterly wind, which made me uncomfortable, so we motored around the corner to Camp Island for the night. We were in very good company since the schooner Nathanial Bowditch was already anchored there and the Lewis R. French came in as we did and anchored as well. We felt much more sheltered and ended up spending another quiet and restful night.

the Bowditch

Lewis R. French

In the morning there was overcast and winds still out of the south-east so we worked our way to windward into Jericho Bay and the entrance to the Eggemoggin Reach and spent most of the day running downwind along the reach under the mainsail with one reef and the jib-topsail. We were straining to see if the Concordia 41 owned by a friend was in Center Harbor as we passed, but were never sure if she was there or not. We saw another Friendship off Center Harbor, but she was too far away to identify.

Passing under the Deer Island Bridge is always exciting and as we passed through the western entrance to the Reach, the J&E Riggin was entering on an opposite tack. This was particularly exciting because the woman who will willingly get up in the middle of the night and stand an anchor watch worked on the schooner Riggin for four years in the 1980s.

We spent the night in Smith Cove off of Castine. We wanted a quiet night so we went quite far into Smith Cove where there was the most shelter, passing two schooners at the dock in Castine, the Bowdoin and the Grace O’Malley, and yet a third, Timberwind, also at anchor in Smith Cove. The training ship State of Maine was also at the docks of Maine Maritime Academy, quite hard to miss.

Another quiet night and in the morning a rough headwind up around Turtle Head at the northern end of Islesboro and then one long starboard tack almost twenty miles long to Owls Head where we picked up a mooring. Wonderful sailing. Owls Head can be an exposed anchorage, but the forecast was for westerly’s, which would give us good shelter. We rowed ashore to pay for the mooring and bought lobster and made preparations for classic Maine dinner. When we returned to the boat we were joined by yet another schooner, the Stephen Taber. We sat down to a delightful meal on a beautiful summer evening in Maine.

Stephen Taber

It does not get much better than this.

It took us several more days to work our way back to Boothbay, we even did a side trip and motored though Friendship harbor where we saw the Friendship Gladiator on her mooring.  Further along after anchoring in Oars Island Cove we saw the Friendship Sarah Mead out for a sail in brisk winds.

Oars Island Cove. There was a time when I used to sometimes run the Snowgoose I.

We still had to negotiate fog and headwinds before returning to Boothbay, but it would not be cruising in Maine without headwinds and the “F” word.

On the way into Boothbay to pick up our mooring we saw two classic motor yachts headed out,

and two more Friendships the Mary Ann, which we had seen in Rockland was on a mooring in front of the yacht club, and Bay Lady, out for a sail with clients. It was a terrific end to a terrific cruise.


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