“What time is it?”, I asked Al.
“It’s Wednesday.”, he said.
And so it goes in the day of the live aboard cruiser. Daylight, tides and winds are more important than dates and times. In fact for some reason our clocks didn’t switch on our phones so we have been using Newfoundland time since we left. And your priorities changes as well. Take a good town to pull into for the evening. My choice over anything is one with a good bakery. I have been planning on making my own bread but have yet to try because we are low on propane and need to fill the tanks before I try. A good bakery is worth a stopover at this point.
To catch up, our departure for the US was right on schedule and we departed Yarmouth at 2:30 am to cross the Bay of Fundy. We were travelling with another boat, Break Free II. This is Tigger’s boat, another live aboard kitty that Filbert met on the dock in Shelburne. His sailing partners, Pat and Karen, are from Toronto and have been living aboard for 10 years.
Crossing the Bay of Fundy is no mean feat, tide and winds can play havoc with a sail plan because they can slow you to the point where your travelling backwards. As the Bay of Fundy empties and fills there are significant water level changes that can either impede or assist your progress across the bay. We timed our departure to coincide with the tide in order to get a boost across the Bay of Fundy. Our estimated milage was 105 nm and we expected to be arriving in Southwest Harbour before dark.
Our crossing was near perfect and we made good time, topping out at 8.6 nm per hour, which is pretty good for Ingomar. A near crisis was averted when preparing an early breakfast, the propane died on me in the galley. Thankfully we have a small reserve tank and it was quickly installed.
We arrived on the coast of Maine ahead of schedule and were quite pleased with how the crossing had evolved. It was then we saw our first lobster pot, 27 nm outside of Southwest Harbour. As we got closer the pots became more frequent. I could hear Greg’s voice from RNSYC echo through my thoughts, “Its like someone threw a box of smarties on the water” is what he’d said. OMJ, it really was. The next three hours we slowly, methodically weaved our way through an insane amount of lobster buoys, that seemed to be everywhere at once. The only saving grace is that in Maine the fishers use a leaded line on their pot, so the lines go straight down. They do not use floating lines that lie on top of the water, so if you steer clear of the buoy then you should be fine. There were a couple of unfortunate boaters who had to call Coast Guard for assistance within the 3 hour span it took us to land in Southwest Harbor; they had lines caught in their props. 🙁
As we made our way into the setting sun, weaving and zigzagging, we finally set eyes on Southwest Harbour. And it was lovely. We tied up to a couple of mooring balls, called the office of Homeland security, raised our yellow flag which is referred to as a quarantine flag, indicating that you have not yet gained clearance to enter that country. We received a call from the immigration office informing us they were sending someone out but it would take a couple of hours, so we were to sit tight until then. An opportune time for a glass a glass of vino and a well earned bite. Although we were tired we decided a good meal was essential and I cooked up a pasta bolognese.
Just as we finished our meal we received a call from the immigration officer that he would be on shore shortly and that we were to proceed to land and meet him. We arranged to meet at the Coast Guard dock and dropped the dinghy in the water. As we tied to the dinghy dock at the Coast Guard wharf we noted a couple of men were fishing off the wharf. We called out hello and they asked us about our intentions, questioning why we were there at that time. We told them we were meeting an immigration officer but they told us to sit tight until they went inside to alert Coast Guard that we were there. In no time there were six men in full uniform shining flashlights in our faces, asking us why we had tied to their dock. Lesson learned, you do not tie up to a official wharf such as Coast Guard in the US at night, or any time for that matter, unannouced. After we explained our purpose the men turned warm and chatty and we had a great conversation while waiting for the immigration rep. He too was very welcoming and provided us with a cruising permit for the US for one year but chose not to come aboard our boats. All cleared, we headed back to our boat for a solid nights sleep.
Southwest Harbour Maine, on Mount Desert Island, in Hancock County, Maine, is the largest island off the coast of Maine and is a beautiful and popular destination for boaters of all kinds. The variety of boats here is simply astounding and you could sit looking all day. Southwest Harbour is home to Hinckley Yachts, a classic among boats and there were many in this harbour.
Our plan for the day was to walk into town, a short 5 minute walk, to see what was available for supplies. Al however, ran into a couple we had met previously in Shelbourne, Clayton and Deanna. They had rented a car and offered to give us a lift to the grocery store and anywhere else we needed to go and we took them up on their offer. We got to see some of Mt. Desert Island and it is a lovely place, picturesque and green, with white painted houses and black shutters and well kept gardens.
After restocking the pantry at a great grocery store, Clayton and Deanna invited us back to their boat, a 50 ft Nordhaven trawler. I have always been a sailing devotee but when I saw this boat I actually swayed a little. It is beautiful, spacious and you could go anywhere in this boat. I put this one aside for now and thought it might be just the boat we’d transition into later in life. Clayton and Denna are also permanent live aboards and are cruising permanently.
We spent 2 more days in Southwest Harbour, exploring and lounging. There’s a great bakery in the town and as I mentioned before, if there’s a good bakery then its a town worth staying in. I’m not sure why this is but I have adopted this as a rule of thumb while traveling. A good bakery seems to be the heart of the place and the one in Southwest Harbour was very busy and equally good.
After hanging out and resting up for 3 days, we decided to get going on Tuesday morning. The swell threatened to be significant as a result of Hurricane Hermine’s influence making its way up the coast. And sure enough it was present but we could deal with it. What turned out to be a total drag were the lobster pots and the fog. Navigating them is a nightmare because you cannot take your eyes off the ocean. It took two of us, me watching lobster buoys and Al manning the radar for the numerous fishing boats around us.
We had set our sights for Boothbay Harbor but because progress was so slow we only made it to a place called Port Clyde, which I might note was bakery deficient. It also had no wifi and as I still had at this point not purchased a SIM card then we were non-communicado. We set out after the fog lifted the next day and had an exact replica of the day before, light winds, big swells, fog and a plethora of lobster buoys. The bright note to this is Filbert loves this kind of sailing and sleeps for hours on deck rolling about in his carrier like a bowl of jello.
We made it to Boothbay Harbor, a popular tourist destination in the area. It was still very busy and full of tourists. The town is not exactly what either of us were looking for so we did a quick tour and searched out a local bar for a quick drink. We found the most unique bar that had been made out of an old sailing boat.
We headed back to Ingomar and planned to head for Portland the next day, one of my favourite cites on the east coast, with many bakeries I might note. We are making slow time but its not a big deal to either of us. We had wanted to get to the Caribbean as fast as possible but unfortunately insurance limits us on when we can leave for the bright blue waters. Therefore we plan to explore the US a little longer than originally planned and so we have settled into a pace that suits us. Today is Saturday and I have no idea what time it is. Still, I do know, its 5 o’clock somewhere. Cheers!