Aug 26, 2021
Well, we did indeed follow our “plans” from Belfast, with a three-day interlude when we were holed up for hurricane-turned-tropical-storm Henri. Before we left our five-day respite in Belfast, we had the good fortune to find a mobile mechanic named Alec, who came to our boat to replace our solenoid, which has been non-functional since we bought the boat. This switch controls the flow of propane into the stove, so now we feel much safer being able to shut it off when not in use. While he was onboard, we had him show us how to replace the impeller, the little rubber gasket that flows water through the engine for cooling. We’ve encountered some great mechanics who are very generous with their time and information, so we continue to learn a lot.
The wind was up so we had a nice sail across East Penobscot Bay past the top of Islesboro to Holbrook Island Sanctuary, where there’s a wonderful trail system off a long dirt road on the Cape Rosier peninsula. The hike to the summit was steep and craggy with a great view. But the highlight was running into a young couple who had been collecting chanterelle mushrooms and gave us a handful of theirs to help us identify them. So we’ve been collecting and eating them every since. Yum!!!
We were told Castine was worth a visit, so we motored a short distance, past the Arctic training and research schooner Bowdoin, and onto a Maine Maritime Academy mooring, just off their floats holding their fleet of 420s. Tying up to the public dock we were told by a cold official there, “Two hours max,” the first unfriendly encounter we’ve had all summer. With the MMA State of Maine training ship and tug tied up next door, Nirvana seemed out of place in this strange little town. On our way to the historical museum, we saw a “regiment” of young students yelling back and forth to their officers, “Sir, yes sir!” I was fascinated by this bunch of mostly teenage boys—there were only two girls—as they learned embodied obedience, conformity, and anonymity and wondered out loud to Will, “Happy doesn’t seem to be part of the program.” It was a very foreign experience for me and made me glad about many of the very cool young people I know who are decidedly not like that! The museum, however, was excellent with many fine displays about the triangle trade of fish, salt, and cotton along the trade route from Castine to Liverpool to New Orleans. Their bicentennial quilt was quite impressive, and the MMA displays about the Bowdoin were fascinating, but wandering the town, we felt additionally uncomfortable among the finely manicured mostly summer homes of people from away; the locals live out of town. After topping off our water tanks and pumping out, we were more than ready to leave.
At first motoring in no wind then sailing, we traveled 13 miles to the Barred Islands, just north of North Haven, a small archipelago in a lovely spot with glorious views all around. There we encountered a first: a mooring ball labeled “AVAIL July – Aug.” We’ve picked up plenty of moorings along the way, but none has ever been labeled as “available.” Turns out it was set by Rob Cabot, grandson of Tom Cabot, who owns the adjacent Butter Island, whom we met while rowing the one mile to their private island with public trail access. He was busy hauling his docks and was happy to chat us up about the impressive osprey nest perched at the end of his dock where birds have been nesting for five years, with the idea of chasing away seagulls. Instead, the nearby eagle more often than not swoops in to consume the osprey chicks once hatched. The trail up Montserrat Hill was lovely with a beautiful almost 360-degree view of East Penobscot Bay, complete with commemorative bench and plaque dedicated to his grandfather, who for 50 years was a major force in Maine island preservation. Thank you, Tom and Virginia!
Taking stock of the impending hurricane, we sailed eleven miles down the eastern coast of Vinalhaven to Seal Bay, which was indeed crawling with seals, a number of which we found peaking their heads up at us and lounging on the rocks just as they become exposed as the tide was falling—a rather amazing sight. Arriving rather late to this large, enclosed bay, we found an anchorage away from the dozen or so other boats giving us a spot to ourselves for three delightful days, mostly in fog and rain, while we waited out the storm. For some hours, the wind was a steady 10 – 15 with gusts to 23 as clocked by us, but otherwise a mostly non-event.
Will took this opportunity to bring up a small “conflict” we had when we arrived, which evolved into a deep conversation about some of the differences we have aboard and in our styles. What ensued was an ever-deepening love, affection, and admiration for each other, as well as some perhaps overdue self-reflection and other-understanding. As the day progressed, we found ourselves attending to an ongoing issue with our pressure pump, namely first tracking down and then repairing a leak in a fitting leading from the hot water tank. With my tenaciousness in finding said leak and Will’s skill in repairing it, we had a very satisfying day in the fog. It was a big day for us, not the least of which because Will also shaved his mustache and beard, going back to his earlier pioneer look.
As the fog lifted most spectacularly and the sun rolled in dry and hot, we spent the day airing out our damp clothes, swimming, sunbathing, showering in the cockpit, and doing art, a first for me in many years. Will, of course, is a master at the craft and made a gorgeous plan drawing of our boat for those unfamiliar, which inspired his soon-to-be-published A Day in the Life Aboard sv Nirvana blog.
From Seal Bay, we motored a mile around the corner to Winter Harbor, a long narrow inlet along Calderwood Neck. Unlike Seal Bay, we had this harbor largely to ourselves and had a delightful row upstream where we tied up to a long dock with a for sale sign, which we took as invitation to walk ashore. What we found was a whole system of mowed trails around what we later learned was 13 acres owned by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and selling for over half a million, a bit our of our price range alas. Unlike being on the water, walking ashore was hot, so we dinghied to a little rock cove, stripped down, and took a delightful dip to cool off, which included Will “walking on water” like the seals!
One of our steady occupations this summer has been fantasizing about buying a small camp on an island or on the mainland. On this row back to the boat, we had an astounding realization: our boat is our home, which means we don’t need to own a place ashore as much as we want to use the boat as a vehicle for exploring places that we might want to stay for longer stretches in the off-season when we’re not sailing. To wit, our plan this winter season is to be in Sicily on my dad’s former sailboat, visiting him and my stepmother and exploring another island. We’ve already started practicing our Italian. Next winter, who knows!
Our larder becoming a bit lean and our water tank near empty due to the water pump repair, we made our way to the public dock in North Haven and called for a ride to the one, very well-stocked grocery store in the middle of the island. This is one of the best island stores we’ve been to, and to have a ride to and from was a huge bonus being on a boat. We got to hear the Republican point of view of the recent vacation by the governor to the island, whom he said looked “disheveled” and wasn’t “fun” like our former governor. You have to give this guy credit though; twice a week he takes his 55’ tractor trailer to the mainland and stocks up with fresh veggies, nice meats, an excellent assortment of wine, and a wide variety of grocery items. The variety of grocery options on the Maine islands is quite astonishing.
Motoring around the corner to Perry Creek (for those of you who might remember, we popped in here a month ago on our way to Isle au Haut), we now await the arrival of the fuel boat at J. O. Brown, along with a water tank up, which Will scoped out while tied up to the public dock. There he met the retired owner, J. O., 70-something, and his grandson, Adam, who gave a bit of the history of the place, which looks about like it did when J.O.’s grandfather started the yard. Perry Creek, you might also remember, is where was saw the third adorable floating tiny house, which we are now moored next to.
Living aboard a boat has so much to offer, and we continue to be thrilled to call NIRVANA home!
Tasha & Will