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Northbound - Massachusetts & Maine - 2008


Heading East
by Mary

July 29 we left Mystic headed for Provincetown, MA. Once we got into Buzzard's Bay, we altered our plan and stopped at South Dartmouth, MA taking a mooring at the New Bedford Yacht Club. The cost of the mooring included a launch to take us into town and use of the yacht club facilities. We walked around town and found nothing much within walking distance. There's a restaurant for dinner and one for breakfast but not much else. We hung around for a few days waiting for a weather front to pass.

South Dartmouth, MA


By 6:10 in the morning of August 2 we were on our way to P-town (Provincetown) on the tip of Cape Cod. This trip was up Buzzard's Bay, through the Cape Cod Canal and then across Cape Cod Bay to P-town. Timing is very important for this trip because of the currents in the canal. Current flows east or west -depending on which way the tide is going - at a strength of more than 4 knots. Traveling against the tide takes a great deal more time and fuel than going with it so our passage was timed to take advantage of the east-flowing tide and current. Just like last year, we came out of the east end of the canal into dense fog. I hate fog. At one point a radar blip appeared behind us moving quickly in our direction. The radio came alive calling to us by asking the vessel at our specific coordinates to respond. He wanted to pass us on our starboard side; and we acknowledged and said we'd hold our present course. In a little while a huge motor yacht came by looking like a ghost in the fog. It was amazing that we could barely see him considering how close he was. Did I mention that I don't like fog? Luckily the fog cleared after a couple of hours and the rest of the trip was uneventful. We got to P-town by 2:00 pm and again took a mooring because our dinghy is leaking again and we needed to have launch service to get us to town. A bolt had pulled out so it was leaking much more than before.

P-town (Provincetown, MA)
by Mary

Provincetown is in the curl at the very tip of Cape Cod. It's a very artsy-fartsy town with many galleries and it is a mecca for tourists. While the year-round population is just over 3,000; it swells to about 50,000 in the summer. In many ways it is similar to Key West but not tacky and not vulgar like Key West. It has more quality shops and the sex-oriented shops tend to be on the second floor or down side streets so it's a much more kid and family friendly place. There are loads of small hotels and B&Bs. Some visitors come by car, but there are ferries to Boston and Gloucester, etc. that bring lots of weekenders and vacationers.

The town consists of 2 parallel one-way main streets crossed by numerous side streets. The main streets are clogged with pedestrians making vehicle traffic very slow. There are many good restaurants and in general it's a great place to stroll and people watch. There's also a commercial fishing fleet here.

We took a trolley tour that took us into the Cape Cod National Seashore so we got to see more than we could have on foot. We both were surprised to learn that the area that's now Provincetown was the first place the Pilgrims landed. Lack of fresh water and tillable soil sent them across the bay to Plymouth. The Pilgrim Monument in P-town is a 200 foot tall granite structure that dominates the skyline from miles out at sea.


Penobscot Bay, ME
by Mary

Leaving P-town we headed across the Gulf of Maine for Penobscot Bay. Wind went from 18 kts down to 3 kts and then to 24kts. It hovered in the low 20's overnight right on our nose and had us slamming into oncoming waves. It was a pretty bumpy ride but we both still managed to get a little off-watch sleep. As we got close to land, we were in some very, very dense fields of lobster pots, After a tiring night, it was pretty unpleasant having to thread our way through them.



There are more than 7,000 licensed lobster fishermen in Maine and each one can set as many as 800 pots. From Spring through summer, they follow the critters into ever deeper water - we've seen pots in 200 feet of water. The pots (traps) are weighted with bricks to stay on the bottom and are attached to a buoy that floats on the surface. Each lobsterman has his own colors painted on the buoys so they can be identified.

That makes for a lot of delicious crustacean, but a navigation challenge for a sailboat like ours with a deep fin keel, deep rudder, and spinning prop when we're under power. Catching one of those lobster lines can mean that someone has to dive under the boat in water less than 60 degrees to try to get free. Quite a frightening proposition in my opinion.

Camden & Rockland

Mid-afternoon on August 5, we were anchored in Camden Harbor near our friends Keith and Rose on Camelot, another Saga. We welcomed their invitation to dinner and then crashed for a good night's sleep. Camden is a very nice town filled with tourists in summer as is just about every coastal town in Maine. We found a great used book store. It was sunny when we arrived but then got cold, gray and damp. (Camden photos are farther down the page.)

On the 7th we moved a little south to Rockland, Maine for a rendezvous of Saga boats. In boating terminology a rendezvous is a gathering of similar boats. Some are large events with organized activities, but this was a more casual event There were seven Sagas in attendance and one couple whose boat is riding out hurricane season in Ecuador while they spend time in Maine. It was fun to meet so many other Saga folks. Everyone has great stories of their adventures as well as modifications they've made to the boats. We hauled the dinghy up on the foredeck to fix the leaks. One fix worked, but we're still leaking somewhere at the joining of pontoon to hull but at least it's manageable. Neal has to do some bailing before we use it, but it's more a nuisance than a problem

Rockland Harbor, ME

Perry Creek

On the 10th we took off in the fog following Camelot to one of their favorite places: Perry Creek on Vinalhaven Island. Fog and lobster pots - my favorite combination. At least it was a short ride and was sunny when we arrived a couple of hours later. At their suggestion we picked up an empty mooring. This is where local knowledge is important. They knew that this very protected place is a storm mooring area. Local who usually keep their boats in less remote places have moorings in places like this to go to when conditions get bad. It is perfectly acceptable for transients like us to use these moorings when they're available. We weren't aware of this custom and would never have taken a mooring like this on our own.

This was also a milestone: it's the first time we've actually picked up a mooring on the first pass. Generally it takes us two or three attempts to get it.

It was just past low tide so we jumped in the dinghy and followed Keith and Rose to where they were collecting mussels. They clued us in on how to select them and we managed to gather 85 of them. We picked only those that were underwater, and gauged appropriate size by what we've gotten in restaurants. Once back on Sea Fox, we scraped off the barnacles, scrubbed them and put them in a mesh bag hung off the side of the boat. Rose had offered to cook, so we added our catch to theirs and had a feast. Geoff and Dede on Fairtide, another Saga, had arrived and the 6 of us enjoyed the best mussels I've ever tasted.

Mooring for you non-boaters:

A mooring is generally a large floating ball connected to a weight that sits on the bottom.. Connected to the mooring ball is a line called a pennant which has a loop on the end. It's this loop that you put over a cleat on the bow to hold your boat to the mooring. (Sometimes there are two pennants so that you can attach one to each side of the bow.) Usually there's a small float attached to the pennant. Sometimes you have to reach down with a boat pole to snag the line at small float and haul it aboard. Many moorings have a "pick up stick": the small float has a long slender pole attached that you can grab with your hand and haul aboard. The trick is to be able to position the bow close enough for the line to be picked up but not actually run over the mooring. Seems pretty simple until you try it. If the helmsman is going too slow, wind and current can make it difficult to steer; but if the boat is going to fast, the person at the bow may not be able to hang on to the mooring. People who keep their boats on moorings have lots of practice and make it look easy. We're still learning the technique of coming at the mooring at just the right speed and angle and knowing when to go into reverse to stop forward motion. Anchoring is much simpler.
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The next day Fairtide left for Seal Bay, also on Vinalhaven, we stayed another day and so did Camelot. We did some exploring, took lots of photos, and collected another 130 mussels. It started raining on Monday night and rained for most of Tuesday. Tuesday afternoon Keith came over with a gift of 10 gallons of water that had collected in his sailing dinghy. They'd tasted it and found it ok so they filled their tanks and gave us what was left. Unfortunately, the leak in our dink taints any rainwater that collects in it.


Seal Bay
by Mary

On the 14th we again took off in fog following Camelot to another of their favorite places: Seal Bay. Fog and lobster pots. Whee!!!!!! By the time we got there, the fog was a little less dense so we were able to see the cove, and anchored near Camelot and Fairtide. There truly are seals in Seal Bay. Two were hauled out on a rock when we got there. The fog lifted but it was too cool to want to go exploring The next morning the fog cleared early so we went out exploring in the dinghy. Camelot and Fairtide left to go back to Camden but we stayed to enjoy the day and the scenery. In mid afternoon we heard seals barking and carrying on but couldn't see them. We went out in the dink "seal hunting" but never did find where they were.


Camden again
by Mary

The 16th dawned with dense fog. By noon it was pretty clear so we decided to head back to Camden for a few days to get some chores done. Before long we were back in dense fog. We alternated between clear sky and fog all the while dodging the ubiquitous lobster pots. Made it to Camden Harbor by late afternoon and took a mooring at Wayfarer Marine to be able to take advantage of their shower and laundry facilities.

We spent several days here doing some chores and some sightseeing. Camden has some lovely parks. There's a small grocery that has a good meat market and fresh produce. There's also a wonderful library for catching up on newspapers & magazines.We ate more lobster and had delicious clam chowder (loaded with tender clams) at Cappy's.


Things that go bump in the night
by Mary

There's nothing quite as unnerving as hearing a loud thump against the hull that makes the boat shudder - especially at 2:00 a.m. Neal got up first to see what was happening and then called me to help. A small lobster boat on a nearby mooring had her sides bumping against our stern and her hoist was tangled in the lines of our davits. He managed to get the tangle undone and get the other boat pushed off a bit. She ended up pretty much alongside us with her bow to our stern.

There was no wind and it was just an hour after high tide and still at slack which means no current to speak of. When there's wind or a current, boats are generally all facing the same direction and moorings are spaced so that there's adequate room as boats swing with wind or current. But in this calm wind and water situation, boats were facing every which way - no two facing exactly the same direction.

We'd met the owner of the other boat - Lively Lady - on the wharf. He and his wife conduct eco-tours explaining how lobstering is done. We introduced ourselves as the boat next to him and he explained to us that he'd complained that his mooring had been moved and he felt it was entirely too close to other moorings. He was right.

We took photos and stayed in the cockpit ready to fend off if we were heading for another collision. Eventually the tide turned and the boats moved away from one another and we were able to go back to bed.

The next morning when we printed the best photo and explained the situation to the harbor master, he put the blame on the mooring inspector. Apparently when the inspector raises a mooring weight to inspect it the mooring gets put back down as soon as the inspection is complete - regardless of whether the inspector's boat has drifted from the original mooring site. Wouldn't you think they'd note the GPS coordinates to make sure it got back where it came from????? Apparently beginning next year the inspector's boat will be required to have some means to keep it stationary during inspections. But then when we talked to the inspector, we got a slightly different story about why those two moorings were so close to one another. Lots of finger pointing going on. Fortunately we had no damage. Lively Lady had an antenna broken off. We moved to another mooring.

What's so special about Maine?
by Mary

All along the east coast, we've heard just how wonderful it is cruising in Maine. My first thoughts on arrival were that it looks a lot like northern Minnesota or Wisconsin or Michigan - especially around Lake Superior - and it's pretty much the same kind of scenery you find along the coast of the Pacific Northwest. So what's so special about Maine? Especially considering my twin nemeses of fog and lobster pots.

I guess I've now put it in perspective. Most folks in the east haven't been to the Pacific Northwest, or to the pine forests of the upper Midwest, or to the rugged shores of Lake Superior. Just as folks in Illinois and Iowa flock to the lakes and forests of Minnesota, and Californians flock to Washington State, east coast folks love the rugged coast and pine covered hills of Maine.

It truly is beautiful. And the lobsters are luscious. And the mussels are succulent. Maybe it's like childbirth - after a while you forget just how painful it was to get to the wonderful part.

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