Maine!

A pretty old schooner welcomed us to Portland, ME

Expecting heavy wind the next full day, in the morning, we decided to head into the Marion harbor and pick up a buoy with Barden’s Boatyard. We pulled up the anchor, went to wash it off, and … nothing. Apparently the washdown pump had decided it was a good time to give up the ghost. Noted. So we grabbed a buoy and started calling around for a spare part. No one nearby had one, so we gave up for the moment, since it’s not super critical that it works. While the day didn’t turn out to super windy, at least in the harbor, it did rain a bunch, so we just hunkered down on the boat and worked, never leaving the boat.

Tuesday morning was our anticipated (short) early morning weather window to make it through the canal and as far up the coast as possible. We were hoping to be able to make it over to Provincetown and spend a couple days anchored there, but the rest of the week looked really nasty (25+ kt winds basically continuous for ~48 hours), so we decided the plan would be to wuss out and go spend a few days in Scituate, another of John/Joan’s suggestions.

We woke up at 7am, and had a pretty uneventful drive up and through the canal. There was a huge mess of fishing boats right on the exit of the canal, which we were able to navigate around, but we heard boats going the other way complaining about it on the VHF all morning. We hit the canal right at peak eastwardly current (5 kts), and the canal has an absolute speed limit of 10 mph, so we literally had to idle through the canal (our idle speed is 4 kts) and still bumped through the limit a few times. There were even police boats patrolling the canal, so we didn’t try to push it.

Exiting onto Cape Cod, we turned northward and did something we haven’t done much in the last few months: set the autopilot for a heading and then stare at the horizon for a couple hours, periodically dodging lobster pots. I’d picked out a spot to grab diesel an hour or so short of Scituate, and as we entered the harbor, despite the charts showing lots of depth, I started getting scary depth alarms of 4 ft or less. Apparently, according to the person running the fuel dock, the harbor shoals regularly and they need to dredge it every few years. Like, maybe right now would be a good time, to avoid another code brown.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. We arrived in Scituate, called the suggested launch service, they directed us to a buoy mid-harbor, and we ended up hanging out there for 3 full days while the weather passed. And that was a good call, it turned out. It rained like hell on and off, blew like crazy for the predicted 2 days straight, and was generally uncomfortable, even nestled fairly deep in a harbor, much less if we’d been anywhere actually exposed. In the gaps in the rain, Hannah ran ashore and got a full load of laundry in, some grocery shopping, and picked up a new overpriced washdown pump from a local parts place. On the last night, we even had a great meal eating outdoors at a nice Italian restaurant in town, Riva. Sadly we forgot to take any pictures of our time in Scituate!

Friday was our next semi-weather-window. With this much unseasonal wind, we have to pick any vaguely decent window and go for it. I was planning on making a short early morning stop to Gloucester, but as we went to bed, the weather showed a longer hole of around 4 hours instead of 2, so we made a quick change and decided to try to go all the way to the Isles of Shoals. Our route would take us right by Gloucester anyway, in case the weather simulations were a lie (happens), so we could easily bail. We made it the next 20 miles up to the Isles of Shoals, with moderate chop, and grabbed a buoy.

The Isles of Shoals! We’re in that central harbor there.

The Isles of Shoals are the largest part of a small archipelago about 8 miles offshore from New Hampshire. It was originally a popular-ish harbor back in the 1600s, and has been on the downswing ever since. These days, a few of the islands have a few houses on them, and Star Island has a big conference center run by a religious cult that also lives on the island. There’s a little harbor protected from the ocean on 3 sides by a few islands and some artificial breakwaters that connect them. The harbor is usually a pretty decent tourist spot, with daily boat+walking tours from several companies out of Portsmouth (the nearest city in mainland NH), but with C19, everything’s shut down, and Star Island has a big “ISLAND CLOSED” sign on it.

The harbor, fortuitously, has several mooring buoys owned by a few yacht clubs, all of which are listed as, basically, “first come first serve for non-yacht-club members, and if a yacht club member asks you to leave, get off.” So, even with it being Friday midday, and an afternoon crowd of yachters heading in later on, we risked it, and grabbed a PYC buoy. We figured we’d drop anchor if we had to.

In the end, we got lucky and actually were able to stay on the buoy for 2 nights. The islands are gorgeous. We were treated to two lovely sunsets, lots of 70 degrees and clear sunny skies, we took a dinghy ride around in the ocean swells to check out the other islands, and generally had a great time. Finally some decent weather.

Sunday, with passable weather predicted, we decided to go the 50nm all the way to Portland, ME, to fill up on the cheapest diesel within hundreds of miles, and then see how the weather was doing. It was a pretty choppy morning all the way up, and required a lot of lobster pot dodging, but as we arrived in Portland, we were greeted by a really pretty harbor, ringed with old forts, and a bunch of sailboats out to enjoy the weather.

We stopped at DeMillo’s marina, and Hannah immediately ran off to the grocery store while I slowly filled up on diesel, gas for the dinghy, and fresh water, and emptied a couple weeks of accumulated recycling. I didn’t actually check the news for updates, but with the number of people walking around without masks and eating at restaurants, I assume Maine must have lifted any quarantine restrictions since we left Rowayton.

A 200 year old shipwreck monument

Stocked up for a week or so on the hook, we slow boated our way over to another John/Joan recommendation, Snow Island, 20nm east of Portland, thoroughly enjoying the scenery. Coastal Maine is so pretty. I haven’t been here in decades, and that was a mistake. Everywhere you go is picturesque islands with small cliffsides facing the ocean, waves breaking over rocks, and pretty houses overlooking everything. We even passed a 200 year old “shipwreck monument”, which is really just a hollow pyramid with supplies inside, so if you got shipwrecked nearby, you could go there and possibly not die from exposure. As the sun fell, we arrived, and dropped anchor in an empty bay, with 30 of our closest lobster pot friends.

We’ll see what our plan is from here — probably stay here for a couple days, enjoying the scenery. We’re trying to coordinate getting some work done on the boat by Wayfarer marine, so we’ll try to hook up with them early this week to get some preliminary estimates/dates, and plan our schedule from there.

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