Saturday, January 7, 2012

Maine : Quiet bays and  Irene, a lady with attitude.

16th – 30th August



The day that we left Bar Harbour was  yet another foggy day that turned to light drizzle by the afternoon. We were planning  to stop at the Cranberry Islands for a day or so but when we got there the weather had turned to custard, so we continued on  to  the fiord-like area in the middle of Mt Desert Island  known as Somes Sound . The guide book had said that this was one of the most picturesque anchorages in this part of Maine and once the fog lifted it indeed fitted the description.



We were joined by Remi De and No Rehearsal, and briefly caught up with our American friends from Erin Brie who were also anchored in the bay. The shoreline was a thick forest of pine trees  with only a couple of houses scattered around. Everyday there were heaps of kayakers paddling past the boat only to  disappear further up the bay around a bend. Curious as to where they  were paddling, we dropped the dinghy in and went  to investigate. To our surprise we rounded the bend  to find a huge camping ground with hundreds of tents. It was extremely well set up, each site had a brick fireplace and the tents were  perched up on wooden platforms  to alleviate any dampness from the ground. There was a long dinghy/kayak dock and the kids from the campground were having a ball jumping off one of the rocks in the middle of the little bay. Kids just never seem to feel the cold no matter what the water temperature.  As we motored along the banks we saw lots of people  chilling out with a book or newspaper, and others just soaking up the warm sunshine and the ambiance of the place. It sure looked a great place to hang out for a week or so.

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That evening, during sundowners aboard No Rehearsal, we met a nice couple who were  staying in the camp ground and they invited all of us to join  their family for a bon-fire at their campsite later that night. It certainly was the right sort of weather for it being on the chilly side and all. They were from Boston and came here every year for two weeks of R&R and had an ongoing reservation for the same site for the past five years. The bon-fire was great and it was nice to meet some new acquaintances and have a chat about something other than boats!

Itching to go for a walk through the  beautiful woods, the following day we took off in the dinghy to explore. We’d picked out a suitable landing site to beach the dinghy but as we approached our outboard gave a couple of coughs and then died. Inflatable dinghies are just about impossible to row any sort of distance so we were very lucky that we were only a few hundred yards off the beach. We wheeled her up the sand where Liam  then proceeded to pull the carbie down yet again. No matter what he did to it  the engine just refused to kick back into life. So much for  the walk in the woods! With no prospect of starting the engine it was time to figure out a way to get home and rowing was not an option. Our phone signal was pretty much non existent, but  even so  we tried to call  Remi De a few times hoping to get through. It was a good thing that our cruising buddies  were on the ball and when we hadn’t returned after an hour or so Toni sent Bruce out to find us. We were so relived when  we saw him  come scooting around the corner. Needless to say Liam spent the rest of the afternoon pulling down the carbie (again). The ethanol outboard fuel  sold in America is the culprit, and it was really starting to wear both of us down. It’s a never-ending battle to get the dinghy started and keep it going at low revs. So while Liam played mechanic Annie went for a walk ashore, not quite through the woods, but a walk nonetheless.

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We had a nice time in Somes Sound it was such a tranquil and pretty place. We enjoyed a lovely lunch in the woodland setting of Abels lobster pound, where Liam found out the hard way that you should heed warning signs that say “Lobsters bite!”.Yes he stuck his hand in a tank full of the little critters and got the fright of his life when one of them clamped onto his finger and didn’t want to let go. Pretty sure he won’t be doing that again in a hurry.

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After a few days at Somes we toddled off back towards Stonington, where we had a quick stop to buy a few more lobsters and to our surprise  also got a call on the radio from an old aussie friend, Scot Wheelhouse, who had charted a boat for a couple of weeks.


We joined Scot and his wife Rose and their guests ashore for coffee and then moved on to a small bay called Hell’s Half Acre.


We had planned to have a quiet evening on board  as it was our wedding anniversary but when our friends on Remi De arrived and said they were going ashore to light a fire (it was pretty cold) and asked us to come along, well we couldn’t resist joining them. When we got there they had written “Happy Anniversary” in shells on the rocks. It was a lovely touch and so we all celebrated with a glass of bubbly by the warmth of the fire.

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With the likelihood of hurricane Irene heading up towards Maine it was time to move on and sus out a better protected anchorage in which to ride out the storm, should it eventuate. The media reports were saying that Irene , a category 3 hurricane, was packing 80 knot winds and was due to hit our area in about a week, so we had plenty of time to find a snug spot. Below is the image of  Irene as she marched up the coast towards Maine. We kept a pretty close eye on our favorite internet  weather site, Passage  Weather, which gave excellent predictions for up to seven days in advance.


Over the next few days we popped our heads into many bays with the pick of the bunch being either Blue Hill Bay, which was a delightful spot, or Smith’s cove near the town of Castine right up towards the top of Penobscot Bay. We chose the later and it was a very good choice. The bay was large enough to accommodate a goodly number of boats and had excellent protection on all sides . With depths of only 24 ft were were able to let out about 250 ft of anchor chain and the thick mud on the bottom guaranteed, well that’s what we hoped, that  we would not budge an inch.

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Having not had anything to do with hurricanes before we were pretty focused  and nervous over the next few days. We took both our forward sails down and packed them away so as to cause minimal windage and any loose items on deck were  securely stowed away. Then it was time to play the waiting game. We still had a spare two days after we’d packed up everything so along with friends from Daydreamer and Remi De we donned our walking shoes and hit some of the walking trails around the bay. On the way back to the boat we stopped along one of the many ledges and collected a couple of buckets of fresh mussels … boy were they yummy when we cooked them up in a  big pot  later.


When we  arrived in the bay on Thursday, four days ahead of Irene's debut  there were only five other boats on anchor. Irene was due to arrive in the wee small hours of Sunday morning and since our arrival there had been a steady stream of boats coming in, including about a dozen  super yachts, some of whom  had motored for two days or more from the Newport Rhode Island area. By the  time Saturday afternoon rolled around Annie counted  over seventy boats anchored in the bay. And  it wasn't just our bay that was busy, the local boat yards were doing a roaring trade hauling boats out of the water and parking them where ever they could fit. In the town of Belfast, not far from us, that included parking them out on  the street and over in the town of Castine even the floating docks were packed up and towed to safety.

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Saturday dawned overcast and cold and there was a real eerie feel to the air. It was a horrible feeling not knowing what was going to happen. We even started to wonder if we’d made the right decision staying in the water. Other friends on No Rehearsal and Escapade had decided to haul their boats out over at a yard in Belfast, maybe we should have too. We new that we couldn’t afford do that every time a hurricane came our way, sooner or later you just have to face the music. It was our decision not to haul out and  there was no going back. So come on Irene! Saturday evening the wind started to howl and the rain turned from steady drizzle to torrential. Just on dark the wind began to swirl around  the bay and change direction a few of the boats who had put out multiple anchors began to get themselves into a tangle and there was a fair bit of activity as they desperately reset their anchors in what little light there still was. We felt that we had done all we could to ensure our  own safety and now our fate was in the lap of the god’s. As we sat hunkered down in our cosy saloon  we listened to the clanging of halyards, the wind in the rigging and watched as the bay turned into a city of floating lights. We tried to watch a movie but gave up when the outside noise was louder than the volume on the TV would go ,so  around midnight we said “goodnight Irene” and headed off to bed. It was a fitful sleep with one of us getting up every hour or so to have a look outside, not that we could see much past the boat next. By morning  we felt  very sorry for  the two fellows aboard our neighbouring boat as they had had a sleepless and wet night as they stood anchor watch in their cockpit which had no covering and no where to escape the wind and rain. They looked like drowned rats by the morning.

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Well  this time we got to count our lucky stars.  Irene spared us and  Maine from much of  her fury as she changed her path before she got to us and  headed further inland to Vermont, where she caused alot of  mayhem and destruction. Having left our wind instruments on all night the highest wind readout we saw that night was in the range of forty to fifty knots, and that was plenty enough wind for these brown ducks.  We stayed put in Smith’s Cove for couple more days wanting to let some of the debris of logs and other flotsam  come down the rivers and clear out of the the large body of water that makes up Penobscot. All that sort of stuff  usually lurks just under the water surface and can be a major hazard to the hull of a boat so it’s prudent to just sit and wait a while. When we felt the  time was right we pulled up the anchor which was so covered in mud it took us 45 minutes to get it and the chain up (we had to wash all the thick gooey mud off as the chain came up). Pretty soon it would be time to head south but before then we wanted to make just a few more stops one of which was the town of Belfast. We’d heard  some good reports about the place so we nosed out of the bay and headed over.


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