July 23, 2021

A lot has happened since the first week of July! Last you heard, we were near Port Clyde and the hurricane was about to bear down on us. Today, we’re in Northeast Harbor on Mt. Desert, which feels like another planet after all the remote harbors and islands we’ve visited so far. Here, the harbor is dominated by yachts, and the few lobster boats congregate in the inner harbor. Everywhere else we’ve been, lobstermen are king and we’ve encountered few cruising boats. Here, we can take our trash ashore, do laundry, and have a hot shower. In most harbors we’ve visited, a sign is posted at the dock: “Do not bring trash ashore,” and our hot showers have been powered by the sun or the engine. This is the quintessential cruising boat harbor, and while we appreciate the amenities and experiencing this historic harbor, our preference is for the remote islands where our only company is the loon, eagle, and guillemot.

* * *

The hurricane-turned-tropical-storm-turned-gale had us on a mooring in Maple Juice Cove, where Andrew Wyeth painted Christina’s World. Will put up our custom-made rain cover, née sunshade and painted his first watercolor as the rain poured down. The dinghy was half full of water by the time it stopped, but luckily the storm moved offshore a bit, so the winds were not very strong at all.

The day after the storm we motored 17 miles, past Tenant’s Harbor up the Mussel Ridge Channel to Dix & Birch Islands, the final destination of our cruise last year so held special meaning for us. Yes, you can go back and see it afresh, and still hold the magic of the past along side it. :)))

Finally leaving familiar waters, we sailed eight miles across western Penobscot Bay to Hurricane Island, former home of Outward Bound and current home to the Center for Science and Leadership. We went for a glorious hike around the North end of the island to Sunset Rock and back around to the quarry. On the path we met a couple asking, “Do you know where the big crack is?” We weren’t sure but the one we walked through to get to the quarry was pretty big. They too were there on their boat and looking to upgrade, so we gave them a tour of NIRVANA, which they loved and immediately started looking online for one for sale. They subsequently invited us to hang off their mooring in the un-charted Golden Harbor on Barton Island, just outside the Basin on Vinalhaven.

After spending the afternoon in Carver’s Habor, the main harbor on Vinalhaven, where we anchored in 3’ at low—two hours before and after high tide—we had a delightful sail wing-on-wing out the Reach where we encountered a huge ferryboat in the narrows! We didn’t dare go into the Basin with our boat but tried rowing at an hour after low tide, but it was impossible. The Basin is a huge inland body of water where the tide rushes in and out through a very narrow passage twice a day. By good fortune, we were invited by our friend’s cousin on the adjacent point to walk their private path to the public trail, where we had a long walk around and where we saw a rock with more than 20 seals. A fascinating place indeed!

From there, we headed out past Leadbetter Island on our way to Pulpit Harbor on the north side of Northhaven, where we spent two nights. Our first mission was to fill our propane tank, which we schlepped a couple miles to a guy who would be able to fill it at 4pm. That left the rest of the day at the fascinating North Haven Historical Society museum, with excellent exhibits of early sailing and working skiffs, farming, schooling, and life on North Haven, complete with local commentary by Annabelle, the sweet 18-year-old whose goal is to run the place, after college at USM. The museum had one of the original North Haven racing dinghies, the oldest one-design racing boat still being raced today. Luckily, a passing truck took our trash to the dump on our walk in, and another passing truck gave us a lift back to the harbor with our propane and groceries on our walk back. And what should be our delight in the harbor, but not one, not two, but three gorgeous schooners—Stephen Tabor, American Eagle, and my favorite, J&E Riggin, which had aboard a knitting-dancer I’ve danced with in Camden! Rowing around these awesome boats was a thrill, and to top it off, we were invited aboard a custom motor yacht we both recognized from Casco Bay for a glass of wine and tour.

The next day, we rowed up the small river feeding into the harbor to the North Haven Oyster Co. where we bought a dozen oysters from a help-yourself fridge. We were fascinated by the tiny house on a float at the head of the harbor, which turned out to be owned by the Adam, the Harbormaster’s son (how else do you get permission for such a thing?), where he’s been living year-round for the past couple years. Turns out Adam had his own tiny house in Cabot Cove just around the corner, which we also toured with delight as we passed our fourth schooner, the Victory Chimes, on the way out.

What started out as a fine sail turned into pea soup fog as we backtracked past Fiddler’s Ledge into the Fox Island Thoroughfare, a narrow passage between Vinalhaven and North Haven, but we saw no land on either side. After picking up a mooring, damp and soggy, Will said, “Let’s go to dinner at the Nebo Lodge.” So at 8pm, into the fog we went once more, rowing more than half a mile until we found the most elegant farm-to-table restaurant, formerly owned by Chelly Pingry, our State Representative. The food was excellent, albeit small portions for hungry sailors. And who should be there but none other than Annabelle, our dear historical museum guide! Not much for a young person to do on these small islands, so you kind of do it all.

Around the corner was the beautiful Perry Creek where we sought out yet another floating tiny house (we totally want one!), but just as we were settling in, we simultaneously realized we’d prefer to take advantage of the wind and sail, we didn’t know where. We had an exhilarating reach in 10-13 knots where we hit 8.4 knots, out the eastern end of the Thoroughfare, across eastern Penobscot Bay to Merchant Island, one of the largest islands south of Deer Isle. Picking up a giant mooring, we discovered mussels growing on the pennant, which we harvested and ate for supper with garlic and wine. Will’s comment, “So that’s what mussels are supposed to taste like!” The next day, we rowed ashore on the adjacent Harbor Island where we saw the J&E Riggin sailing past in a picture-postcard view and had a picnic on our own private crushed shell beach. Ohmy! Our second favorite island so far.

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I will pause here, as just remembering all this is taking my breath away with all its splendor and wonderment! Each place we go feels like it’s more amazing than the last! And so it goes when you’re on an adventure, where the outcome is unknown until you’re living it.

* * *

Despite the ongoing “patchy drizzle” and fog as reported for days on end by NOAA, we decided to motor a short three miles from Merchant to Isle au Haut, where we picked up a mooring just off Kimball Island. It turned out to be owned by none other than the Kimball’s, but we were assured by a local fisherman we’d be fine. Wandering ashore in our rain gear we visited the small gift shop, chatting with the owner and her husband for nearly an hour; the town hall/library, complete with a tour by the proud librarian; the church up on the hill; the Acadia National Park ranger station; and the well-stocked grocery.

The next day, the fog was still too thick to make a hike in the outlying Acadia National Park worth it, so we sailed 18 miles across Jericho Bay, past Swan’s Island to Frenchboro (Long Island), where we spent two wonderful days on the most remote inhabited island yet. In 24 hours, we’d met probably half the island, among them Eric, a recent transplant who lived in the oldest house on the island and gave us a tour of his unusual “Joshua” ketch and the book he wrote about his solo voyage to Hawaii; John, who used to run Lunt Lobster and Deli and made us a to-go sandwich after a tour of his cottage; Daniel, the lobsterman who gave us a detailed explanation of the nuances of a lobster trap; Daniel’s wife, one of the three members of the selectman’s board who made us each a lobster roll on the spot; the twice-a-month tax man at the town hall who gave us the inside scoop on all the properties that owe back taxes; Jen, the pastor turned chef of the Deli, where we had among other things, blueberry pizza (try it with ricotta!); Rick, a friend of Will’s from Concord with whom he’d played soccer for 15 years; and Zach and Nate Lunt, who 25 years ago, did a video with my mother when they were in grade school and who showed us the whale bone they collected and their huge stuffed moose! It was a very special place with not much to do except walk around the island and enjoy the slow-paced beauty of island life.

The morning of departure, I rowed to shore with The Little Prince, the book we’d borrowed from the 24-hour library repeating the mantra, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” And this after so much splendor of the eye and heart. And there is so much heart energy flowing between human and nature, human and human, and Will and I. It’s all we’ve ever wanted—to be in constant flow with nature and each other in a way that’s planned only by what happens next. Ohjoy!!!

Until the next episode!

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