Thursday, July 24, 2014

Casco Bay Cruise to Visit the Retirement Zen Master

AHOY Intrepid Reader and welcome to another installment of Amateur Style sailing in beautiful Maine!  Sea Pearl 21 SCOUT and I have just returned from a three day Trip of Awesome, doing some motoring and some rowing and some sailing, and we even met an interesting oldster who just oozes wisdom and panache!  HooooRAY sailing!

As usual here is a chart of our journeys--

Day 1- Royal River to Goslings
Day 2- Goslings to Whaleboat via Potts Harbor
Day 3- Whaleboat to Royal River

Black = Iron Mizzen to Goslings in the fog, Day 1
Red = sailing (tacking not necessarily shown)
Yellow = rowing

After a big slow front passed with its giant embedded thunderstorms (microburst in York, ME) I drove in the rain following the trailing edge to the Royal River in Yarmouth for a three day cruise in Casco Bay. I had caught rumors from a colleague that there is something of a Retirement Zen Master summering in Harpswell, and I was hoping to pay him a visit.  Scout and I were mission ready!

The first day was drizzly, foggy, and windless.  I used to be a rowing hero, but I've had some thinking as of late.  Shane St. Clair, the original owner of Scout (Voyage Through America), often wrote that when the wind was dead on the nose or there was no wind on his Eastern-US circumnavigation he would fire up his Iron Mizzen and head forth.  I've got the damn thing, so yes, yes I'm going to use it and not feel guilty!  I don't rely on it for emergency aid, I see it as a tool that may/may not be available.  If there's no wind and I want to go somewhere, Iron Mizzen comes alive. VroomVroom.

Iron Mizzen in action! My world surrounded by fog

With little visibility due to dense fog I had to break out the dead reckoning navigation techniques using time, chart, and compass.  In lieu of a straight-edge, I used a piece of trusty dockline to estimate my route and magnetic bearing and we slowly made our away across Casco Bay to The Goslings. There are some reefs that extend north of Little French Island, and I was certain that I had passed the last of them and was about to turn for the Goslings when I noticed what looked like a log looming ahead.  It was a big log, and a noisy log, and it was moving.  A quick grab to the binos revealed that nope, that was no log, but seals resting on rocks that were just inches below the surface... I would have run Scout straight up on the rocks without the seal-indicators.

French and Little French Island materialize in an unexpected window through the fog.
We were on target, on time.

PHEW Rock-indicating-seals!
Note shoaling fish and birds scooping them up to the left of seals.  

Soon thereafter we arrived at The Goslings, again on time.  I initially got a little confused by a Blue Heron that I mistook for a man (fog illusion) and almost ran Scout up on a shoal, but we bore off and soon were on the beach at this very popular island destination. This is not my first time to the Goslings.  Believe or not, Intrepid Reader, but Scout and I do not blog every day/trip that we go a sailin'.  I came here last year and spent a luxurious fall evening in the anchorage, by myself.

Goslings, Fall 2013

Once anchored, I set up shop for some dinner! I was hungry and thirsty and my primal needs had to be satisfied!  It seemed the fog was in for the night, but I was certain any rain had now passed.  OF COURSE in the middle of cooking dinner, it began to rain.  I rapidly set up my tarp/awning with the aid of bungee cords.  In the frenzy to maintain some amount of dryness in the cockpit (where I would be sleeping) I watched with frustrated awe as one bungee, stretched to the limit, slipped and sailed silently over the bow in a parabolic arc and into the mist and the murky waters beyond.  So it goes.

Foggy Sunset, surrounded by salmon hue

My tarp set up, in lieu of the pop-up cabin.
Check out those awesome new floorboards!

The book I am reading on board, which was entirely fitting to the locale and my activities.

THIS is living.


The next morning I was up and at 'em, and I rowed north to meet this mythical character, Skipper ManJohn: The Retirement Zen Master.  I rowed for exercise, fuel conservation and a touch of suffering since the current was against me and my boat is 21' long. Suffering can be good for some mind clearing, especially for us spoiled western types who really have nothing to complain about.  Complaining example: My Shaw&Tenney oars are 9' long, and I would like 9'6" oars.  They are just a tad too short for the rowing I like to do.  Regardless, north we went, along with a little bit of power sailing, I kept the mizzen sail up and sheeted in to capture a bit of morning breeze coming off the land, at the very least to neutralize some of the current.

I didn't really know where to find ManJohn, I just had some vague instructions to look in a certain spot in Harpswell, behind a rock, with the big pine tree, and the seal will bark 3 times.  I was certain I'd find him as his magnetism is legendary, I could sense that Scout was drawn to him. Hugging the shore, I came upon two senior types who looked on with alarm as I rowed over the rocky shallows (I saw starfish!).  Suddenly, a primal cry from the woods:

"Halloooo CallSign!"

He found ME, before I found HIM. The powers are strong in ManJohn.

Scout and ManJohn's Mason 44. Proof!

ManJohn Fact: Skipper ManJohn holds court and you will listen

Before I knew it I was whisked away into a small cabin in the woods right out of 1948.  ManJohn graciously offered to make me breakfast.

"We don't have any coffee, but there's coffee on the boat." His eyes (that have seen around the world) squinted at me from under their bushy brows.  "Row me to the boat if you want coffee." It was a dare.  A manly dare. I contemplated doing this as I FORGOT my coffee at home (horrors!) but suddenly as he saw the resolve in my eyes, "No, forget it, we have orange juice." and ManJohn leapt into the kitchen.  I pass the first test.

On the menu was omelets and home fries. "Dammit, we don't have any bread" he mumbled as he pulled ingredients out of the fridge.  I asked if I could help and ManJohn replied, "No, I got this." He immediately proceeded to throw together eggs and ingredients in a bowl and whisk.  Suddenly: "Here cut these potatoes for the home fries," as he pointed to some potatoes in a colander.  I started cutting and he unceremoniously dropped a full bag of potatoes in front of me.  "Cut these too," and then, "and these," as a second bag materialized.  This is how ManJohn makes breakfast-- through delegation.  Toast appeared like magic, even though there was not supposed to be any bread.  "Butter the toast," he commanded and I did as obliged.  The whirlwind in the kitchen spun out to the deck and breakfast began-- Omelet with olives and cheese, home fries with onions, toast and butter.  A breakfast fit for a king.  Fit for a sailor.  Fit for... ManJohn. I pass the second test.

ManJohn Fact: Scout tied up to Skipper ManJohn's Mason 44 makes Scout look small

After breakfast Skipper ManJohn commandeered Scout as tender and we put-putted out to his Mason 44, an ocean going cruiser that he has recently purchased after his retirement.  We tied up and he showed me around the palatial accommodations.  50hp diesel engine, generator, A/C (yup), pressure water, refrigerator, you name it, this Mason has it.

We spent some time gabbing sitting on the rail of his boat while he ran the generator.  He waxed poetic about his youth, well spent on a Greenwich 24 (later the Cape Dory 25).

"It was just me, my boat and my dog..." he pauses, "no money, no problems, living on the boat and eating mackerel and clams that I dug myself.  I brought that boat through so much weather when I probably should have remained ashore, but she saw me through." He pauses remembering past times.  I brought up yesterday's foggy travels and navigating by dockline as I had no straight-edge to plot my course.

"Yeah, I've used line before." He fixes me with his gaze, thinking of the past. Long pause.  "Hell-- I've used seaweed." His scowl is on me.  Line? PSSHHH. Seaweed. Seaweed is the navigation tool of choice for Skipper ManJohn.

ManJohn Fact: Singing to your sails increases their productivity and lifespan.

"Sometimes, I think I'd like to go back to my Greenwich 24.  She was so simple.  Life was good..." he pauses again and looks down the length of the Mason 44.  "But I love this boat!" His eyes light up as he affectionately pets the gunwale and gushes, "I love you baby, don't you worry, I won't get rid of you." Skipper ManJohn made kissy faces to the gunwale.

We sit there bobbing for a while and he looks at me and the fire is lit behind his eyes, the fire of freedom and the sea and the love of a good boat.  "I love this.  I love this.  This is my boat, out here, no worries, no one bugging me, life is good." He pauses again,"It's like I'm a king and this is my private island..."

 He fixes me with his long stare, his eyes narrowing.

"Now get the hell off my island."

Scout and I shove off, southward bound for lobster rolls and a night on Whaleboat.

ManJohn Fact: ManJohn is the boss.

Enjoying a growing sea breeze after a hot still morning is a special pleasure reserved for sailors.  Scout and I bounded south with the current, against the wind.  I took my time, taking her off the wind to let her gallop and we just moved.  Scout was happy and striving forward the water gurgling around the leeboard and our flags flying high. This was some sailing!

Bastille Day? How about Bastille Week!

Our destination was Erica's Seafood in Harpswell, which is one of my most favorite lobster shacks in Maine. I strongly recommend the Lobster Roll, two for $20 done in the no-nonsense Maine way with minimal crap and maximum lobster. BYOB.  Cash only.

Don't get confused or lulled into going to the big restaurant next-door that is named after an aquatic mammal that on TV has been called Flipper. They have been known to give small-boat sailors anger-driven tirades for using the overnight parking that they advertise, even after said sailors paid for it.  Don't ask how I know, just trust me on this one. Flipper be full of crazy.  ERICA's-- Go there.

Scout and I sailed up to the dock.  Use the north/south side of the dock, the front is used for working boats.  For tourists there's no much like a boat sailing into a congested harbor and nosing up to the dock, and for me the skipper, nothing as satisfying.  I hopped out of Scout in all my sailor glory and got my dinner.

One roll down, one roll to go.

After dinner we scooted out to Whaleboat and I sailed Scout right into the little protected harbor, threading needles around the rocks and I stopped her right where I envisioned that morning.  It was a perfect bit of sailing. Whaleboat is  WOW.  Carefully managed by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, it is a beautiful spot for a day trip, picnic, or overnight.  I first came here last year with Cap'n Jon, IAZP, and Two-Hearted.

The evening was spent stargazing, observing hummingbird hawk-moths and lightning bugs, and slapping mosquitoes.  Soon, sleep took me by the shoulders,  and shook vigorously.  Various odd island dreams washed over my mind.  One of these dreams involved someone calling my name, and this mixed with the sound of waves splashing on the shore entered my psyche in a horror, in a way only a small boat sailor on and island can experience... my boat was obviously being pounded on the rocks and a passer-by was calling my name to warn me of my impeding starvation on an island!  I blew out of the tent to find Skipper ManJohn motoring by Whaleboat at 4:50am in his Mason 44 yelling my name. He was heading to Bar Harbor.  I waved back in groggy stupification, took careful notice Scout's masts happily bobbing at anchor, and collapsed back into bed.  I pass the third test and ManJohn is pleased.

In for the night.  Eagle Island (Does the Intrepid Reader remember?) is in the distance on the right.
Milkweed smells shockingly good

The Blue Hour descends


I spent the rest of the day returning to the ramp, and I perfected my shallow sailing technique.  Sea Pearl 21's can sail on water that is but ankle-deep (I tested this) and it's incredible to watch the shells zoom by.  To work upwind, I drop a few inches of leeboard and roll the Scout on her ear, which allows the leeboard to bite.  I must have made an impressive sight returning to the Royal River, passing standing shore birds, out of channel, across the mud flats.  Remember this when you see a Sea Pearl: Shallow Draft. Follow at Own Risk.

Until next time, Intrepid Reader, don't forget your seaweed.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Officialized: The Most Famous Goat In The World


The Traditional Small Craft Association has honored itself by placing IAZ,P on the cover of their Summer 2014 issue! (Of course, I am a proud member of the TSCA, a most worthy organization that you should join, so I am likewise honored).  

Intrepid Reader, you are well aware that we are not entertainers of nuance or understatement here at GISAmateur Style.  Therefor, I will now proclaim the following inevitable statement that you have anticipated with quick, gasping, bated breath:  


Photo of photo courtesy of Cap'n Jon who delivered to me the good news
The Wonderful Rosemary Wyman took this winning shot during the Small Reach Regatta 2012

A close up courtesy of Cap'n Jon
FrankenBoom, BattleStick, me leering into the future, and everything else IAZ,P!

Front and Center. No Joke.


Some info for the salivating hordes that will descend upon this blog:

IAZ,P is a 15'6" Goat Island Skiff designed by Mik Storer, launched in 2010 built of okoume, cedar, and doug fir.  Does not have a galley, head, or shower.  Comes equipped with a 105sq.ft. balanced lugsail, goaty attitude, and is flexi-mission capable.  Easily and economically built in your garage, the GIS will provide performance, fun, and far-flung adventure. Robustly supported by an international cadre of Goat Roping Sailors who will provide comprehensive crowd sourced product support at a moment's notice.

IAZ,P is now proudly sailed by Cap'n Patrick Danger-Danger who hails from Brooklyn-by-Jamaica Bay.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sebascodegan Island Circumnavigation. Legendary!

Welcome Intrepid Readers and fellow Skippers to a time honored Maine tradition accomplished this past week by your favorite Sea Pearl 21 and her surly crew-- the Circumnavigation of Sebascodegan ("Great") Island!

get your own damn chart!

I'm not going to pansyfoot around the proverbial bushes: The Sebascodegan Circumnavigation is a beautiful must-do cruise for any small boaty type person and I am happy to say I hope to repeat this little adventure in the future with friends (calling Cap'n Jon! calling CCBB! AWWOOOOOGA).  From a little bit of ocean (not too much) to quiet upper waterways and small channels, low bridges, and friendly eagles, this was a great, great trip!  Hooray greatness!

I have mapped my journey with NOAA Chart Viewer (for the chart) and my memory.  Hence, tacking is approximate and dawdling around looking at things and/or making big decisions is not shown.  As most here know, I eschew GPS and other devices for map and compass so no fancy-pants internet tracks.  Sorry tech-weenies, I spend my money and time on other things, like getting lost in the fog (worry not: did not happen this journey).  Also, I am sadly missing pictures of sweet sailing on the first day, as I left my camera at home and only decided to use my cell phone after I picked the island to camp.  Apologies to all, and sorry about the less-than-stellar quality of the pictures.


I started somewhat late, about 4pm, from Bethel Point.  There is a ramp there, with parking at Bethel Point Marine nearby. LOW POWER LINES ABOUND. DO NOT STEP MASTS EARLY.  Very friendly little place, if no one is available to leave your money on the honor system (6$ per day), there is a box.  This is Maine at it's finest. Don't screw it up!

DAY ONE 4pm-Late Evening
black: mark start/stop
red: somewhat accurate rendering of motion
Since this was the first real cruise of the season I launched in a predictable discombobulated mess and drifted for a while as I attempted to take stock. A powerboater asked if I needed a tow, probably not because I was rowing but because I looked like a menace with a pile of gear haphazardly strewn around the boat and me wandering around frantically looking for my tiller extension. At some point I managed to get the masts up and I found my tiller extension to my great relief-- no Cap'n Jon repeats here. With a somewhat slack tide and a strong headwind I beat down Quahog Bay, harboring dreams of staying ahead of the 30' sailboat beating down behind me.  I held my own but finally we were passed ("Pretty boat!" they hailed) and he charged southward, only to turn around and sled back north.  I continued around Gun Point snaking around underwater obstacles and settled in for a dream like wing-and-wing downwind run up to the top of Gun Point Cove.

During this run I admired the scenery and solitude for I was alone with quiet summer houses still in off-season slumber.  At one point a powerboat came charging up from behind me to ask me, "Is this New Meadows [River]?" ...  Intrepid Reader, can check chart above for yourself.  I told them they were at least two over and they bounded back before I could even read them a Can number for the entrance to New Meadows River.  Save your gas, buds.

At the top of the Gun Point Cove is a small bridge, with not much vertical or horizontal clearance.  I took down the masts and started to row through. It's quite picturesque with steep sided rock walls on either side and a narrow channel. The current had turned and was starting to flow through, I'm sure she rips right through here, fortunately it was still a little slack.  There was a lobster boat coming through with some tour on board and lots of leering land-folk who gave off somewhat presumptuous airs.  The Cap'n and I yelled at each other a bit about how we were doing and what I would like to believe was his first mate yelled "That's one big ass canoe to be rowing!" not to me, but to the Cap'n when maybe he thought I couldn't hear.  I liked that line, because the Sea Pearl looks like a canoe, and yes it's a big ass canoe to be rowing and it almost sounded like I was getting some cred. Of course, I've got the cold Iron Mizzen hanging off the back like a lump of metal, I'm sure that garners the question marks and the "tourist" tag.  That's ok, too.

At the north end of Harpswell Sound I meandered around just south of the bridge (30' vertical clearance) as I fiercely debated with myself if I should park for the night at nearby Strawberry Creek or if we continued north and enjoy the sunset and beautiful wind.  In the end, I decided to not continue up the Ewin Narrows and instead put in at Strawberry Creek Island.  The water was rapidly drawing down (thank goodness for shallow draft... holy cow guys I was skimming across some bars) and I wanted to reconnoiter the island and the landing areas so I pulled out my trust grapnel, and threw it into the weed covered rocks for a quick hook to drag me into position.  The result:

This is what a Grapnel Anchor looks like in parts.
Carry a spare.
I do not suggest throwing your anchor with fervor into the rocks. Scout and I were now mud bound.  This was fine, except I had to check on anchoring, current, and wind multiple times during the night to ensure I didn't get washed up on the rocks and then stuck high and dry the next day.  Sleep was fitful at best, all for the want of a few extra minutes of water.

From Strawberry looking south down Harpswell Sound 
At least it's flat.


After getting considerably less sleep than I was wanting or needing, I woke up in time for my morning constitutional and with enough time to get off the island before I lost the tide again.  I was not going to spend this beautiful day marooned on a mud flat.  This meant that while I enjoyed the company of my bailing bucket, Double Doodie bag, and a constitutional on solid ground, I had to push Scout out into the open water, which is always a heart-in-mouth moment.

Strawberry Creek Island from the boat.  Note new floorboards!

BOOM One more time:
Lt. Presto's amazing new addition to Scout, my stainless espresso maker!

Not the moment to be wondering if the bitter end is tied off.
This picture makes me proud.

But all's well that is well tied off, and I collected Scout after my constitutional and we headed under the bridge for the Ewin Narrows.

DAY TWO 8am-Noon/Siesta/2pm-5pm
The Ewin Narrows bridge is a cakewalk, over 100' of horizontal clearance and 30' of vertical, an easy pass for the Sea Pearl 21.  Wing-and-wing Scout and I leisurely worked north up the narrows.  The breeze was still that early-morning gentle, but it was enough to keep us moving at a rate that granted us good sightseeing without the dragging of feet.  At the north end of the narrows we maneuvered between Doughty Island and Doughty Point.  The island is private, but the point is a public-use preserve, and we took a quick stop there for a lay of the land.

The Doughty family cemetery.  A cellar hole is apparently nearby, but I didn't go searching for it.

Looking south into the Long Reach.  We will be going north.

Scout on the beach at Doughty Point.
We'll be going around the corner in the upper right, left turn northbound.
Northbound up the Long Reach at almost total low tide required staying in the channel.  A quick look at the chart will indicate the massive mud flats that abound on either side.  While they were not exposed, there wasn't enough to float Scout.  I cut one corner a little close but a bit of scraping and a kicked up rudder later found us back in the channel.

This bad boy is called "Rights of Man"
At the top of Long Reach is the Gurnet Straight, it's deep hole (90 feet!) and it's bridge (10 feet tall) and the fact that once the current gets going, it produces standing waves.

Standing waves.  I did not know this at the time.  And I am glad I did not know, because my mind would have been in even more tumult had I known.  Timetables and the clock would have ruled the day.  So I arrived at Gurnet Straight, characterized by some cottages, an old lobsterman's pile of traps, and the bridge.

It is deep here.

The Bridge
Down came the masts, and away I went, rowing to the bridge at Gurnet Straight.  The current was flowing against me, and its velocity was increasing as we rowed.  I could see it increasing.  Incredible.  I hugged the south side (right in the picture) and Scout was promptly spun around, pinned against the rocks.  I grabbed my trusty boathook and pushed us off and we were ejected from the maw of the angry bridge troll right back into the hole.  I noticed some eddies on the north side (left) and I rowed again like a madman, pulling my 21' boat with my bare hands and we made it through.  Wow.  I can only imagine the story if I found the legendary standing waves.  I either missed out on a nightmare or an adventure, or a little of both.  Once clear of the straight, masts up and it was a short leisurely sail to Indian Island off Indian Point, a small public day-use island.  Here, not wanting to fight the flood in the New Meadows River, I anchored in the small bay, watched horseshoe crabs (hordes of horseshoe crabs) set up an awning and promptly fell asleep.


New lunchtime snoozefest set up.
The dark green is warm. Just sayin'.
Around 2pm I awoke in a fashion that can best be described as "slammed." I was hot, thirsty, tired, full of sleep momentum, confused, tired, fuzzy and probably damn irritable but since I was solo there was no one to be irritable too, which can be considered a waste of irritability.

The tide was full up and about to head out.  The awning came down (again, green is warm.  I need a new awning) and sails came out and Scout and I headed down the New Meadows River, southbound, on the east side of Sebascodegan Island.  Destination unknown.  With a strong breeze still blowing from the south Scout and I beat downriver, and though the tide was going out the current still had a bit of time before turning around.  We made so-so headway and I explored a few small islands in the stream.

Finally, I came to a mental point where I just looked down to the ocean, two miles or more to the southern tip of Sebascodegan, felt the chill of the ocean air, the blowing wind, the high hazy semi-overcast, and was weighted down with oppression tinged with a bit of loneliness.  This tacking back and forth in the cold in the wind with no appreciable progress south, alone, tired, and hungry made me want the day to be done.  I was frazzled out, and my judgement skills were beginning to dull.

Fortunately, there was an option! It is called The Basin, and I was fortuitously abeam its entrance.  With the current strongly against me and the wind now flukey in the entryway I fired up the Iron Mizzen for the first time this trip.  She started first pull.  Into The Basin we went where I found a small cove to throw down the hook.  There was a bald eagle nest on a nearby island, and I watched Mother Eagle feed the chicks, I watched the chicks fight Big-Bad-Osprey, and after a quick dinner (with Mother Eagle sitting in a tree nearby preening herself) I was out like a light.

Note: The Basin's Nature Conservancy's lands are day-use only, no camping (I was anchored in the water and slept aboard), but have nice walking trails and multi-use trails.  It's a beautiful place.  Please check it out, respect, and enjoy.  What a gem!

Island with Bald Eagle nest.  Give good distance and do not disturb!

Quiet, little wind, little current, no rocks.  One anchor down and done.  Safety and much needed sleep.


Up and at 'em early to catch the tide out of The Basin.  It was time to finish this Sebascodegan Circumnavigation.  Scout and I motored out of The Basin back to the New Meadows River and set up sail.  This was some fine sailing down New Meadows River, when the wind is fresh and the light beckons one to join the living and squeeze the day! Possibilities feel limitless and every part of the body crackles with "Alive! Alive! We woke up for one more day! One more glorious wonderful day!"

It was a good antidote to yesterday's teeth gnashing in the afternoon.

DAY THREE 7am to 830am or so... quick and dirty
In one long close hauled tack, we almost made it to the tip of Sebascodegan... but didn't.  Two tacks later, and we rounded East Cundy Point inside Rogue Island, around West Cundy Point and up Ridley Cove back up to Bethel Point!

Cundy's Harbor

East Cundy's Point

Quintessential Maine

Bethel Point with slimy boat ramp.



Boat wise is up to you, but it's a trip like this that reminds me of the value of small easily rowed boats with downwind sailing potential, like Clint Chase's Drake. If you're facing a long upwind slog and the current is "meh" or worse, what a better option than to snug into the coast, find the eddies, and work windward?  With quiet waters and lots of north/south waterways that will channel the prevailing winds, boats like Drake, the Lillistone's Phoenix III, and other comparable boats will shine here.  The Sea Pearl 21, of course, did admirably and it's shallow draft made it perfect for some spots, but if my weather or timing was off, it probably would have meant a lot more Iron Mizzen usage.  Thoughts to ponder, my friends.

I strongly recommend the MITA guide for more boat access points, camping, and day use areas along the way (you should join this most worthy organization), your own good charts, and a tide-book-- or at least know the tides, and of course weather information.  A well timed journey with the right tides and winds could probably be undertaken in one long long June day-- but two is normal.  Mine was three, but it was a late departure on the first day and an early ending on the third.  Be ready for strong currents, boat traffic in the on-season, lobstering, and fog (I was spared).  Also, this is a relatively populated area, just north of Portland.  You will hear traffic, construction, dogs, people talking, jet traffic from Brunswick, and other noises of our common humanity of which we are all bound.  

You could also see bald eagle chicks fighting off Ospreys, seal with their pups, and wide black night skies.  Go git 'em, Tiger.