Friday, June 27, 2008

The Maine State Bird is..... ?

[Maryanne]The Maine State Bird is.....The Mosquito

It's not my joke - it's a Maine Joke and so close to the truth it is NOT FUNNY - at least it was not last night when I gave up trying to eat my dinner and just threw it overboard, went to bed and hid under the covers. They are much larger than others I've seen - and no matter how many you kill, for each one, 10 more come in their place. They seem to appear at dusk only and with backup; although this morning I did find a few stragglers on the boat. I've spent a fortune on various bug deterrents today, and fully prepped the boat for tonight to protect myself - but they seem way more clever than I am, so I'm not holding out too much hope.

Oh - and apparently Black-capped Chickadee is the state bird of both Maine and Massachusetts!

Kyle returns home tonight :-) (very late) and the plan is to leave at some 0 dark 30 hours (and you know it gets light at 4:15am around here - yikes). I spent the day getting groceries, and topping up the water jugs - and some oil/fluids ready for the next change in the maintenance schedule. Simple quick chores you might imagine - but believe me NOT (well I guess they are simple, but certainly not quick). But this is how I get to be retired so I won't complain too much. (Sympathy is always accepted).

I stayed aboard the boat all day yesterday and did some sewing chores - luckily my sewing machine works via the 12V cigarette lighter socket. I repaired our flag that had become frayed after catching on fishing hooks and other snags (I'm working up to making some of the flags we will need once we leave the USA); I put chafe patches on our dinghy cover where it was showing signs of wear; and a made a seat cover for our helm seat - so we can leave it out in the cockpit and not worry about it raining (yes, strange isn't it that a boat seat is not designed to get wet?).

OK - I still have much to do to get the boat ready for sailing tomorrow so I won't say anything more.

Now where did I put that fly swatter? I need to be armed.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hampden, Maine

[Maryanne]Kyle is back at work, and my task is to have the boat ready and provisioned for the next leg of our trip. BUT first things first - it's been a while since my last shower, so I took a trip into Hampden to use the local swimming baths (exercise and a shower!)... I have been washing on the boat - but a shower makes washing my hair a much easier task.. Off I went on my bicycle (luckily the hills were all UP on the way there, and down on the way back).

Hampden is very small, and even its own town website doesn't list anything to do in Hampden in its visitor section! It does at least have a swimming pool. On the way home I also had my dose of girly and stopped off for a haircut (I think the first one this year!).

Still - Hampden IS in Rural Maine - so there are plenty of pretty sights like the one in this blog post - the picture is of Souadabscook Stream just as it passes under the road I had to cycle along, and before it feeds into the Penobscot River - pretty eh?

What with cycling, swimming and cutting off some hair - I weigh a lot less this afternoon; still plenty spare though - I DO need to work on that.

Oops, enough chatter, I'd better get on with preparing the boat.

Things are Looking Up

[Maryanne]Yes, we have internet on the boat again - I really was feeling very isolated, especially while Kyle was off at work - but now I have access again (although still waiting on phone signals!).

This weekend Kyle and I ventured a little further out in the Penobscot Bay - to the North point of Isleboro Island (Turtle Head Cove). The forecast was for thunderstorms and contrary winds, so we just hung out the whole weekend there (still no fish, and still trying). We did have some great weather (and some not so great - but luckily the not-so-great weather was at anchor). We spent our time reading, planning our next trip, and eating toasted marshmallows with all the glory (and mess!).

The steering wheel and the autopilot are all back together and working again - although we still have yet to remove the wheel; Kyle managed to replace the missed part without removing it. We do now at least have a jury rigged wheel puller that will help next time (thanks to fellow Gemini Owner Walt!).

This weekend we leave Bangor and take a slow tour down to the Boston area (still not exactly sure where - it costs $1000+ a month to moor (let alone Dock) in Boston downtown, so we know it won't be there!). Kyle has plenty of time from work to take the trip - so we will finally get to Mount Desert Island (home of Arcadia National Park, Bar Harbor, and the USA's only Fjord)... We are both REALLY looking forward to the trip - and to moving on / Sailing again..

Of course Maine is famous for its Fog. We have been lucky and not disrupted by it at all: whenever it's been bad we have been scheduled to stay where we were and whenever we needed to move, it has not been too bad - Lucky I guess... Now if only that Luck can jump to our fishing too! Anyway - here is Kyle enjoying the view in Turtle Head Cove - He made me post this.. (Sorry all).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Other Chores

[Maryanne]Here is Kyle cleaning the bottom of the boat at the water line last weekend. The current was strong, but he clung on with huge suction cups. I was there for moral support (Honestly).

One of the agreements we made regarding my retirement is that I would be able to do most of the boat maintenance so when Kyle was at home, we could both just relax - I really TRY to help - but on this occasion Kyle will have to be the hero and rescue me (again)...

Anyone that knows Kyle and I will know we like to be prepared.... As part of this we have an extensive spares selection on the boat - at the ready. One thing missing from the stores is a spare belt for our autopilot. I've been trying to purchase one for ages, but for some mysterious reason the supplier does not seem to be supplying any to the sellers - every so often I will chase a lead, and it always leads nowhere. Our local dockmaster suggested I can probably purchase one from a local company that makes belts for all sorts of things and could most likely match it.

What harm can it do to ask I thought! Well first I had to get the old belt off - which requires removing the steering wheel. There is available a special tool to remove the steering wheel, but in the past we had managed with brute force and a crow bar - I managed again. (Very proud of myself). It turned out this local manufacture could not match the belt - so I returned to the boat to put back the belt (I decided I'd take pictures to help the next time). I was being very diligent.. and quite smug with myself.. Just as I put the wheel back on, I noticed a part that should have been installed before this point - 3 days later I am still trying to remove the wheel. I have borrowed two different types of wheel pullers from the local boat yard (neither quite fit), I have been unable to purchase a wheel remover locally (They offered to order one at $100+) - so now I'm being a feeble female and waiting for Kyle to return home to rescue me (and the autopilot).

I did manage to test the electrolyte levels in the batteries... Not bad for 4 days "work".

Fort Point Lighthouse

[Maryanne]Firstly, I want to explain the lack of entries lately; there are several reasons.

1) We are in an area with no cell phone or internet coverage - so I have to go into Bangor to use the public library if I want to send email or use the internet
2) Bangor itself is pretty dull, or at least I have yet to find anything to excite me
3) The weather too has been dull, so I've not been that interested in exploring too much.

BUT - Kyle was home for the weekend, and despite the forecast we went sailing (but canceled plans to go camping). On the way up the Penobscot River we had passed by a State park (Fort Point, with its lighthouse). It is by a spacious bay, great for anchoring, so we decided to spend the weekend there, and take some time on land to explore the park.

The Park was tiny, so it didn't take long. We were glad to use their guest dock which made it very easy to explore, and once done, anchor in the bay. The lighthouse was the second of this type (with the separate fog bell tower) we had seen in the area, and I was really keen to take a better look at it. We could not go in the lighthouse, but at least the weather held out for us during our tour. As you can see, I was particularly taken with the mail box!

You are expected to pay to enter the park, and there are no gatekeepers, just a little box to deposit your money in - quaint! (Yes we did pay).

It did rain most of the weekend so we were happy to hang out in the bay and relax, catch up with some reading, etc. I'm still fishing and not catching anything. On this return trip up the river to our mooring, we swapped out lures, drifted, cast, trolled, did everything - but none of the fish want to be dinner. I'll keep trying, but will probably have that heart attack if I ever catch anything.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Portland to Bangor - Last Day

[Kyle] Ooh! today made up for all of yesterday's motoring. We were officially transitioning from Penobscot Bay to the Penobscot River. We got the mainsail up and sailed off the anchor and up towards Bangor. We saw the last of the seals sunning themselves on a rock as we turned out of the cove and headed into the steep gorge of the river.

The river is deep and green and lovely, with steep hills running up from its banks. The steep terrain funneled the wind so that it followed the river with us, giving us a direct tailwind the whole way into Bangor. About half a dozen times, the wind would get just a little too far to one side or the other so we'd gybe the main over for a while until the next one as we watched the scenery drift by. If the boat weren't so big, it would have felt like we were inner tubing in the mountains, only upstream. It was so peaceful, with only the wind in the trees and the birds breaking the silence.

The icing on the cake was that when we got to our mooring, we rounded up and picked it up while still under sail. we were even able to do it in a pretty leisurely fashion. And...AND, this is the best part. We had witnesses! It never fails that when you do something completely stupid, a hundred people are watching and when you expertly pull off some brilliant stunt, it's two o'clock in the morning and nobody saw it. Not even your wife believes you. This time, though, we beat the odds and pulled it off. A whole day of downwind sailing and I didn't even have to start the engine - Perfect!

Portland to Bangor - Day 3

[Kyle] The next morning we got up very early to a beautiful sunrise in patchy fog and not a breath of wind. My intent had been to motor North up the Bay until the wind filled in but we never saw more than three knots of it the whole day so it turned into a long day of the motor driving me nuts (yaargh!). Our route took us up through many little islands and we alternated between thick fog and clear, blue sky on the way. We also started to see higher mountains as we got further inland past the beautiful towns of Rockland and Camden. We finally anchored in a big semicircle at the very head of the Bay called Fort Point Cove. Our guidebook said it was only mediocre. We couldn't figure out why. I guess they figured they had to say it about somewhere, so they picked here. Maybe there's really good ice cream stands at all the other coves. I don't know. Maine is like that. It's really hard to find a place that doesn't just make your heart ache with the beauty of it all.

Portland to Bangor - Day 2

[Kyle] On the second day, the fog was gone. Instead of going out to sea in the direction from which we came, we went through a narrow channel through a drawbridge into Boothbay Harbor. The whole trip was just gorgeous and once we got out of the protection of the channel, we were able to get wind and sail all the way into our anchorage at Long Cove in Tenant's Harbor just inside Penobscot Bay. We anchored in a big, wide, protected bay ringed with islands that had views of the Atlantic and the Bay in between.

The one curious thing was the behavior of the local lobstermen. We anchored in the middle of a pretty big bay in a spot that was well away from any lobster pots or anything that resembled a channel or traffic area. Nevertheless, on several occasions, passing lobster boats would deliberately alter course to pass VERY close to us and leave a huge wake. On one occasion, I was doing dishes and I saw a boat that had previously waked us do a 180 degree turn and head full speed right at us. I was just starting to think about jumping overboard when he swerved out of the way with about 20 feet to go. For the life of us, we couldn't figure out what we must've done to illicit such behavior. Maybe it used to be Ol' Stinky's favorite spot or something. I don't know. Anyway, once lobsterin' hours were over, it was a very nice spot.

Portland to Bangor - Day 1

[Kyle] Well, Maryanne said I'd do it, so I'd better do it. Maryanne added the pictures later as I am in New Jersey at the moment and cannot.

Our first day out of Portland we sailed to yet another beautiful cove called Love Cove in Ebencook Harbor. This is just to the East of where we originally made landfall in Maine last month. The sail reminded me of flying in the Pacific Northwest in the winter. The fog came in right after we left the mooring and we didn't see anything except the occasional lobster pot float or a piece of driftwood coming out of the featureless void until we were almost there. I measured the visibility at between 250 and 300 feet most of the time, which would be too poor to takeoff or land in an airplane. I imagine that we were missing some really good stuff. The radar showed all kinds of returns. Fortunately they coincided with what was supposed to be there according to the map. The fog seemed to have kept everybody ashore as the only traffic we had was a Coast Guard buoy tender at the very start and a lobster boat that kept about a half mile back in the middle.

As we sailed inland toward our anchorage, we just sailed right out the side of the bank into beautiful clear skies. We anchored so close to shore that I was tempted to jump (just tempted) We were alone in a beautiful cove for a lovely sunset. It was a nice end to an otherwise featureless day.

Movie Pick

[Maryanne]When in Portland I mentioned a movie Young at Heart.. Actually it should be Young @ Heart, and Like I said, I recommend it.. Click on the link for reviews

Portland To Bangor

[Maryanne]I'll leave Kyle to write a more detailed report, but just to let you know we are now in Bangor (actually Hampden, but close enough). Our Marina has nice river (tree lined) views, but no showers or Laundry facilities, so the chores will keep me busy. Our last shower consisted of a swim off the back of the boat (thankfully the river water is WAY warmer than the bay/sea water this far north).

People were surprised to find we were planning to visit Bangor, and I suspected we would find the journey industrial and not very nice, but the opposite was true. The journey up to Bangor was wonderful, beautiful, and tranquil. We had great sailing, great anchoring, great views, and great weather. We seem to pretty much have the place to ourselves also. We even got to use our BBQ on the back of the boat (a Christmas present).

The weather here is wonderful, a little breeze and good warm sun (with nice long days too).. I'm going to make the most of it as I understand further South it is already WAY too hot.

It was not until we arrived in Bangor that it dawned on me why people were surprised at Bangor as a destination - it is because Bangor is so small, and really not that exciting (a bit run down, the only construction I noticed was a giant Casino!). On top of that, we have no cell phone nor internet coverage in the bay/river or city of Bangor (I'm performing this update from a local library).

Whilst enjoying breakfast in the cockpit yesterday I sat and watched a deer for 10 minutes on the river edge, so I know I can get relaxation here. I had hoped to plan a flight to visit friends while in Bangor - but without internet/phone that becomes too complex - so once the chores are done, I guess I'm planning on catching up with some reading, and possibly some fishing (rather than just trying) too while hanging out on the boat.

Kyle will post soon about the trip - Swing bridges, lighthouses, Fort Knox (a different one), bald eagles, mountains, and our first dose of Maine fog.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Exploring Portland

[Maryanne]There were so many things I considered doing in Portland, but the weather (cold, dull and drizzly much of the time) and chores limited my play time here. I would have liked to take the “Duck Tour”, that I kept bumping into as the boat/bus passed by my boat every day, and went from road to water at the marina we stayed at (Portland Yacht Services). I also (briefly) considered the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum, which was set in the same grounds as my Marina and had a 30 minute train ride around the peninsular – all for $2 adult fee… But I missed these things.

There were also SO MANY restaurants I had to choose from, and I wanted to try them all: from the famous / tourist lure of Di Millo’s Floating Restaurant; along with a host of breakfast cafes frequented by the local fishermen; Great Italian and pizza places; African restaurants, health food, etc.. For some reason Portland is FULL of Japanese restaurants (not my favorite) – but pick a food type and you can probably find it in walking distance of our marina! Portland is FULL of non-chain restaurants. But I had a dilemma. I didn’t want to blow my food budget without Kyle getting chance to share in it – So I limited myself to a select few restaurants:

Little Lad’s Vegan restaurant: where I had a help yourself buffet for under $4 – great food served by great people in a café/bakery type environment. I added desert to that and recommend you try the “nice cream” if you go!
Di Millo’s: which just had a great write up in the Continental in flight magazine (and also served free food at happy hour! For $2 beers and great soup / nibbles AND an amazing location on a boat with beautiful wood and nautical trim). Outside of happy hour, this place would be WAY out of my budget!
The Porthole Restaurant – a café style restaurant on one of the busy fishermen’s wharfs – Here I had an all you can eat fish fry for under $6, along with a cup of tea ($1). Great setting and food, (it is really nice inside, especially when you compare it to the rough outside appearance) but I had a Bit*h of server who soured the experience more than a little.
The Flatbread Company (Organic Pizza restaurant) – where Kyle and I sat near the wood fired pizza oven with a view of the river, on furniture made from reclaimed timber – and the food was GREAT!

Aside from eating, I walked the streets and got a feel for the place. After a while, I purchased a couple of self guided walking tours of the area. Portland was pretty much destroyed by fire several times, so the oldest of the buildings are really 1850’s but it seems that after the last fire, Portland really bounced back, and many of the buildings of this era are pretty impressive. I had hoped to go in to the Customs House, which I had read was just stunning inside, but this is closed to the public. Many of the streets are still cobbled, or at least have cobbles revealed under the worn out asphalt. The wharf/docks are ram-shackled with planking sidewalks still in some cases. I was amused to see an attorney office on one of the wharves, with customer parking on (rotting) wooden decks over the water – with a sign saying “Park at your own Risk”. I did take a guided tour of The Victorian Mansion a beautiful house built as a summer home for a Maine Native who had made it big in the New Orleans hotel business.

Many of the restaurants AND grocery stores are all organic in Portland; people walk around with their babies in baby-slings, or cycle with “kid additions” attached; people go jogging at lunch time; and rollerblading with their dogs in the evening. It is a healthy kind-a place. There are heaps of outdoor stores (including the famous native LL Bean); even 2nd hand sport stores larger than the “new” ones I was used to in Norfolk. Organic, Reclaimed and Recycled are being “lived” here.

Of course Portland also has an active lobster and fishing industry.. I wandered into a couple of different small fish markets / fish stores and was transfixed… Pushed back to a world of yesteryear – small rooms crammed with lobster tanks, displays of fresh seafood on ice. I purchased scallops (my favorite seafood) at one, and asked to take pictures; completely unfazed, Sarah volunteered to pose with a huge lobster for me.

Portland is full of certain types of stores – Yarn stores for example (maybe it is something to do with the long winters). There are also a host of second hand book stores which I was resisting until my last full day. What a boost to the morale to be told how I must be intelligent, interesting, and “deep” since only those kind of people shop in second hand book stores.. (Apparently people who shop only for new books are generally shallow in their thinking /knowledge, and just following the trends, those shopping in 2nd hand books stores are more liberal/green and generally “nicer people”). Luckily I didn’t get too proud as earlier in the week I had joined in the pub quiz at a local Irish bar – and in 6 rounds of 10 questions failed to get any that everyone else didn’t know… (example, 2 countries share a border with 13 others: China and Russia; What country is next sharing a border with 10 other countries….; I didn’t even get the right continent)

All in all, as usual pictures really don’t do it justice. As much as I love the place, I’m still not sure I would want to spend the winters here when snow and cold are a daily fact of life.

Oh and on one rainy day, I went to the local movie theatre, and watched a great fun documentary – “Young at Heart”.. I recommend it to any one feeling old!

The Marina we stayed at was more expensive than we had hoped, and could probably do with some TLC (and repair!), the ferries passing constantly caused some interesting wakes which ensured I ‘rose early every day, But the staff were just amazing… They all looked after me and asked after me; they were happy to chat and offered help with anything and everything. One even gave me a lobster (alive, put in my dingy as a parting gift) – so Lobster dinner tonight! So thanks to everyone at Portland Yacht Services

Next major stop: Bangor!