Serenity Finally Headed “Down East” - 2010
by Barbara Garland
It was a hot July and early August heading “south” to see friends and family and attending a Cuttyhunk rendezvous. ‘Serenity’ – our BIG boat – a Morgan 38, was moved to Saco Maine in mid August to get ready to head “Down East” but there were still other things to do. As there wasn’t a NE-TS rendezvous in Rockland, there wasn’t a push to leave by a specific date. The last company left on August 30 and we headed for the boat – food packed and cat on board.
There was one problem – EARL (as in the hurricane coming up the coast). It made no sense to leave the protected mooring if this storm was really going to hit so we decided to enjoy life on Saco River. We spent several afternoons on shore – it was cooler- and we actually got to visit a museum.
We headed home Friday night before the storm – not so much because of the storm as much as to help Loyd’s daughter in the last few steps of moving back to California.
We were back on board ‘Serenity’ early on Monday (9/6) and headed out. The seas were rolly and the wind was out of the southwest – down wind. With a motor on we made it all the way to Boothbay – 40 miles.
Tuesday was a “lets keep going” day so we added another 40 miles to our trip log. There was less wind and some current up “Mussel Ridge Channel” heading into Penobscot Bay. Because there were no boats to meet in Rockland and no provisions needed, we headed right through Fox Island Thorofare and, after stopping to check out Perry Creek and deciding it was going to be hard to find a nice place to anchor, headed back to Carver Cove.
The cove is open and empty with good protection from the Southwest through Northwest and we had spent a night there 2 years ago with the NE-TS group. The holding ground is great and though there were another boat and a schooner in there we felt like we had the place to ourselves.
The evening was still ‘warm’ out and the sky was clear. With no light pollution, and no moon, the stars were exquisite. After 2 days of sailing hard it was time to kick back and relax. Wednesday dawned cloudy with rain predicted so we stayed put, made a pot of soup – corn Chowder with corn muffins - and worked to catch up on reading.
Because we were a week behind our normal Down East trip, on Thursday we decided not to head further east and headed north to Bucks Harbor at the northwest end of Eggemogin Reach. We started out sailing but ended up motoring as the wind died. This is some of the prettiest area of Penobscot Bay and it was enjoyable to drift along for a while enjoying the scenery (and dodging the lobster buoys). We have a friend who has a mooring in the harbor and we arrived about noon – just before the showers hit.
Friday dawned very blustery so we didn’t even venture out in the dinghy. Heading out Saturday morning to Belfast, one of our favorite towns, we rolled out the genny in the nice north wind and had a nice broad reach for about an hour. Then the wind decided to pick up and our course changed so we rolled up the genny and motored the 5 miles up wind. The current was with us but, with the wind against the current, it was a rough ride. We at least got to sail the last 5 miles into Belfast.
Belfast, like a lot of towns on the water, has docking facilities to allow small cruise ships to dock. This has created a waterfront area with lots of fun places to eat, stores to visit and things to do. Saturday night there was a folk singer and 2 poets at “Roots and Tendrils” for a $5 donation. What a great time we had. Sunday there was a “Wiener Fest” (right up Dan and Nancy’s alley) with a costume parade, wiener races, hot dog eating contests (for the dogs), and more different breeds of Dashunds than I have ever seen.
We finally got in touch with Bruce and Pam and made arrangements to try to meet them the following weekend, so Monday (9/13) we headed south. Again, forecast of showers and thunder storms pushed us further on Monday to Rockland. Temperatures were cool enough so we didn’t want to be caught out in the rain and were grateful for a diesel heater on board. We got some great pictures of rainbows in Rockland harbor but had another day of sitting and another pot of soup – this time home made lentil soup and corn muffins.
Wednesday dawned beautiful, a nice northwest wind, an outgoing tide and we were headed south down past Owls Head Light, through Mussel Ridge Channel and west into Port Clyde – another of our favorite stops. We finally got in a good sail but as the morning progressed the wind picked up and we would have been happy for a little less wind. Lunch was at the restaurant on the wharf, ice cream at the local store and then we walked to Marshall Point Lighthouse.
The plan was to spend an extra day but the weather for Thursday night and Friday was bad (and the forecast was very right) so we headed out to Boothbay on Thursday. Of course the wind was on the nose and lots of rocks, small islands and shallow water along the route so we motored again. We are starting to consider this a “trawler” we motor, but can sail if the conditions are right.
By this time we were almost out of fresh food but within a day of home so rather than stocking up we had dinner on shore. We spent another “down day” in Boothbay but I got to write most of this on Friday morning. It did clear up around noon on Friday but the wind was still up so we were glad to be in a safe harbor. . Boothbay is another cute town with lots of little stores so I headed into town late in the afternoon to do some early Christmas shopping and we headed back for prime ribs for dinner.
Saturday morning was windy, but after our experience heading to Robinhood from Boothbay last year on a rough day, we knew we could head up Townsend Gut, through the swing bridge across the Sheepscot River and into Robinhood Marina. The trip through the Gut was breathtaking – quaint houses along shore and areas with open fields. We had a shorter trip by boat than Bruce and Pam had by car so we were at Robinhood by mid morning. Last year we had made some corn chowder with an ingredient Bruce couldn’t eat so this year we promised him Corn Chowder and cornbread for lunch. We hadn’t seen Bruce and Pam since the holiday party last year so we did a lot of catching up and no sailing. Dinner was out again at a restaurant at the marina.
The weather was not cooperating this year and we spent Sunday on shore (it was great to have a car and chauffeur) while another hurricane came up the coast. It was far enough off shore so there wasn’t too much wind but the seas were 6-9 ft. Bruce drove us down to Five Islands Harbor and Pam and I had a great Maine lobster dinner on the wharf. Bruce and Loyd opted for fried fish. The scenery was gorgeous and we could watch the big rollers break on shore about 5 miles up the river.
After worrying about the trip back to Saco on Monday and then seeing the seas on Sunday afternoon, I finally realized that all though the seas would be big, the distance between them would be so great (over a minute by Monday) it wouldn’t be too bad. So we headed out Monday morning with a double reefed main and a small section of genny rolled out in a northwest wind. The first hour or so was down wind – out the Sheepscot River then a nice broad reach across Casco Bay to our mooring up the Saco River. We were playing trawler again with the motor on even though we were sailing as the winds were predicted to increase as the day went on. We could see the outer bands of the hurricane out to sea and the seas were interesting. They didn’t rock us very much as they were hitting us broadside. We were just lifted up on to the crest of one and down into the next trough. When they say “6-9ft seas”, it’s amazing how different they can be. We almost didn’t notice them until we got closer to land and then every so often a 9 footer would come along and we couldn’t see land for a short time. We purposely stayed off shore in deep water. As we got closer to Saco the wind picked up and we were glad we had put in the double reef on the main. We could also see the waves breaking against the rocks and the wind blowing the spray back out to sea. The weather prediction was right again – well almost – the winds were about 10 knots stronger than predicted and building by the time we reached the mouth of the river – so we were glad we had run the engine all the way down. We averaged 7.5 knots on the 41-mile trip down.
We called Bruce and Pam to let them know we had made it down safely and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing. We ate the last of our fresh food (hot dogs) for dinner and spent Tuesday bringing the boat into the dock at Marston’s Marina (it’s closed during the week after Labor Day so we could take our time) cleaning up the boat, filling the water tank offloading a lot of dirty clothes, bedding, some extra canned food, books computer, cat (yes Renny the Cat was with us through the whole adventure) etc and headed home. That saved us several dinghy trips to get everything onto shore. Although we were only “gone” for 16 days, we had been in cruising mode for 3 weeks so it was time to head home.
We were back on the boat the following Saturday (9/25) to bring the boat the last 40 miles back to Portsmouth NH. Heading out Sunday in what was supposed to be 8 to 10 knot winds from the northeast we found the weather report was wrong this time. At least we had planned to motor sail with only a genny as we were headed downwind. By the time we were into Portsmouth harbor the winds were up to 20+ knots and the seas had built to 3 to 5 ft and close together. It was another record passage averaging 7.5knots for the trip and a record 5 ½ hours for the trip.
Though the cruising time “Down East” was shorter, cooler and rainier this year than the past 2 years, it was great to get up there and enjoy the scenery and the laid back life of the coast of Maine.
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