Even though we’re up north in Maine, we’ve still been monitoring tropical weather throughout this hurricane season. Earlier this fall, we detoured to Boston to allow Tropical Storm Leslie to clear out of the Northern Atlantic before we continued north to Maine. On Wednesday, one of the reasons we pulled into Boothbay Harbor was to find a good internet connection so that we could monitor what would become Hurricane Sandy.

Thursday morning I downloaded a grib that showed the eye of the storm passing just to the east of us up the Penobscot Bay on Halloween (spooky….)

Forecast from Thursday

Luckily (for us) Friday morning I awoke to see that the forecasting models had shifted the storm to a more southerly landfall, but with more force. As of this morning, it looks like the eye will come ashore closer to New York. Unfortunately, this put our friends on the Chesapeake in harm’s way. (Not to mention all the people in the Bahamas who have already experienced the storm, or the others along the coast preparing for its landfall.)

Latest Grib forecast for Sandy

Yesterday we spent doing laundry, getting groceries, and preparing to be on our own for a few days.  On Friday, Coast Guard airplanes were radioing VHF storm warnings to boats well offshore. The VHF has been buzzing with notices to mariners over the last couple days, obviously the Coast Guard isn’t taking any chances with this late season storm.

Based on the proximity of this storm, we’ve picked out 3 possible anchorages where we feel we’ll be safest. (Our friend Jay provided a lot of knowledge from his time in Maine.) We’ve also calculated the time it will take us to get there, and we’ll be heading to one of those three later this morning once we fill up with water and diesel. After we find our secure anchorage we’ll be stowing items, removing Sabrina’s newly sewn bimini, and essentially “battening down the hatches.” We’ve tried to leave ourselves plenty of time tomorrow to deploy a second anchor, triple check our surroundings, and prepare for the worst.

We aren’t affected by power outages, or flooding, so our chief concern is the winds that this storm will bring ashore. We’ll be able to use the satellite phone to stay up on the latest info, but we won’t have the kind of access to info that we’ve enjoyed in Rockland and here in Boothbay.

On the bright side, we only have to make it till November 1st – that’s the official end to hurricane season! 🙂

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Closed for Business

After we left Rockland we spent one night in Tenants Harbor. From there we sailed out and around the island of Monhegan and south into Boothbay Harbor.  The winds were so light in the morning that I was able to mend a loose flap on the genoa while we ghosted along. We had a fantastic sail until the wind shifted a little bit more and we ran out of sea room and had to motor along the coast into Boothbay on Wednesday late afternoon.

Yesterday Sabrina and I walked around Boothbay Harbor to explore the town before Hurricane Sandy is forecast to arrive early next week. We figured that people might be boarding up their businesses to prepare for the storm, and we were right! About 50% of the businesses were closed, some saying that their last day of business was more than 3 weeks ago! I wonder how they knew the hurricane was going coming back then…?

I’m joking of course, the path of Hurricane Sandy didn’t encourage every boat to pull out of the water. And it didn’t encourage all the marinas to close. And it didn’t force half of the businesses to shut their doors. For some reason, people have decided that “the season” is over, and they’ll pick it back up in May 2013. I don’t know who decides when “the season” is, but we’ve had wonderful weather for the last couple of days. Highs in the upper 50’s, bright sunshine, and basically the place to ourselves.

We’ve taken the hint though, Sabrina dinghied in to explore Tenants Harbor and they had removed the public town dock, and all the businesses were closed. Some cool stuff we’d like to see in Boothbay was closed for the season, and for a brief minute I thought we wouldn’t be able to find diesel or freshwater in town before the storm arrives. (Luckily I found one marina still open.)

Just like the age old joke, the town of Boothbay is literally rolling up some of the sidewalks!  (A prominent section downtown was removed for maintenance.) We’re going to do some laundry, pick up some groceries, take on the aforementioned diesel and water, and then head south quickly after Sandy clears out. Luckily the storm has shifted direction, and Maine isn’t supposed to get the direct hit that was forecast yesterday.

On the bright side, things might be closed for the season, but Sabrina and I are getting really good at window shopping!

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So Long Penobscot

We woke early on Sunday to a one-sided conversation on the VHF about a lobster boat running aground just outside of Rockland (our destination that day.) Since we were up, we got underway early and listened to the progress on the VHF as the Coast Guard was dispatched to the scene.  After several days of rain, the bright sunshine was quite welcome, and our two and a half hour trip to Rockland was a pleasant one. As we exited the Fox Island Thoroughfare, we passed a unique lobster boat – a young woman was alone at the helm, her long, blond ponytail flying back under her visor. As she passed, we caught the name of the vessel, in pink block letters on the stern- Tidal 9! Pretty cool. I managed to suppressed my inner urge to yell “You Go, Girl”, though. 😉

Coming into Rockland harbor, we passed Owl’s head lighthouse and Rockland Breakwater lighthouse. Not much further, we passed the grounded lobster boat, which was indeed very hard aground and kind of precariously perched atop a large rock. There was a very low tide that day, so he just must have misjudged his usual fishing grounds. A Coast Guard boat and a sea tow boat on scene, so we continued on into the harbor, hoping there wasn’t damage to his boat.

After setting the anchor, we heard over the VHF that the lobster boat was off the rocks and was heading into shore under its own power– good news! We decided to do the same, and took the dinghy into town to check things out. We took a stroll through the harbor walk and checked out the marinas, downtown area and shops. The city is home to the Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center, and we took a stroll through their sculpture garden. Rockland has a lot to offer visitors, and I’m guessing its waterfront is a little more scenic during the high season, but Sunday’s stroll took us through some muddy and somewhat deserted marinas. We walked past touring schooners, (now covered in shrink-wrap for winter,) several of which we’d seen full of weekend passengers earlier in our travels. But we found several fun things to do in Rockland anyway…

The following day we went in to tour the Maine Lighthouse Museum, which has exhibits on lighthouse history, Maine lighthouses and preservation, and the U.S. Coast Guard and Lifesaving Services. The museum has a very impressive collection of historic Fresnel lenses and foghorns and an expansive display of the advancements made at every stage in the mechanical and electronic control of lights. Also highlighted are fascinating stories of the sometimes lonely and often heroic lives of the light keepers.

After the Lighthouse Museum, we went to the Project Puffin Visitors Center. Project Puffin is an undertaking by the National Audubon Society to reintroduce puffins to the Maine islands where they were known to nest prior to near extinction in Maine 100 years ago. Unfortunately, Brad and I got to Maine a little too late to actually see any live puffins (they head out to sea in August – where they go over the winter is apparently still a mystery), so the visitor center was great. Puffins are ridiculously cute and much more entertaining than seals! You can check out the best of the 2012 Puffin nesting season webcam on their website.

We enjoyed our time in Rockland, but it is becoming difficult to escape the fact that our time in Maine is becoming all too short. Tuesday, we headed south to Tenants Harbor, and a short trip ashore reinforced this even more- everything was closed. Today, we plan to head around Monhegan Island and up to Boothbay Harbor, leaving the Penobscot Bay behind us.

As Brad has pointed out, we’ve climbed Penobscot Mountain, we’ve sailed Penboscot Bay, we’ve researched the failed Penobscot Expedition, we’ve circumnavigated Penobscot Island, we’ve crossed the Penobscot River, and we’ve been to the Penobscot Marine Museum.

We’ve covered “Penobscot.” Now it’s time to head south!

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We have an internet connection here in Rockland and Brad was able to get up two posts about our travels here in the Penobscot Bay. Be sure to check out  our time in Searsport, and our voyages around Vinalhaven.

But, he forgot the most important part, the adorable SEALS!

Adult and adolescent

Stretching out!

Seals at sunset outside of “The Basin”


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Leaves and Lights

After departing Warren Island we still had a lot of the Penobscot Bay that we wanted to see from the water. We’d seen a lot of the nearby towns, so now we wanted to sail through the channels and thoroughfares between the islands and explore some remote anchorages. Luckily the weather was nicer, so we enjoyed spending full days on the water.

We left Warren Island and anchored in Pulpit Harbor on North Haven Island on Tuesday the 16th. From Pulpit Harbor we headed south to the Fox Islands Thoroughfare. As we passed the rocks called the “Sugar Loaves” at the entrance, I was photographing Browns Head light when Sabrina said, “Is that a bald eagle next to that American flag?” I grabbed the binoculars to check it out, and it was a real eagle posed next to the flag. We headed back to take a few more pictures before he flew away.

We continued through the Fox Islands Thoroughfare which divides Vinalhaven Island from North Haven and continued past the Goose Rocks light headed for the Deer Isle Thoroughfare. The wind had picked up by this point, so we were able to sail across East Penobscot Bay until we reached Deer Isle. We passed the Deer Isle Thoroughfare light, the town of Stonington, and the quarry on Crotch Island. From there we wound our way through Merchant Row (near Hell’s Half Acre) and anchored by McGlathery Island Wednesday night.

McGlathery Island has what Sabrina and I call a “Bahamian Trail.” It seems fellow sailors had marked a trail on the island with old lobster buoys and various pieces of discarded rope. We walked the trail to the other side of the island where we found a beach in the sun. We walked back to get the dinghy and dinghied around the island to spend some time on the beach.

We didn’t need an alarm clock to wake us up Thursday morning at McGlathery, the lobster boats heading out the channel at dawn took care of that. From the anchorage we sailed around Merchant Row and motored through the Isle au Haut Thoroughfare and past the small town of Isle au Haut and the light at Robinson Point. Isle au Haut is part of Acadia National Park and there are hiking trails over a portion of the island. Unfortunately it was too rough to stop and we continued on to the south side of Vinalhaven.

Along the south side of Vinalhaven we passed Heron Neck Lighthouse and the Outward Bound Camp at Hurricane Island. Unfortunately the swells were too large at Hurricane Island so we ventured farther north and anchored outside of “The Basin.” Later that afternoon we took the dinghy into The Basin to check it out. It’s a small inland bay with only one opening to the ocean. With the 10′ tidal difference, the water roars through this inlet, and it’s like motoring up a whitewater river. There are many small islands and rocks, and the inside depths are over 100′ in places. We even passed a couple lobster boats that actually traverse this inlet daily to tend their traps inside the bay.

That night as the sun went down we were treated to seals on the rocks nearby. They clambered up on the rocks  as the tide went out, and provided us with our first chance to observe seals on land. The next morning we dinghied back to The Basin to check it out at a different tide state. Now that it was almost low tide the raging water had subsided.

Friday the winds were howling so we headed around Vinalhaven, past North Haven and anchored in Seal Cove where we were better protected.    We took another dinghy trip, this time up the Mill River, through the interior of Vinalhaven, under a bridge, and out the other side to Winter Harbor, Seal Bay, and Penobscot Island. The leaves were gorgeous and it was very protected on this inland waters.  We went at high tide because the charts indicate that it fully dewaters in some of these areas at low tide.

Friday night we were treated to thunderstorms and a thick fog. For those of you that have never experienced it, when lighting strikes while there is fog the result is blinding, the fog is illuminated everywhere. It’s like driving through fog with your bright headlights on. It felt like the lightning was right on top of us, but the thunder always had at least a 5 second delay.

Saturday between downpours we explored the sleepy town of North Haven. It’s a quaint little place, pretty much closed down for the winter. Most of the traffic seemed to be from hunters that had come over to the island for the weekend and were now taking their trucks back over to the mainland via the large ferry. Sunday morning we made the short trip to Rockland.

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Searsport and Warren Island

On Saturday the 13th we spent a chilly day at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine. The small town of Searsport has been home to over 500 sea captains, at one time reportedly being the port of over 10% of the U.S. sea captains, and in the 19th century supplied the most U.S. deep water captains of any town of her size. The museum does a great job at remembering this past, displaying a full room of photos of every historic captain and telling some their amazing stories. The museum houses a large assortment of marine art including paintings of the various Searsport ships in foreign ports. In addition to the art and photos on display you can view their extensive photographic collection online. The museum also includes a large amount of goods that were brought back from Asia when the captains traveled there on their trade routes, something that had to be a curiosity in the 1800’s.

The museum has large exhibits on fishing in Maine, and I got a chance to handle some of the tools that the lobstermen use on a daily basis. (I even had to take a turn at the wheel of their lobster boat exhibit.) It was interesting to learn how fishing in Maine has changed over the years and how lobster are caught today. The museum was very interesting and engaging, and we enjoyed our day there very much.

When we arrived at the Searsport dinghy dock we noticed that the locals pulled their dinghies out of the water and onto the floating docks, something we hadn’t seen other places. We thought it strange, but decided ‘When in Rome’ and pulled our dinghy out of the water. When we returned after our day at the museum, we were glad that we had – it was so shallow under the floats that our dinghy would have been resting on the rocky bottom when the tide was low. The next day we did laundry in town and grabbed some groceries at the local market before we left.

Sunday afternoon we made the short trip to Warren Island State Park off of Isleboro Island. Warren Island is referred to as a “mariner’s park” since there are no bridges and the only way to the campsites is by boat. We picked up one of the Park’s moorings and headed ashore to check out the island. Unfortunately, the Park had pulled the floating dock and we had to scale the wooden dock support. This wasn’t too hard at high tide, but as the tide went out we had to climb the “ladder” much farther to return to the dinghy.

The Park is very nice and had walking trails that we explored. I can imagine how much fun it would be to escape to one of the campsites on the island during the Maine summer. After exploring the Park we crossed over to the Isleboro ferry terminal and checked out the Grindle Point Lighthouse. We ended up spending two nights at Warren Island while we waited for the weather to improve and we left on Tuesday the 16th headed for the island of Vinalhaven.

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