Tom and his son Natty, a 20' Lund, and the lure of the open ocean along the coast of Maine: follow their journey, propelled by wanderlust.
So my 16 year old, Natty, and I are packing out for maybe a 2 week island camping boat trip from Peaks heading Downeast toward the Canadian border. Here's the boat: a 20' open Lund that we've owned since 2000. A bit more storage than my Explorer, not as seaworthy, and certainly a riveted hull isn't Nigel's hand built expedition grade durable hull. The real difference is, of course, this trip involves many more mechanical factors, and a metal prop...and it's darn hard to safely tuck this craft above HT line overnight! So stay tuned if you're interested in Captain Natty Runs Downeast.
The Boat: 20' Lund
Monday, July 6, 2020
Today we crossed from Rockland Harbor to Vinalhaven, sweet n easy 110 deg M, straight East 10ish NM. Southerlies push light fog tendrals at us from the offshore ebb tide, then lift beautiful cumulus high above the mainland.
Carver's Harbor is chock full of inshore fishing boats, but town is quiet and lightly sprinkled with mostly mask wearing locals, quietly going about their daily routines. This slower gentler Covid initiated pace is so appealing after our usual summer tempo involving lots of reactive tasks. We visit family friends fully rehabing a once grand shoreline home that will now have another 100 years of life.
With a freshening breeze, we decide to use the strong sun to cross over Eastern Penobscot to Stonington. Out past the basaltic island with the black glassine marble beach, Saddleback Light is well below us (South). We quickly glance at our paper chart, note that the angle between N and E to Stonington Harbor is a bit less than a 45 deg angle. So we immediately know w/o more complexity that 60 deg M over the 8-10 mile crossing will land us around Crotch Island and it's massive blocks of cut granite. Isle au Haut's 600' high, six mile long NS ridge offers an easy handrail up into the Stonington archipelago where MIKCo once ran literally hundreds of overnight trips.
Gotta like a town where the only market opens at 0400.
Our newly fiberglassed wood strip dodger protects our gear while leaving the Capt well sprayed from the freshening breezes. We are so lucky to have our mountain grade Goretex shells.
Stonington Harbor is way quiet for a sunny July afternoon. We'll tuck in somewhere and see what tomorrow may bring as we head on downeast, next leg toward MDI.
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
Town of Stonington was way quiet, so social distancing was easy, tho’ almost no masks. Gotta like a town who's only small market opens at 0400, aye? “Pogies running hard,” heard one fisherman say over coffee; he had to dump 30 crates yesterday.
Spring tides gathering strength with the full moon, buoys drawing deep Vs bordering their eddies that will hold a kayak... a few even our 20' funky aluminium Lund this morning. An offshore fog bank highlights the cold water upwelling of the flood, bringing nutrient and oxygen rich cold waters into the sun infused surface layers. Our bigger fresh water rivers’ lighter density and lower salinity help mix the shallow Gulf of Maine sea into the rich soup supporting its extraordinary biomass. We spot a few Red Lion jellies as we leave Stonington Harbor at deep low.
“Pogies running hard,” heard one fisherman say over coffee.
Though wanting to share my decades of Isle au Haut kayak adventures with Natty Boy, the chance to pilot a fresh route across Blue Hill Bay and gunkhole the southern shore of Mount Desert wins out. Do we run out to Marshall Island that one family steward turned into Conservancy? Or up over the serene Swans Island on-the-way to MDI? Natty checks his Navionics. Tom is still an analog guy in digital world, and a quick glance at the chart and basic compass on the boat dash (see pic) instantly shows us that Casco Passage is about 6 nm (6 minutes of Latitude), and looks to be a 20 degree angle above true East, so we set a quick course at 90 deg magnetic.
Hadn't seen one of these before R and G, horn. Reference: Chart #1 for more info.
We're docked near a completely perfect older wooden 34' Hinckley power boat with extensive polished bright work that is certainly someone's masterpiece, named Adequate.
Tides pushing 2+ knots thru the narrower channels lift us into Southwest Harbor, and the Hinckley marina, with every mooring featuring a perfect, brand new Royal Blue Picnic Boat or North Atlantic offshore sailer. Hinckleys are still one of the queens of North Atlantic sailing craft. The dockhands are graciously polite in servicing our older low rent, beat up, riveted aluminium boat with its small gas needs amidst such extreme splendor. Natty’s almost proud of our basic functional simplicity - cool! We're docked near a completely perfect older wooden 34' Hinckley power boat with extensive polished bright work that is certainly someone's masterpiece, named Adequate.
Anyone know this one? FL 5s 32ft Priv. Decommissioned in 1930's, now a private aid-to-navigation.
We stop in Bar Harbor at their small town landing as it'd be good to hike MDI's once volcanic hills. (Cadillac Mountain was once as tall as Everest.) What a remarkable piece of real estate gifted to us all by early industrial families. Compared to the ease of sea kayak landings, our open skiff produces challenging landing and overnight security issues. It's too much for us. We move on Downeast…
Thursday, July 9, 2020
It is sure plenty thick this morning here off Corea, even for those of us used to Downeast’s regular early summer fog blanket. Back on the water, after an island respite that included Natty scoring a tiny PV electrified 9’x12’ cabin with its own Jotul stove. Today will mostly be full-on ‘dead reckoning’ once 150’ off any physical object - a big buoy, ledge, cliff, island, other boat. Most of us are functional with our ‘piloting’, the use of our observations, mostly vision, to move about in deep enough waters to avoid hitting anything that tends to defeat our interests in staying afloat.
It’s also a full moon Spring low tide now, so we may opt to get a bit off-shore to protect our prop and keep motoring. When in our sea kayaks, we’ve the great advantage of paddling in close enough to handrail along a foggy or dark coast, hence allowing us to work out some sense of where we are as we track our paddle course by a shore’s composition, exposure, layout. It’s particularly easy to figure out location along a convoluted coast as each change in a direction should match a change in a compass bearing as our chart reflects an island’s shore changes in direction………
the secret to not getting lost is to always know where you are
Remember for us all: ‘the secret to not getting lost, is to always know where you are’. And tracing along the rough outline of a shore, in bullet-proof thick fog, is a great advantage when paddling a kayak versus driving a power or sailboat… ‘cept for those unfortunate days when a bigger, breaking swell pushes our paddling group further offshore for its group safety. Ahhh, then we develop our ability to see a shore’s shapes and structures, not with our eyes, but with our ears, with our hearing. This is an interesting skill set to develop (required Downeast, I’d say), but not very useful onboard a noisier power boat even with a quiet 4-stroke motor, and tricky sound muffling fog. How might you train for these conditions?
So Natty and I threaded our way out through the Sallys off Corea, heading on Downeast, hoping to reach the Jonesport archipelago. Our crux move for today (except for missing everything that’d make us follow the Titanic) is to cross the Petit Manan Bar with its regularly jobbly waters, swifter currents, and sometimes sizable mile-long standing NoSo breaking wave. It’s an unusual geographic feature, and definitely an efficient fog generation machine. Here’s how I believe it works:
From Petit Manan Point and its so-named Wildlife Refuge, a 2-mile long bar composed of vertical volcanic spires reach up through the water nearly to surface sea level, all the way out to Petit Manan Island and its FL 10s 123ft 19M Horn lighthouse. The Gulf of Maine’s (GOM’s) counterclockwise circulation brings the arctic-cold Scotian current SW down along Maine’s coast toward the Cape, and when this ocean current, twice a day accelerated by an ebbing tide, encounters the Petit Manan Bar, its deeper cold waters are forced to the surface and drastically lower that air mass’s dew point. At this time of year, that dew point regularly reaches 100% saturation, creating a thick, solid, fog blanket, which accounts for this area being one of the East Coast’s foggiest. Our summer SW winds then transport this thick blanket on Downeast towards Jonesport. Another data point on this Bar: once I approached with a group out for a week trip…with a stiff SW wind, and a meaty summer swell running into the Bar’s strong Spring ebb…we found an impressive near 6 ft standing wave. That day I moved us in tight to the shore to use the half tide exposed rock weed which greatly quiets down meatier swells and breaking surf.
So today we’ll be deep within this near bullet-proof fog all day, we figure. With considerably less grace and ease than if we were in a kayak, yes we could handrail along the gorgeous coastal rocks, cruise the Japanese-like Douglas Islands, appreciate the vertical Shipstern and Flint Islands, maybe visit the Nashes now part of our overall conservancy…and on into the foggier Western Bay approach to Jonesport. Or we could run East on the outside, at a quicker speed, wondering most of the time where precisely we are since position is then a function of (speed x time) along a determined course. Tho comfortable with my proven chart and compass methods, this Analog-Guy-Living-In-a-Digital-World sure enjoyed the position precision of Natty’s Navionics program on his Notepad, allowing us to hit all our marks before finally popping out of the wet, damp, grey fog blanket just inside of Moosebec Reach, Jonesport.
Good to be back in this unique, hard working, just-get-it-done culture of Jonesport, along with its crazy stories about Tall Barney, the cultural friction of the separate Jonesport and Beals Island communities, founding home of the upcoming Lobster Boat races, the dramatic evolution of Jonesport’s long, low and very narrow coastal sea boats to the big, broad, powerful modern Beal built boats…and the near endless knobby islands and ledges to weave amongst.