Gut Instinct Page 2

The strong south wind was mild, even though it was blowing in off the frigid Atlantic. Gusts swept over the crags of Allen Island and churned the waters in the anchorage enough to awaken me to the moan of the rigging. I looked up from my bunk and saw a full peach moon perfectly framed in the companionway of my friend’s venerable 1960s-vintage Tartan 27. Evidently, the ship’s cat had a touch of
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BREEZING UP

The next day, the gale didn’t show either, but the winds did gust to over 30 knots from the south, making it seem like a good idea to stay on the Damariscotta River.

“Let’s do a spinnaker run,” Neville said. “You up for it?”

I looked at him like he was insane. “In this wind?”

“Right. It’ll be fun!”

So that’s what we did. With the wind howling from astern and the centerboard raised, we popped the chute and literally flew north up the Damariscotta—practically on plane through a rainbow of lobster pot buoys. I’d never seen a wake like that on a sailboat. The mast was bent forward. I thought the rig would yank out at any moment, but, of course, it stayed in.

“That was fun,” Neville said when we were back in Seal Cove.

I took another swig of beer, smiled and nodded.

The next day, we headed back to Southport Island, passing Boothbay Harbor to the north and heading west into Townsend Gut, which runs between the mainland and the top of Southport Island. Although we have both sailed into Boothbay on many occasions, we preferred Southport this time. It’s pretty and much slower-paced than bustling Boothbay Harbor with its many bars, restaurants, shops and whale-watching boats.

Boothbay is a cruising destination in itself, one of the most popular ports in Maine. In addition to shopping and dining, the harbor is home to the tiny Maine State Aquarium, a great place for kids with its “touch tanks” where you can actually touch a shark. Another must-see for nature lovers is the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, a 248-acre campus and the largest botanical garden in New England. (You’ll need to take a cab to get there.) You could spend the better part of a day enjoying the gardens, which also feature a caf that serves quality fare.

As Neville steered us into Townsend Gut, I felt the ambient temperature soar in the well-protected narrow passage. Sweat beaded up on my forehead, and I longed for a good breeze. A short time later, we were back on Neville’s mooring, and in contrast to his usual practice, he didn’t sail up to it. This time the old iron genny was good enough.

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