Our cruise to Maine was unlike any of the summer cruising we have done before, around the southern New England islands, which made the experience new and exciting. We really enjoyed going to new harbors and seeing new places again. Maine has been on our bucket list for many years and we are both happy to have done this.
Maine’s 5,000 miles of coastline which includes 3,166 offshore islands, is loaded with rocky ledges scattered throughout the waters. About two-thirds of those islands are an acre or less, so there is a lot of land lying right below the waterline at high tide. I found myself imagining that if all the water is drained away, there would be rocky mountains of widely varying heights, all relatively close together, plunging down hundreds of feet below the surface.
Thousands of islands! Oh yes. It would be impossible to stop in every harbor and each island in one summer season. With only 5-6 weeks to spend, we took 4-5 travel days to get to Maine and 4-5 travel days to go home, and that left about 4 weeks to actually cruise in Maine. We had no specific itinerary so we just did the best we could, choosing places to go based on that Cruising Guide to Maine (which was sometimes out of date), friends’ recommendations, and weather. We couldn’t do it all, and that’s ok.
When I think of Maine now, it won’t be only about lobsters. I will always see those rocky islands, small and large, and the pine trees standing tall and strong. (How do they grow on rocks????) As we traveled among the islands and coastline, the topography was rocky and pine-filled, but with variations that made each new sighting of an island noteworthy. Especially if it meant we knew where we were!
I can’t imagine what it was like before electronic chartplotters. It was invaluable to see your boat’s location and movement in relationship to each piece of land, large and small, every navigational marker and the depth of the water. I have absolute respect for sailors of old AND for boaters who traveled these waters before the introduction of GPS and electronic charts.
Who names these islands? The same names are used over and over again. Seal, Burnt This or That, Bear, Porcupine, Cow, Crotch, Birch, Back, Crow, Deer, Goat, Goose, Hog, Mill, Ram, Otter, Sand, Sheep, Spruce, Wood. I quickly learned that if I was going to search for an island in the index of the guide, I better know what part of Maine it was in!
Speaking of pine trees, I began to notice a pine tree on a charming flag flying everywhere, or so it seemed. On flagpoles, shops, boats, houses, clothing. It’s simplicity was arresting and attractive. Was this Maine’s state flag? Yes and no. A little bit of research uncovered an interesting story.
Maine became a state in 1820, but didn’t have a state flag until 1901. There are no records of this flag other than the legislative document which states that the flag should feature a “buff” background with “a pine tree proper in the center” and “the polar star . . . in blue in the upper corner.” These are two familiar Maine symbols — Maine’s state tree, the white pine, and the North Star represents the state motto, Dirigo, Latin for “I direct” or “I direct.” That original flag flew for just eight years before being replaced by the state flag that continues to be flown today
Maine’s present state flag, adopted in 1909, is blue with a shield in the center featuring a moose and a pine tree. On each side of the shield, a farmer and a seaman stand. In the center at the top, there is a small star. Across the star reads the word “Dirigo.” Frankly, that flag looks like any other typical state flag and you have to look closely to determine which state it represents. There is currently a bill introduced in the legislature to return to the original 1901 flag.
Back to my other reflections ….. Maine’s water is so clear! and clean. Both deep water and shallow waters, it is as clear as the Bahamas, just not warm or blue.
Looking through the 1300+ photographs I took, it was tough to choose our favorites. There were so many memorable moments which is actually why I bother with the blog. It is a way for us to save the memories.
Mornings and sunrises —
Our favorite Kindred Spirit photos —
Windjammers and schooners –
Lighthouses (We agreed these are our 3 favorites) —
And then there is the weather. Weather is always a huge part of boating. It can make or break it. We were very fortunate with the weather during the 5-6 weeks. Almost half of our days were great or good weather. That’s pretty good, I think. From all reports, it wasn’t any better in southern New England! We were warned about F.O.G. Experienced Maine cruisers cautioned us that there could be times when fog would hold you hostage in a harbor for days. I counted only 3 days of heavy fog, and on those days, it was also a total rainout so we had absolutely no motivation to move the boat anyway. Often the early morning fog or mist cleared quickly or did not hinder visibility. Some of the days that began with a bit of fog became bright and sunny by afternoon. So, all in all, we have no complaints.
We could not have asked for better sea conditions overall. The only truly uncomfortable day was our first day from Shennecossett to Cuttyhunk.
We talked about our “favorites” of the trip. We usually agreed!
- Favorite town – Camden
- Favorite quiet anchorage – McGlatherty Island or Muscle Ridge (Dix, High and Birch Islands)
- Favorite marina mooring- Dolphin Marina in Harpswell (those blueberry muffins and free laundry!)
- Favorite restaurant – Dolphin Restaurant in Harpswell
- Prettiest place – Thuya Gardens
- Most Dramatic – Cadillac Mountain and Thunderhole, Mt Desert
And….. drumroll, please….. FAVORITE ICE CREAM – Nona’s in Scituate! (even though that wasn’t in Maine.)
And last, a few statistics:
- Total miles = 660 nautical miles Northbound nm =338 Southbound nm = 322
- Shortest travel day = 7 nautical miles for 1 hour (Tenants Harbor to Doyle’s near Muscle Ridge)
- Longest travel day= 79 nautical miles for 11.5 hours (Scituate to Cape Elizabeth)
- Average travel day = 28 nautical miles for about 4 hours (14 days were 28 nm or less)
- Total number of days traveling = 37 plus 1 day on either end for prep and clean-up/packing up = 39 days away from home
- #days northbound = 23
- #days southbound = 14
- Number of days anchored = 16
- Number of days on moorings = 20 (15 paid + 5 free) Moorings ranged in price from $30 to $55. Cost was not always commensurate with what you got.
For me, any reflection of our time on the water has to include that one special person who makes it all worthwhile.