Friday, September 28, 2012

A Maine Experience

We had stayed a bit longer in Maine than we had originally planned. There was a distinct end to the summer weather about 2 days before the end of August.  Despite the cooler weather I braved the cold because we had an opportunity to share this vacationland (as Maine advertises quite accurately) with 2 sets of friends. It was well worth it.  In fact, there is nothing bad I can really say about the weather we had in Maine.  Most days were balmy and the nights were cool.  We had some fog (a Maine experience) and some rain but not much.  The wind was calm, most of the time we woke up to mirror-calm waters, and we were able to do little sailing (actually sailing was kind of stressful because of all the lobster pots) until the end of our stay; but that made for very leisurely passages—the whole trip was very relaxing and I feel finally now that I am getting in the groove of retirement and cruising.  

Maine was amazing!!  Another universe!  I loved the rocky shores, the large tidal range (10-12 feet in some places) that constantly changed the landscape, the seaweeds, the myriad islands covered with trees. Moss-carpeted forests occurred on the smallest of islands.  The smells of the seaweed that could be detected even in the fog when you approach land, the earthy forest smells, the stands of small fir trees that looked and smelled like a Christmas Tree Lot.  The beaches were all different—some were big rocks, some were small rocks sorted to many different sizes from sand to cobbles, shells of periwinkles, some were blue from crushed mussel shells. A few times I put on my wetsuit to look at the sealife.  There were always brilliant orange colors from the Tunicates and the rockweed at higher tides was a forest abounding with large (1.5”) mysid shrimp.  I found lobsters both small and large under rocks and lots of green crabs and rock crabs.  Curiously, there were few fish and most were hiding under rocks. We didn’t even begin to see all of it—we will be back.

Our plan in Maine was to travel to Somes Sound and also to eat lobster and blueberries to excess.  We achieved all goals.  On our way to Somes Sound, the only true fjord in the US (and I am still not sure why), we stopped at several anchorages at Vinalhaven Island, and Deer Island, stopped at Booth Bay Harbor, and Rockland. Coastal Maine is very fishing oriented, as it has been for 300+ years, and it was usually a short dingy ride to the local lobster dock.  Blueberries were a little bit harder to find.  We discovered that we had arrived at the end of blueberry season so we were not able to collect them on the islands as we had hoped.  Bill was very disappointed.  We were desperate near the end of our stay and paid $4.50 for a quart at an expensive market.  On our return trip to Rockland, though, we knew that a farmers market was there on Thursdays—we had just missed it the previous time because we had to walk 4 miles to pick up a part for the propeller (we had lost the zinc and its bolt when a lobster pot line got tangled up in it.  I was praying to find a blueberry stand there and found one that sold 5 pound boxes.  I bagged them up and froze some of them—we had blueberry pandowdy, pancakes, muffins, and pie.  They had 10 lb boxes too but I was afraid that much would not fit in my small freezer--maybe.   In Seal Bay we noticed fishermen collecting steamer clams in the mornings on the shore.  Steamers are a different kind from the cherrystone/quahogs that we usually get.   I got in my Kayak one day and paddled over to them to ask if they would sell me some.  Of course they did—we kept them in a net in the water all day to let them flush then cooked and ate them that night---this was a meal that rivals lobster. 

Somes Sound splits Mt. Desert Island right down the middle.  Much of Mt. Desert Island is in Acadia National Park but there is a village at the end of the sound and a bus service that will take you all around the island.  We rode the bus to Bar Harbor to get some groceries and look around.  Bar Harbor is a tourist town, and during the summer season, is pretty busy and crowded.  

Seal Bay at Vinalhaven Island was one of my favorites.  We chose it because the guide said that it was secluded.   However the day after we anchored a large group came in with 25+ boats.  They kept coming in all day and we considered moving but they told us they would be gone the next day.  They were and I am glad we stayed because we were able to get the clams. We took our friends Judy and Andy there—it is a beautiful place. 

Another favorite place is Jewel Island.  It was the first place we landed in Maine and, because it was close to Portland, we took our friends, Dennis and Debbie, there.  This is a state park, with a beautiful anchorage, many hiking trails and, as I have talked about before, a great tidal pool.  We spent a whole day hiking and, when we came upon a goldenrod flower field, found it populated with hundreds of butterflies.  Most of them were Monarch butterflies that were feeding up for their migration but there were Admirals and a Question Mark butterfly too.  I took a zillion pictures but none of them do justice to the sight.  We also saw many different caterpillars—some quite colorful. 

After we delivered Debbie and Dennis to an airport-bound taxi in Portland, Maine then set our sights south.  There was so much more to see in Maine but the days were getting shorter and the temperature colder (and you know I don’t like cold)—we will be back.