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August 15, 2013

6

Anchors Aweigh . . . or Not: Midcoast Maine

by frankandems

It’s rarely dull out here. This week has been no exception. We have been fortunate not to have any severe “near miss” experiences. We have little “near misses” or we’re around other people who have had issues . . . they are all reminders that it is important to keep on your toes when you’re living on the water!

We left Rockport in the sun and headed to Gilkey Harbor next to Islesboro, Maine. Fifteen minutes after our departure, we were back in thick fog.  We slowed down, used our radar and watched closely for the dreaded lobster pots and other vessels! That’s Maine.
A schooner in the fog. This fog bank moved in and out all day!

A schooner in the fog. This fog bank moved in and out all day!

 We were on our way to attend our second Seven Seas Cruising Association Gam. As we talked about the upcoming event with family, someone finally said, “Hey. What’s a gam?” Gam is not a household word. Before last year, the only time I had heard the word “gam” used was when watching a movie from the 50s or earlier and a women with attractive legs would walk by and the guy would say, “Hey, nice gams!”  Definition: Gam – a friendly gathering of seafaring people.  The term originated from whaling days when two passing whalers out at sea would pull their boats up beside each other and exchange news and information (since they had been away from home for a while and didn’t have internet . . .) This particular gathering was attended by just shy of 60 boats. We were most interested to make some new connections in the cruising community because it sure is nice to run in to some familiar faces in different harbors along the way.
The first night included a first for us . . . a cocktail party via dinghy raftup. The picture kind of says it all. A pack of dinghies tie up together anchored by one main boat. Everyone brings their own beverages and snacks to share. I have to say, 50 plates of hors d’oeuvres being passed frenetically across a pack of floating dinghies whilst trying to hold an intelligent conversation with people you’ve just met is challenging at best! But new acquaintances were made.
A herd of dinghies rafted up together for cocktails and meet and greet.

A herd of dinghies rafted up together for cocktails and meet and greet.

At sunset the first evening of the gam, this man rode around the harbor playing his bagpipes!!

At sunset the first evening of the gam, this man rode around the harbor playing his bagpipes!!

A look out at Gilkey Harbor

A look out at Gilkey Harbor

The weather was very changeable. The good news is that it made for a beautiful rainbow over one of our neighbors!

The weather was very changeable. The good news is that it made for a beautiful rainbow over one of our neighbors!

The next day was a gathering at the cottage of one of the members who has now hosted this shindig for 23 years! The weather turned beautiful for exactly the portion of the day that we were gathered for a covered dish lunch and a program in the afternoon. The speakers shared information about Maine, its economy, and the state of the islands themselves. (Fun fact: there are 3,166 islands in the Maine registry! I know! Who knew?) We met great people and got lots of helpful information from those who have been sailing our same route for many years, some for more than a decade. I especially laughed at a comment one couple made that we were talking to. They said, “Yeah, we can tell you haven’t been cruising that long – you look too clean . . . after ten years you’ll look like us!!” I didn’t think they looked all that bad, but he did have a rather long and curly mustache  bordering on handlebar. Wonder if Frank will give up shaving somewhere along the way. Doubt it.  Many people were especially helpful in prepping us for traveling through the Bahamas this winter. All in all, a good gathering.

The Down East Gam in Islesboro, Maine at our wonderful hosts' house.

The Down East Gam in Islesboro, Maine at our wonderful hosts’ house.

Sunday morning we were set to leave Islesboro to head to Camden to pick up my sister, Triana. Just because you are set to leave somewhere does not mean you are ACTUALLY leaving. So we went to pull up the anchor, Ems at the wheel and Frank on the bow pulling the anchor up. Frank gives hand signals for “forward” or “reverse” or “we’re free . . . pull her out,” at which point I start driving. But after a minute or two, I could tell Frank was really finagling and that something was not quite right. Hmmmm. Our anchor was stuck. Really stuck. We tried all the usual tricks to get it up . . . go forward over it, reverse behind it, spin off to the side at a different angle . . . nothing was working. The good news is we had just been at a gathering of very experienced boaters and 40% of them hadn’t left yet. We had lots of good help. Jim from s/v (sailing vessel) Heather came over to assist first. Then Evans from Hawk (he and his wife have written articles and done seminars about cruising) came to help. The harbormaster was called and came to check out the situation. We had two choices: 1) cut the rode (chain) and leave our anchor behind (gasp! – a brand new, not inexpensive piece of equipment), or 2) have someone dive and take a look to see what the real problem was. The harbormaster offered to come back and dredge the anchor up if we had to cut it and leave it . . . we could swing by later in the week to retrieve it, which was a wonderful offer (and yes, we have a backup anchor, but not one that makes us nearly as comfortable). No local divers were available on that day. Evans had the gear, and as importantly, the full wetsuit to dive and take a look. (Mind you, the water temps up here are in the 50s.) It didn’t take him long at all to drop about 20 feet and spot the problem: the claw of our anchor had perfectly gone through an old, embedded piece of chain buried in the harbor. Not under it, mind you. It went right through one of the links! The chances of us catching it that perfectly are slim and none. With a visual of the angle and the problem, it was then easy to know how to wriggle it out. Soon afterwards, we were free and on our way to Camden, only two hours later than expected. Thank you, thank you to Evans from Hawk and Jim and Joanne from Heather!! Close call solved.
Evans coming over in his wet suit and dive gear.

Evans coming over in his wet suit and dive gear.

Off we went to Camden. Ems’ sister, Triana, had driven up from NJ to meet us. First, it is always exciting to see a family member live and in person, so let me start with that. Second, do you know how exciting it is to have someone with a car come to visit you??? sunny, fog-free mornings we had seen in quite some timeGROCERY SHOPPING! Load up the car with anything you want! No thinking about, “Can I walk a mile with this much stuff?” But WAY more than that, it was great to see another sister on board! After spending the evening walking around we took off Monday morning and headed for Castine – a lovely, lovely harbor where we stayed for the next couple of days.  The weather in Maine had been suspect before Triana’s arrival, but she brought exceptional weather with her!! Those were the first clear, sunny, fog-free mornings we had seen in a long time!
Looking out over Camden

Looking out over Camden
Castine - A great harbor.

Castine – A great harbor.

We secured a mooring ball in the harbor next to town. It was a very comfortable spot close enough to shore for easy accessibility, but quiet enough for nice time in the cockpit and good sleeping.  We were nose to nose with the ship “State of Maine” – a training vessel for the Maine Maritime Academy which is based in Castine. We went into town and enjoyed the sights and some oysters and beer on the deck of the seafood restaurant overlooking the harbor.
Dinner overlooking the harbor at Castine.

Dinner overlooking the harbor at Castine.

The next day, Triana and I took a historic walk around town. Castine is one of the oldest towns in New England. When you think about how far east Maine is, it was one of the first things some sea captains came upon when they were heading over from Europe.
Seems that a lot of different countries were interested in this portion of land and it flew under 4 different flags during different periods of time: Dutch, British, French and, of course, American.
Historic Castine

Historic Castine

Loved this planter. Beautiful gardens al over town.

Loved this planter. Beautiful gardens all over town.

A local church steeple

A local church steeple

More sights from our walk.

More sights from our walk.

Triana by the Maine Maritime Academy vessel State of Maine

Triana by the Maine Maritime Academy vessel State of Maine

The three of us met back up for lunch and then toured the vessel State of Maine.

Here's the view looking down at Eleanor Q from the bridge of the State of Maine

Here’s the view looking down at Eleanor Q from the bridge of the State of Maine

And a very big engine room!

And a very big engine room!

Our second night there, the wind kicked up and the current was strong. But they weren’t strong in the same direction, which makes for an interesting situation in a mooring field.  Because the wind and the current were fighting as to which one would have dominance, boats were turned willy-nilly in all directions in the mooring field, some being more influenced by wind, some more by the water. Normally, all the boats face the same direction like well choreographed little vessels sitting at attention. Well, it seems that our mooring ball was a little close to the one beside us in a circumstance like this.  There was a lobster boat who was the regular tenant on that mooring. When he came back from working, it was clear that we were going to be pretty tight. The owner of the marina came over and offered for us to move and spend the night at their dock for no extra charge, but we weren’t anxious for that spot – we liked the one we had. Frank felt sure that once the tide shifted, the boats would straighten out again. The lobster boat guy couldn’t have been nicer, and much of that was due to Frank riding the dinghy over to him as soon as he pulled in for the evening to ask him if he wanted us to move. They agreed it wouldn’t be necessary and Frank used the dinghy to help straighten his boat out. Then the guy used all of his horsepower in his boat and managed to drag his own mooring ball backwards by several yards (no small feat!) All seemed well and the lobsterman left the boat and headed home. But alas, about a half hour later, boats went to swinging every which way again! Here is how close we came . . . we were literally taking turns pushing the lobster boat off of us with the boat hook. We wanted to provide Triana with a little nautical entertainment, you know. Frank assured us that, as soon as the current turned and agreed with the wind, all the boats would shore up and get in line as they were supposed to . . . and sure enough, they did, and we didn’t have to worry about colliding with the boat again. Flukey little things like that will happen! (Can I call it “flukey” if it was a lobster boat?)
Dear Miss Abbey . . .

Dear Miss Abbey . . .

Miss Abbey getting a little close for comfort.

Miss Abbey getting a little close for comfort.

We enjoyed a couple of dinners on board. Watch out . . . Ems is in the galley!

We enjoyed a couple of dinners on board. Watch out . . . Ems is in the galley!

Next morning we headed back to Camden.

Ems dodging lobster pots.

Ems dodging lobster pots.

While underway, we heard a distress call on the VHF radio . . . a boat named Archangel was talking with the Coast Guard. We could only hear the Coast Guard’s side of the conversation, but it sounded like they had hit something and disabled the boat. Everyone on board was safe and help was being sent to assist the boat. We could tell it had happened fairly close to our location. When we got back to Camden and picked up our mooring ball back at Wayfarer Marina, the staff was all abuzz about the boat the had run aground.  It was the boat we had heard on the radio, and it was coming in to the marina. They said it had been demasted, which is exactly what it sounds like – the mast snapped off in the impact. That is a heck of an impact! The next morning when we were taking Triana to shore, we saw Archangel parked at the dock. Oh my goodness. She’s a 70 foot Hylas (meaning big and beautiful) and sure enough, the mast was snapped right off. Just made your stomach turn. They had been under full sail and hit a big rock. Amazing no one was hurt.  It was another reminder that you can’t lose your attention when you’re out on the water! Amazingly, the boat was able to be uprighted and come back in under its own power.

Archangel on her side . . . the boat had been chartered. This photo was taken by another cruiser who was in the area. We borrowed your photo, Moonraker!

Archangel on her side . . . the boat had been chartered. This photo was taken by another cruiser who was in the area. We borrowed your photo, Moonraker!

We said a sad goodbye to Triana that morning. The day she left, she took the good weather with her, and the fog and rain returned. I recently saw the blog of another couple we met up with here. She had a post titled, “Marvelous Maine/Miserable Maine.” That is SO appropriate. Maine is somewhat of a love/hate relationship, although locals assure us this summer has been particularly persnickety.
Goodbye Triana!

Goodbye Triana! Thanks for hanging with us.

We left Camden on a less than ideal day because the next day was predicted to be stormy, and Camden’s harbor is not the most protected  or comfortable place for that.  We headed directly across the bay about 8 miles to Pulpit Harbor on the island of Vinylhaven.  It is known to be a hiding hole from storms because it has a relatively small entrance and is surrounded by land. We anchored very comfortably there and settled in that afternoon after a mile walk to “town” and a little market to pick up a few things. (No hardware store – none needed.) We enjoyed a gorgeous evening there and hunkered down for the next day.
On the way to the market at Pulpit Harbor

On the way to the market at Pulpit Harbor

 

This is what the typical market looks like that we find. My idea of a grocery store!!

This is what the typical market looks like that we find. My idea of a grocery store!!

 

Leaving Pulpit Harbor on a spectacular morning after a stormy day.

Leaving Pulpit Harbor on a spectacular morning after a stormy day.

And the unsettled weather moved in as predicted. That morning was the first time we actually got up and unplugged anything that was plugged in and charging (phones, computers) for fear of a lightning strike. Then we rolled over and went back to sleep . Not much you can do at that point! All was well – no direct hits. We listened to it rain hard for the day and took advantage of the time to read/nap/catch up on bills and correspondence, etc. Sometimes a forced down day is a good thing. We actually didn’t mind. And it was a very scenic harbor!! After a day filled with rain, the skies cleared for the most beautiful night with the sky lit up with stars. Amazing what lack of lights will do for star gazing!

And so we head out, destined for our ultimate Maine destination: Mt. Desert Island and Acadia State Park! Hopefully with no close calls
6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Donna & Rich Darr
    Aug 15 2013

    Your fascinating anchor story combined with the church steeple photo (I guess) sparked a memory of the old hymn, “My Anchor Holds.” Do you know this one, Mary Marie?

    Chorus:
    And it holds, my anchor holds:
    Blow your wildest, then, O gale,
    On my bark so small and frail;
    By His grace I shall not fail,
    For my anchor holds, my anchor holds.

    Verse 3’s mention of the cable seems apt too!
    I can feel the anchor fast
    As I meet each sudden blast,
    And the cable, though unseen,
    Bears the heavy strain between;
    Through the storm I safely ride,
    Till the turning of the tide.

    Alas, those old Baptist hymns WILL NOT leave me!

    LYD, Donna

    Reply
    • Aug 15 2013

      I don’t know that one, but as my friend Donna would say, “Like it!”
      LYD

      Reply
  2. Christine
    Aug 15 2013

    Great blog — felt like I was there. …. almost!

    Reply
  3. Aug 15 2013

    Woah! Never a dull moment for Eleanor Q in Maine! Relieved the anchor was saved…vicariously enjoying the sightseeing you are doing while we instead skip about to visit with friends.

    Reply
    • Aug 15 2013

      Sounds like you all are doing a pretty fine job of enjoying Maine, yourselves! Hope to see you as we’re all hopping around!

      Reply
  4. Tara Hall
    Aug 16 2013

    I love your blogs….your writing makes the reader feel as though we are all right there with you…enjoy your next journey!!!!

    Reply

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