“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


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Wind & Weather (or Lack Thereof): Our trip to Maine

(Finally got around to finishing this post I had as draft for a long time.)

Each summer we try to take a week or more off to do some local cruising.  In 2011, the first season we had Smitty, that meant the relocation sail from Warwick, Rhode Island to Hingham, Massachusetts.  That was only about 200 nautical miles but fog, thunder storms and rough seas conspired to make that trip take 8 days.  That included three days fogged in at the mouth of the Cape Cod Canal.

Last year, 2012, we went south to Buzzards Bay.  We had great weather for the most part and were able to causally sail to Plymouth, Falmouth, Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard, Cutty Hunk and back again.  The only real challenging days where when we crossed Vineyard Sound.  The first day, going to Menemsha, was just some high winds that peaked at close to 35 kts before we made the harbor.  The next day when we sailed from Menemsha to Cutty Hunk we again had 25 to 35 kts winds with 8-12 foot breaking seas on our beam.  That was a great test for Smitty and her crew.  We definitely built up some confidence in our boat that day.

This year we headed north.  Our plan was to cruise the southern coast of Maine as far north as the Portland area.  We knew this would miss some of the best cruising grounds Maine has to offer but for our first trip we thought it would be a good start.

The trip began with a buddy boat sail to Gloucester on the 4th of July.  I shouldn’t say sail because there was no wind, less the 5 kts, and we motored the entire way.  Our friends Pam and Chris joined us on their Catalina 30, Wind Chaser.  Tom and Nance on Sunshine also joined us but they got a late start after they left their cat at the dock and had to turn around to go get her.  It was an easy passage and we stayed at Cape Ann Marina for two nights to enjoy the area.

Cape Ann Marina has a good restaurant on the premises, an indoor pool with a bar and a island theme bar that has live reggae on Friday nights.  We’ve been here before and now do an annual trip with a bunch of other boats (that’s coming up Labor Day Weekend).  A short dingy or cab ride away is downtown Gloucester that has more great restaurants and bars.

We did some dingy exploring and found the Madfish Grille in the Rocky Neck.  We were looking for a place to dock when we were almost hit by a fish carcass thrown from the window of Madfish by the sushi chef.  We tied up to their dock.  Very cool open air vide with reggae playing, very reminiscent of a Caribbean bar.  Some of the best rum punches we’ve had since our trip to the BVIs.  After a couple of rum punches we went exploring the local artist galleries.  We came across  the Imagine Gallery.  The coolest thing about this gallery is that they operate on the honor system and there is no one manning a register.  You right down your purchase in a note book and leave cash, check or an IOU.  There is cash in there to make change if needed.

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After thoroughly annoying Chris with “artist crap” we returned to the Madfish for some snacks.  My Bride and I split some sushi that was some of the best we ever had.  It was a maki roll called The Glosta that had tuna and avocado covered with spicy broiled scallops, fresh crab, tempura flakes and  scallions.

After our snack, we did some more dingy exploring.  We checked out Ten Pound Island and the stand for the Gleasy Pole.

That night we enjoyed the live reggae at the Bridge Deck bar at the marina. Great band and lots of fun with friends.

The next morning we took Smitty up the Annisquam River with a couple of inflatables in tow.  We spent a great day at the beach.  Beautiful white sands and warm water.  We do love this spot.  Our friends Jenn and Jeff joined us.  It was a great day.

The sunsets on the Annisquam are a great sight.  It’s one of the few spots in Massachusetts where you can see the sun set on the water.

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The next morning we left the Annisquam heading north.  We had planned on sailing but the wind didn’t want us to.  So we powered for about 6 hours past the Isle of Shoals and made our way into Wentworth Marina.  It’s a great high end marina in Portsmouth, NH.  Not that close to down town Portsmouth but they have loaner cars or you can take a taxi for $15.  (By the way, this is where the photos of our trip will end because I dropped my iPhone in the ocean when we got back before I had a chance to download the photos.  Part of the reason it took me so long to finish this post.)

We went to down town Portsmouth and did a tour of the Portsmouth Brewery.  A very cool local spot that brews their own beer and was where the idea for Smutty Nose Beer was born.  If you are in the area, do the tour.  They don’t get a lot of people who do it but its really cool to see how they set up their systems and you get some free tasting samples at the end.  There is also a great local coffee shop called Common Ground just up the road.  They use the beans from Common Ground to make the mocha stout.

Our friends Tom and Nancy on Sunshine joined up with us again in Portsmouth.  They found a nice mooring just outside of the Wentworth Marina that is part of a federal program that makes it free to transients if not in use by the person who leases it.  Good to know.  The next day we took the loaner car for a spin to do a little more provisioning.  Of course we had to make another stop at the Portsmouth Brewery.  Need to get a couple beers to take with us for the rest of the trip.

Here is where our Maine cruise fell apart.  We had planned to go up to Kennebunkport next.  About a 8-10 hours sail.  But thunderstorms came rolling in.  They were pretty severe too.  They kept us in Portsmouth for an extra day.  Not a big deal.  We cooked some dinner and had Tom and Nancy over to watch Riding Giants (life changing movie for Tom and I see why).

Then the next day thunderstorms were predicted for the afternoon again.  We didn’t have a long enough window to make it to Kennebunkport.  So we decided to make a shorter jump of about 2-3 hours to York Harbor, Maine.  This would have been a simple trip except the wind was dead on our nose and we only had about a 4-5 hour window before the storms came in.  So it was more motoring then sailing.

York Harbor is a great spot (good thing when you hear the amount of time we spent in the harbor).  Its a harbor in a river with a good 4-6 kts current.  The guide books and a short conversation with the harbor master told us to hit this area at slack tide or with the tide just turning against you.  If you try to go with the tide you might end up moving too fast to have good steerage.  This was good advice as there are a lot of rocks and shoals and the channel is rather narrow.

Once inside it was a great little harbor.  The harbor master maintains a couple of moorings, maybe 10.  The downside of being in a river is you often end up bumping against the mooring ball in the middle of the night waking you up and sending you out on deck to makes sure everything is ok.  You have one restaurant on the harbor and a couple others you can walk to once you dingy ashore.  There is a local yacht/sailing club for kids.  They have a dock that they let us use to land and it was fun to watch the kids go out for a sail in the afternoon breeze.  The prime spot we liked was the Ship Cellar Pub in the basement of the York Harbor Inn.

The whole inside of the pub is made to look like you are inside an old sailing ship.  They make really good rum swizzles and had a happy hour buffet that was actual meal worthy food, not just snacks.

We also took the dinks for rides up and down the river.  Went to the Wiggly Bridge for a walk with Summer.  But by far the highlight of the trip was buying lobsters directly from a lobsterman.  We saw a couple of lobster boats moored about 100 feet away so when I saw them come back in the afternoon I took the dingy over there and asked to buy a few lobsters.  We knew that lobsters were going for about $9.99 a pound back in Mass but didn’t know what to expect to pay from the lobsterman.  We agreed we wouldn’t pay more then $30 for 3 lobsters.  So I ask the guy for 3 lobsters around 1.5 pounds each.  He hands me 2 about 1.5 pound lobsters and 1 about 2.5 pound lobster.  I ask him how much and he tells me $10.  I was thinking $10 a piece and hand him $30.  He laughs and hands me back a twenty.  Nope, he meant $10 for all 3!  I went back to the boat and the Bride and I steamed them up in the galley in some of the beer from the Portsmouth Brewery.  Added some drawn butter and summer slaw from the refer.  We had ourselves a nice lobster dinner in the cockpit for less than $15 total.

Now here is where our cruising Maine story get’s typical.  We never left York Harbor!  Next morning, fog followed by thunderstorms.  Next morning extremely thick fog.  We ran into the lobsterman who sold us the lobsters two days before and he said he wouldn’t go out in the fog.  (He did offer us the use of his truck if we needed to go to the store.  People aren’t that nice in Mass.) Next morning fog again.  We decided to make a try for it.  We have radar after all.  We got outside the harbor and we couldn’t even see the bow of our boat.  Fog was just too thick. You can’t avoid lobster pots when you can’t see them and the area is just loaded with them. So we turned around and went back.  Tom and Nancy were still having their coffee in the cockpit (they didn’t have jobs to get back to so they were going north, further into Maine when the fog cleared).

Finally, the fog was light enough for us to make our escape from York Harbor.  But it was Friday and we had to be to work for Monday.  We headed south on an early departure.  We started the day with good conditions and we were finally able to sail. We had about 20 knots of wind on a beam reach.  For the most part we had following to quartering seas at about 2-4 feet.  That made for a nice comfortable ride under head sail only all the way down to Isle of Shoals making about 5-6 knots.  As we rounded Isle of Shoals the wind and the current slightly shifted with us keeping us on largely the same tack.

However, as we got out of the lee of Isle of Shoals the waves and wind started to build.  By the time we were about halfway between the Isle of Shoals and the mouth of the Annisquam River the waves were closer to 6-8 footers with the occasional 10 footer mixed in.  The wind has also increased to about 30 knots.  We furled in some head sail and were still making good speed, about 4-5 knots VMG with playing the waves.  But the quartering seas were starting to wear us down.  They are not very comfortable with our fat ass (the wide stern of Smitty).  Each wave picks us up and surfs us down the face of the wave.  Sometimes pushing us as fast as 9 knots while going down the wave.  The winds were starting to shift on us too making it more of a beat into the wind.  So we adjusted our course for comfort.  This took us a little farther out on Cape Ann.  Eventually we reach the point were we needed to turn and run dead with the waves into the mouth of the Annisquam.  We furled the sail and turned on the engine for that part.  That was again a little white knuckle but once we got inside the mouth of the river the sea state calmed to almost nothing.  The wind was still blowing at around 35 knots now.  We decided the best thing to do was to get into the lee of Cape Ann.  So we proceeded down the river and got a mooring in Gloucester Harbor for the night.

The mooring was nice and close to our favorite sushi joint, the Madfish Grille. We took the opportunity to get some sushi from there for the second time on this trip.  We decided to get some take out and eat in the cockpit since it was a nice warm night in the lee of Cape Ann.  Jumped in the dinghy and my Bride took Summer for a walk while I got our food.  While in the bar waiting for that delicious sushi, I noticed a couple of guys change their seats at the bar.  It wasn’t until later that I realized they moved because I smelled.  A week on the boat and I hadn’t had a shower.  It was really too cold for the cockpit shower, even with hot water.  Oops.  Oh well,  we still enjoyed the sushi.

The next morning the wind was gone again and we had an uneventful trip back to Hingham.

I liked Maine and would like to see more of it but it just isn’t practical to do for a one week vacation.  There is still so much more to see up there.  I hope we will head back at some point.


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Blog-Based Cruising Book Exchange

As we continue to get rid of stuff and hoping for our house to be under agreement by the time the boat goes back in the water in April, we came across a few items we weren’t sure how to handle.  As part of our prep to head out cruising we have been buying and reading lots of nautical themed books.  Some will make good reference but others aren’t worth keeping around once you read them.  So instead of donating these books with the rest to Good Will, we decided to offer them to other wannabe cruisers.

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So if you see a title you like, leave a comment asking for that book and we will mail it to you. I can’t say we loved all of them but they did tell us something about the lifestyle we want to live.

Fair winds,

Jesse