Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Toast to Vacations

Back at work since Monday and it feels good. More than good. You might have noticed the total lack of anything resembling "writing talk" in my vacation entries. Frankly, with all that was going on I had little time to contemplate much of anything in that regard. Didn't worry about it too much, though. I had the sense it was a good thing; that somewhere beneath all that fun the story wheels were turning, moving me toward a number of plot decisions I've been struggling with lately. Sure enough, after taking Monday to get caught up with 3-weeks worth of domestics and other pressing matters in our land-based world, I was back at it and quickly realized I knew exactly how to proceed. The way seemed utterly clear. Just proves the old adage that much of a writer's work is done away from the computer. Trust is called for, and patience a-plenty. Ideas are spun of gossamer, after all. They need time to churn and settle before finding their way to the page. So here's to vacations, where much of the hardest work is done!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Home Again, Home Again, Tickety-Boo

Our 9:30 a.m. departure Friday morning from Dipper Harbor was the start of a L-O-N-G overnight passage, one that didn't see us dropping the hook until 6 p.m. the next day. I have to say I really don't like overnights; they always kind of freak me out. We do it in two hour shifts, one of us always up, alert, and in the cockpit--tweaking sail trim and keeping an eye out for other ships. Cleave was on from 10 - 12; I took the 12 - 2 shift; he was on from 2 - 4; then I had the dawn watch. I gave him some extra time in the bunk then woke him with coffee and a hot breakfast.
Besides the loss of sleep (which leaves me feeling logy all the next day), I hate the reduced visibility at night--floating out there in total darkness with 300-400 feet of ocean beneath our 40 foot piece of fiberglass. But sometimes it's unavoidable.

Anyway, it was quite the relief to finally pull into Cape Porpoise, shrouded in fog as you can see, and drop the hook for supper and a good night sleep before continuing on the final 25 miles the next day. Couldn't leave the boat though, as we hadn't checked in with US Customs, which we did Sunday afternoon in Portsmouth.

Well, hope you enjoyed coming along on our sailing adventure; we sure enjoyed your company!

Headin' Home!

Wednesday proved to be a hot, windless slog back to the RKYC for our final night on the river. It was so hot, Cleave and I motored the 16 miles with the awning up! Hey, gotta do what you gotta do...

Once at the club, Cleave and I walked the 5 miles (round trip) to the grocery, then toted everything back--enjoying the much-needed exercise. After showers and cocktails with the crowd on Skater (see photo of the group arriving!), we took a cab with the group into the city of St. John for some shopping at the City Market and dinner st Billy's Chowder House. Excellent Bouillabaisse!

Knowing the tide would be slack at the Reversing Falls at 12:15 Thursday, our three boats left RKYC at 10:45 next morning, got through uneventfully, then said goodbye to St. John Harbor and sailed over to Dipper Harbor for out last night in Canadian waters. Dipper is a wonderful, working harbor where a long line of fishing boats nestle on moorings behind a huge, 30 foot tall breakwater. And after an uneventful night, Cleave and I said goodbye to the rest of the flotilla and blasted off for a non-stop, 40-hour sail back to Portsmouth.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Our Final Days on the St. John

Monday we once again had wind, and the three boats tacked back and forth across the Lake for a few hours before heading off toward Kingston Creek on Belleisle Bay. Now we are officially on the return run, planning another run across the Reversing Falls toward the mouth of the St. John River mid-day Thursday. On Kingston Creek we spotted a nesting pair of Bald Eagles, unfortunately too far away for a photo. Darn!
Tuesday morning we slept in, had a late breakfast of oatmeal with fresh blueberries, read a few hours, then motored the 10 miles back to Whelpley Cove for a last night before two of our party leave us.
This will probably be the last vacation post till we return to Portsmouth ,as we'll be offshore for several days. I promise the skinny on that when we hit the mooring!

Our Time on the St. John, Part 2, or "The Girl with the Dragonfly Tattoo"

Saturday the 17th dawned another fiercely hot day, and we spent the first part of it motoring to Gagetown, a small village that promised a very good pub for lunch. It was here that Cleave and I finally tried "poutine," an odd, uniquely Canadian plate of french fries smothered in gravy and curd cheese. I know, I know, but we had to try it. Thank God we split one dish, each ordering a salad to stave off a spike in cholestrol.

From there it was on to the back side of Grim Ross Island, which proved to be a favorite spot for the fast powerboat, water skying and jet ski crowd. Noisy, for sure, but highly entertaining.

Sunday morning dawned another hot one with the added bonus of high humidity. I took over for this leg which turned out to be a motorboat ride as there was no wind, doing the steering and navigating to Big Cove on Lake Washademoak on my own and somehow managing not to run aground in some very shallow waters. This was a pretty amazing place--peaceful and with warm waters perfect for swimming (see shot of the ladies in their water toys!) It was here that we encountered scores of mating dragon flies. Golden pairs, glittering teal pairs. Just beautiful. One pair even alighted on my arm for a bit, earning me the nickname The Girl with the Dragonfly Tattoo!!

Our Time on the St. John, Part 1

After a peaceful night on a RKYC mooring, we managed a trip into town for provisions, snagged a long hot shower courtesy of our hosts, then sailed downwind with our spinnaker up (you've seen these things--big, balloon-like sails that seem to float before the boat) in very hot temps for about 16 miles to Whelpley Cove, where Cleave and I managed a five mile walk to a produce stand. Re-energized by their amazing ice cream, we headed back, had celebratory cocktails on Skiya (one of our companion boats) and hit the sack.

I surprised Cleave with blueberry boatcakes in the a.m., then our little flotilla headed off once again--this another spinnaker run of about 28 miles to a place called Colwell's Creek. Along the way, we had a hard take down of the sail and lost the sheet (rope) when a shackle let go, sending the line racing through my hand and leaving me with terrible rope burns!! Not fun.

Colwell's Creek might be more aptly named "Cows Creek"--a narrow slice of water with herds of the things on both sides, low-ing to each other all evening and into the night. After dropping our anchors, one of our number located an abandoned steamship pier which we appropriated for an impromptu sunset BBQ.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bliss to St. John and the Reversing Falls

It was a rough rainy sail the next day, and we almost missed the planned 8:30 a.m. departure! Canadian time is one hour ahead of EST, and while I was good about resetting the clock in the main saloon, I completely spaced about setting the one in the forepeak, where we sleep. So when I woke at what I thought was 7:30 and looked around, I saw both other boats raising their mainsails and pulling anchor. It was really 8:30! A bit of scrambling ensued, but we managed to leave with our small fleet--sailing right into more fog which became one of the hardest rains I can remember. One of the other boats decided to sail through it, but we fired up the old "iron topsail," put the autopilot on (which C can drive from his nav station below), and had a toasty warm, albeit LONG and very rocky motorboat ride to St. John Harbor. It's been said (and I relay this with all modesty) that I could cook in a washing machine and I guess that's right. On one particularly memorable trip, and while in near-hurricane conditions during which most of the crew was on deck tossing their cookies, I was below happily putting the finishing touches on a roast chicken dinner). Anyway, I spent part of this nasty ride backing chocolate chip cookies which I presented to the crews of the other boats on arrival in St John.

Next on our list that day was navigating the Reversing Falls of the St. John River. This is an amazing place (see photo at slack tide, when the water at the falls is even on both sides). When tide is high or low, this literally becomes a waterfall, with a drop of as much as fifteen feet.

After successful navigating this tricky bit, we motored the final hour of hour 10 1/2 hour "sail" to the Royal Kennebecassit Yacht Club, arriving in time for this lovely sunset.

Welcome to Canada--eh?

Tuesday morning the 14th ( I think), we motored out of Mistake into yet more fog, heading to Head Harbor to clear Canadian customs. It was a terrific sail, once the sun burned off all the haze--doing more than nine knots. This is more than hull speed for us (defined as "one point three times the square root of waterline length," of which we have forty feet), but we were given a good kick by the Bay of Fundy tide. We were also able to clear in over the phone once we got into Head Harbor, unheard of after 9/11--or so we thought--but it saved a lot of time waiting for someone to drive in from God-only-knows-where, and we were able to hot-foot it the final hour over to a peaceful anchorage called Bliss Harbor for the night. These photos are of the beautiful dramatic coastline as we came into Canada, and the lovely Head harbor Light.

Of Rainy Lay Days

Sunday the 11th, Marty and Russ finally caught up with us at the Cranberries and we decided on a lay-day. Spent it reading, listening to the rain on the cabin top and cooking. Finally threw up our rain awning and hosted a little coctail party which was good for the soul. After a peaceful night sleep, we woke Monday to a clearing sky and lazed over breakfast in the cockpit (the Famous Skater Blueberry Cofffee Cake!!--email me for the recipe...), waited for the wind to come up and had a slow, unhurried sail up the dramatic coast of Mount Dessert and beyond--arriving at Mistake Harbor (near the Canadian border) just as the others were pouring the wine!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Friday to Saturday in Perry Creek, then on to the Cranberry Islands

So halfway down The Fox Island Thoroughfare, there's this nifty little anchorage called Perry Creek. The sun was out here--the fog drifting overhead looking for someplace else to land, I guess (Cleave says the heat from the land mass pushes it up and over till it reaches water again). We dropped the hook and spent the night, having drinks with friends from a few other boats we ran into. After a wonderful hike up the Fox Rocks to the top of the mountain (see photo of my hubby and one of Skater at rest) we had a great BBQ of ribs and hit the hay. Saturday dawned with foggy wisps trailing into the creek, so we threw up the main, pulled out the jib and sailed the 6 hours over to Little Cranberry Island, just off Mount Dessert, and waited there for the rest of our party to catch up. Marvelous dinner out at the Islesford Inn. Yay!

Foggy Rockland Departure

Sorry it's been so long between posts, but it's hard to find wireless when you're cruising 3 miles off the coast of Maine, often spending your nights in harbors inhabited by nothing more than seals and the occasional curious porpoise.

So anyway, after re-provisioning, we decided to leave Rockland on Friday (even though the other two boats in our entourage wouldn't be leaving till the next day), and even though a fog bank hovered ominously over Penobscot Bay just outside the harbor. What the hell, we decided--there must be something on the other side of it, right?! Gotta say, there's nothing quite as sphincter-puckering as sailing full bore though the fog in a channel busy with boat traffic. But sure enough, the fog lifted just as we entered the Fox Island Thoroughfare (lovely little waterway that separates the islands of Vinal Haven and North Haven) and I was able to grab these shots for you--one of a typical "Maine Cottage" (something with like 23 bedrooms) as well as a shot of the three masted schooner, "Victory Chimes."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Heading for Rockland

We spent much of Tuesday the 6th with Ellen, Don and Leslie--doing a Boothbay Harbor shopping trip, lunching out, doing laundry (the girls having gone through every towel on the boat in 4 days!) then a BBQ up at the cottage before kissing all goodbye and heading back to Skater. Up early Wednesday to head to Rockland via Mussel Ridge Channel, where we were met got it: fog! And I mean lots of it. Started to clear a bit just as we turned the corner at Owl's Head, making for Rockland Harbor--at least enough that I could grab this shot of the Blue Hills of Camden for you! Now it's tending to business for Cleave, while I top off the groceries and take care of miscellaneous chores before we head out on the next part of our adventure. Might be a while before you hear from us again as wireless is spotty, but I'll be able to post again withing the week.

Tentative schedule: Saturday: Rockland to Mackerel Cove, Swans Island; Sunday: Mackerel Cove to Mistake Harbor; Monday: Mistake to Head Harbor, where we clear Canadian customs, then Head harbor to Bliss Island.

Stay tuned!

The Fun Continues...

Monday morning, July 5th dawned oppressively hot, so we put off leaving Quahog Bay till we'd had a good long swim. This was to be our last leg to Boothbay where we'd drop the girls with Auntie E for the rest of the week and continue east to meet the two other boats accompanying us up the St. Johns River into Canada. No wind, so we were forced to motor the four hours to Back River (the back side of Boothbay Harbor) where we dropped the hook. The motoring made for a smoother ride--a nice change for the girls, who'd felt a bit "whoopsie" during the rougher first few days at sea. In the Back River, we were surprised to find Ospreys nesting everywhere--a truly wonderful sight as these magnificent birds were once rarely encountered here! We took the dinghy up the "crick" for fried fish at the Trevett Country Store, Lacey happy to finally have some of her beloved fried Maine shrimp, then "hit the hay."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Of Casting Off and Little Girls

Vacation begins!! Saturday afternoon, July 3, our erstwhile crew of ten-year-old girls dropped the mooring and we trading the near hundred degree temps of Kittery, Maine for a stunning, if roly, four hour sail to Cape Porpoise, Maine. Lacey and Tori escaped most of the heat by riding behind in the cooler, though bouncy dingy. Next day, July 4th, dawned just as sunny and hot but with little wind, so we motor-sailed the 6 hours (hear refrains of "Are we there yet?)" to Quahog Bay and spent much of the late afternoon swimming. A BBQ dinner complete with deviled eggs (thanks to the girls' efforts) and a dinghy explore with Cleave completed our day. It was early to bed that night as all were exhausted, but Lacey woke me about ten to see three different towns' fireworks exploding in different parts of the night sky. Very cool!