Sunday, August 3, 2014

Homeward Bound...

P'Town, MA to Boothbay Harbor , ME;  Boothbay Harbor, ME to Rockland, ME; Rockland, ME to Belfast, ME...

Since we had an overnight sail planned for P'Town to Boothbay Harbor and estimated it would only take approx. 30hours, we weren't in a rush to get up and go super early.  Our route plan was simple; a straight shot to the NE from the point outside of P'Town and arrive in Boothbay Harbor during daylight hours - I didn't want my first sailing adventure in Maine to be in the dark! 

Heading out of P'Town we had talked about taking a route that would lead us through the whale watching/sanctuary area as I REALLY wanted to see some whales. I went whale watching once as a child, I was probably 9 or 10 years old, and I vaguely remember parts of it. Mostly, the part of me being seasick.  I hoped on this passage we'd get lucky and I might be able to spot one or two....without the seasickness.

Unfortunately, the winds were not cooperative for the northing we needed to go through prime whale territory. As we came out of P'Town our heading was about 45 degrees off from where it would have needed to have been to be taking in whale country.  In the distance you could see all the boats crowded around specific areas, just sitting there.  Uggghh - surely, they were seeing whales!  I so wanted to be there!  But, we didn't have the time to spare so we maintained course and hoped we'd see some this summer while in Maine or on our way back through in the late Fall. 

About 20 minutes later, Jason caught sight of a whale!!! He said it was off our starboard bow, maybe 1/2 mile off - I had missed it.  A few minutes later, it popped up again!  I was SO excited!  I learned my lesson from previous passages and this time my camera was in the cockpit and ready to go!  I started snapping away and actually got a good pic or two - proof that we in fact saw a whale!! 

Finback whale in RI Sanctuary
Well, over the course of the next 12 hours we ended up seeing 6 or 7 different whales!  I was beyond tickled!  We did our research and it turns out what we saw were finback whales. Some were quite large but none as large as what J saw later that night!  More to follow on this shortly :)

We motor sailed for about 6 hours before we started to pick up good wind and were able to silence the noisemaker.  The winds and swells were forecasted to increase as the day went on.  Sure enough, the weather guessers were right.  We were sailing on a broad reach to a run for most of the sail to Boothbay Harbor.  The swells increased to about 6-10 feet as the winds picked up to about 15kts and the seas were very confused so, once again, we found ourselves in a washing machine as we like to call it.  Not comfortable at all.  I made some dinner earlier in the day when it was calmer (thank goodness!) and we opted for an early dinner so J could take the first watch and I could sleep.  With it just being the two of us for this passage, J had the 6-9pm and 12-3am and I had the 9-12 and 3-6am.

I was down below trying to sleep but between the sunlight and the seas, it was very difficult.  Around 1930 I heard J yell "Oh my God! Holy Shit"... then a pause... At this time I am already up on my knees on the sea berth yelling to him, "What's wrong?!?"  Of course, I am thinking something catastrophic is happening. Then he says "That was amazing!"  Okay, not catastrophic, but what the heck?!?! So I run topside and turns out there was an enormous whale that came out of the water a mere 25-30 feet from our boat!  It was swimming parallel to us and came up for breathe of air. J said that he heard the "poof", saw the exhale and its head, and then saw its back... and more back... and more back before finally he saw its dorsal fin and then he dove again.  The whale had to be close to the length of our boat (44 ft).  He didn't surface again so I wasn't lucky enough to see it but was so happy J did!  Talk about an amazing experience!

As mentioned seas and winds picked up overnight so we remained in our proverbial washing machine, which unfortunately meant that neither of us slept well on our off watches; however, the watches were pretty simple.  We were sailing under heads'l alone and ASSWOP was set, doing most of the work. On my watches I had to make only a couple of minor adjustments which left plenty of time to take in the gorgeous night.    The sky was so bright (well, bright for night skies) from the nearly full moon.  Periodically I swore I heard "blows" in the distance.  Could have just been waves crashing, but I also swore I heard whale songs.  Obviously the sound wasn't coming from above the water, but I wondered if it was resonating through the hull and perhaps I was still able to hear it??  Now, I could have been hearing things - totally possible as I was pretty tired from lack of sleep but it sure sounded like songs!  

For my second watch I was so exhausted from lack of sleep that 22 min into my watch, I was already looking at the time.  Wow - it was going to be a long 3hrs!  9 minutes later I looked at the time, again... Time was moving so slow! I could barely keep my eyes open so I did a quick scan to make sure nothing was on the horizon or coming our way, unhooked my tether and ran down below quickly to grab a caffeine pill. When there is no time to make coffee or the seas don't really allow for it, call in the pill!  I went below and tried to be as quiet as possible as to not disturb J, but no worries there.  He was knocked out and it didn't matter if I made noise anyway as the swells against the hull were making plenty of noise!  Poor guy didn't sleep through his previous off watch so by the time 0300 came, he was beyond tired.  Thankfully he was able to sleep through me coming down below and thankfully my caffeine kicked in quickly!

I love sunrise watches and this one didn't disappoint - they never do.  I was still wide awake come 0545 when J turned on the light to get up, so I yelled down to him to lay back down and get another 30-45 minutes.  He didn't put up a fight :)

For the last few years folks at the marina have been talking about the beautiful coastline in Maine.  I have been to the coast many times, but never have I experienced it from the water.  There aren't many things more beautiful than the Maine coast.  Pictures and words do not do it justice.  As we came into Boothbay Harbor, the landscape was green, lush, and the contours are amazing.  It's just gorgeous! The sea is broken up by granite rocks jutting up from below, forming the rough, majestic coastline along much of the coast. Atop the land stands deep green pines which reach up to touch the pale blue sky.  Simply breathtaking.  The beauty was accentuated by the silent lapping of the water against our hull as we slipped by Squirrel Island and into Boothbay Harbor under sail.

Coming into Boothbay Harbor
We grabbed a mooring ball at Carousel Marina, a cute marina just outside of downtown. We talked about anchoring but honestly we both thought that our first time being in Maine waters and not being super familiar with the holding or the tides, that we'd grab a mooring. The cost wasn't too expensive (compared to what we had been paying in other ports), it had good facilities (with great showers!) and a very good restaurant.  As we gain more experience sailing in these waters we'll be more inclined to anchor, until then we've decided to enjoy the ease of mooring balls.  The weather was looking not so great for a few days so we opted to stay in Boothbay Harbor for the majority of the week, which worked out well as it allowed me to work, us to take in some local sights and events, and to meet some wonderful people.

Once Tango was secure, we wasted no time in launching the dink (Last Call) to head for shore to hunt down some D-E-licious lobstah and clams for lunch.  It was ah-mazing!  The clams were the best we've ever had! 

After lunch we took a walk around downtown - getting acquainted with the area.  This was actually an area where J and I looked at buying a house. There was so much we liked about the area, it was fun to actually be there.  Boothbay has a large number of seasonal residents (aka, snow birds) and is a bit touristy in season.  It doesn't get the crowds of towns like Kenebunkport, Camden, or Bar Harbor thanks to being a fair bit off of Route 1, so the crowds during the weekend were manageable, and during mid-week were negligible. 

Island in the middle of Boothbay Harbor
After taking in the downtown area and enjoying a bit of local ice cream we headed back to the boat for a much needed nap.  As we dingied back to Tango we noticed that another boat had come in and picked up a mooring ball just behind us.  She had beautiful lines and we wondered what type of boat she was. Actually, she looked a lot like Tango. So, we did a little drive by as we made our way back on the dingy taking notice of her markings.  Once back on the boat, I grabbed my camera to try to get a better look.  I hoped as I was snapping pictures that the owner didn't pop up to see me - that may have been awkward or flattering depending on how he took it :)  I took a quick look at Tango's hull and compared it to what was in the pictures.  Sure enough, it was a Mason 43!  We found this to be pretty awesome.  The Mason 43 and the 44 are the same hull.  PAE used the same mold for both; where they differ is in their configuration down below and a few things topside, primarily in the cockpit.  So, the reason we were so tickled by this is because there weren't many of these made (around 135 between both the 43s and 44s) and what are the chances that there would be two, at the same marina, right next to each other at the same time! What is even more amazing is that there was a third Mason at the marina next to ours! 

S/V Last Tango in the foreground, S/V Tortuga, M43 in the background

We were cooking dinner that first night in the cockpit and noticed that the owner of the nearby Mason 43 was topside taking a long look at Tango as well.  Surely he was thinking the same thing we had earlier in the day :)

The next morning, as we made our way to shore, the nearby Mason owner again was topside so we decided to swing by and introduce ourselves.  We did what we normally do; we exchanged information and invited them to meet up later that day for a sundowner.  We always love meeting Mason owners and comparing boats (we usually steal some of their ideas or ways of doing things) and sea stories.  Our time with Stacey and Marna from S/V Tortuga was wonderful!  We spent the evening aboard Tango enjoying adult beverages, snacks, and great conversation!  The next day they returned the favor and we got the full tour of Tortuga.  What a great vessel - though I may be a bit biased toward Masons :)  Stacy gave us some great ideas for cockpit lighting as well as offering to share with us some overhead light globes that we've been searching for during the past year . He replaced his lights and still had the old globes - score for us! 

As predicted, the weather turned for the next 36 or so hours, so we hunkered down; I worked and J read an entire book. I don't even remember the last time he did that!  Thanks to our good friend Pete for giving J "Close to the Wind" by Pete Goss.  J really, really enjoyed it! 

Even though the weather was not ideal we had read in the local paper that the Boothbay Opera House was hosting Danny Beal, a local, for a Goodtime DownEast Hour (& a half) so we decided to grab tickets for the show that evening.  When we purchased them the lady working the ticket counter gave us a heads up that Danny is a local, that ALL the locals come out to see him play, and that it is a wicked good time. Well, she was right!  We love doing that kind of stuff - going to shows or local events.  We really look forward to the day when we live in a town like Boothbay Harbor (shoot, it may even be Boothbay Harbor) so that we can be part of such a wonderful community.  

Boothbay Opera House
While in the area we also got our share of chowdah.  The Whales Tale, at the Carousel Marina, won the 2013 Chowder Tournament and I can now personally vouch for why!  Wow!  Hands down the best clam chowdah I've ever had!  So good that I had it two days in a row!  On the second day J opted for the seafood chowdah.  This too was delicious and had so much seafood you had to look for the rich, creamy broth beneath it! I think the bowl had maybe an ounce or two of broth and the rest was just chunky goodness! I'm not talking potato goodness either (though this girl loves her potatoes) - I'm talking scallops, shrimp, clams, haddock, and lobstah CLAWS, not just small chunks. Highly recommend either of them if you ever pass through Boothbay Harbor.  

Our time in Boothbay Harbor was way too short.  By Friday we were tossing off our mooring line and heading to Rockland.  We navigated our way through some dense lobstah pot fields (some areas were downright ridiculous) and saw lots of harbor porpoises and harbor seals. Those little sea puppies are incredibly cute and so curious, which makes them even more adorable :) 

One of MANY harbor seals - SO cute!
The coastline was just breathtaking and the sailboats in Maine are unlike other place I've been - just tons of beautiful, classic sailboats.   Unfortunately due to the lack of wind we were forced to motor the majority of the way but got to Rockland about 8.5 hours after leaving Boothbay Harbor. 

Mid-Coast Maine

Rockland Harbor
Upon arriving in Rockland we deployed Last Call and made our way to shore for some dinner (or dinnah now that I've been in the New England area for a bit, hah!).  On a local recommendation we found ourselves at the waterfront restaurant called "The Pearl".  Highly recommend their calamari appetizer!  Delish!  The linguini with clams was good, but the lobstah roll was disappointing. The seaside, patio dining was very nice, but we'll try a different eatery the next time we're in town. 

Rockland's beautiful boats!

H-60 flying overhead at sunset as we made our way back to Tango
The following morning we tossed off our final mooring ball for a while - we were finally headed to Belfast!! YAY! While part of us wanted to keep going, another part of us was anxious to get there and see family.  As we made our way out of Rockland harbor J noticed that one of our battens had come out of its pocket and would need to be fixed before we could head out . Unfortunately it wasn't noticeable until the sail was raised and we were already off our mooring.  So, just outside the breakwater, surrounded by lobstah pots, we turned up and J attempted to fix it.  We thought we had it back in and secure until I fell off and wind filled the sail - when it again popped out.  Grr!  So round two... I came about, turned back into the wind and tried again. This time, we got it and were able to alter course for our first heading to Belfast!  

For the first couple of hours (of an estimated 6 hour sail) we had great wind and were sailing along on a close reach.  The wind, the landscape, the other boats - it was glorious! This is what I had heard about for so long - this was the Maine sailing so many people talked about!  

More Maine Coastline

Camden from the water
Then, the wind sputtered out :(  We tacked back and forth, looking for wind waiting as long as we could until finally we had to turn on the engine. Our slip in Belfast, according to the marina owner was supposed to have sufficient depth, but according to the charts, it didn't seem to carry much more water than we draw, so we needed to make sure that we timed our arrival at either high tide or an almost high tide.  Hence the need for furling the headsail and turning on the iron genoa.  We motor sailed under mainsail alone, taking advantage of occasional puffs between doldrums, until we were about 1nm out of Belfast. 

Coming into Belfast was interesting. This is a port that I have seen many times from land but approaching from the water is a completely different perspective!  We made our way through the dense mooring field to our marina.  Our slip was just inside the 'T' and thankfully the mooring ball that was just behind the slip was currently unoccupied.  NOTE:  we weren't too thrilled about this and this was the first yellow flag.  If someone was there, there is no way we could have maneuvered a 44ft sailboat, weighting 30,000lbs, in that small space.  As we approached, we were glad we timed our arrival at nearly high tide because the depth showed that at mean low water, the area just outside the slip carried 5.5 ft.  This was the second yellow flag. This meant that every time we wanted to go out we'd have to time our departure and arrival with the tides or we'd stuck inthe mud until the tide rose.  

The tide was still coming in as we came up to the slip and we underestimated the current that runs with the tide.  I had the lines all set and ready to go. The plan was that I was going to jump off and secure the amidship line (a trick we learned when we took delivery of Tango) and then the bow line. Well, as I jumped off I noticed we were going a bit too fast.  I didn't want to leave too much slack on the amidship line otherwise our bow may hit so I let out some and then secured the line. Just as I did this, J put her in reverse to try to slow here down. Hello prop walk.... that along with the current and her forward speed when I secured the line caused her bow to swing to starboard and her stern to port. Her bow, because of the momentum just kept coming over the dock... and proceeded to take out the electrical box...  NO bueno.   Thankfully her stern missed the boat next to us.  Not a pretty docking experience... Have we mentioned how much we hate docking? I think Tango was just pissed that we were back at a dock and was showing her dislike for not being on the hook or on a mooring.  Sadly Tango didn't walk, err float, away unscathed.  She has some nice scratches on her bow that we'll be repairing in the near future.  

We made a call to the marina office and turns out we are the second boat to take out that electrical box (which sits damn near flush with the edge of the floating dock).  The office was understanding and joked about maybe now they should really consider moving the box.   We were glad to see that the power was fine, no damage done, just the bolts needed to be replaced. The guys cam down and fixed it up in no time.  

Ahhhh, and we're "home"... After nearly 30 days we are in Belfast for the next 2.5 months.  

Home, sweet home...

Update:  We've since moved slips to the outside of the 'T'.  At low tide we were right at 6'6" and they have been having lower than normal tides so it wouldn't have worked. Also, the mooring ball that was behind us now has someone on it so there is no way we'd be able to get out of our slip unless the wind was blowing from the perfect direction to blow the boat down, away from our slip.  While we get a bit more motion being on the outside of the 'T', we're in deeper water and don't have to worry about dealing with other boats and mooring balls. Much better! 


  1. Keep blogging I read every one and wait for the next...

    1. Thanks Roger - glad you are enjoying them!