We left our Lake Montauk, NY anchorage early on June 23rd to cruise up to Newport, Rhode Island. There was a lot of commercial boat traffic as we passed through Block Island Sound and Rhode Island Sound, but we had a nice cruise. After passing Block Island we turned north and cruised into Newport Harbor, with a lot of other boats, large and small. We hailed the Harbormaster and got a mooring ball assigned. Their crew actually guided us to the ball in their launch which was very helpful as there are hundreds of mooring balls dotting the harbor. The harbor is naturally deep and protected and BEAUTIFUL. Newport is jam packed with history, so we had a blast walking around, taking a self-guided tour, having a personal tour (nobody else signed up) of Ft. Adams, and generally just loving it. Kathleen found a great oil and vinegar shop where she was able to purchase some fun culinary items. The best part of this weekend was being able to meet up with an old friend of Kathleen’s and his husband. Russ and Kathleen originally met in 6th grade and hadn’t seen each other since 1982 – 40 years ago!- high school graduation. FaceBook brought them back in contact, and this was the first time they had been able to see each other. We had a fun time at dinner at the Black Pearl restaurant on the harbor, and then strolling around after for some dessert. It is one of the best parts of this boating life – getting to see old friends, and it happens more than you might think.
From Newport, we cruised up the coast in Buzzards Bay to the town of Onset, Massachusetts on the 26th. We anchored there for two days to wait out some weather before heading through the Cape Cod canal. Onset is another small, picturesque vacation spot with amazing homes and beautiful shores, waters, flora and boats. It unfortunately rained for most of the day we were there, so we did not get to do any adventuring on shore. It was a peaceful, easy place to be, and Kathleen took advantage of early morning sun to do pilates and yoga in the cockpit with not a soul around. We very often feel very spoiled.
We left Onset the next morning at 9:00, and cruised through the Cape Cod Canal. Entering the canal, we passed by the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, a beautiful school right on the point. The run through the canal was “swirly” (Kathleen’s description as she piloted through it), but picturesque. We exited on the east side into Cape Cod Bay, with a perfect view of the far arm of Massachusetts. We hung a left and cruised up the coast to Gloucester, enjoying the New England coastline and beautiful weather. We pulled into Gloucester Harbor around 5:00, having dodged many lobster pots with no mishaps – but really, do a lot of lobster swim in 90 feet of water 5 miles off the coast? Kathleen thinks maybe the lobstermen just like messing with us on occasion…
We grabbed an anchor ball after deciding the one assigned to us was too close to another boat (the harbormaster was cool with this – we’ve been finding so far that harbors are much less crowded the further north we go – but we expect this to change as the summer continues…). The marina offered launch service (which means we get rides to and from the docks, which is lovely). We went into Gloucester, walked around and had a lovely dinner. The town was sleepy, but it was midweek and it is a fishing town. Folks go to work early here. After a stroll and seeing a HUGE church (these folks are SERIOUSLY Catholic) and an even larger town hall, we hailed the launch to go back to our boat. We had the same captain, and as he was not busy, he asked if we’d like a tour of the harbor – it was very cool, seeing a marine works shop that had been there for the last 400 years or so, and still had rails that were used to lift boats out of the water to do work. We want to come back and spend longer here to really see the place. We did meet another Nordhavn couple – Hank and Betsy from My Harley, a 60 foot trawler. We hadn’t seen a lot of cruisers so far, so it was fun to meet some new friends!
From Gloucester, we cruised through the Blynman Canal. We had a moment of hesitancy as we noticed other cruisers like us were taking the long way around the Cape, including My Harley. The online reviews were less than enthusiastic for it being an easy transit. Neil checked with the harbormaster, though, and he said we were fine. And we were. We had two bridge openings, several sharp curves, and a narrow-ish canal to transit, along with 7 feet under our hull – and we were at high tide with a 7 foot tide – so, we could not have made it through at lower tides. But there was no wind, and the scenery was phenomenal – the area was a vacation paradise for Massachusetts folks. We came out on the Ipswitch Bay, and continued to head north to Kittery, Maine, about as far south in Maine as you can be (the Portsmouth Harbor borders both New Hampshire and Maine. We were not very far from Portsmouth, and the anchorage was, again, gorgeous. And again, there were tons of lobster pots. We were definitely starting to plot getting some lobsters, but so far they were still really expensive…
From Kittery, we cruised up to Harpswell, Maine. We saw whales (Kathleen’s first time!) and passed the Bush’s estate in Kennebunkport (could see it from very far away). Pulling into the harbor, we stayed at the Dolphin Marina and Restaurant, which was AMAZING. Dolphin is a family run marina, and it is the friendliest, most knowledgeable, unbelievably kind place we have been so far. Every morning they visit each moored boat in their launch and bring fresh coffee and fresh blueberry muffins (Kathleen was almost crying at this as she couldn’t eat them). The people who run the marina are ALL family and they employ local college kids (Bowdoin College is 20 mins away) for summer help. The restaurant here has large servings of amazing local seafood for very reasonable prices, and Erika’s sells seafood – whole lobsters for SEVEN DOLLARS A POUND (Yes, we had found our nirvana). We got the bikes down and with a wonderful launch service to shore, took a beautiful ride to a trailhead and got our fix in for wandering nearby forests to hidden coves, walking among tidal basins and open fields. Kathleen is pretty sure we could live here – Neil is thinking at least during the summer months… It has been exceptionally nice to get up in the morning and not be sweating, able to have a hot beverage and enjoy the quiet of this place. We have been kind of joking about how we are now spending summers cooler and winters warmer – but we love being able to do so!
We celebrated the 4th of July over several days, with a fireworks display on the night of the 3rd as we enjoyed a second night of steamed lobster. On the 4th, we cruised from Dolphin Marina to Christmas Cove, in South Bristol, Maine. Another gorgeous, smooth day of boating, punctuated by a slew of lobster pots the whole way up, getting much denser as we approached the harbor. Christmas Cove is another beautiful, secluded harbor, with many unique and spectacular sailboats and day cruisers. After we got settled, Kathleen made lobster bisque (we still had not tired of this crustacean delight) and enjoyed another evening of fireworks set off from the dock. We took a hike the next day, visiting a local preserve and the next “town” over – not much of a town, but there were streetside “honor markets” with Kathleen proving once again that she can and will buy arbitrary Christmas ornaments anywhere, anytime.
We took an amazing dinghy cruise around the area, being treated to an island of seals (who were only a little perturbed that we had disturbed their naps) as well as pristine Maine coast scenery. This is a quiet place, with what seems to be mostly vacation homes – and it definitely got on our “maybe, someday” list. We had dinner at the Coveside restaurant in Christmas Cove, then back to the boat before high winds and rain came racing in for the night.
Wednesday was spent on the boat, as the winds were still high, but we enjoyed the downtime, catching up on tasks and the like.
We raised anchor with “lightening skies” at 5:15 on the 7th , as we had a 10 hour cruise ahead of us to Southwest Harbor. It was magnificent to leave the harbor at that time – smooth as glass water, quiet, with only the lobster boats around us (and there were plenty of them…). We have learned that the reason for the deep water pots is the particular season for the lobsters – they molt during the warmer summer months, which leave them with soft shells, and less protection from predation – so they go deeper. So do the lobstermen. We are in awe of the hard work these people do, day in and day out. It is a grueling calling with razor thin margins. And we try not to make their work harder by staying our of their way and giving them right of way on the water.
The views from the ocean were straight out of Hollywood – brilliant, rising sun, glistening water, and a magical mist hugging the shoreline. On this cruise, we got to see puffins – those really cute birds that don’t look like they should be able to fly, with the round faces, orange beaks and rounder bodies – but they flit over the rolling water, rest when needed, and dive up to 200 feet in search of food – all with looking like something Kathleen would love to get closer to… they have very sweet faces. We also saw sunfish. At first, we were not sure what we were seeing, as these fish are HUGE and flat, have speckled bodies and fins that look like floppy shark fins – we really had not idea what we were seeing, and were grateful to our friends Hank and Betsy for sharing their knowledge! Look them up – they are crazy looking.
We pulled into Southwest Harbor, Maine by mid-afternoon. This marina is well known in the cruising community, as a good, protected place to dock or grab a mooring ball, and the last place to stay before hopping over to Canada. The harbormaster, Micah, and his son Jacob, are AMAZING. Micah can find space, it seems, for anyone. We had a facing dock tie up between two smaller boats, with very little room forward or aft – but with thrusters, a helpful wind, and VERY capable hands of Jacob (he had us fully tied up and secure before Kathleen could even get off the boat to help – never happens!), we were secured to the dock, making what was a little tricky seem easy. After checking in, we had “linner” (lunch-dinner) at the restaurant overlooking the harbor and marina, and actually got to watch Betsy and Hank come in on My Harley. They have been here several times, and their 60′ Nordhavn was in its slip and secured in no time.
Walking back to our boat, we met Milt and Judy Baker on their new American Tug, “Blue Water V”. Milt and Judy are icons in the cruising world, especially Nordhavns. They welcomed us onto their boat and regaled us with stories of decades of cruising, involving many people that we knew. We also had a great time getting our “dog fix” with their cutie, Zoey. While visiting with them, we asked about getting some more local lobster – they hailed Micah who happened to be walking by, and he promised us 6 the next day when the local lobsterman came back in with that day’s haul. The next day we walked into town to have some coffee and goodies at a local shop, and then headed back to Granuaile to clean her up, inside and out, including polishing neglected stainless steel, changing oil, and washing a lot of clothes. It felt really good to get everything de-salted, polished and cleaned. The lobsters were delivered to our boat, and Kathleen spent some time steaming and cleaning four of the lobsters for later meals. For dinner, we enjoyed wonderful steamed delights while watching the sun set.
We had a couple of nice visits with Hank and Betsy, once again feeling so lucky to meet great people who share our passion for this lifestyle. We planned to return to Southwest Harbor in August, hoping to host our son Mike and his girlfriend Nat for a week visit.
Next up: Nova Scotia, Canada