September 13, 2021

Our summer cruising is drawing to a close, but there are still tales to tell. . . With a brand-new starter for our engine thanks to J.O. Brown, we were ready to set out once again, this time in search of a pump out for our holding tank. Finding places to do a pump out has been one of the biggest challenges we’ve had all summer. For this reason, we plan to replace our marine head with a composting toilette. The nearest place was Rockland, 12 miles west. After being in Perry Creek for a week, we felt a little sad about leaving, but it was time to move on. We motored most of the way until just past the Rockland breakwater, Will spotted another Freedom 36. We chased it down, took pictures of each other’s boats, and made plans to meet the next day. Tying up to the town dock, we had a magnificent hot shower, did three loads of laundry, and with clean bodies and clothes, went out for dinner at a wonderful restaurant, In Good Company, where we had black truffles on salmon and other delicacies. What a nice change from dinner aboard!

The forecast was for heavy rain and wind, so we picked up a mooring and spent an unbearably rolly night, one of only three the whole trip. Although Will can sleep through pretty much anything, I was up all night. When morning broke, I called the Rockland Yacht Club which runs a launch, and they came and picked us up; it was not possible to row ashore. The launch driver said had he known how bad it was out in the harbor, he might not have come to get us. We spent a rainy day ashore having breakfast with the couple living aboard their Freedom in Rockland, met up with an old friend from Damariscotta, and visited the Island Institute, whose mission is to support the 15 inhabited island communities on the coast of Maine. And they have an awesome satellite map showing all 4000 Maine islands.

After our welcome shore leave, we were ready to go back home to the boat. Next morning, Will did a big shop with the wagon while I lounged, still feeling a bit tired from lack of sleep, and wrote about “home.”

* * *

There are so many “ideas” of home that underlie the word and “feeling” of the word, many of which are fantasies. Does home ever really live up to our ideals? Will it ever? So what happens if we drop the idea altogether? What new possibilities might spill into the open space? How creative can we be in our “architecting” a home that fits who we are? And what feelings might emerge from that space?

About a month ago, after living aboard NIRVANA for two months, I noticed that I stopped using the word “home” when referring to my house in South Portland. It stuck in my throat somehow when I said it, and I corrected myself, in my mind anyway. It’s a place that’s been my home for seven years and felt good as such, with its cherry kitchen cabinets and black granite countertops, colorfully painted rooms, pleasant deck and hanging chair, half-moon bed in a room full of Quietude (the paint color chosen largely because of the name), and all those oh-so familiar objects of one’s life that accumulate through years of acquisition, like birds collecting sticks for their nests, which in the case of ospreys can exist for years. The osprey nest at the mouth of Pulpit Harbor in North Haven is said to have been there for 150 years! The generations come and go, but the nest remains, being passed down, generation to generation, much like an historic farmhouse.

So what does it mean to have a home that is untethered to land, except for the periodic yet regular tying up to a dock? Clearly land is not a necessary ingredient of home, for there, at the other end of the anchor or mooring ball is a magnificently cozy, efficient, and functional living space that is what I now call home. Yet it’s so much more than that. Step into the cockpit and your backyard is the vast sky and water of whatever bay, cove, or harbor you happened to be in that day. Step on deck and your front yard is wherever your imagination and boat are equipped to take you tomorrow. You feel the elements—wind, sun, mist, rain, fog—like you feel the heartbeat of another lying next to you; it’s that intimate. On a boat, you are constantly at the intersection of nature and your capacity to exist within it. When the wind carries you across the bay with the sun beating down, call it love. When the fog rolls in and the raindrops form, it’s just another form of intimacy.

* * *

Our next destination was Matinicus, the most remote inhabited island off the coast of Maine, almost 20 miles offshore. We motored most of the way due to lack of wind once again, where we encountered a huge oil tanker in between naps.

Like all the island communities, fishing is what people do. There are no paved roads and no store. There is, however, a school, a post office, and two small libraries, one adult and children’s. On the sail over, I googled a theater friend named Suzanne who has a house on the island. What came up was the Matinicus Historical Society and her name; turns out she is the historical society. She welcomed a visit, which ended up being a fascinating history lesson of the island, mostly stemming from her distant relatives who were among the first settlers. She told many stories full of intrigue, including shoot outs with Native Americans. After years of visiting relatives on the island, she and her husband bought a house at the intersection of two dirt roads, which turned out to be the very house that was owned by her distant relatives! Not only that but it was the site of the original house from 1763 of her distant relatives, Ebenezer and Susanna Young Hall. Unfortunately, someone on the island had just recently driven his truck into it such that the wall was completely smashed! The police came over from Rockland to investigate, and they managed to track down the culprit, an islander who was driving too fast, drunk, and didn’t take the turn. High drama on a small island to be sure. After hearing wonderful stories and getting a tour of Suzanne’s historic house—which included the same garage toy that Will used to own!—we wandered down the dirt road and met the new schoolteacher, who had just moved to the island with his family to teach six kids, pre-school to middle school-aged, including two of his own. On the row back, we passed the floating lobster co-op where the lobstermen offload their catch, the first we’ve seen. Matinicus was a very special island indeed and well worth the visit.

At this point, it was time to start heading west toward our home port. First stop was 12 miles west to Home Harbor in the Mussel Ridge Channel, where we anchored near Two Bush Light after a beautiful sunset, then moved on the next morning in thick fog.

Next stop was 21 miles west to Round Pond, my home port for many years for my two former boats. It was also the home port of my Uncle Roland, who had the first non-fishing boat in the harbor more than fifty years ago. Roland has since sold his boat and is nearing the end of his life, and we were hoping to visit one last time, but it was not meant to be. Instead, my cousin Joanna, his daughter, spent the day with us aboard after many days with him during his rapid decline. We were so grateful to have had Roland and Joanna on board earlier in the summer before he became too ill to clamor aboard a boat and take the wheel. We couldn’t have been in a better place to be thinking about my beloved uncle than Round Pond. My friend Nancy also came down for a visit, and we had a wonderful long walk around the far side of the harbor and picked up some goodies from Dot’s Bakery, Julie’s Greenhouse, and Granite Hall. We were also lucky to be in Round Pond for the Monday night outdoor music jam, which I used to attend with my ukulele. This time, Will joined in with his guitar with a much smaller, more intimate group that remained after a big downpour sent most people home. The rainbow that emerged was a special bonus, especially under the circumstances.

Another storm was brewing, this time hurricane Larry tracking across the Atlantic with high winds and seas building to 8 feet, so we chose West Boothbay Harbor as a protected place to lay for a couple of days. We motored and then sailed another 18 miles west as the wind picked up and the seas were building. The boat handled wonderfully as we headed to our cozy harbor by the Coast Guard station. Friends keep their Concordia yawl here, and we were fortunate to be able to have Chris over for a glass of wine the night we arrived. The all-day rain meant we had to run our generator to keep our batteries up, only the fourth time we’ve had to do so all summer. We took advantage of the following beautiful fall day to visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, a 300-acre parcel of highly cultivated land with thousands of varieties of beautiful plants, lovely walkways, a sweet children’s garden, and five twenty-foot tree trolls, created by a Danish artist to cultivate awareness about the importance of trees in our world. Lucky for us, our friend Rebecca came up from Portland to enjoy the gardens with us, drive us to the grocery store, and then take us back to the boat.

We had our longest day of sailing yet—36 miles—from Boothbay to South Freeport in Casco Bay, with great wind almost the whole way for a change. It was an exhilarating sail back into familiar waters, past Burnt Island light, the Cuckholds, Fort Popham, Seguin Island light, Little Mark Island, and into South Freeport, which was our first stop when we left South Portland just over three months ago. Similar to our first stop back in June, we came here to attend Portland Community Dance’s outdoor dance, which was a wonderful way to reconnect with friends. Being here today feels like bookends to our magnificent summer adventure aboard sv NIRVANA, where over the course of three months, we visited 50 different anchorages and traveled over 550 miles!

Now it’s time to transition to fall when the weather will be turning chill. Our plan is to be on our mooring in Spring Point and do some sailing in Casco Bay until Oct 15, when we’ll move with the boat to DiMillo’s Marina in Portland. There, we can plug in to electricity and run a heater and be right in the heart of downtown. We’ll be there until the end of November when we’ll leave to spend the winter in Sicily living on my Dad’s former sailboat!

Tasha & Will

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