Sunday, November 8, 2015

And Now..Moving On Without Andre

Coming off the heels of losing Ray last June, this morning is truly a BITTERsweet moment for me..another one of our big yellow boys, Andre, is leaving us.

However in this case he is off to Guiding Eyes For The Blind in Yorktown Heights New York where we hope he will start a new chapter in his life,   We'll know on Tuesday as that's  when he takes his guide dog school entrance exam. Fingers crossed...I guess..

Seeing him go in for training is especially difficult on me, more than the others we've sent off, with the exception of Big Ray.  Andre is such wonderful dog and so closely associated for me with Ray, his absence in our home will be a huge void.  But we of course wish Andre the best, with high hopes that he will become a life changing addition to a blind person's life.

I have no way of knowing if our paths will ever cross again but Andre has certainly left a profound and enduring mark on my life..

Good luck and thank you Andre...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Island Hopping ....The Last Cruise

It was a flat-arse calm, September morning on Penobscot Bay and we were now not far off Deer Isle.  All the elements were aligned properly, a cloudless sky, an incoming tide and the bay as still as a mill pond. 
We had left Belfast Public Landing, about 40 minutes earlier, not long after sunrise.  Having just cleared the No Wake buoy, located at entrance to the inner harbor, I opened up the throttle leaving The Monument behind us.  Very shortly we were in The Middle Grounds and quickly bearing down on Islesboro's Turtle Head. 
With our four stroke, 50HP Merc doing it's thing and with the water barely showing a ripple , we made good time as we rounded Turtle Head, quickly making our way down the Eastern Gut which separates Islesboro and Cape Rosier.  Soon our primary destination was insight, Barred Island.  Barred is a beautiful double headed island, with each of its heads separated by a gravel bar that becomes exposed on a dropping tide. However our incoming tide had turned about an hour before we arrived and there was still plenty of time before the bar became submerged again.
Coming around the eastern point we approached the bar slowly, cutting the engine to gently drift onto the rounded stones of the shore.  We, of course, have beached many times on an outgoing tide which is fine but it does have an accompanying concern about grounding out.  We came really, really close one time on Sears Island and  were very fortunate that we managed to re-float our boat.  But no such worry this unplanned, extended stay.
No boating experience for us is complete without our boat dog and once on shore we kept very close tabs on Andre as the island is sensitive, ecologically speaking.  We made sure that we stayed on the bar rather that exploring the wooded parts of the island, wanting to leave no impact on it's natural setting. Our shore time was very brief and  after a light snack,  not on the urchins,  we boarded and continued on to some of the many other islands in that area.
 As it turned out we weren't the only ones on the bay taking advantage of the warm sun and the calm waters...
I've always thought the the lobster boats with a mizzen sail (?) on the stern were very cool. They are not a rare sight but are still somewhat unusual.
Moving on we came across this very small island that seemed to have all the comforts.  And on a day like this one made island life very appealing.  I'm not sure that I would feel the same way during a northeaster.  But it was lovely nonetheless.


What is really nice about a small boat is that it allows you to get up close and personal. With the motor trimmed all the way up a couple of feet of water will do. And will allow you to enjoy the sights and sounds of the nature that surrounds you.
Even though this nest was unoccupied, you can't help but admired the imagination of the builders.
Below is just another example of small island life on Penobscot Bay.  Small in size but large in life.....

Time for one more stop, this time at Pond Island Preserve with it's fine beach and Deer Isle in the background... This is one we've been to before on numerous occasions and is a favorite of ours, as it is for many other boaters and kayakers.  A great spot to stretch your legs.

It's just a short cruise from Pond Island back to Islesboro and as we neared Turtle Head and our final leg returning to Belfast we passed a couple of hikers standing on what I've always thought looks like a ship's prow, the cutting edge of Islesboro.
Closing in on Belfast and with the Northport shoreline looming larger, we converged with The Thunder Bay, "thundering" down the western gut,  heading toward her home port of Rockland. It's not often that the TB gets up our way but it's always great to see her.
We made it back to the boat ramp just as the bay started to chop up.  And we'll be sure to return again next summer for more small island hopping.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Boost For The Spirit...

 What a joy it is to be able to view the magnificence of a Maine autumn morning on the way to work. Some see only the lanes of the highway and the tail lights of the cars ahead of them..
 But here in Maine and a lot of other spots in New England we are witness to something that means so much more... 
a treat for the eyes and a boost for the spirit..
Soon the color of fall will diminish and fade away to grays and browns but not long after that the dazzling days of winter will transform the landscape and hopefully, boost our spirits once again. 

Such is life in Maine..and how fortunate we are to witness and to experience that transformation.  If only we take the time to truly appreciate it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Lobstering With The Grandson,,Catchin' Bugs

It was a beautiful afternoon to get out on the bay with my grandson Dustin and my nephew Bryan, along with his wife Rebecca and daughter Hailey.  It was Dustin's first experience with the intricate art of catching lobsters. . Bryan, who learned the art of catching those spiny, delicacies from his grandfather, DJ,  met us with, in fact, his grand dads old boat, at the Belfast Public Landing. 

Well actually it is a new "old" boat as  Bryan has immensely improved it from the old DJ days. Anyways,  soon we were off The Battery to the first buoy, floating upright as if at attention. Much easier to "latch" onto nowadays as compared to old floating warp,  gaff days..

Quickly Bryan had the pot warp engaged in the knee activated hauler and even more quickly the trap was revealed from the shallow waters and was on the working shelf to the immense interest of Dustin and Hailey.
And just like that we had our first lobster.... except..
it was a notched female laden with eggs. And after the quick inspection by our curious crew, she was over the side, the lobster, not Hailey.

Now we were on to the next set of traps, with the process repeating itself.. and with Hailey and Dustin anticipating the haul..

This time a different eggs..but to my experienced eye, honed to a sharpness from those long ago days of lobstering with my old man,  this particular bug looked a bit undersized to me. However with an expert check on the guage, and after a mild rebuke directed toward me from Bryan..

 the next thing I saw was the claw bands slipping over the crusher and pincer. Another upgrade from the days of the sharpened wooden, flat sided pegs that we used to insert behind the moving portion of the claws in order to immobilize them. 
(And by the way..check out the lovely bucket of bait that was supplied to Bryan by a professional fisherman, Brad. Anyways, I digress..)

And quick as Jack flew over the candlestick, our lobster landed in the bottom of the bucket..our first keeper..or should I say keepa'?

Of course Dustin, now having deemed himself a bonafide deckhand,  had to make sure all was in order and that the creature had settled in.

(Oh and Hailey? She said her Dad looked like a princess in his white fishing bibs.)

Dustin was curious about the trap and buoy set up and found a way to help by tossing the buoy back into the water after the trap was reset.  However he wasn't all that enthusiastic about the bait bucket, sorry Brad.  Who knows, maybe there is a future stern man in the making?

After hauling about a third of Bryan's traps we were as close to the marina as we were going to get, so we decided to head back so poor Bryan could get the rest of this traps tended before dark. 

On the way back we came across a pair of harbor seals basking in the late summer sun.

It was a fabulous couple of hours on the bay with my nephew Bryan and grandson Dustin and niece Becca and grand niece Hailey. 

And to top it all off? 

To be back in my Dad's old boat,  very fond memories of the old days washing over me.. with DJ and Uncle Oscar..haulin' traps..catchin' bugs...

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Boating The Bagaduce River, Check..

We finally checked off another check off square from our Check Off List.  Castine has been one of our go to spots and when we visit we almost always tell one another that someday we really have-to explore The Bagaduce River.

So leaving Castine harbor in our wake..


and with our bow pointing up river..


we began our inland voyage...


 Of course as with any exploration of new waters one must be aware at all times of positioning and potential hazards. And so with the chart in the hands of a very competent navigator and our vigilant lookout stationed on the bow to alert us of impending danger


  we enjoyed smooth sailing on the broad waters with "The Narrows" looming ahead of us. 


 However our tranquil voyage would soon be interrupted with the eddys and and strong currents that quickly appeared. Strong enough to nearly submerge a green can. 


 But  just as quickly as they appeared, they disappeared, returning us to flat water, with our destination coming into view


 and looming ever larger, the Town of Penobscot,  nestled on the shoreline of Northern Bay.


 Even though we were some distance from the shore the river bottom was quickly closing the gap between us and it. And with the tide now receding we came about and worked our way down river, soon finding ourselves back in familiar waters of Castine harbor.


 A "pitstop" on Holbrook Island with it's convenient dockage was now in order...


 And so another check off from our Check Off List and another great day on the bay.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Lubec .. Campobello .. Beals Island ..A Bit of Maine and More...

And back to our Downeast Maine trip....
In my post of August 8th I delved into the charms of Eastport. Well I'm happy to say that there are lots of other "charming" spots on the Downeast coast of Maine. Charming may not be the term to describe those areas if you're a resident and trying to scratch out a living but to most of us who are traveling thru the word accurately describes Lubec  and Beals Island.   I don't know if Campobello Island fits into the same "trying to scratch out a living" category as the other two but it definitely fits into the charming category.
I've lived in Maine my entire life but up until 3 weeks ago have never visited these areas even though Campobello has always been on my bucket list.  And since I married into the Bailey family with their roots firmly entrenched into the hardscrabble Calais soil, I have been joyfully exploring Downeast Maine with my wife and her two brothers expertly guiding me through this "other Maine".
On our way back home to Belfast, we turned off Rt. 1 and soon found ourselves dodging all the traffic in downtown Lubec.
It's charm is evident in it's architecture and waterfront buildings
which harken back to better days of fishing and boat building. However even now it has it's draws,  such as West Quoddy Head and being  the gateway to Campobello. There are of course fishermen in the town who I'm guessing bring to market a good amount of lobster.
Living in Belfast, I've always been amazed at the power and influences of the tides particularly the difference between high and low in our area of the mid-coast. But our tides don't stack up at all to those in the Eastport - Lubec areas.  I'm not sure if the photo above was taken at the low water mark or not but it will surely give you an indication of what their tides are like. They would definitely take some getting used to.

After our tour of Lubec we crossed the International Bridge onto Campobello Island and my first visit to the Roosevelt International Park. Simply awe inspiring..
So much history of a fascinating family and era..
Cottage and grounds..
Beach and wharf..
View of Lubec from the island...
Moving on we next took a quick tour of Beals Island
a lobster fishing enclave if I ever saw one..
And one thing , among many, that struck me was that there were so few recreational boats. Spending most of my time in salt water of Belfast , Searsport and Camden I am used to seeing harbors jammed up with all sorts of boats dedicated to fun and tourists.  Perhaps I wasn't looking in the right spots but Eastport , Lubec and Jonesport Beals salt water dedication seems to me to be  directed toward making a living and not frivolity.  It was nice to see that part of Maine's heritage still exists.
Maine Matters will definitely return to the Washington County's portion of The Bold Coast to explore and report..until then..

Friday, August 14, 2015

It's a Harbor Happening..

In order to kick off this years Belfast Harbor Fest, the town received some visitors, who it seems to me,  puts us on the yachting world map.

The tide was low but spirits high as we strolled past the boat ramp..

With pennants flying against a beautiful blue sky,

The New York Yacht Club had arrived..

A good contingency had tied up or moored in Belfast Bay, consequently making the Public Landing a very busy spot to be..

A happening...

Motor yachts, sailboats, dories and dinghies, all contributed to the hustle and bustle of a very busy waterfront...

What a change from the "Smaltz Port" notoriety that was Belfast's reputation years ago when the bay was used for convenient disposal of raw sewerage and chicken offal.

But those days are long gone and now Belfast has become A Destination for cruise ships, boats and yachts of all shapes and sizes..

And it is so very nice to see..