Coldness Approaches – Back To Maine

I always find it difficult to reduce the word count, as there’s just way too much to regurgitate, many weeks of priceless cruising memories, into just a few paragraphs. For the readers running short on time, feel free to skim, but I’m breaking this overflowing bowl of trick-or-treat goodies into larger bite-size mouthfuls. Enjoy!

First another bit of retrospect. It’s fun to reminisce again as I keep remembering more bits!

You may recall our latest original big plans as of January this year (2020) were to continue a lap around the Atlantic, starting with a quick swing by Newburyport (home) and continue to the Canadian Maritimes as our hemisphere has its turn toward the sun. But alas, Nova Scotia’s and Newfoundland’s beauty must wait, as our nation’s flag has sadly become a scarlet letter in foreign lands. August, September and now October has since crept upon us. And we’ve committed to dealing with another New England winter by staying around. So it was essential that we take Fayaway for one more little trip this year. Yes, north was always the answer, and thus we turned our newer little plans into a thoroughly enjoyable adventure to Maine – just not as far north as we wished. That’s the middle part of this post, and maybe also the next too. Then we’ll end by kicking off a completely new adventure. Read on!

Autumn approaching on the Merrimack.

Back up a bit more to recollect one more time (now so surreal) an intended three-year adventure, dwindled down by a virus to eight glorious months. An escape back northward, from where pleasant island greetings abruptly turned away by approaching storm tracks. We cruisers found ourselves as pariah due to COVID-19, while our so-called government continues to worsen, embarrass and sadden our hearts. After an unusually painful hurricane wipeout in Puerto Rico, senseless presidential snubbing added insult to injury, evidently incurring deep resentment. Once bitten, twice shy, these kind island folks are now again in self-preservation mode. Feeling their (and our) anxiety, we sailed north out of isolation as soon as weather allowed. As unwanted guests at any foreign land, we quietly anchored along the way at a few isolated sandy coves, often to avoid nasty weather, but sometimes capturing yet another warm swim, and much appreciated rest. We traveled almost continuously between Mother’s Day to Father’s Day to reach Newburyport from Culebra. Strange to summarize so much in only one paragraph, our migration progressed in the proverbial blink of an eye, as incessant worries of finding fuel and food necessitated some haste.

Touching the continental USA again was a mental milestone. What acceptance would we find? Will we be able to get food? Friends came through so kindly to welcome us, and ease our concerns. Then another three hundred miles north up to Beaufort, NC, so that Fayaway could receive her tannin “hull treatment” from the brownish inland waterway. (Note: don’t expect your pretty snow white hull to stay white if you traverse the ICW). Here’s an early morning shot as we traverse the Alligator-Pungo River Canal.

I’ll fast-forward a bit here, and give that the remaining passage north was as usual, an adventure, passing through rural woodlands, under (and through) many bridges, and a set of canal locks, to eventually pop out into the Chesapeake Bay at Norfolk. Seriously, we’re so happy any time that we’re aboard and underway. We are entertained and challenged by big and small. We joked about a really cool guy we’d seen a few times following our path, wearing what looked like a diaper (was probably a poorly fitted Speedo, and difficult now to erase from memory). Landfall occurred only once – for food and fuel, but we weren’t deprived. One small mishap occurred when a truly negligent sailor struck us hard broadside (while we were anchored and playing cribbage during happy hour in Weems Creek, Annapolis; but that’s a nice story in itself for another day!).

Fayaway at Chesapeake City – Along the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.

Once again reaching the northern extremes of Chesapeake Bay, we traversed the C&D Canal, and turned south again for a bit, motor-sailing down the wide and shoal-strewn Delaware River. After one more bouncy night at anchor, we traversed from Cape Henlopen, again offshore for a couple days to the Cape Cod Canal. Dense fog rolled in that morning along with flat water and no wind. But thanks to modern electronics, and a reliable motor, we timed our speed for arrival to upper Buzzards Bay early on Father’s Day morning so to be pushed with a helpful tidal flow, dodging little boats, presumably fathers with sons fishing in pea soup. Completing a six thousand mile loop, we motored back into our familiar Merrimack before a lovely crimson setting sun – to our very own mooring. Home again!

Home on the Merrimack.

In Newburyport we soon re-acclimated to partial land-dwelling, a typical summer in New England. Like masked sponges, we basked in the (socially-distant) fondness of old friends and close family. We hiked with our kids and walked as many missed miles as we could recover. Although not so fondly, we’d awaken each morning to the obnoxious drumbeat of Fayaway’s hull bonking off our mooring ball, thanks to the feud between current and wind. After a few weeks of accumulating river slime and a relentless onslaught of various seabirds trying to poop on us, we had to get away again. Maine was the answer. So onto the story…

Home at the American Yacht Club in Newburyport.

We provisioned early on a Tuesday morning, stuffing as much as possible into the trunk of our twenty year old two-seater. I locked up the little sports car, hoping it was parked safely on ground high enough to avoid being flooded during an upcoming lunar tide. We stowed provisions and caught the ebbing river flow, where the mighty Merrimack spit us out, to be free again in the Atlantic. Our goal that day was to simply sail twelve miles at a course of roughly 50 degrees, out to Gosport Harbor at the Isles of Shoals. One of our favorite local hangouts. We enjoyed a pleasant afternoon on a borrowed mooring, listening to birds, water breaking on the rocks, happily isolated with a good book, watching the sun set slowly into the crimson western horizon.

Neighbors enjoy Gosport Harbor at sunset in late August.

After our typical early rise, we slipped the mooring, snaked our way between Smuttynose and Appledore, aiming again for more distant islands to the northeast. I’d been closely following possible hurricane activity in the eastern Caribbean, yet local weather remained good enough for another day hop, enough to reach islands we’d never visited just north of Portland. This is the essence of why we’re here.

Newburyport to Jewell Isl. via Gosport.

It’s fun cruising without (much of) a plan. We enjoy this process of limited planning. If feeling the urge to set out, we first ensure that weather is likely favorable. Then if a rather strong wind is predicted overnight, we’ll look for an island destination with decent anchoring possibility on the sheltered lee side. While sailing we prefer wind aft of the beam. Who doesn’t? Makes sense, doesn’t it? So, let’s point that way today, or for the duration of an overnight or longer journey. We almost always avoid areas with marinas, unless provisioning is anticipated. We’re otherwise trying to get away from civilization and enjoy the surrounding natural beauty in all three dimensions. While we do like to socialize, COVID-19 has altered our cruising in that we lately focus on areas of fewer anchored boats. If there’s an Active Captain or Waterway Guide notation of an anchorage, it may also indicate that others see the same, and so many boaters would tend to congregate there. Maybe pick another spot of our own liking? I always look for contingent anchorages when planning, as maybe the first doesn’t look as good in real life as it did on the map. Good to have choices!

Active captain reviews are much like Amazon reviews – sometimes helpful, but always make your own assessment.

Southwest wind (15 to 20 knots; perfect) was predicted for the next evening. Arriving on a weekday, early in the afternoon should give us additional confidence that any popular anchorage won’t be too packed with boats for us to drop at an optimal spot. During the few hours before our approach, we considered contingencies around Great Chebeague or maybe one of the other little islands just north or Portland. Maybe we take a mooring on the SW side of Cliff Island, graciously offered by a friend? We first approached the north side of Jewell Island. Seeing only a few boats anchored as we drew near, we entered the little Cocktail Cove inlet and dropped the hook about halfway into this mini sound, giving plenty of space to swing between two other Maine-area vacationing cruisers. Aahhh… paradise again. What a beautiful place indeed! Break out the happy hour 🙂

We had been warned about poor holding at this anchorage. Fortunately we arrived early enough to experience building wind, and so had time to carefully watch for dragging. We took a chilly dip to exercise and scrub some of Fayaway’s waterline as the sun began to set. How refreshing! Dinner time discussion was about where to go tomorrow, and the evening ended with a cup of tea while watching an episode of Star Trek (Next Generation). We’re loving life!

Jewell Island just before sunrise in early September.

With a boat hook, Kelly scraped gooey muck from the anchor, and I motored slowly out and around Jewell, into the rising eastern sun, pushing further northeastward toward Seguin Island. Our intended next stop is now somewhere in that direction. As usual we had a few spots picked out. We’d like to arrive by lunchtime so we’d have plenty of time to scope things out. Where is our next stop? Can you guess?

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