Aug 3, 2021
Here we are in Burnt Coat Harbor on Swan’s Island in anticipation of the Sweet Chariot Music Festival, our only destination for this trip, so feeling the need to give another update before the festivities begin.
When we last left off, we were on our way to pick up cousins Joanna and Susan in Stonington on Deer Isle for a short cruise. We had a mostly lovely sail from Northeast Harbor on Mt. Desert, aside from snagging one lobster pot in Southwest Harbor and another in the narrowest part of Casco Passage just between two ledges (!), both of which managed to pop off. Oooffff, there are a lot of lobster pots out here, including “toggles” where one pot is attached to another with a string of pots such that one must not only avoid individual pots but also getting snagged on the line between them. (Stayed tuned for that story!)
Rain again had us holed up in Webb Cove, an abandoned quarry town two miles from Stonington, a large, shallow working harbor with 30 lobster boats and no pleasure boats. We rowed ashore for a look around, which was mostly deserted on a Sunday except for one lobsterman and a rotund truck driver Deer Isle native who supplies most of bait to the lobstermen on the island. And boy could you smell it! Pogies, red fish, and pig hide lined the docks in huge 400 pound containers. Every lobsterman has his favorite bait, and he’s happy to supply it but noted that every fisherman has the same catch as the next, regardless of the bait. His solution to the lobster license shortage? Lobstermen can have as many traps as they want, but they must build their own out of wood, which is naturally biodegradable, just like he did back in the day!
After motoring to the floating Stonington town dock, we tied up for a couple hours anticipating the arrival of our guests. The harbormaster immediately greeted us and regaled us with stories of his father, who was captain of Paul Cunningham’s yacht (who is credited with inventing the “cunningham” line on a sail, if you know what that is), and his family who owns Billing’s Marine down the way. We loaded on bags of high-class provisions from “the big city” for our cruise and had a short but lovely sail to McGlathery Island in Merchant’s Row, where we were gifted with a beautiful sunset, the private schooner, Eros, a wonderful row to the uninhabited Round Island for a swim, as well as other schooner sightings.
The next day we headed out on a fast reach for a ten mile sail to the Eggamoggin Reach, when the wind started to die, so we pulled into the famed Wooden Boat School harbor, the finish line for the Eggamoggin Reach Regatta, coming up next weekend. There were many small sailboats as well as some larger ones that the school takes people out on for sailing lessons. Will and I rowed ashore and toured the classroom sheds after hours, where we saw ten Swampscott Dories being built by students, including Deb Walters, a septuagenarian who had kayaked from Maine to Guatemala as a fundraiser for Safe Passages, an organization that raises money for schools there. Wow!!! Neat and most humble woman! Grilled salmon in the cockpit with yet another stunning sunset over Deer Isle.
Good wind out of the NW so we decided to tack upwind up the reach toward Buck Harbor, of One Morning in Maine fame. We got as far as Torrey Castle Ledge, the start of the Eggamoggin Reach Regatta with seven miles to go when we collectively decided to “not be attached to the outcome,” as advised by Uncle Roland, so we reversed course, taking the wind ten miles SW to Buckle Harbor on Swan’s Island. We all took the opportunity for a swim in the rare heat of the afternoon, and in a moment of total surrender, I invited my cousin Susan to give me a haircut on deck. It’ll sure be easier to wash now that it’s so short!
With rain and wind in the offing, my cousins opted to cut the trip a day short and return to Stonington, so the three women hauled the anchor, and raised sail (while Will wrote intensely in his journal in the v-berth) and made our way ten miles to Hell’s Half Acre, a beautiful confluence of islands four miles south of Stonington between Devil and Bold Islands. With the fierce determination that only three Barth women can have, after three attempts, we managed to hail a lobster boat who sold us six lobsters right off the boat, which they transferred to us by bucket and we cooked up and gorged on in the cockpit. Ohmy! It was a stunning ending to our four-day family cruise.
Thinking we’d head toward Bass Harbor on Mt Desert for water and pump out, we learned they had none, so we motored ten miles in no wind to the famed Hinkley Boat Yard in Southwest Harbor, where we were able to tie up to their dock on a Sunday for several hours, fill our water tank, and pump out our poop. We had a fabulous lunch at Peter Trouts, poked around on a Hinkley that was in the yard for repair (apparently the novice owner ran into a buoy!), then set sail in a nice 8-10 knots for another ten miles mostly upwind toward Mackerel Cove on the north shore of Swan’s Island.
From there, we had a wonderful sail around the east coast of Swan’s through the “back door” toward Burnt Coat Harbor…until, while posing for a picture entitled “My Morning Commute,” I snagged yet another lobster pot, two pots between a buoy and a toggle. Ooooffff!
So Will hauled out the tree-limbing tool we have on board, all oiled up and ready to go from the last time we hauled it out, and we were free…almost. Will cut the buoy off that was dragging, only to discover later when he dove on it with a mask that the line had gotten wrapped around the propeller shaft. Luckily it didn’t prevent us from motoring to our lovely anchorage in the harbor where boats are arriving fast and furiously for the festival.
After a haircut for Will on deck, we went ashore and met a wonderful father-son, carpenter-lobsterman duo, whose wharf we tied up to and who were gracious and fascinating, and though originally from S. Freeport, a wealth of knowledge about the island. He had built not only a lobster shack but a house and two-story garage complete with hot tub overlooking the harbor! We had a wonderful walk to the Burnt Coat Lighthouse and a rocky trail along the shore including a 4’ tall driftwood-stone hut, which we crawled into on the beach. At Fisherman’s Co-op, we chatted up two sisters, both lobsterwomen, one in her 20s and the other in braces, maybe 15, whose extended family owns numerous boats. We’ve heard of and seen a number of female lobsterwomen here, which seems to be a thing on this island.
And now we await another guest on board for the music festival and all the lively music that is yet to follow! We’re getting quite an education about our environs from the many wonderful people we encounter and continue to be excited to be here, in paradise!
Tasha & Will