Monday, May 27, 2013

.. And on to Portland

[Kyle]Portsmouth, NH to Portland, ME

As seems to be usual these days, my commute had me arriving home after the last long walking leg at Midnight. I was tired and could have used a full night’s sleep for a change, but the weather and tides were not cooperating. The best thing for us to do in order to assure that we had both good tailwinds for the offshore leg, and would not have to fight the strong current in the Piscataqua River, was to leave as soon as possible at the first hint of morning twilight. Maryanne kindly did virtually all of the necessary preparations the day before in preparation for our early departure.

We left at the peak of the ebb current, which allowed us to slide out sideways from the mooring field while moving forward in the rushing water. Once clear, we hoisted a reefed mainsail, turned down river and were hastily washed out to sea. In the open ocean, we found the wind to be less than forecast. I briefly considered shaking out the reef, but decided to hold out until after the sunrise lull. It worked. The wind filled in and soon after we were charging up the southern Maine coast carrying less sail than we technically could handle. Our speed was comfortably in the 9kts and our rig wasn’t straining for it, so we enjoyed the nice, smooth motion of a downwind sail on a clear, sunny day. Maryanne made a big breakfast and we were each able, in turn, to finish our night’s sleep before we made it to the entrance to Portland Harbor at Cape Elizabeth.

Arriving in Portland, Maine

As we approached land, the wind shifted constantly and became gusty, making me glad our sail plan had been conservative. We entered Casco Bay and sailed very close by Portland Head Light in order to keep clear of the main shipping channel. As we did, we snapped pictures at the waves crashing on the rocks by the lighthouse as visitors there snapped pictures of the sailboat sailing by.

We had made such good time that we were safely secured at a mooring at Portland Yacht Services by noon, instead of around sunset as I had originally estimated when I planned the route before the current forecast. We used the extra time to head ashore for an orientation. We meandered along, exploring new things and pointing out to each other things we remembered from our last visit five years earlier.

Toward day’s end we were getting hungry. We looked at several menus along the way, but Maryanne convinced me that I just had to go to Happy Hour at DiMillo’s, since I had missed it the last time we had gone through Portland. It was wonderful. DiMillo’s, built on a beautifully restored ferry is a real Portland landmark. Ordinarily, their fare is way beyond our budget, but their Happy Hour is an amazing deal. Their drinks are reasonably priced (barely discounted), but the best thing is that it includes a buffet. There are the usual bar snacks like chips and salsa or raw vegetables and dip interspersed with some real gems from their kitchen: chowders, bisques and seasoned potatoes. The barman was warm and friendly. I asked him what he had on tap that was good. He suggested three local beers as well as the best order to enjoy them for optimal flavor. Well now that I had a path, I couldn’t just buy one and stop partway. He just sold me three beers and made me think it was my idea. Smooth.

De Millio's bar for Happy Hour (and restaurant)

In the end, we left full and pleasantly tipsy for what it would have cost us for a couple of appetizers in most places. On our way out, Maryanne stopped at the desk and asked the proprietress if it would be okay for us to look around the non-Happy Hour sections. “Of Course!” came the answer, giving us a chance to peek at the gorgeous dining room and the still empty outside deck upstairs. Well done, Maryanne.

Maryanne had read on some tourist website that the top two rated eating establishments in Portland are both Gelato shops, and they’re right across the street from one another. We decided to work off our buffet and beers with an expedition to one of them. We decided on Gorgeous Gelato with a coin toss over their rival, Gelato Fiasco. I started with a taster spoon of their Limoncello. I like and will eat other types of gelato but, for me, lemon is the benchmark for making comparisons. It was marvelous. They generously offered to let us try as many as we liked. I surprised myself by leaving at the end not with Limoncello, but with a cone full of two flavors, one called simply “Gorgeous” and the other a really dark chocolate. I was a happy man on the walk home.

Portland: Day 2

We had intended to spend more time exploring the Portland the next day, but it didn’t exactly work out that way. The night before, I had slept fitfully because I was worrying about our steering. The steering seemed to work fine, but I remember thinking on a couple of occasions since we had the stop limit brackets fixed in Boston that it seemed a little stiff when hand steering. At the time, I managed to somewhat successfully convince myself that it was my imagination and that nothing was really wrong. I had gone through the whole thing in Deltaville the year before on the refit and it was in good shape then. I wasn’t sure, though, and now it was bugging me.

So I spent most of the day taking our steering system apart and putting it back together again, slowly working my way through the linkage step by step until I was sure there was no jamming or excess friction in any part of the system.

With my mind at ease, we still had time for an early dinner at the Flatbread Company, a free-range, organic pizza place on the waterfront. Our timing was bad. A group of kids were just finishing up a recital on string instruments when we left, so it was standing room only. We waited 30 minutes, enjoying the eclectic locals and then our table was free. By the time our food came, the place was back to being a cozy spot to eat dinner and talk about what it was like to be all the way back here again and about all of the places we’ve seen in between. I still can’t believe it all.

After dinner, we decided to rectify our passing on Gelato Fiasco the night before by paying them a visit. This time, I started with lemon, tasted my way through a few flavors, and ended walking out with a big cup of lemon. Wow! The place in Milazzo was better, but only slightly. That’s the end of the list. That was some magnificent gelato!

Well fed on Pizza and ice cream in Portland, Kyle was (physically at least) ready to head back to work - Sunrise on the walk to work

Maryanne in Portland

I walked with Kyle to the airport in Portland early the following day (just under 6 miles), and then ambled back a more scenic route past various public parks and spaces; Portland seems filled with running trials, and cycle paths, all that (wonderful) lefty-liberal stuff we like.

Walking around Portland, sunshine makes everything extra beautiful. A few cities in the USA have fire-alarm-box systems, I quite like Portland's version

Over the days Kyle was away, I explored a few more of the trails, and even caught a little too much sun one day but each day focused on some minor chore (housewife or boatwife variety). The weather was kind, and I found time to volunteer again (as I had way back in 2008) a few hours at the Maine Island Trail Association office. I also wanted checked out at least one of Portlands local breweries, I tried the Shipyard Brewing Company which offer a video and tasting session (for free!); the generous multitude of beers to taste was wasted on me, but I'll definitely try and persuade Kyle to visit if we get a chance travelling south again.

1 comment:

Mommy Dearest said...

So good to read at least this far. I always start on these posts just as I'm heading off to bed, and then get sucked in by news of your adventures. My eyes are bleary tonight, though, so I'll read the more current posts tomorrow, time willing, but thank you, thank you, thank you for writing.