Sunday, February 06, 2011

ICW North To Maine

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL
34 42.54 N 081 05.58 W

This post will be more brief than the previous post. That's because we haven't explored this are nearly as much as the others I wrote about.

First, a major disclaimer. The New York East River, Hells Gate, Long Island Sound, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, and most of Cape Cod, we have never sailed. Therefore I can't say much about them.

We love Maine. Twice we've sailed there and I'm sure there will be a third and fourth time in coming years. Both times, we began by sailing from Cape May, New Jersey, to Block Island, RI, then up through Buzzards Bay, through the Cape Cod Canal, and then to Massachusetts or Maine.

Block Island has a very nice harbor. After an offshore voyage, when you're looking for a secure place to anchor and catch up on your sleep, it's a great spot. However, the town, the moorings and the marinas were all too expensive and too crowded for our tastes, so we didn't dawdle very long.

We sailed into Narraganset Bay. It is very pretty, and we were very upbeat about exploring it thoroughly. Alas, we found that it is overpopulated. Harbors are too full of moorings to anchor. Moorings are too expensive to rent (we tried once: $45/night!!!). A major exception was Bristol, RI.
We had a great time anchored in Bristol. It's a charming place. The most fun was touring the Herreshoff Museum and watching the Herreshoff one-design boats racing in the evening.

New Bedford also proved to be a very nice stop. We learned that one can anchor behind Popes Island. New Bedford has great culture, great museums, and public transportation.

At the Northeast Corner of Buzzards Bay, we could anchor out close to the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal. We also went to a marina near there to meet friends for a day sail. What a shock! $120/night for a transient slip at that marina. That's almost triple what we're willing to pay.

The Cape Cod Canal is cool, exciting, it can be beautiful, but it also can be scary. The tidal currents in the canal are fierce. Don't even think about traversing the canal against the current. With the current, you'll be doing 9 knots over the ground. Also beware the entrances to the canal if the tidal currents are opposed to a strong wind -- that causes huge standing waves and it's very scary.

Emerging into Cape Cod Bay, we sailed the first trip to Marblehead, Mass, then to Portsmouth, NH. Once again we found those waters much too crowded and much to expensive for us. Maine is much more cruiser friendly, so the second time, we left the canal and then sailed on a rhumb line directly for Penobscot Bay, Maine.

Having said that, one delightful and very friendly stop is Isles of Shoals, NH. You can stop there on the way north, or on the return voyage south, or both.

Once in Maine, we fell in love with the Penobscot Bay region. However, there are 3,300 miles of coast in Maine and we've seen less than 10% of it.

I should say something more about the season. Both times, we arrived in Maine approximately August, 1. We believe that June and July are much more likely to be socked in by the famous pea soup fog (not to mention being cold and rainy.) We heard too many stories from boaters who went to Maine and never saw the coast or the mountains. That's not a hard rule, but a soft one. August is more likely to have less fog.

Then it is time to leave Maine and start migrating south by Labor Day. If you leave 2-3 weeks later than that, you're likely to find that adverse weather and cold chase you all the way to Florida.

So, from our point of view, the season to be in Maine is only 5 weeks long -- extremely short. That puts severe limits on our ambitions to explore more of those 3,300 miles. By the time we had our fill of Rockland, Belfast, Isle La Haut and more, there's little time left to explore other places.

Our next ambition is to do Nova Scotia. If we do, then presumably we'll also stop in Maine, but maybe not. The same 5 week season is likely to apply.

1 comment:

  1. Dick,
    Love the blog.
    I have been vacationing in Maine since I was a kid, and I don't think that a 5 week season is a fair assessment. During a two week period in July I might see foggy conditions on two or three days, but what fog there is typically burns off by noon. Most Mainers would probably say that there are at least eight weeks in a season.

    Fair winds,



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