A Down East Idyll, with Hurricanes! Page 2

We were ghosting toward the mainland, gybing back and forth to make the most of a faint morning breeze. The sun was out and it was hot. To the north I could see swells breaking over Horseshoe Ledge and a rock formation called The Drums. I was also keeping an eye out for lobster buoys. The tide was ebbing, setting up a wicked crosscurrent in spots, and I’d already been forced to alter course
Author:
Updated:
Original:

A Trip Through Time

With the Bass Harbor Head light just visible to starboard, we sailed slowly south until the wind died then came back on the nose. By now the crew was growing restless, so we fired up the auxiliary and motored the rest of the way into Frenchboro, on Long Island, where we had lunch and went ashore to do some exploring.

maine_int3

Located some eight miles off Mt. Desert Island, Frenchboro sits on the edge of the open Atlantic and boasts a year-round population of only 70. By the time we got there, just a few days before Labor Day, things had already pretty much shut down. The summer people were mostly gone, and there were only two other pleasure boats in all of Lunt Harbor.

Frenchboro is worlds apart from those parts of Maine that are better known to tourists. It’s the kind of place where you feel you’re stepping back in time, the kind of place only sailors typically get to see, because they’re the only ones with the means and inclination to go there. In the off-season it’s pure magic.

In Frenchboro everybody knows everybody else, and you’re never out of hearing range of the bell buoys offshore. The local kids play in the middle of the road without having to worry about traffic, which is largely golf carts anyway. Big Beach, on the island’s southwestern shore, is comprised not of sand, but of bowling-ball sized granite boulders, and is strewn with buoys, lobster pots, timbers and other marine debris—a testament to the raw power of the Atlantic. The proprietor of the Frenchboro Historical Society told us that during storms the rocks rolling around Big Beach sound like thunder and can be heard the length and breadth of the island.

It was in Frenchboro that we first heard talk of Hurricane Earl. According to the weather forecast, the storm, then making its way up the East Coast, was likely to hit Cape Cod and might reach Maine. Sitting in the Lunt & Lunt Dockside Deli, we watched the Weather Channel for a while with a local lobsterman, who said he was going out to shift his pots later that afternoon. We’d come in to get some ice cream cones after a hot, sticky hike across the island. Hurricanes? Heat waves? It was beginning to feel more like the Caribbean than New England.

Inshore Slalom

The next morning we took advantage of the ebb tide to sail off our mooring on a fluky westerly and steered a course for the mainland. For two hours we gybed back and forth, picking our way through fields of lobster buoys and taking bearings off nearby Crow, Green and Sister islands. We had yet to see a shred of fog, which was fine by me. I shudder to think what it would be like making your way along this coast in poor or no visibility.

Once past Horseshoe Ledge and The Drums, the wind died again, so we motored back in through the Western Way, past a charter schooner, heading out toward open water. Close inshore there was a nice sea breeze, so we turned off the engine and started sailing again. Rounding the red bell buoy off Spurling Point on the northwest corner of Great Cranberry Island, I confess I grew just a little frustrated with the density of the lobster buoys. I understand these guys need to make a living, but come on!

maine_int4.1

Hardening up to beat into Cranberry Harbor I noticed a Rhodes 19 maybe a quarter of a mile away under full sail going nowhere. Sure enough, looking through the binoculars, I could see her crew reach over the side for what could only have been a buoy line. When I looked over a few minutes later, the boat was on its way again, no harm done.

By the time we had grabbed a mooring and were ashore at Islesford on Little Cranberry Island, preparations for Earl were in full swing. Lobstermen were packing up their traps, and a crew was hauling out the local fleet of Bullseye one-design keelboats. It was mid-week, and the Islesford Dock Restaurant had already shut down for the season, so the island was almost completely devoid of visitors.

Once again, we made a beeline for the nearest ice cream source—the general store-cum-post office a couple of blocks inland. Once again, the sun shone bright in a clear blue sky, while waves broke on the shallows of the “gut” at the head of the harbor. According to the two elderly gentlemen at the general store, it is not unusual for Little Cranberry to host more than a thousand tourists on a busy weekend, but we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It was like taking another step back through time—a combination of off-season quiet and picture-perfect weather.

Back aboard Trillium for dinner, I realized we were the only charter boat left in the harbor. The mooring field was now well over half empty. Earlier in the day I’d called Patricia Tierney at Hinckley Yacht Charters to see if she wanted us to come in early, but she said not to worry. The forecast was looking a little better, and she was sure Trillium would be fine. Apparently the Hinckley crew had been busy hauling boats ever since we left, so there would be plenty of space to tie up Trillium where she’d be nice and safe.

Related

pic00

Installing a Helm Pod

Our 1987 Pearson project boat came with an elderly but functioning Raymarine chartplotter, located belowdecks at the nav station. Since I usually sail solo or doublehanded, it was of little use down there—it needed to be near the helm. When I decided to update the plotter along ...read more

Panamerican

Pan American Game Success

Team USA’s young sailors went to the quadrennial Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru this summer with high hopes, and returned with a good haul of medals—two Golds, three Silvers, and two Bronze. Gold medals went to Ernesto Rodriguez and Hallie Schiffman (Mixed Snipe) and Riley ...read more

190916-AC75

U.S. Team Launches First America’s Cup Boat

Fast forward to around 2:25 to see the boat in action. First day out and already doing full-foiling gybes: not too shabby! Hard on the heels of the unveiling of New Zealand’s first AC75, the New York Yacht Club’s American Magic team has now launched its first America’s Cup ...read more

GGTobCaysHorseshoeColors

Picking a Charter Destination

Picking a destination should reflect the interests of your group, says People often ask about my favorite charter destination, and invariably, I sidestep the question with one of my own: “Well, what do you want to do on your vacation?” Most often I hear an incredulous, “Why, ...read more

sinking

Waterlines: Chasing Leaks on Boats

Chasing leaks on boats is a time-honored obsession. Rule number one in all galaxies of the nautical universe through all of nautical history has always been the same: keep the water on the outside. When water somehow finds its way inside and you don’t know where it’s coming ...read more

BestBoatNominees2020-Promo

Best Boats Nominees 2020

Bring on the monohulls! In a world increasingly given over to multihull sailing, SAIL magazine’s “Best Boats” class of 2020 brings with it a strong new group of keelboats, including everything from luxury cruisers nipping at the heels of their mega-yacht brethren to a number of ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Relieve the load  One of the ancient arts of the sailor is setting up a “stopper” to relieve a loaded rope without letting anything go. The classic use for a stopper is to take the weight off the genoa ...read more

05

Ask Sail: Water Getting into Coax

Q: While inspecting behind the nav station for my spring cleaning, I discovered water behind my chartplotter and VHF radio stack. Freshwater to boot! Do electronics leak? I didn’t think so. — Everette Gracy, Norton Shores, MI Gordan West Replies  Last winter your region was ...read more