Heading "Down East", Maine, USA

 15th July - 7th August 2005

Like many cruisers before us, we entered the waters of Maine with a sense of trepidation, having been warned of the perils of frequent fog, abundant lobster pots and harbours overrun with mooring buoys, leaving no room for visitors wishing to anchor.   Whatever the drawbacks of visiting the state of Maine by sea may have been, they were a small price to pay to experience the rugged beauty of the rocky coastlines, the tranquil out-of-the-way anchorages we shared only with seals, porpoise, ospreys and the occasional lobsterman and to cycle the quiet leafy lanes coloured by a multitude of summer wildflowers.

We soon acquired the knack of dodging the clusters of lobsterpots, to avoid tangling their lines in our propeller.  Once we became proficient at this slalom, as we headed further "down east" and the tidal currents became stronger, we found that the lobstermen added additional jeopardy by joining their floats together with long lines, now using two or more floats to mark each lobsterpot, leaving the helmsperson to make a split-second decision on which of the approaching buoys were joined together.    The ultimate challenge, however, came in Muscongus Bay where we found the buoys laid so closely together that it was impossible to find a clear path between them.    Our only safe option was to cut the motor and sail right through them and luckily we actually had enough wind to do just that.

On our way to the Ocean Cruising Club rally in Maine, our first stop was in Biddeford Pool, primarily to buy diesel at the yacht club there.   Luckily before we filled our jerry cans at the dock, the dock master advised us that the price for diesel was $4 a gallon compared to the usual price of around $2.30 so we quickly reconsidered.   Our visit to Biddeford Pool gave us the chance to visit the nearby nature trail provided by Audubon, the American bird-watching society.   With our normal skill at bird-watching, we didn't spot many feathered-friends and at times the undergrowth became so boisterous it was hard even to spot each other, but the walk was very enjoyable and gave us our first taste of the stunning coastal scenery. 

Audubon Nature Trail - what trail?!


Peaks Island Surreal Battery Ruins

Early next morning we made an unplanned stop in Portland, the area's only real major town, to pick up fuel at a much more reasonable price, before heading across the bay to anchor at nearby Peaks Island, instead of in the hustle and bustle of the busy town harbour.   From Peaks the hourly ferry service, which at the time was under heavily armed Coastguard protection as a result of the terrorist attacks in London, allowed us to pay a visit to the "big city".   

We also circumnavigated peaceful Peaks Island on our trusty bikes, enjoying the views from the coastal road.   We made a stop at the "Battery Nature Reserve" to discover, deep in the undergrowth, the amazing ruins of an old gun battery, where we took a spooky stroll through the quarter of a mile long underground tunnel in near pitch dark.   On our way back to Anju we spotted a sign at the local library advertising a book sale.  We decided that after our visit to the library book sales in New York, the last thing we needed aboard was more books, until we discovered that the sale had actually finished and all remaining books were free for the taking.   Needless to say, we added to Anju's book ballast.

Another of Maine's perils, dense fog, was forecast for a couple of days, so we decided to pick a quiet, secluded anchorage in Quahog (pronounced Co-hog) Bay for some R & R.    This gave Phil the chance to try his hand at fishing for striped bass.   Having established that no licence was required and that specimens between 20 and 26 or over 40 inches long could be kept, he disappeared into the fog with his tape measure and fishing rod and returned with a delicious dinner!

One of Phil's "Striper" fishing successes (on a less foggy occasion!).

All the gourmet cooking quickly exhausted our new, puny, American gas bottles, so we had to track down a place to refill them.    The nearby marina told us that U-Haul, "only about 10 minutes down the road", would be able to refill our bottles, so off we set by bike, each with a gas bottle in our backpack, for the "10 minute" trip to Brunswick.

Six miles later, after an unpleasant trip along a hilly, busy main road, we found a U-Haul depot, only to be told that it was a different U-Haul we needed, another quarter of a mile further on.    By now we were skeptical of car-drivers' judgment of distances but were relieved to find the depot was not much farther.    On arrival we were told that their propane refill machine wasn't currently working.    By now we were hot, flustered and pretty bad-tempered but the U-Haul manager kindly tracked down another gas depot for us and called a taxi for us to make the four mile trip.    A lucky stroke of fate brought along a station-wagon as our taxi, large enough for our bikes to fit in the back, so after refilling the gas bottles, we decided to take the taxi all the way back to the marina, making our ten pounds of propane incredibly expensive!

When the fog finally lifted, we continued our trip down east to the venue of the Ocean Cruising Club Rally, Robin Hood Cove, arriving a couple of days early in case of further fog.    This gave us time to get acquainted with the staff of the Robin Hood Marine Centre, who very generously even allowed us to use the marina's courtesy car to make a run to the nearest town, Bath, about six miles away, to pick up supplies.

We spent the time fishing and exploring the bay by dinghy.    One morning we had a visit from locals Mike and Gloria Gaffney who were passing by in their boat, after checking their lobster pots.    Not only did they generously give us a couple of lobsters from their catch, they also schooled us in how to cook them and get all of the meat out of the shell.     Their lessons definitely helped as it was our first experience of preparing Maine lobsters and the finished result was delicious.

Mike and Gloria tutoring Phil in lobster preparation.

The steamed lobsters, ready to eat.

Slowly other OCC boats arrived in the bay, "William Baron" first, giving us the opportunity to get to know Norfolk, Virginia's Port Officers, Greta and Gary.   Despite the threat of thunderstorms the OCC cocktail party was fun and well attended and several of the participating boats decided to continue the get together over the weekend with a small cruise of the area.   

Dinghy Drifting at Vinalhaven

Next day we gathered at happy hour in Maple Juice Cove for a dinghy drift, a type of cocktail hour that is common amongst cruising boats when there are too many people attending to be accommodated aboard one boat.  Everyone met in their dinghies at the stern of the organiser's boat, the dinghies were rafted together and nibbles passed around from dinghy to dinghy.   It was great to meet the American OCC members, many of whom generously invited us to visit on our way south.

On Sunday Peter, the local Port Officer for Maine, selected the beautiful venue of Vinalhaven Island.    Local knowledge certainly paid off and we found ourselves in Seal Harbour, an almost land-locked and very well protected anchorage, which must normally have been very peaceful when not invaded by a fleet of eight OCC yachts for a party!


We bade farewell to the other OCC boats and headed for South West Harbour on the island of Mount Desert, most of which is a National Park.    Our trip was going well, we had plenty of wind and were sailing exceptionally well even with reefed mainsail and genoa.  We even congratulated ourselves on even sailing without the aid of the motor through a narrow channel between several rocks and islands, requiring several tacks.    Perhaps they would make proper sailors of us yet!

As we approached a narrow channel across a rocky bar at the south of Mount Desert Island, we spotted a thunderstorm heading towards us and decided it would now be prudent to engage the motor and reef the genoa a little more.   As it transpired this was a very wise decision because suddenly in a gust of wind preceding the storm there was an ear-splitting bang and the whole boat seemed to shake.   We looked upwards in horror to see our roller furler and forestay at the front of the boat broken right through, leaving the mainmast only supported at the front by the partially reefed sail and its halyard.   It was time for urgent action to save the rest of the rig, which could easily have been lost if it came under pressure from the wind!   


Luckily most of the genoa was already rolled around the furler but the remaining section was now flogging in the wind and obviously couldn't be rolled in.   Neither could we drop the sail as the halyard was the only thing holding the whole furler up.    As Christine steered the boat to get the wind out of the sails, Phil somehow managed to manually roll the sail around the broken furler and secure it with sail ties.  The mainsail was then quickly dropped and secured, taking the remaining pressure off the rig.   To better support the mast we took two spare halyards forward to the bowsprit, so the pressure wasn't on the poor genoa halyard and sail alone.  Now we just had to make our way safely to port through the thunderstorm, in practically zero visibility, with the loose forestay swinging around alarmingly in the swell!

An hour later, once we were finally safely anchored in South West Harbour, we reflected on how lucky we'd been that this hadn't happened days out from port or in a rough sea.    It was time to put our Pantaenius insurance policy to the test for the first time since we've owned Anju.     We contacted Tracy at Pantaenius by phone and her first concern was that all the crew were fine with nobody injured, which was reassuring after such a bad morning.    We were told not to worry and to get an estimate for repairs to the boat and e-mail it to them.

Anju's broken forestay and roller furler supported just by the halyard and reefed sail.

Based on local recommendation we were able to quickly track down rigger, Jim, from Indalo Marine, who was actually a Brit living locally.   He quickly diagnosed that we'd need to replace both the forestay and the furler and check over the rest of the standing and running rigging for damage.    His estimate for repairs was sent to Pantaenius and the go-ahead from the insurers was given the very next day, allowing us to get the necessary parts on order immediately.
OCC friends George and Nancy from Trumpeter, with whom we'd spent time at the Bahamas rally they organised, were in town and put us in touch with another member, Bob Zinn, who kindly lent us a mooring ball on which to tie Anju whilst we awaited the repairs.     Now all we could do was enjoy the beauty of Mount Desert Island and the company of our local guides George and Nancy while we waited.

Together we enjoyed a dinghy ride to North East Harbour across the bay, a local concert which was part of South West Harbour's centennial celebrations and dinners aboard each other's boats.  It was great to be able to spend more time with them after our attendance at their Bahamas rally was cut short by our head gasket problem. 

George, Nancy and Cady lead the way to North East Harbour

We found the people of Maine to be very generous and welcoming, another example of this being the day we stopped at a house advertising fresh garden herbs and salad for sale, to enquire if they had any coriander plants (known locally as cilantro).  We'd been looking for one for a while due to our fondness for curry.    The lady of the house told us that she normally only sold cut herbs but then proceeded to get a trowel, dig up a plant from her garden, plant it in a pot for us and give it to us to take away!   Meanwhile her husband proudly gave us a tour of their beautiful garden which must have taken many hours of work each week.   We wondered what kept them busy in the cold winter and were told that they love cross-country skiing and ice fishing.   We decided we better not leave it too long before heading south!   We were already finding it cold even in the summer, the tropics must have thinned our blood.  With Anju's bare steel hull sitting in sea water with a temperature of 8 to 10 degrees centigrade, plenty of condensation was forming in our bilges and we'd had to invest in rugs to keep our feet warm!


Most of Mount Desert Island is part of the Acadia National Park, which provides a free bus service around the island to cut down traffic.     Using the free buses we were able to widely explore the island and take some hikes, including the challenging Beehive trail.    As we stepped from the bus and looked upwards we commented on some crazy people hauling themselves up an almost vertical rock face.    Only a few minutes after muttering the words, "There is no way we're going up there", we threw caution to the wind and joined the other crazies scrambling up the rocks with the help of steel rungs provided by the Park Service.    As we climbed we wondered about our sanity especially as we both dislike heights but with much encouragement of one another we managed to make it to the top to enjoy the views and our picnic lunch.    It was a great sense of achievement for two crazy people!

"There is no way........

......we're going up there!"

The lobster fleet in Bass Harbour.

In no time at all we had to move Anju around to Bernard in Bass Harbour for Jim and Marilyn from Indalo to start work on the repairs.     Of course we arrived in dense fog and then had to pick our way through the fleet of lobster boats to our spot on a dock at the back of the harbour. Jim and Marilyn set to work getting the old furler down and making the new forestay and assembling the new Schaeffer furler.    The fun part was getting the 44 foot assembly from their workshop half a mile down the narrow leafy lanes to the boat!

On inspecting the rest of the rigging they found that a section of the backstay had to be replaced too, as it had cracked with the stress and a couple of ropes had been damaged in addition to the genoa halyard.   All the repairs were carried out quickly and efficiently by the family team and we were extremely grateful to our insurers Pantaenius for their prompt and efficient response. 

Jim and Marilyn delivering the new furler

Jim heading up the mast to fix it in place


In only three days the work was finished and payment arranged by Pantaenius.    Although paying our 2000 deductible contribution was painful, we were just happy to get everything fixed so quickly and efficiently and to be able to get back to sea.   The sailing season in Maine is so short, it would have been a shame to be held up for repairs.

Our next goal was to head for the Canadian border, so we headed for Lubec, the easternmost town in the USA taking advantage of the strong tidal currents of the Bay of Fundy on our way.    

Mount Desert Island near Bass Harbour

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