42 Camden to Lakeman Harbor, Maine

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As we entered Camden Harbor, we discovered our timing was perfect. On Sunday evening all the charter windjammers are back in town. Windjammers filled all the floating docks. Some rafted off each other. The harbor was a treat. Everywhere we looked were windjammers, vintage sailboats and just normal sailboats like us out on moorings or floats. It was a sailor’s harbor, and we loved it. We immediately decided to stay for a few days.

Mount Battie, a modest 800 feet high crowds its way into Camden stopping at the very edge of town. From our mooring float, we could stare up and be lured in by its beckoning call to come and climb. A quick check and we found the trail up was listed as moderate, so early the next morning we were off for a brisk hike up. We walked along a city street that stopped at the woods. From there a steep trail heads up. Frequent stops to admire the view helped two out of shape climbers regain breath, and let heart rates get back to more reasonable levels. We were glad we’d started early since the climb was strenuous and we worked up a sweat in the cool morning air. Blueberries to pick along the trail were an added bonus. The view out over the Maine mountains in one direction and down into Camden’s harbor in the other made the climb worth the effort.

The technique of getting a motorless 80 foot windjammer off the raft and out into the bay was interesting. The ship’s dinghy was lowered. Lines were quickly rigged to hold the dinghy’s bow against the stern. Then with the dinghy engine pushing and other dinghies acting as steering tugs on the bow, the majestic ship moved out into the harbor. Once she cleared some of the tighter moorings, the mainsail was raised and she ghosted out. Shortly the others followed providing a slow parade of classic sailboats.

After Camden the structured order of our cruise changed. Gone was the easy choice of going to the next port north, or skipping it and proceeding on to the port beyond. At Camden, Maine falls apart into a mix of islands and craggy coast. The chart is a wonderful jumble of islands, narrow bays and rocks sticking out at odd places. The area is called Penoscot Bay. Our guidebook took 87 pages to cover just this one area. As we had traveled north Ruth compiled a list of places in Maine to visit based on our discussions with fellow cruisers with Maine experience. Many of the places listed were in Penoscot Bay. Now we were here and the choices were difficult. Which islands should we visit next and in which order? What a delicious kind of stress.

Our friend Steven helped. We’d met him on the ICW and spent Thanksgiving with he and his wife Janet on Cumberland Island. Steven is now living aboard Black Swan and anchored out in Camden Harbor. He came over and we spent a few hours going over charts and swapping traveling adventures.

We headed for Pulpit Harbor out in the islands away from towns, a scant 8 miles away. We anchored, carefully compensating for the 10 foot tides in the area. The quiet seclusion was great. We relaxed, enjoyed the day and explored the island. I even went in the water and added a new zinc to the propeller shaft. The water in this tiny harbor was a warm 70 degrees compared with the 57-58 degree waters we had been seeing.

We headed further north and east to Northeast Harbor. It’s a little jewel of a town on the edge of Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island. At a little restaurant for lunch, we checked the paintings on the wall and thought someone was joking with prices posted at $27,000 on a number of the paintings. I asked the cashier if they ever sold anything at those prices. She commented that so far this year, they had sold one, but they sold 3 last year, adding that it was a very rich area. As we walked the streets along the waterfront, it was apparent that some of the homes could afford the paintings.

Treats for us are simpler. We spotted a bald eagle sitting in a dead tree in the harbor. As we watched, it flew across the harbor, landed on the tidal flat and began tearing on something. We couldn’t resist. We got in the dinghy and headed over to observe more closely. As we got close–maybe 100 feet away, the eagle looked up, gave us a disgusted look and flew back to the dead tree.

The town map listed the Asticou Azalea Gardens. We knew it was past azalea season but decided visit early one morning. The gardens were exquisite–very Japanese in character. Interesting evergreens with gnarled trunks, quiet ponds, trickling streams, and a classic Japanese sand garden with rocks and the sand raked to represent waves around them. Even without azaleas in bloom, this is a stunning garden.

At Northeast we met up again with Jory and Richard on Caribbean Soul. We’d first met them in Newburyport and enjoyed their company as we started into Maine. We joined them in their quest to head further “Down East” to Lakeman Island-their surname.

Fog cut our first try for Lakeman Island short. We diverted to Flanders Bay near Bar Harbor, started out again, then diverted to Bar Harbor when Caribbean Soul had engine-cooling problems. Made for an interesting diversion. The QE II came in and anchored out with us in the harbor. We are36 feet, the QE II is slightly bigger at 963 feet. There we were, both swinging at anchor. A parade of tenders took the passengers ashore. We, of course, used our dingy go ashore. Interesting to watch, but it sure did fill the town up with people when they dumped 1,700 passengers and some of the 1,000 crew ashore.

Ruth summed our trip to Lakeman Island very well: We’ve dealt with Maine fog a few days, had a bit of rain, but mostly sun and light winds. Actually the wind is light when we move from anchorage to anchorage in the mornings then pipes up in the afternoon when we are settled in, oh–well. We’d hate to wear out our sails.

We’ve seen whales, porpoise (although they look a lot like dolphin to me), a bunch of unfamiliar birds, beautiful rocky islands, even one white sandy beach which must of gotten lost on its way to Florida.

Lakeman Island has one unique feature. Here it was a beautiful rocky, wooded Maine Island. However as we approached in our dinghies, we were greeted by sheep, very friendly sheep. They came out of the woods and down the rocky shore to greet us. We suspect they get regular deliveries of food by boat from the farm on the main island and thought we were bringing a snack.

We are 30 miles north and east of Bar Harbor and though it is tempting to look at heading for the Bay of Fundy this is a good spot for stopping, relaxing and then starting back south. The 13 foot tides are challenging both for anchoring and navigating. Lobstermen compensate for the tides by tying an extra line and float called a toggle onto their main lobster trap float. The toggle floats off downwind or down current presenting an extra challenge traveling on the ocean. Cut between the main float and toggle and you have a high potential for a fouled propeller. They say Maine has over 2 million lobster traps. We think we’ve seen most of them.

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