24 July, 2009


Location: Somes Harbor, Mt. Desert Island, ME
Position: N 44 21.623 W 068 19.649

Mmmmm…blueberries. And not just any blueberries. Low bush Maine blueberries. Have you ever had any of these? They’re pretty small – a large one runs about 3/8” in diameter and most are about 1/4". But the flavor. Oh my.

We couldn’t have timed our visit to Mt. Desert Island and Acadia National
Park any better if we’d planned it. It’s the height of blueberry season here and the hills are covered with the delicious little blue orbs. To top it off, every time we hear the local pronunciation of the island’s name (“dessert” not “desert” – the emphasis being on the second syllable) our mouths begin to water in anticipation of the mountains of dessert we’ll soon be making.

Mt. Desert Island is home to a majority of the land in the Acadia National Park, one of the smallest, yet most popular parks in the national park system. More than 3 million visitors come to Mt. Desert Island every year. One of our cruising guides says “People come from everywhere to see this beautiful island, this granite-hard, fog-softened, primeval meeting place of land and sea.” Luckily, most of these tourists arrive by car (and seem to spend most of their time there). This leaves the mountainous hiking trails relatively uncrowded.
View from the top
Our home base is in Somes Harbor at the northern end of Somes Sound, the fjord that nearly bisects the island. We’ve been anchored here for four days so far, and are looking forward to spending a few more days here. From Rachel, we can row the dinghy in to the public dock and walk up the short road past some beautiful gardens and fields full of wildflowers to the main road. There we stand until one of the free buses that run every hour to Bar Harbor passes. We flag it down and ride it in to town. From the village green we can take any of 7 different bus routes around the island and through the park.

Yesterday we got together with our friends on “Osprey” and went for a hike in the park. After some discussion with a couple from a neighboring boat who have come here for years, we decided upon the Bear Brook Trail which runs north-south and crosses Champlain (1058 ft.), Halfway, and Gorham (525 ft) Mountains. It’s a 4 1/3 mile trek rated as “moderate” in the trail guide. It turned out to be just right. We got to do a bit of scrambling, a lot of up-and-down hiking over rocks (good workout for the knees), and some forested paths that took us along the banks of a beaver pond. Along the way we found patch after patch of blueberries.
Mark picking berries
At around noon, after we’d crested the top of Champlain Mountain, we stopped, rested, and ate our picnic lunches. After our lunch break we started collecting berries as we walked along. Kayo and Birdie, the “Osprey” kids, would run on ahead and find the “Oh my gosh! The mother lode!!” berry patches. The adults would catch up and all six of us would spend a few minutes harvesting the biggest and bluest berries we could see. This continued on and off for the next hour or so until we’d collected several pints. For the remainder of the walk any berries picked went directly into our mouths. You could tell by all the blue tongues that we got our antioxidants for the day!

Just as we were running out of steam we arrived at the end of the trail. Happy, tired, and a bit achy, we lolled around on the shore side of the road park loop watching the ocean waves roll in until the bus came by to take us home.

In all, Rachel’s crew collected about two pints of berries. All that remains now is for us to decide how to prepare them. There are so many choices. To paraphrase Bubba in the movie “Forrest Gump”: “You got blueberry buckle, blueberry cobbler, blueberries in yogurt, blueberry muffins, plain old blueberries, blueberry pancakes, blueberry trifle, blueberry pie, blueberries and cream, blueberry duff, blueberry scones, blueberry bread, blueberries on cereal, blueberry waffles, blueberries in custard, blueberry tarts, blueberry twists, blueberry syrup, blueberry donuts, blueberry cupcakes, blueberry ……….”The Haul

21 July, 2009

Heading to Maine

Location: Somes Harbour, Maine
Position: N 44 21.623 W 068 19.649

We did it again. We’ve been having so much fun we haven’t been keeping you in the loop. Sorry. It’s a tough life, but somebody’s got to do it.

Here’s the quick account of our last few weeks. After sailing through New York City we made a couple of stops and ended up in Hamburg Cove, Hamburg, CT, about 8 miles up the Connecticut River where we put Rachel on a mooring and went to visit Mark’s mom for several days.

After a lovely, albeit very busy 6 days with her, we returned to Rachel, slipped the mooring, and headed to Point Judith Pond, just south of Wakefield, RI to spend a few more days visiting with some cruising friends. It was a great visit – they even took us to that cruisers paradise, the “3 for $10” wine store!

After dinner one night on their boat and dinner the next night on Rachel, we hauled anchor at first light (a.k.a. “o-dark-thirty” to us cruisers), sailed up Buzzards Bay, and made Onset, MA at the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal before dark. We then waited a few more days for weather and the arrival of some other cruising friends with whom we’d agreed to make the trip up to Maine. They arrived, the weather moderated, and we left together to catch the tide through the canal at 1:30 PM on Sunday, July 19th. Our planned destination was “somewhere in Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, Maine”, although we were not sure we would make the entire voyage without stopping as there was the possibility of strong northeasterly wind in the forecast. We would have chosen to make landfall somewhere else along the Maine coast had it arrived.
Dead Calm
The trip went well. We headed due north for 100 miles until we were just off Portland, Maine, where we altered course to the east and sailed about 10 miles offshore along the Maine coast. The whole way we were on the lookout for whales, this is prime breeding ground. We were not sure if we really wanted to see one as they are very big and have been known to tip boats over – yikes!

We had a couple of ‘maybe’ sightings, interspersed with lots of partially deflated mylar balloons. Why so many balloons? We have no idea but they are littering the Atlantic in this area. Boycott mylar balloons!!

We also had another surprise visitor to the boat when we were about 20 miles offshore. We looked down at the port genoa sheet (the rope that controls the front sail) and saw, of all things, a dragonfly! It stayed with us for a few minutes, catching its breath, one would assume, then flew off toward its destination.

As the sun was setting on the 2nd night we finally saw a whale, a huge whale, only about 100 feet off our beam. We can’t be sure of it’s length, but it must have been around 50 or 60 feet long. It’s head emerged, it took a breath, and sounded. It’s back rolled on by for a long time, then its dorsal fin and finally a big tail. With a flick it was gone. We both stared at the sea where it had disappeared, hoping to see it again. Wow!
Later that evening we looked over at our friend’s boat and saw a huge dorsal fin right off their bow. We didn’t know what it was but felt sure they were going to hit it. We hailed them on the radio then saw them out on deck looking down. Moments later we saw the fin behind their boat where it then disappeared under the surface. We called them again on the radio and they were all excited. A great white shark about 15 feet long had slowly swum along the length of their boat right beside them!

We also saw many seals, their heads bobbing along the surface looking much like lobster buoys, until they saw us, snorted, and disappeared. We were surprised to see so many this far out from shore, especially after the shark sighting.

Our 2nd night out was very dark as there was almost no moon and the sky was almost completely covered with clouds. We’re talking dark, here. Really, really, really dark. Sitting in the cockpit alone on night watch we kept being startled when we’d hear a “flap flap flap flap flap” sound. We finally figured out that it was shearwater taking off after being startled from their rest by Rachel’s passing. Shearwaters are a kind of gull that sleep on the surface and make a loud flapping noise with their feet as they run on the surface to get up enough speed to take off. Until we realized what it was, it was a bit nerve wracking and a bit scary, especially since we couldn’t see anything.
Who do you think won?
At any rate, in just under two days and nights and 221 nautical miles – most of it spent motoring on a glassy flat ocean interspersed with about 12 hours of easy sailing ­– we dropped anchor here at Mt. Desert Island, Maine at 9:00 am Tuesday, July 21st.
We tidied up, did our “arriving after a passage” boat jobs, went ashore for a walk in the afternoon, followed by an early dinner, a couple of quick games of backgammon, and were off to bed early. Yawn…..

03 July, 2009

New York City

Location: Manhasset Bay, NY
Position: N 40 49.913 W 73 43.014

We leave Deltaville and are on the fast track to get north. Eight days and over 370 miles later we are sailing into New York Harbor. We have travelled up the Chesapeake Bay, through the C & D Canal, down the Delaware Bay and up New Jersey’s Atlantic coast. For years Julie has been looking forward to sailing Rachel through New York City from the south as we have heard it is quite dramatic.

Entering the Hudson River we pass under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, one of the world’s largest suspension bridges (it’s actually 20 ft. longer than the Golden Gate in San Francisco). Off in the distance, 14 miles away, we see the Manhattan skyline peeking through the haze. As we progress through the busy harbour the Manhattan skyline becomes more and more clear, then the Statue of Liberty appears as a tiny speck in the distance.

There are lots of high speed ferries and yellow and black water taxis zipping around the huge cargo ships and barges from all over the world. Although we watch the sights in awe, we also have to keep our wits about us to stay clear of all the traffic.

Staten Island is on our left and Brooklyn is on our right. The 2 knots of current against us makes for fairly slow progress, but it doesn’t matter - there is so much to see and enjoy. By the time we get close to the Battery, at the foot of Manhattan Island, we are starting to feel like a toy boat in this huge city’s bath tub. We pass right by the 300 ft tall Statue of Liberty with her gold flame glowing in the afternoon sun. Coincidentally, this is the first day she’s been open to the public since the 9/11 tragedy.

Ellis Island, through which millions of immigrants were processed into the United States, is just past Miss Liberty. The big orange Staten Island ferries zip by us every few minutes crossing from Staten Island to Manhattan. We start to pick up the city smells, dust, smog, trash, an occasional laundry and suddenly, just once, honeysuckle!!

We turn into the much narrower East River which we will follow 14 miles to Long Island Sound. Now, as we are so close to Lower Manhattan and our deck is nearly at street level, we can look up the long streets shadowed between the huge skyscrapers. There is lots of noise. Not really the hustle and bustle you would hear if you were on the streets, nothing specific, just noise – traffic on the bridges, ferry horns, tug engines, air traffic, etc. After 6 days on the water, where the only sounds are the water whooshing by and our quiet conversations, this constant noise is exhausting.

We wish our friend Carter was with us. She lives in the city and would have been a great tour guide. We are sure we’re missing a lot of famous places but it doesn’t really matter – we’re having a ball.

Now on the East river we pass under The Brooklyn Bridge. Built in 1883 it’s the first of 8 high level bridges connecting Manhattan with Brooklyn and Queens. Further along we pass lots of high rise apartment buildings on the Manhattan side and more, not as tall, apartments, and commercial and industrial buildings on the Brooklyn side. We’ve timed our passage to arrive at the infamous Hell Gate at slack tide. As you may gather from the name, this area is renowned for LOTS of current, up to 5 knots, weird eddies, standing waves, and whirlpools. It is where the East River and Harlem River meet and there’s not really any slack tide – it’s either flooding or ebbing. Our timing is perfect - we only pick up about 1.5 knots and speed the rest of the way. Between “The Brothers”, the northern island of which was used as a tuberculosis colony, past Rikers Island, the infamous New York prison island, LaGuardia airport, under 4 more bridges, out of the city and are suddenly spat out under the Throgs Neck Bridge into the serene and pastoral Long Island Sound.

We continue on into Manhasset Bay and pick up a free mooring provided by the city of Port Washington where we settle in for the night.

All day we’ve been taking turns at the helm and when Julie wasn’t driving she was sitting up on the foredeck so she could get the entire panoramic view of this great city.

Wow, what a day.

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel