Chasing Lighthouses

Sep 24, 2015 by James in Dena's Blog Posts, James' Blog, Life Under Sail

It’s always been one of the problems with our travels, we don’t like to go back!

Going back doesn’t have to mean going backwards but sometimes it’s hard to get that out of our heads, unless of course we don’t go back to the same old places and let’s face it, in a place like Maine you don’t ever have to go back to the same old places.


After our lovely anchorage off Dix Island we pulled the hook and headed out on glass with the main up and started chasing light houses.


Maine has some of the strangest lights on the east coast and the odd thing about most of them are, quite a few have been discontinued and sold off as exotic vacation homes. Some people fix them up and some don’t.

We did ultimately catch some good wind after stopping in Port Clyde for fuel and very nicely made our way all the way into Christmas Cove where we tucked in for an awesome pasta made on the boat by me (James) and a good night’s sleep.


Christmas Cove is a pretty little hot spot on Rutherford Island in the town of South Bristol. We didn’t even make landfall.


But Dena got lots of great pictures before taking the helm as we motored away on another glassy early morning underway.


We had some business to take care of in Robinhood Cove, where they have a courtesy car for marina customers, so we were obliged to rent one of their moorings for the night. It was nice to get some showers in and fill the boat with provisions before heading on up the Sasanoa River to Bath.UpperHellGateSasanoaR

The river has two “Hell Gates”: a lower one about a half mile up river from Robinhood Cove and an upper one just up from Hokomock Bay. There’s no sailing to be done there so we motored all the way through the gates where there are two bridges.


This one leading into the Kennebec River.


…Always a bit disconcerting.


…And this one leading into Bath, Me.


We were lucky, on the way in the train bridge was open so we didn’t have to call for an opening.


We spent two days on the free town dock in Bath doing our epic walks, discovering Bath’s cool book stores and talking to quite a few of the locals who stopped by the boat for a chat. Another instance of our strange serendipity, a guy walked into the bookstore as we were browsing and asked for a copy of Infinite Jest, which the book store didn’t have, but we did. Since we originally got the book free ourselves (a laundry room book trade score), it was obvious what needed to happen. Gift time!

On one of our walks we met a guy who showed us a project that he and about 50 other volunteers are working on right down town.


It’s a beautiful reproduction of a 15th century sailing ship called the Virginia.


The project is really moving along and he told us that they should be able to launch her in the summer of 2016!

By noon this past Monday we were underway again after a call to the bridge tender for an opening. Unlike some bridge tenders we’ve talked to in the past this person was very nice and had the bridge open for us long before we passed under, which was a good thing to because we were on an ebb tide and racing down the Kennebec at an average of about 6.5 knots, blowing by the lighthouses as we chugged along under power and sail.



Each light told us a different story about that particular part of the river…


And each light not only has a different light sequence but a each one is dressed up to reflect the community it protects.


Most of the Kennebec River lights are still functional so they’re in pretty good shape. It’s not until you get into open water that you start seeing the old lights that nobody cares about anymore.


Those are seals sunning on a kelp covered beach.


Finally as we washed out of the Kennebec delta, the Pond Island light showed us the way out to the Casco Bay… BTW the lighthouse in the background, that’s my lighthouse, Seguin Light!


After a long day of racing down river at break-neck speeds we slowly sailed into Small Point Harbor, put the hook down in 14 feet of sand that held us tight for a good night’s sleep. (Can you tell this is important to us?)

We sailed on light but steady winds the next day to a snug little cove on the east side of Bailey Island. We were out of bread so we “Epic-Walked” to the closest general store for a loaf and by the time we got back to the boat we were, once again, beat from another day’s adventure.


We opted to take the offshore route to Portland the following day because the weather was promising light winds in the morning diminishing to a dead calm by the early afternoon.

Well, we did get some sailing in, I mean, we sailed off the hook and out of the Bailey Island anchorage but unfortunately we had both sails struck by 0900.


…The sights were nothing short of spectacular…


…But it was a slow motor-slog all the way into our old haunts on the free dock in South Portland, which isn’t what it used to be. There’s a sailing club that uses half the dock and a couple derelict boats just sitting around. We squeezed onto the very end, in the last open spot, and…walked.

A day at Haut

Sep 18, 2015 by James in Dena's Blog Posts, James' Blog, Life Under Sail

Throwing off the mooring pennant in Stonington was easy.


That’s the most dangerous thing about shagging on a moron-ball, they’re too easy!

You sneak in, pick up the pennant, look around to make sure nobody’s coming your way, you finish the engine and get drunk.

…But what you don’t get is the knowledge that what is holding you to the Earth is ground tackle that you put together and you know will hold you in almost any weather conditions. If you shag a ball you never know what’s under you and that always gives me (James) an edginess that ultimately keeps me awake at night and makes me want to get back on the hook in some thick-ass mud or some sand.

Stonington was nice but the whole time we were there I kept looking out at the harbor to make sure the boat was still there and there was nobody fucking with it. Also the whole goddamn town wakes up at 0400, gets in their lobster boats and takes off at maximum wake to go rape the local waters of ALL the lobsters! Stonington claims to have the largest lobster haul in the world, bringing in over $57 million a year of those bottom feeding sea-bugs.

We love to anchor! There is nothing quite like sleeping in a sheltered cove or a snug harbor at anchor cuddled up to the person of your dreams… Believe me, we know, we do it all the time!

For example, Isle au Haut.


We sailed, nice and slow, down through the rubble islands of Merchant Row, where granite was wrestled out of the ground and taken to the Kennedy Memorial, the Museum of Natural History, and many more iconic buildings. Wrapping up that short trip, we anchored in tiny Duck Harbor in the southwest corner of Isle au Haut.

Good thing it was a short trip, because the hike was epic.


It’s rated difficult by the park maps, and we discovered why as we approached the top of the world.


Duck Mountain Trail was 1.2 miles that took us almost 500 feet up from sea level, then back down on the other side of the island. The track we took back was longer, but took less than a third as long to walk.

At the top, we found another Geologic Survey medallion signifying the summet of the highest point on the island. I (Dena) love seeing these things. Makes me feel like an explorer.


Glorious, really. The views all around, the exposed granite, the moss and fern coverings, the mixed tree cover. Gorgeous.


Best of all, we got back to our boat and had a major veg curry, then conked out solid. In the morning, we were happy and fresh for the new day’s adventure.


(Yes, the hat doesn’t fit me now that James shaved my head. Oh, well.)

Glass, glass and more glass until finally we got enough wind to beat us all the way across Penobscot Bay to a nice little group of shoaling islands practically in the Atlantic Ocean. We set the hook in 15 feet of sand between Birch, Dix and High islands and watched a sliver of moon set off the starboard bow just after another mind blowing Dena-curry, and let me tell you, we slept like we knew what was holding us to the Earth!

180 degrees of wake up

Sep 14, 2015 by James in Dena's Blog Posts, James' Blog, Life Under Sail


The summer comes to a clapping close when the winds turn from the southwest to the northeast. Just like that, we’re heading south again.

Right after we picked up Dena’s new books from the local post office (sent to her general delivery) we left Winter Harbor astern riding a light nor’easter.


By sunset we were back on Swans Island, only this time we shagged a mooring on the northeast side at Minturn in Burnt Coat Harbor.

A gentle windless night awoke to a choppy nor’easterly fog in the morning so we tucked in a couple of reefs and headed out early to weave our way through the rocky islands of Toothacher and Jericho Bays.


Unlike the photo above we never once saw the sun during our brisk sail over to Stonington from Minturn. We rocked and rolled into Stonington Harbor in the Deer Isle Thorofare (yes, it’s really spelled like that) before noon on a freshening broad reach and a racing flood, picked up another free mooring, and whipped up some burritos. The town is nicely vertical and easy on the eyes. After lunch we rowed into town for some groceries and some light Hollywood entertainment then it was back to the boat where the sleep was constantly interrupted throughout the night by the local lobster fishers coming and going. Stonington claims the biggest haul of lobster in the world with an annual income of over $57 million just in lobster alone!


With the cooler winds coming down from Greenland we are stacking on the layers as we make our way back to warmer climates. But it promises to be a long adventure before we can catch some of those balmy trades that are calling us south.

The nor’easters are still short and unpredictable, so we’re bouncing along the coast in short hops instead of heading out a faster way. Besides, with Heart of the Liliko’i completely finished and the Waterway Guide edits turned in, this is basically a vacation now. If we do a couple-three hours of travel each day, we won’t exhaust ourselves going against the wind while seeing even more of this coast than we managed on the way Down East.

Though it’s hard not to get wound up in planning the rest of the year (what route to Key West, stopping where for book events, what will the weather do), we’re trying to stay in the moment. This is the point. This, right here, making our slow way with the connivance of nature and our hard-won skills, is the prize.