43:38.57N 70:15.12W. Portland, ME

Cantilena returns from North America
Des Crampton
Tue 2 Aug 2022 02:11

So enjoyable has been the cruising here in Maine that we have been remiss in making the occasional post to our blog. Our apologies. Since our last post from Brooklyn, NS, we have successfully crossed into Maine so let’s wind the clock back a little to update you.

We departed Brooklyn early on Thursday 7 July heading south to the well protected fishing harbour of Lockeport some 30 nautical miles to the southwest. An enjoyable sail in light winds it proved to be. Not sure if we have already explained that the prevailing winds along this coast in the summer are from the SW. These are augmented most summer afternoons by a sea breeze drawn in off the very cold Labrador current by the falling coastal pressure as the land warms up. The resulting steady 20 knot south-westerly makes south westerly progress slow and lumpy. We have therefore been making early starts to make progress down the coast before the strong headwinds arrive. After an excellent fish and chips at a Lockeport quayside restaurant, we retired early in anticipation of another early start. By 05:00 the next day we were off again, this time heading around Cape Sable Island, the southern tip of Nova Scotia. The tides at Cape Sable are greatly influenced by the very strong tides in the neighbouring Bay of Fundy, so our experience of tidal UK waters enabled us to time the the west-going tide to get a good boost to our westward speed over the ground. We were accompanied by a great many seabirds, seals, dolphins, harbour porpoises and a humpback whale. On rounding Cape Sable an unexpected southerly breeze piped up giving ideal reaching conditions. Our target port for the night had been Pubnico but in the near perfect conditions we decided to press on an additional 30 miles to Yarmouth, our planned departure port for the USA.

We spent the day on Saturday preparing the boat for the 105 nautical mile crossing of the Gulf of Maine into the state of Maine. Judy Robertson, our delivery skipper and her partner arrived on Sunday morning ready for departure at around 1300. Des had the unusual experience of waving Cantilena goodbye from the marina pontoon for her first ever voyage without him at the helm. We had chosen Bar Harbor as the destination since it was an official entry port to the USA for small craft as well as being the destination of a fast cat ferry service from Yarmouth, a route on which the Visa Waiver Program operated. Des stayed overnight in Yarmouth and boarded the ferry the next morning. Cantilena had a good crossing with many whale and dolphin sightings late in the evening. Judy slowed down in the approach to Bar Harbor to ensure navigation of the myriad of lobster pots in daylight more on this topic later. After arrival at the municipal wharf the crew turned in for a sleep before the US customs and border protection officers arrived to complete entry formalities. Des walked down from the ferry terminal a few hours later in time to thank Judy as she and her partner set off to board the return ferry to Yarmouth. Proved to be a slick operation.

A busy few days in Bar Harbor were interrupted by a strong blow from the SW. Since the harbour is not well protected from these winds, the harbour master counseled shelter in the lee of Bean Island some five miles to the north. Proved to be good advice as we enjoyed a quiet night after the rock and roll the night before. Bar Harbor is the main town on Mount Desert Island, the centre of the Acadia National Park, a very busy tourist town so we were delighted to escape the mayhem and sail away to the south to NE Harbour. Then onwards to an isolated and tranquil anchorage in the lee of Bartlett Island on the W coast of Mount Desert Island. A short hop took us into the eastern end of the Eggemoggin Reach. About halfway along we crept into the keyhole which is Benjamin Harbour. The next night saw us in the pretty but busy inlet at Bucks Harbour. Our next target was Bucksport, a good distance up the Penobscot River, where we planned to welcome Steph and her partner Dil for a week’s sailing. They were arriving by coach at Bangor after a flight into Boston. We sailed under the impressive Penobscot Narrows bridge and past Fort Knox, one of several forts named after the first US Secretary of State for Defense. Alas, no gold in this one. Delightfully helpful marina staff drove us up to Bangor to fetch our two guests the next morning.

After catching up on news from home, a trip to the supermarket and a stop at the fuel berth, it was back downstream and out into Penobscot Bay. We had a lovely sail to Pulpit Harbour on North Haven Island feeling fortunate that the forecast strong southerly winds had not materialised. The entrance is guarded by Pulpit Rock on top of which is a very large osprey nest, said to have been in continuous use for 150 years. We were delighted to see several chicks peering nervously out as we sailed past. So pleasant did we find this beautiful anchorage that we settled in for two nights without hesitation. It was a short and gentle sail round into the picturesque channel between North Haven and Vinalhaven Islands which we transited from the west. Once through we turned into the beautiful Winter Harbour where we anchored under the sheer cliff of Starboard Rock. The climbers on board showed interest in a possible climb but pleaded a lack of equipment. Possibly the cold water below kept them safely aboard Cantilena. We enjoyed several dinghy excursions around the harbour before setting off northwards for a night in Cradle Cove, off Islesboro Island, where we understand the rich and famous have summer homes. As our happy week together came to an end, we sailed the short distance across the bay to Rockland from where Steph and Dill boarded the coach back to Boston.

It was time to leave the lovely Penobscot Bay but the temptation of another night at Pulpit Harbour could not be resisted. The next morning, we made an early start and rounded Mosquito Island to the west into Muscongus Bay and although several picturesque anchorages beckoned, we took advantage of a favourable wind and pressed on to the very busy lobster fishing port of South Bristol across from Pemaquid Harbour. The beautiful Witch Island provided excellent shelter from the SW wind. From there we pushed on to the West past Boothbay Harbour, through Townsend Gut and its swing bridge and into the Sheepscot River. From there a short and scenic hop to Riggs Cove (renamed Mosquito Central) where we took a mooring for the night. We finally gave in and took a run ashore for a Maine lobster roll. Lobster is fished all year round in Maine with licenced fisherman only permitted to take lobsters of a minimum size. It is a major industry with almost every sheltered harbour hosting a fleet of boats which lay pots in vast number. This means helmsmen must be extremely vigilant if they are not to get a lobster pot line tangled around the keel or rudder, or even worse, snagged up in the propeller. We have had several close shaves and have developed a slick ‘stop engine’ routine. So far so good ………... Our final night in the Sheepscot River was at Harmon Harbor from where we entered Casco Bay, anchoring our first night there in Quahog Bay a quahog is a bivalve mollusk unique to this coast and looks exactly like a clam. This morning we were close-hauled across the bay into Portland, Maine’s largest city and a pause to re-victual and visit some friends we met some years ago while cruising home from Svalbard.