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August 1, 2013


Portland, Maine: New Friends, Reality Shows and Spin Cycles

by frankandems

Last post we had stopped over in Isle of Shoals, the little patch of islands about 8 miles off the coast of Portsmouth, NH. It was dipping our little toe into Maine since it was right on the state line. Well we have now thrown our entire bodies deeply into the state of Maine. First stop, Portland.

Entering Portland

Entering Portland

Portland is a pretty good sized city and somewhat industrial. There are lots and lots of working boats, commercial fishing boats, transports, ferries, sport fishing boats and pleasure craft constantly going in and out. Busy place.The harbor itself is not the most picturesque, quaint place in Maine. It is an older city that is reinventing itself into a hip, industrial-turned-trendy type of town. (That’s our perception of it, anyway.)
So some posts are more about the pictures and scenery of places we’ve been. And some are more about the stories of events that occurred. This post is the latter. There are a few story lines that wove themselves into our three days in Portland. But we’ll come back to that in a minute.
Story Line #1 – A Close Call and New Friends
When we were about an hour outside of Portland, we heard a distress call on the radio. A boat had lost all steering and was contacting the coast guard for help. I was down below making lunch when I heard Frank yell, “Ems, turn up the radio. There’s a boat in trouble and I think they’re close to us.” We listened to their coordinates and determined that we were past them, but not by far, and were trying to decide if we needed to turn around and go assist (a boating code of ethics). The boat in trouble was Wind Runner, a 42′ Island Packet sailboat. But we soon heard another boat  – “Grumpy” – coming to the scene to assist. (My first thought was that if I had to get help from another boat, I’m not sure I’d want it to be one named “Grumpy”). We heard Grumpy let the Coast Guard know that they were on the scene. We were glad to hear that Wind Runner was not going to be drifting onto the rocks and we went on our merry way.
Just another lighthouse on the way to Portland

Just another lighthouse on the way to Portland

Story Line #2 – A rocking marina.
Our mission in Portland was to get in a marina for two nights so we would have a full day to give Eleanor Q a much needed bath and to do some basic maintenance. Plus we needed to do the ever precious laundry.  We got to the marina, fueled up and then were shown to our parking spot for the next couple of nights. It was not in a slip. It was attached to a long floating dock where boats are parked end to end like parallel parking on a city block. The dock was an outer dock and it was pretty exposed to northerly winds, to swells from the bay and to wakes from all the large vessels going in and out of the port. We don’t mind some rocking, so didn’t think too much about it . . . until we saw how violently the wakes were slamming Eleanor Q into the side of the dock. We put out all the bumpers plus some more that the marina loaned to us and hoped for the best. Now the inside of a boat has lots of handholds, so if you’re underway and you’re trying to walk around the boat, you have something to grab onto. You’re NOT supposed to need to use them sitting parked at a marina! So for three days it felt like we were in a washing machine on the heavy duty cycle . . . when all the towels get stuck on one side.
Speaking of washing machines, we took a walk to check out the laundry facilities and to go to dinner.
On our walk to dinner . . . graffiti in Maine is different than what we're used to.

On our walk to dinner . . . graffiti in Maine is different than what we’re used to.

The view from the restaurant: sitting in South Portland looking across to Portland

The view from the restaurant: sitting in South Portland looking across to Portland

When we came back from our walk, to our amazement, we saw Wind Runner in a slip right across from us!! We walked over and introduced ourselves, explaining that we had heard their distress call and the resulting assist from Grumpy – and wanted to know if they were O.K. They were just fine aside from the fact that they had snagged a lobster pot and got it wrapped snug around their prop, thus having no steering. After throwing the boat into reverse several times, they got enough of the line unwrapped to limp the boat into the marina with the watchful eye of Grumpy escorting them. They mentioned that Grumpy was a rather large boat. Once they had made it to the marina, Grumpy disappeared into the mist (so to speak).  We learned all of this when we invited them over for cocktails and some empathy for the day they had just had. And that’s how  we met Jim and Vanessa. They were having the boat hauled the next day to take a look and see what damage had been done  . . . oh, and they were going to do laundry. Again with the laundry. We enjoyed our visit and went our separate ways.

Next  day, the boat cleaning began and I went to do laundry. Who do I meet in there? Vanessa.
Jim and Vanessa on Wind Runner

Jim and Vanessa on Wind Runner

Story Line #3 – Reality TV Stars
When Frank and I came back from our walk the night before, he spotted a boat and kind of stopped in his tracks. He said, “I think I know that boat!” You’d be amazed the number of times he has said that on this trip.   He said, “I think that’s from the show ‘Wicked Tuna.'” I believe I referenced that show in an earlier post. It is a Discovery Channel reality show about tuna fishermen . . . another one of the shows that has come out since “Deadliest Catch” became so popular. He said, “I think that’s the kid who’s on Wicked Tuna!” and I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . ” So he walked back and checked out the back of the boat . . . and sure enough, it’s “Pin Wheel” from Rye, NH – one of the regular boats on the show. The young man who captains was there with a young lady. I dared Frank to go talk to him – and he thought about it – but then said, “If he’s still there tomorrow, I’ll go say something.”
So the entire second day was dedicated to boat scrubbing, laundry, and more boat scrubbing. Plus we were attacking some mildew that was starting to show up on our clothes and in our hanging locker. Now mind you, we were trying to do these chores while being constantly thrashed up against the dock every time a big boat came through and holding on for dear life. Not pleasant. Doesn’t make for very good sleeping either. I was becoming Grumpy.
That evening we treated ourselves to a cab ride to Old Port for a stroll and dinner. Very cool looking city. We were walking around the waterfront and eyeing up the various boats of all sizes when we spotted a beautiful 100 foot power vessel all gleaming. We both were commenting on it when we spotted the name: GRUMPY! We had found Grumpy! Holy mackerel, guess I wouldn’t mind having Grumpy come to our rescue after all – that was one beautiful vessel! And clearly run by a professional crew. Somehow the name and the boat just didn’t seem to match.
Dinner and a stroll in "Old Port"

Dinner and a stroll in “Old Port”

Old Port Waterfront

 When the cab driver brought us back to the marina (after a stop at Home Depot, of course), he and Frank had struck up a conversation about “Wicked Tuna” which the driver watched faithfully. Frank told him about “Pin Wheel” being in the marina. When we got out of the car, we looked to see Pinwheel was still there. The boat and all the power cords were gone. Bummer. Frank was a little disappointed; he really wanted to chat with the young captain. And then as we got closer to our boat, we saw big deck lights shining right off our stern where there was no boat parked before we left for dinner. Unbelievably, it was PIN WHEEL! They were parked right behind us!! Frank approached the boat and the gang on the boat said, “Oh we’re sorry . . .  do you want us to turn off our lights?” They thought he was walking over because he was ticked that their lights were shining on our boat! Frank put them at ease and struck up a conversation with Captain Tyler who couldn’t have been nicer. The next day gave Frank the chance to chat it up with Tyler a couple more times. We got the biggest kick out of it! They were getting ready to leave the next day to start filming the new season. A Discovery Channel cameraman was there running wires and getting set up. It was very fun to watch.
Pin Wheel and Eleanor Q

Pin Wheel and Eleanor Q

The next day was a washout with rain and heavy winds. It was no day to try to leave, so we sat there thrashing about on the dock for yet another day. In the mean time we had discovered more clothes with mildew on them. Boats. So guess where I headed? Yup, back to the laundry room. On my last batch of clothes in the dryer, guess who walked in? Yup, Vanessa. We just looked at each other and laughed – hard. How much laundry can two women do in two days’ time? I was able to catch up on the fact that they had discovered the remains of twisted lobster pot line wrapped around their prop which they were able to get off in short order when they hauled the boat. No permanent damage and all was well. They could continue their interrupted journey to Boothbay Harbor the next day. We ultimately decided to have a “combined resources” dinner together on their boat that night: they made the steaks and we made the sides and brought the wine. It was a most enjoyable way to end a labor intensive day with fun new boating cohorts.

Later that night we saw Pin Wheel in a flurry of activity. It was time for them to make a hasty exit to head out to Georges Bank and the fuel dock was about to close. Frank walked over to offer assistance in getting the boat off the dock and we wished Capt. Tyler luck in the new season as Pin Wheel took off. It was a little excitement in our chore-filled stay.

Frank offering dock assistance to Pin Wheel and Captain Tyler

Frank offering dock assistance to Pin Wheel and Captain Tyler

Pin Wheel pushing off the dock

Pin Wheel pushing off the dock

Pin Wheel off to start a new season . . . trying to defend this season's first place finish!

Pin Wheel off to start a new season . . . trying to defend this season’s first place finish!

And so our three story lines come full circle. Pinwheel got out of Portland. Wind Runner got out of Portland, and we, at long last, got off the rocky dock and got out of Portland, too . . . wearing clean clothes.
6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Caroline
    Aug 1 2013

    OK. This is my favorite post so far. Very good non-fiction story telling, with excellent plot and theme development! An A+ from your propeller head sister. Hope you find calmer moorings in the future, and that your clothes remain mildew free. Xoxo

  2. Cori
    Aug 1 2013

    Where’s the picture of Grumpy?

    • Aug 3 2013

      Seriously good question . . . have no idea why I didn’t take a picture of Grumpy! I think I was overcome with hunger at this point.

  3. Loretta and Jim Elliott
    Aug 3 2013

    How cool is that! Love traveling along with ya. Don’t ya just love that “washing machine” feeling!

    Make sure the next trip to the hardware store – or grocery store- includes lots of vinegar!

    We are so enjoying your trip with you. Can’t wait to get back on Plan Sea!
    Loretta and Jim s/v Plan Sea

  4. Cheryl duvall
    Aug 3 2013

    Love love love your stories! These blogs should become a book. Truly!


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