Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Update, January, 2007. Donna, Neill and Tesla are spending the winter in sub-tropical Rhode Island, and Etude is on stands on the hard. More on this as we catch up. My apologies for the dislocations in layout -- the blog publisher shows something different from what I enter into the work space. Maddening! Thanks for reading, and please leave some comments.

Berke Breathed
Opus is the name we had given our dinghy. Why Opus? There is the much-loved penguin in the comics. And in music, the Opus (composition) is based on and follows the Etude (study). Opus the dinghy follows Etude the sailboat. In our last posting, we explained how he is'nt following us now. He is lost yet again.

Losing the dinghy is a kick in the stomach. Our boat moves us from place to place, but the dinghy is our ‘wheels’ in the harbor or anchorage. Without it we have to rent a dock space or 'slip' at $45 to $100 per night, pay a taxi at $5-10 a pop, or we're stuck on the boat. We are depressed for a week, and lose that much time from our already too-short window for cruising in Maine. To begin the search for a new Opus, we are directed to Hamilton Marine, a local ‘chain’ of four stores. They have the best rowing supplies, good prices, and a beautiful fiberglass 10’6
Puffin, $1400 beautiful. Donna, ever hopeful (tightfisted?), says we should hold the purchase 'til we get to Rockland. This gives Opus another week to come in out of the cold. Or for us to find his replacement.

Despite the dinghy depression, Portland is one of our favorite cities. With few really tall buildings, light penetrates to the streets, and there is no highway dividing the town. An interesting mix of the old and the new makes it a joy to bike or walk around. Donna’s mom Nancy and brother Len join us as we visit an LL Bean outlet store. Donna really enjoys the Historical Society museum, featuring a fun exhibit on ‘things ordinary people collect’.

Portland to Belfast

On Thursday September 14, Portland recedes in the distance. Etude is joyfully bound for the ‘heart of Maine cruising’, Penobscot Bay and Mt. Desert Island. This leg features two days of light sailing and motoring, and a one day layover in Boothbay Harbor.

Rockland Harbor Lighthouse

Finally, rounding Owl’s Head brings us to the lighthouse on the breakwater and to Rockland, well remembered from our charter here in 2003. Rockland is yet another charming New England fishing town, everything close to the harbor, picturesque old buildings, and renovated movie theatre…but we have a mission.
For two days we search intensively for a cheap dinghy, scouring want-ads, E-Bay, bulletin boards, Craig’s List, dumpsters, tidal flats, whatever. Pain, but no gain! The locally built skiffs are strong but too heavy. A kind older guy has a used sailing dinghy, but it’s too fat. So, we throw in the towel on Opus and cheap dinghies, and order a Puffin from Hamilton Marine. The delivery will be three days later in Searsport, 21 miles up the bay – just where we want to go anyway.
The plan is to spend Sunday in Rockland. On Monday we’ll sail to Dark Harbor on Isleboro, and Tuesday to Searsport, where Hamilton’s owner has kindly offered the use of his mooring. This gives us a break to reacquaint with the Farnsworth, a wonderful museum featuring regional artists, especially the Wyeth clan.

"Braids" 1979

Meanwhile, back at the boat…the GPS will not boot up. The local electronics techie is in his shop and available on a Saturday morning. Really! After about a half hour of tracing wires, he finds a switch half hidden below the autopilot wheel. ‘Try that.’ Oooh yeah! Great! Neill is still unable to grasp the need for three different ways to turn off the GPS.

We ask people about food: everybody says ‘go to Conte’s’. This is a totally funky, Italian seafood joint smack on the waterfront. The outside is this chaotic jumble from a lobsterman’s shack, and the inside décor is more of the same. (We walked by it four times without being aware that it was a restaurant.) Patrons order from a floor-to-ceiling hand drawn menu at the hostess’ desk, then stand there until their table is ready, complete with salads. New arrivals are backed up out the door, where they get to entertain the talkative young hound tied outside. That can be fun -- until some folks come with a ‘guide-dog in training’. But the food is outstanding. We’ll be back.

Tesla likes to hide out in some deep far part
of the boat during the day. She emerges at
dusk to make her rounds of the deck, then
she sits on the cockpit coaming surveying
the night sights.

Penobscot Bay

Monday we’re up early with the lobstermen and off to Dark Harbor. Oops, that bit of fog we saw is for real, a solid bank of it rolling in. The Dark Harbor entrance will be a narrow rocky passage, and we are not yet sure about the GPS. So it’s ‘ready about’, and return to the Rock.
Light fog remains on Tuesday, but we’re aweigh at 7:30, with a nice SW breeze for the 24 mile reach to Searsport. As we approach, the breeze has piped up and three foot whitecaps are rolling into the harbor. The ‘harbor’ at Searsport is a wide bay completely exposed to the weather. Nowhere else have I seen such a place called a ‘harbor’.

N O T !!

Trying to catch and tie onto a mooring, get ashore, return, and possibly spend the night in these conditions – this prospect is not appealing. The Hamilton office suggests Belfast, five miles east, as an alternative. We haven’t looked at it, and have no idea how this will work. But it looks good in the guide book and the chart . It’s a hard, close reach, but proves to be a well-sheltered harbor. It’s too late to get the dinghy today.

Etude at the Dock in Belfast

Belfast, Sept. 18. The harbormistress offers us the off-season rate of $20 for a dock slip. This is a beautiful little town on a hill (…yet another charming…), with a natural food co-op, a stunning huge library, and no highway running thru town. It does not think of itself as a tourist attraction. Serendipity.

O P U S II Donna Likes Her New Oars

The next day, Wednesday, our dinghy is delivered to the dock at Belfast. Donna and Neill try rowing tandem, but the setup isn’t quite right. Donna finds the boat easier to row than the late Opus I.

A ‘Community Rowing’ Gig, a Bigger Boat

Later Wednesday evening, Neill gets to row in the six-oar gig of the Community Rowing group. A club owns the boat, and has an open invitation to anybody who wants to row. There are the usual suspects (oh, are they suspect!) and always one of two newbies. Have we told you how Neill the former beach lifeguard loves to row? He does! He does!

Coming soon: Belfast to Blue Hill and Southwest Harbor



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