August 2017 –
We are in Portland and our time in Maine is quickly coming to an end – but it’s been full of great experiences, so we thought it best to break up our recap into two parts! First, a bit on how we chose our cruising route around Maine. The Penobscot Bay in central coastal Maine is hallowed cruising grounds, full of picturesque lobster fishing villages (that our photography could not do justice) and home to Acadia National Park; we were looking forward to seeing both. The geography of the Gulf of Maine and the prevailing winds from the southwest are such that it is smooth downwind sailing to get to places “down east” – as the locals say – along the coast in the direction of Nova Scotia. Getting back down south is a different story, requiring sailing or “beating” into the wind. So after doing some research, we opted for a route taking us straight out (and downwind) from Massachusetts to Penobscot Bay, spent several weeks exploring the area, and have since been working our way back west/southwest into the wind in short coastal hops. Portland, or maybe Kennebunkport to the south, will likely be our last stop in the state.
Overnight Sail to Maine
Our passage from Provincetown, Massachusetts to Monhegan Island – at the Southwestern end of the Penobscot Bay – marked our second overnight on Contigo, and our first under sail. Like our trip up to New York, this leg lasted just shy of 24 hours, but this time we enjoyed ideal sailing weather and no fog (ironic, given our destination’s reputation!). Our route took us 40 nautical miles offshore and out of sight of land, so we were treated to both sunset and sunrise off the Northern Atlantic’s blue horizon.
While the sun slept soundly (and we didn’t), the evening’s crescent moon provided a comforting amount of light to guide our occasional sail trimming. We reached Monhegan mid-afternoon the following day, tied up to a mooring, headed ashore on our dinghy Booey, each devoured 1.5 pound softshell lobsters, and promptly scuttled back aboard Contigo for a quick 14-hour nap.
The following day we explored this lovely island, reachable by ferry, and home to a vibrant artist community. We also stumbled onto a plaque commemorating Captain John Smith, who explored the island in 1614, a few years before establishing the first English settlement in Virginia. “He that will not work, shall not eat [lobster]” he famously said, so we reasoned that the previous day’s sail entitled us to a second round at the seafood shack.
The Lobster Trade
We learned a thing or two about the lobster fishing industry during our time in Maine. Softshell lobsters are often preferred by locals, as they have a sweeter flavor profile and are easier to crack open, but contain less meat. We asked a lobsterman which he preferred, hard or softshell? Scallops, said he.
Becoming a bonafide lobster fisherman is not easy. From what we gathered, local cooperatives vote new members in when older members leave. The system sounds just about as inviting as the NYC taxi medallion system. In Somes Sound, we spoke to a woman whose daughter (in her 30’s) had been doing lobster-related tasks on boats for over 10 years, awaiting the “vote-in” that would actually allow her to touch a trap! Meanwhile, her six-year-old granddaughter (who was expertly climbing rocks nearby) was allowed to manage a few traps of her own. This explained why, in nearby Isle au Haut (pronounced “eye-la-ho”), a store owner had proudly told us that her lobsters were all sourced from a local enterprising 10-year-old, whom she had been buying from for four years!
Lobster traps abounded, and we joked that once of sufficient size, no lobster stands a chance in the Penobscot. The traps themselves proved hard to avoid (particularly in the fog), a problem given trap lines can foul a propeller, creating a tangled mess and effectively seizing our engine. At anchorage, these were not as much of a problem (once the engine was stopped), and local fisherman were so friendly that at one anchorage in Long Island, a lobsterman zoomed over to re-position one of his nearby traps to increase Contigo’s swinging room.
Our Crack at “Trap-to-Table”
While moored out in Swan’s Island’s Burnt Coat Harbor, we decided to cook ourselves a couple of two pound lobsters aboard Contigo. Step one was finding the lobster co-op –you’ll note from the pictures below that lobstermen at this particular harbor unload their live catch into a small shack that weighs and then deposits it into floating plastic crates. Here, the lobsters get their last taste of crisp New England waters before being plunked into murky tanks at Stop & Shops, Krogers, and Giants near you.
Step two involved a quick five-to-seven minute boil (1/3 seawater, 2/3 fresh) and subsequent shelling on Contigo’s transom; we had no interest in seeing lobster juice fly and dry throughout our small galley (kitchen) or saloon (living room).
Step three entailed putting the lobster meat to work. Our first round was a Lobster Ramen of sorts, pictured below left before a hot broth was poured over it. The following day, below right, we cooked up some Venezuelan-styled arepas and dropped some more lobster on top.
Ah, yes, the fog in Maine. August is supposed to bring less of it, but nonetheless we were still treated to a few “thick as pea soup” days – pictured below is Karl returning on Booey on one such day. Avoiding the fog altogether was tricky, so we once again made ample use of our onboard AIS, radar, and one (loud) day, our fog horn.
Yoga/ Exercise Update
The yoga practice continues, and we seek out opportunities to practice ashore when possible. Otherwise, we take turns at the bow, which accommodates one mat at time.
The picture above left was taken at Marsh Cove in Kimball Island, just off Isle au Haut. The latter proved a wonderful island for scenic hiking. Although it is some ways away from Mt. Desert Island, it is part of Acadia National Park and therefore has a well-designed and maintained trail system. We got ambitious and circumnavigated Isle au Haut on foot one day, taking about eight hours to cover roughly 14 miles of terrain that ranged from steep and rocky coast to thick and wooded trail. Stunning scenery and for parts of the day we went hours without seeing a soul.
Below are a few more shots from Maine. We don’t do the scenery (or in the case of Conner’s picture below right, the food at Nebo Lodge) justice!
Also, we were interviewed by Condé Nast Traveler as part of a larger piece they did on water and travel in August – check it out here!
Last, for those who like to read a bit of poetry, we include below prose penned by Monhegan resident Judith Ponturo. We came across it at the local library during our brief stay on the island. As two people who have recently upended their lives, we instantly connected with her writing.
Conner & Karl
How does it feel
to climb up on that reed
seeing something new in the wind,
not knowing what it is
that calls you –
how is it to cling there,
years of creeping, the slow growing,
left behind in the heavy marsh,
the shielding grass,
everything that has been sustenance
for so long, now
lost to you –
what is it like,
the splitting of the skin,
the emergence from the shell
that was, for all you know,
your very life’s identity,
feeling it fall, empty,
not knowing yet
what wings are for,
not comprehending swift
the freedom of the air,
unable to see yourself,
the fine bronze filigree you bear,
no realization yet of vision’s
new acuity –
telling you it’s time
and then the change
that has to seem like death.