Just water. In every direction. Bits of land look like floating logs. No mountains, no rocks, no wild life. This is Delaware Bay. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough. Maybe I’m just missing Maine. We spent three blissful weeks there, sailing among islands, rocky shoals, watching birds, porpoises, and distant mountains. There was never a moment of nothingness. Well, maybe in the fog, but at these times I was not bored; I was keenly tuned in to every ripple and sound, searching for our next buoy or shoal.
Recalling our Maine trip, I can’t pinpoint my favorite spot. The tranquility of Roque Island, our first stop, was hard to beat. On shore, there was a delightful community of 5 large homes, looking like they were inhabited, enjoyed, and kept in perfect condition. The rest of the island was deserted with only the occasional horse and rider. Friendly people from California, France, Maine and many points in between were anchored in various places. Each person we met had an interesting life story and were thoroughly enjoying Maine in its summer finery. We saw our first eagle of the trip here, exactly where we were told it would be perched.
Next was Great Wass Island with a hiking trail maintained by the Nature Conservancy Preserve. This 4.5 mile walk brought us through pine forests and a peachy quartz coastline. Even the sand was peachy colored. Clam cars filled the tiny inlet where we tied our dingy, showing us that this island keeps many Scientists busy learning more about our coastline.
Anchoring that night at Mistake Island was lovely. This location makes you feel like you are almost out to sea. Only a small, low island protects you, so you could see and hear the surf while you dine and sleep peacefully. In the morning we dinghied to the Coast Guard station to explore the lighthouse and eat blueberries before setting off for Eastern Harbor.
Eastern Harbor is a typical fisherman’s harbor. Filled with lobster boats on moorings, and lined with simple homes. The few grand homes seemed so out of place and made me wonder why these people build them. Speaking of homes, I found my dream home here. Our friend Jon took us to his friend Donna’s home and we were speechless. OK, I wasn’t speechless because I had so many questions for Donna. Did you build this? Yes. How do you get your water? I carry buckets full from the well every day. Do you use a fridge? No. How do you bathe? Heat up water on the wood stove and bring the pot outside. Does anything need electricity? Just the coffee grinder and we have golf cart batteries. I continued to pummel her with questions as I marveled at the artistry and strength of the chosen beams and branches used to construct this fantastic home. Perfectly grown trunks with their branches intact created the trusses for every room. Wine bottles were mortared in place for a stained glass window/wall at the entry. A fairy home for grown ups. Listening to Caroline Cotter in concert in an old music hall in Eastport topped off this day as completely delightful.
Bar Harbor the next day was such a let down. The harbor was crowded, full of cruise ships, tourist boats, and constant traffic past our boat. Getting off the boat and into the park was a relief. We hiked the Bee Hive and Gorham trails, bringing back fond memories of these trips with our kids. We tried to find the exact rung on the Bee Hive where we left Kenny, at 4 years old, hanging so we could get a great photo of him. We have no evidence of this experience because when we got to the bottom, we noticed the camera had no film (remember the days of rolls of film?!). Luckily the only proof of our parenting decision to leave him on the cliff is in our minds and hearts. Otherwise, we may have been reported to DHS for child endangerment. Trying to keep up with cross country runners Lindsay and Erica is another fond memory. I blamed my slower pace on blisters from my new shoes.
Everyone told us we had to visit Northeast Harbor, so that’s where we went next. Unfortunately, we arrived at sundown and headed out the next morning, barely enough time to stroll around the shore and see Morris Yacht’s positive impact on the area. Maybe if we skipped the stroll, we would have skipped the dinghy repair. When bringing her back aboard, we put a gash in the pontoon, losing all air immediately. This is a huge problem, as the dinghy is our only means of getting off the boat while at anchor unless we swim or SUP. We never go to docks; they are prohibitively expensive. Lucky for us, the previous owners were meticulous about spares and repair kits. The glue tube had directions in French, so we assumed the tube was at least 20 years old. The first owners were French and sold the boat 20 years ago to the second owners. Not sure if old glue would work, Bill carried out the repair and we left it on deck to cure while we headed to Vinalhaven. The repair did cure; we are using the dingy daily, and have a new tube and patches just in case this happens again.
Sailing to Vinalhaven felt a bit like coming home. Our cell connection came back so we could make calls en route, we were heading to visit with George and Cay and stay a bit at their beautifully renovated antique cape, and we were witnessing more sailboats and lobster boats than we had seen the whole prior week. Entering the harbor was entertaining. Lobster boats filled every square foot with only a few unused moorings. Most of these moorings had peanut butter jars duck taped to the pick up buoys. In the jars were notes indicating who owned the mooring, and where to pay $25 to borrow it. Some jars were stuffed with cash!! We picked up the one that said Honor Roll, thinking it was for donations to a local school. It was for donations to the Veterans, an equally excellent cause. As we headed toward shore in our repaired dinghy, we saw a lobster boat tie up to the next mooring. Our boats swung in a way that placed his stern a foot off our beam. Hmm, red scuffs or gouges were not going to look good. We casually asked if we were too big for this mooring, and he replied “we will both be okay” so we took off. Why his comment relaxed us, I have no idea. He didn’t care if his boat crashed into ours; his was a hard working, hard banging boat. Of course it’s “okay” from his perspective. Returning after dark, our inspection yielded a “yep, we’re okay”.
Visiting with Cay and George was magical. The planning and labor that went into the total remodel of their seaside home was evident. Granite walkways, created from their old crumbling foundation were spectacular, the expanded deck was perfect for eagle watching over the tidal river, the new foundation and basement was built to last another century, and the interior work made every room sparkle. But it was the dinners, the conversations, the hikes, and the companionship that resonated most strongly. George took us to a unique coastal site where he showed us spherical formations that resulted from volcanoes and produced these geode-like beauties. Sorry, George; I forgot the terminology! We will return for more Geology lessons and companionship.
After our lovely time in Vinalhaven with Cay and George for two days, we continued exploring both new and familiar places. First we sailed back to Deer Isle to see Fred and his family at Oak Point. We anchored by their family home for a visit then moved across to Center Harbor to anchor because it looked like it might blow. The blow never came, but visiting the Wooden Boat School again was interesting. The next day, we sailed to Castine in a good breeze. We searched the campus of Maine Maritime Academy for Erica’s friend Gretel, but never saw her. Instead, we ran into Al and Diane who have lived here many years (Al has lived here his whole life!) On to Rockland for a safe mooring offered by DJ, Kenny’s best man. We rented a car and drove to Mt Abram for a family gathering. Back to the boat, we had DJ and Carlee aboard and began the plans for them to visit us in the Caribbean.
Off to Dix Island for some new territory. This group of three islands was unique. High Island had huge quarries and plenty of evidence of serious cutting/moving/shipping. How they did this work 100 years ago blows my mind. Dix Island had a quaint, well marked trail for us to walk the perimeter of the island. The residents prefer that visitors don’t go near their homes, and I don’t blame them. They are known to be completely self sustained, living off what the tiny island offers. Leaving this sweet place in the morning was nerve-wracking due to the dense fog. I could barely see past the bow. We passed several buoys which we never saw, but heard their gongs and bells. This was a day we truly appreciated our GPS. It was like a video game, driving the boat to a screen.
Christmas Cove was next with an almost deserted harbor. We picked up a mooring, as it’s too tight to anchor, and tried to go to shore and pay, but they were closed for the season, except weekends, so we scored a free night. We dined aboard with Cam and Julie after we had a gorgeous walk through the tiny town. Boothbay, the next day, was the same as ever, and not very interesting. We are not touristy types, so the one hundred quaint shops selling every type of edible, wearable, or flauntible item was not appealing. But seeing our new French friends again was a treat. Sharing liveaboard experiences of Constitution Marina in Boston with them was fun for us; they plan to try that out this winter with their two young girls.
Sailing to Sebasco Resort Harbor was wild. The wind blew hard on the beam, helping us fly along, until we turned up toward the harbor. We almost chickened out and turned around because it was such a boisterous tight hauled run, but we persevered and made it safely into the quiet harbor. The season was clearly almost over, as the harbor was nearly empty. Ashore we found the resort a great spot to bring a family. There are pools, playgrounds, mellow restaurants, hiking trails, and plenty of green space to spread out. Grandkids…
After this, we traveled back to our old stomping grounds, South Freeport for a dinner aboard with dear old friends Dave and Laura, then a sail past Yarmouth, our favorite town. I could almost jump onto Pam’s property on Cousin’s Island as we passed. Bill had to hold me back. I did not want to sail further, as it meant tying back up to the dock in South Portland, hauling out, fixing the damage hull and coating the bottom with antifouling paint. This all represented work, and that our beautiful Maine Cruise was over.
So, here I sit, watching all that Delaware has to offer me. Nothing. I know that there is more to this place, and I’m just being impatient, or just simply missing Maine. Perhaps this will be a recurring feeling as I pass through places that don’t immediately appeal to me. I’ll be missing Maine, my family, my friends, my other life.