Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Can you hear me now?

Um, no, not really.

Usually when we travel, everything is just the same when we come home. This time it's pretty much like that, but with one glaring exception: apparently, while we were gone, Verizon was taken over by Zombies.

I should backtrack a bit and tell you that we had Verizon for many years and everything was fine; good quality, good connection. As we sailed through Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean we left Verizon and bought sim cards from a bunch of different providers using their prepaid data plans. We generally got a good signal while anchored in the harbors and bays of these third world countries, and sometimes even while underway.

When we got to Puerto Rico  (which is an American territory) we got an AT&T sim card and used it successfully in Florida and all the way up the East Coast.

When we got to Rockland, Maine it did not work at all! (Apparently everyone knows this except me.) With our daughter in the hospital back home in California, I was in a tizzy, so we immediately went to the Verizon store and got yet another sim card. And it worked fine in Rockland where I purchased plane tickets online to fly home.

Unfortunately the minute I arrived home, Verizon's service became untenable. Dropped calls, no data, and "Can you hear me now?" again and again.

I called Verizon three times and finally found a tech who had an explanation.  She told me the signal was erratic because, get this, "You are around a lot of water." I didn't even bother telling her about Digicel, Claro, TelCel, Movistar, Tigo, and all those other providers I used while actually FLOATING on the water. When one runs up against this sort of lame service, it's best just to move along. There really is no way to reason with Zombies.

See this sim card? It's history! We'll be moving to T-Mobile as soon as possible.

Monday, July 17, 2017

IFR to Rockland

Maine is a beautiful place to cruise, but they have this little problem called "fog".

We were told it's usually gone by July, but that hasn't turned out to be true this year, because here it is July 17th and it was IFR conditions today, all day.

We left Turkey Cove at 9:15 in marginal conditions, but soon had to turn on the radar. With that, the chartplotter, and our eyes, we picked our way from waypoint to waypoint, dodging those blasted lobster pot buoys. We rarely had 1/4 mile visibility; sometimes it was only 400'. Luckily, sailboats move very slowly, there wasn't much traffic, and we are comfortable with our instruments. A few times we heard lobster boats, but actually only saw two other boats.

We found Rockland Harbor in VFR conditions about 3:00pm, anchored, and went ashore for a while. By the time we got back to the boat at 5:00pm, the fog was already rolling in. I sure hope this doesn't last, because navigating in the fog is no fun.

Puffins and Fog

Puffins have got to be some of the cutest birds on the planet, and when I found out that there is an island in Maine where they have been re-introduced, well, we just had to go there.
We tried to leave the anchorage at Linekin Bay early, but it was foggy, so we left around 11:00am. (By the way, we saw our first "fogbow" there.)
When we finally got underway, this lovely old schooner sailed by us. Maine has lots of old boat giving tours in nearly every harbor. See the tourists lining the rail? What a great way to see Maine.

When we got to Eastern Egg Rock we DID see puffins! There were many of them in the water and flying around the island. They are easy to recognize because they have stubby wings and they have to run along the surface of the water on their duck-like feet to get airborne.
We spent about 20 minutes going back and forth watching them. Here's our track near the island. It's really hard to get a good photo with my cell phone, and they are a bit shy, but I'm so happy we actually got to see them in real life.
After we left Eastern Egg Rock, we headed into fog again and motored through it (dodging lobster pot buoys the whole way) for three more hours. We finally anchored in Turkey Cove on the St. George River where we spent a very quiet night.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Boothbay Harbor

We've been in delightful Boothbay Harbor for two days now, and it's just, well, delightful! The bay is huge with lots of mooring balls, but plenty of room to anchor too. Ashore, there are lots of inns, shops, and restaurants.
It seems like nearly every business has a carved, gold leafed sign, so we are enjoying seeing those. Even the hardware store has one.
We spent one rainy afternoon eating a leisurely lunch and sharing a bottle of wine at Boathouse Bistro and Tapas Bar. Great food there.

Today we decided to rent bicycles and ride out to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. When we got to the dinghy dock we got to talking with some other cruisers and Howie mentioned that one could take their dinghy to the garden, so we went back to Thistle, packed a lunch, checked the chart, grabbed the handheld VHF, and set off towards Townsend Gut.
Across the bay was easy enough, and even up Townsend Gut was fine, but after that it got confusing. We made a wrong turn and ended up at a "bridge" that was little more than a culvert, and since it was low tide, there wasn't even enough water to float our dinghy. We backtracked and went around another island, under two bridges, and finally found the garden's guest dock.

The garden did not disappoint! It had a large intensely cultivated area with perennials, roses, herbs, annuals, and vines. Everything was nicely labeled and beautifully maintained.

However, the larger portion of the garden was paths and trails through a more native landscape. This area was full of ferns, mosses, fungi, spruce, fir, and birch trees. 

We missed the peony and rhododendron bloom, but we did catch this beauty near the rhododendron garden. I've never seen a white spider. Cute, isn't it?
We would highly recommend visiting Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. It has something to please everyone, including kids. There is a garden just for them with a maze and a coloring cottage, and toys to play on. There is also a Fairy House Village where kids are encouraged to create homes for the fairies who live there.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Five Islands

The guidebook says you can use the FIYC moorings for free for one night, but, shhhh, don't tell anyone, we stayed for two nights.

When we first arrived it was sunny and nice and this working harbor was a very pleasant rest stop.
We went ashore and had lunch at the Five Islands Lobster Company with Thistle in the background.
We watched the lobster boats selling their catch,
we marveled at the rugged beauty of this shoreline,
and we wandered up to Five Islands Farm for some fresh local veggies and cheese.

Then we walked back to the boat and did a little harbor tour, checking buoys for our upcoming "Buoy Report Card".

And then the fog crept in, and the current changed, and the lobster boat behind us threatened to use our dink as a bumper. Meh, whatever, we still really like this place.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Seguin Island Light Station

After a VERY calm night at Harpswell Harbor (with this view of the moon coming up), we left around 8:30 this morning and headed towards Seguin Island. Our plan was to stop there to see the lighthouse and meet the volunteer keepers; Tara and Brian.
Seguin Island is quite small and it has a tiny cove with a few moorings. We took a mooring, had lunch, and then paddled the dinghy ashore.

On our way up the path we saw lots of lobster pot buoys. They really are everywhere in Maine; in 30' of water, in 200' of water, close to shore, out 5 miles, in the channels, in the mooring fields, and even on shore!

We were greeted by Tara and Brian when we got to the lighthouse and Brian gave us the tour to the top. The lighthouse was built in 1857 and has a first-order Fresnel lens; thats the biggest one ever made. It was beautiful,  but we've seen another more beautiful lens in Oregon at the Umpqua River Lighthouse. Although it is only a third-order lens it has a red sequence so some of the glass is a gorgeous cranberry red.

Here's a photo I took of it back in 2009.

By 2:30 we were headed north and eventually picked up a Five Island Yacht Club mooring in Five Island Harbor. The harbor is very crowded with lobster boats, pleasure boats, and visiting cruisers, but it is one of those picturesque Maine harbors I've been searching for; granite ledges, pine trees, fishing boats, and yes, plenty of lobster pots.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Snapshots From Portland

The Portland Head Lighthouse welcomed us into Portland Harbor where we took a mooring at Portland Yacht Services. They have a launch service, but the driver, Cody, only learned to drive a boat last week, so we launched our dinghy after our first (and only) ride with him.
Overlooking the harbor is a statue of Captain Christopher Levett, who tried to found a colony here, but failed. You can see Thistle out there beyond his left arm.
Portland has been destroyed and rebuilt many times, and after a fire in the late 1800s lots of the commercial area was rebuilt using brick and cast iron. There are many wonderful examples of Victorian commercial architecture, and also numerous Victorian homes surrounding the commercial area.
The city is a lively mix of old and new and is the largest urban area in Maine. It sort of reminded us of San Francisco.

There are many restaurants of all types including this restaurant flying Japanese fish windsocks.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was born here.

There are also many interesting pieces of public art.
And lots of old churches.
Most of the old homes were painted in somber colors, so this one really stood out.

We also visited the lighthouse again to see it from the land.

This morning we motored out past the lighthouses again and turned east towards the hundreds of rocky coves and tiny islands that make up the rest of Maine's coast.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Latitude 43 and 10,000 Nautical Miles

Wednesday we left Marblehead, picked our way through the lobster buoys, rounded Cape Anne, and headed north towards Portsmouth. Looking at the guidebook, I found that Isles of Shoals was right on the way and would make a more convenient overnight stop.
The guidebook said to pick up any mooring marked "PYC" for free. Only if a member of PYC came in, you'd have to leave. We found a mooring and spent a quiet night there beside "Passage" and "Margaritaville".

We were officially in Maine. Just barely.

The next morning all three of us left around 6:00 am heading to Portland. Here's "Passage" heading out. We actually sailed within sight of them all day.

About 10 miles north of Isles of Shoals, our chartplotter showed us some special figures; Latitude 43 degrees north, and 10,000 nautical miles for this trip; that's since we left Stockton almost three years ago.

Eventually we sailed around Cape Elizabeth and Portland Head and took a mooring in Portland, Maine.

The Portland Head lighthouse feels very familiar to us. We had a large picture of it on the wall at our business and looked at it every day, hoping that someday we'd see it in real life. Now, thousands of sailing miles and many years later, we finally have.

Sometimes dreams do come true.