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Mt. Desert Island

Posted by on September 26, 2012

Goowd Aftahnoon! (Said in my best Downeast drawl)

We’ve been busy since we announced our arrival in Pretty Marsh Harbor. My dad visited us from last Wednesday night till yesterday morning, and throughout that time we’ve been staying busy all day long. The weather for the most part was glorious, and we used just about every scrap of sunshine that we could. Today a few rain showers are in the area, and we’re taking a day off from hiking, exploring, sailing, or eating lobster to clean up the boat and restore some order to the chaos.

 So many tales to tell, where to begin? Perhaps where I left off….

On Sunday afternoon Sabrina and I left Pretty Marsh Harbor to test our sailing skills in the difficult waters of Maine. We cruised the Bartlett Narrows, we looked for seals, and we rounded Bartlett Island on our way back into Pretty Marsh Harbor. We sailed most of the way, getting a feel for how the tall pines and mountains shift the winds, and how to dodge the lobster buoys. On our way back into the anchorage we passed a solitary seal perched on an exposed rock that was only big enough for him. That night we anchored back in Pretty Marsh Harbor, enjoying another night of peace and quiet.

While the stories of lobster buoys are notorious, such as “You can walk across them!” or “Don’t even think about pulling in there!” we’re learning to deal with them. There may be less buoys up here since there has been a glut of lobsters this year, but I’ll try to put an honest description on them. First you need to understand how a trap is placed – most lobster traps are marked by two buoys, the “toggle” buoy, and then the brightly colored buoy that hangs 10-20 feet away from the toggle. The toggle supports the long pot warp that is tied to the trap, and will sometimes submerge in strong currents or winds, so you may only see the bright colored buoy. Here’s a good diagram. The traps are placed in deep water, 100-150 feet seems really popular, and the pot warp hangs nearly vertical. In my opinion, the most dangerous thing is to cross between a toggle and the buoy and snag that 15′ length of rope that’s right below the surface because it will likely foul a prop or snag a rudder. Following all this? Now here’s the difficult part, some traps only have one buoy, some have three, some are painted the same color, and some are mismatched. To describe the separation between buoys, in popular fishing areas you can find the two buoys separated by about 15′, if you then look in a radius of 20 feet from either buoy you can 95% of the time hit another buoy from another pot. Sometimes it looks like a field of mismatched buoys all floating about in a grid pattern, and it takes some practice to figure out which two buoys are tied together. To sum it up for our Chesapeake boaters, imagine a commercial crabber’s line of crab pots, now double the buoys, and then extend that the entire way across the Bay…. It’s not impossible to navigate, you just have to be on your toes, and the spacing is not that bad except in the most popular areas. (For those wondering, Joint Venture doesn’t have a prop shaft cutter.)

On Monday we motored around Mt. Desert Island (MDI) and up the only fjord on the East Coast, Somes Sound. We were searching for a place to anchor for a gale warning that was forecast for Tuesday night. We anchored in Somes Harbor and Sabrina went to check out the town of Somesville. What she found was that Somesville is a sleepy little town, even by Maine standards. Other than the library and a convenience store, it’s primarily a residential area. The winds were supposed to come from the southeast, and due to the moorings in the harbor we weren’t able to tuck in close enough to where I wanted to ride out the gale. We stayed there Monday night and then headed to Southwest Harbor on Tuesday.

Southwest Harbor has been our base of operations since, there’s good access to the free Island Explorer bus, water at the Town dock, three separate town docks to tie up the dinghy, wifi signals, and parking. The Harbormaster even gave us a late season special on our mooring ball for the week (anchoring is not allowed in this extremely busy harbor.) On Tuesday we were able to do laundry before the rain started, and Wednesday we spent inside, cleaning up during the early downpours.

By late Wednesday night the weather had settled and I dinghied in to pick up my father after his drive up from his flight to Providence. Thursday we explored the park by car, driving the Park Loop Road and the road to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. We did our first hikes in the park, reaching the summit of South Bubble via a steep trail and walking the easy path back down to the car. We took turns pushing/pulling the gigantic “Bubble Rock.” The attractions along the park loop road were still crowded, and I can’t imagine how it is during the peak summer months.

Friday we motored offshore to look for whales, and spotted some harbor porpoises on our way to Little Cranberry Island, also known as Isleford. We also spotted some harbor seals pretending to be lobster buoys before they dove back under the water. We found a mooring marked “Free Town” and headed into the Isleford Historical Museum. On the short walk there we found a food truck selling lobster rolls and we decided to partake of our first lobster rolls. The museum was small and we had the place to ourselves. It’s only a short boat ride to Isleford, but it’s a world away from MDI.

Saturday was our worst weather day, and we spent it doing various inside activities. We decided to drive to the Bass Harbor Lighthouse, and on the way be passed a sign that said “Popovers and Coffee.” The sign was out front of the Common Good Soup Kitchen and they serve popovers for a donation during the summer season. They then use the donations throughout the winter to serve the locals that need extra help in the off-season. They have a great location, nearby the Seawall Campground and overlooking the natural seawall that gave the area it’s name. The popovers were fantastic, and it felt good to help out a local charity.

After popovers we took a hike down to view the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. Unfortunately it is currently being renovated, but the views of the granite cliffs were still fantastic. After the light we drove to the Atlantic Brewing Company brewery to take a tour and then had lunch at the Mainely Meat Barbecue on site. Their 15′ tall smoker made delicious smoked wings and pulled pork. We drove back up Cadillac Mountain in the rain to see if the fog cleared at the summit but it was completely socked in. From there we explored Bar Harbor and eventually made it back to the boat without getting soaked.

Sunday we drove through the remaining portions of MDI that we had missed. We took a short hike through the woods to the network of famous Carriage Roads in the Park. An early MDI property owner, John D. Rockefeller Jr. was instrumental in the development of the roads and financed the construction of 16 of the 17 picturesque granite bridges. We viewed 3 of the bridges and then headed into Bar Harbor for lunch. We had a great seafood lunch at Finback Ale House in Bar Harbor and then drove the road along Somes Sound and toured North East Harbor. We passed a sign that said “Lobster $3.75 a pound” and headed up to a residential home. The fisherman came out and sold us fresh lobster that he caught on his boat, the Ground Tender. We steamed the lobsters on the boat, and they were fantastic.

Monday was a big day, we planned to do a strenuous, challenging trail called “The Beehive Trail.” This trail winds straight up a vertical face from the beach to the summit of the Beehive at 520 feet. It’s not the longest hike, but you have to traverse exposed ledges, iron ladders, and scale open rocky areas. There are pictures before and after, but the camera was an afterthought as we clung to the cliff. Dad eventually forgave us when he saw the view and we marveled at the reflection in the small pond called the Bowl below us. For our last evening together we had a nice dinner in the Town of Southwest Harbor.

On Tuesday we dropped my dad back off at the dock and his rental car so he could start the trip back home. We had great weather and a great trip and we were glad he could join us to experience Acadia National Park. There’s a lot of photos to follow, with two cameras snapping constantly it was tough to narrow down the choices.

4 Responses to Mt. Desert Island

  1. Candy

    Thanks for sharing! Great photos and narrative.

    • Brad

      I figured you wondered what we were doing all this time?! Tomorrow I’ll update you on what Sabrina and I have been up to.

  2. Shannon

    Amazing! I’m so sorry we didn’t make the trip up. Enjoy the adventure!

    …and yes, I am behind on the blog…

    • Sabrina

      We are sorry you couldn’t make it, too- I think you guys would have really enjoyed Maine. Would have been a long trip, though. There are always parts further south to explore together! And Brad keeps talking about Maryland oysters… for some reason you and Sean are always in the same sentence. 🙂

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