Making our way east, we took a detour up Blue Hill Bay, which was blissfully free of lobster pot buoys. A gentle southerly breeze rippled the shimmering waters of the bay, as Elizabeth ghosted along, mainsail and genny set wing-and-wing. I found myself sailing by the lee as my mind wandered, and I eased the boat back on course, basking in the late August sunshine. The heights of Mount Desert Island rose majestically to the east. To the north was Blue Hill Harbor, a pretty little spot tucked away in the bay’s northwestern corner.
In the coming years, the enchanting mix of secluded coves, and the alpine scenery of these waters would draw us back time and again. Cadillac Mountain, the jewel of Acadia National Park, which occupies much of Mount Desert, soars to an elevation of 1,530 feet, making it the highest point on the entire East Coast. It’s an impressive sight from the deck of a sailboat, and from the summit at dawn you can be the first in the United States to see the sun of a new day.
Making our way toward Blue Hill, we passed Allen Cove, a popular anchorage and one of the few in Blue Hill Bay. With its high bold shores, the bay is known for its excellent hassle-free sailing. Swan’s Island to the south also offers some excellent anchorages and is a great stop before heading to Northeast Harbor. Mackerel Cove, west of Roderick Head, is snug and scenic.
A short time later, we nosed into Blue Hill Harbor, where we picked up a guest mooring at the Kollegewidgwok Yacht Club. The town of Blue Hill is a healthy walk from the yacht club, but worth the effort with its shops, galleries and fine restaurants.
The next day, we sailed for Northeast Harbor, heading south and east, in the process passing Bass Harbor, home to Morris Yachts. The wind remained light and fluky, but we didn’t care. We were on island time, taking it slow and easy.
Northeast Harbor lies just to the east of Somes Sound, the only true fjord on the East Coast. The fjord juts into Mount Desert some seven miles, and at its head is Somes Harbor, which is often crowded, but well protected by Bar Island from the prevailing summer southerlies. We headed right into Northeast Harbor, with its picturesque and laid-back town that is the antithesis of busy Bar Harbor further east.
Anxious to stretch our legs, we took the dinghy to the public dock and went ashore for a leisurely stroll up Asticou Terraces to the Thuya Lodge and Garden. The views of the harbor were spectacular. The 140-acre preserve was once owned by renowned landscape architect Joseph Henry Curtis, who used Thuya Lodge as a summer home from 1912 until his death in 1928. The lodge is open to the public (a $3 donation is requested), as is Thuya Garden, a magnificent spectacle of colorful annual and perennial flowers.
We never made it to Bar Harbor on that first trip Down East, but were sure to do so in subsequent years, grabbing a mooring or a slip and enjoying the many restaurants, galleries, boutiques and shops it has to offer. A guided bus tour of Acadia National Park is a must, with an ascent of Cadillac Mountain as the highlight. The views from the summit are breathtaking.
The fog returned while we were in Northeast Harbor, so we stayed…and stayed, until finally the fog lifted and we could leave. Headed west once again, though, Liz and I already knew full well that we’d be returning to the End of the World, where the sailing is so challenging and immensely rewarding.