Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Bath time

I am typing under way, across the Muscongus Bay and just east of Pemaquid Point. Other than having to dodge the occasional lobster float, I have a couple of hours of open water ahead of me to catch up on the blog. In an hour we should reach Eastern Egg Rock and the start of the Old Hump Channel, a series of passages through the north-south ledges in the bay.

Mark Island Monument, on our way out to sea. It's already getting choppy.

We had a nice cruise to Bath from our cozy anchorage off Harpswell Neck. We did, however, bash into head seas on our way out into the north Atlantic, then had them on our beam for an hour or so until we reached the shelter of the Kennebec River.

Seguin Island, with its historic lighthouse, just south of the Kennebec River entrance.

Pond Island Light, in the mouth of the Kennebec. At high tide we were able to cut inside of Pond Island, leaving this to starboard.

We had a nice push all the way upriver to Bath. The river itself is quite scenic, and is still served by an array of century-old lighthouses, albeit miniature ones, in addition to some modern buoys and daybeacons.

The old Lifesaving Station, just inside the mouth of the Kennebec.

Fort Popham, defending the river.

Just downriver from Bath and the pair of bridges that connect it to Woolwich is the Maine Maritime Museum, which we opted to skip but which offers transient moorings for visitors for $35. We spotted a sharp looking Kadey Krogen on one of the moorings, the only other large cruising boat we'd seen on the whole river. We later learned it was our friends Bill and Lisa on Changing Course, whom we first met in Stuart and later encountered in the Bahamas. Bill noticed us going by and contacted me later; it was great catching up, and perhaps we'll see them again further south.

One of several miniature lighthouses along the river.

And another.

Next up, just before the bridges, is the enormous Bath Iron Works shipyard, part of defense contractor General Dynamics. They build the new Zumwalt-class stealth destroyers here, and USS Zumwalt, DDG-1000, was berthed on the river as we passed, with two more under construction behind her. The ever-present armed patrol boat eyed us as we went by, just outside of the security zone.

USS Zumwalt at Bath Iron Works dock. Lots of rust for a two-year-old; I think the Navy is still figuring out how to dock a ship with so much tumblehome. Yes, I saw it on radar.

The railroad bridge was already open when we arrived; we had called them on the phone after turning upriver just to be sure. The bridge tender goes home at 4:30 and leaves the bridge in the closed position. We cleared both bridges and arrived at the Bath town docks (map) nearly at slack water. We had called ahead to Sergeant Gould of the Bath Police Department, who is the harbormaster, for permission to spend the night (the dock, which is free, is normally posted no overnight docking).

We are quite used to docking unassisted, and, in fact, we generally prefer it that way. But as we approached the dock, we found ourselves scratching our heads -- there were no cleats. Instead, the dock was lined with a low horizontal rail made of 2x4s, stood off by about 2". We've seen this arrangement before, on dinghy docks, and it works well for small boats, where you just loop your line through and back to your own cleat. Looping a line through such an arrangement from the deck of Vector, however, presented a challenge.

Vector at the town dock in Bath. Note the weird, cleat-less mooring arrangement. We made the dock squeal against the dolphins all night.

I hovered a few feet off the dock as Louise fetched boat poles and started devising a strategy. Whenever we dock, we attract an audience, and this time was no exception. A kind bystander with his young daughter in tow came down to the dock and helped us secure the lines before we got the chance to try our luck. Next time, we'll be ready for such an arrangement.

After we tied up we walked through the nice riverside park, past the Ironworks entrance and the old train station (now a visitor center), and to the post office, so we could get a couple of packages mailed off. We came back along the historic main street, ending up at the local IGA grocery store for provisions, as much as we could carry between us with two backpacks. Fortunately, it's a short walk of just a couple hundred yards to the dock from this well stocked store, making Bath one of the most convenient grocery stops we've seen on the water.

We walked back into town in the evening for dinner at the highly rated Irish pub in town, where we found the food quite good and we were the only non-locals. A return visit to the grocery store rounded out the day, where the amused clerk noticed we were picking up a third 12-pack of beer (we could only carry two on the earlier trip). Not the cheapest beer we've seen, but the short walk from the store made us want to stock up.

In the morning we wandered back into town for a scrumptious breakfast at another highly rated establishment, the Starlight Cafe. Tucked out of the way underneath a century-old building, it would be easy to miss, but we were again the only non-locals. Open six days a week for breakfast and lunch, it was one of the highlights of the stop.

After breakfast we ambled through Reny's department store, in another historic storefront. They had a little bit of everything, from hardware to clothing to sporting goods, and it reminded us a bit of the place where we had spent the night in Odyssey on our first visit to Maine (even though that was just across the line, in New Hampshire). Louise then made haste for the Mariner's Compass quilt shop, while I strolled a bit more of the town and headed back to Vector to prepare for departure. It was a great stop, and there was even a water spigot on the dock so we could wrap up the last of our laundry backlog.

The railroad bridge was closed in the morning, so I called the tender first thing to make sure we'd get through around 11. Louise got back from her shopping just a little bit before then, and we called the bridge as we were letting go lines. They had the bridge lifted by the time we arrived, and we turned left after clearing the bridge into the Sasanoa River, leaving the Kennebec behind.

The Sasanoa is really a tidal channel, and there is a tricky section which is very narrow known as Upper Hell Gate. We had timed our departure to arrive there at slack current, and we did pretty well, arriving just after slack with just a bit of current against us, ideal for handling such a tricky spot. Unfortunately, this meant that we faced increasing current as we continued south, and we were right on schedule to have a whopping three knots on our nose by the time we reached Lower Hell Gate.

Rather than burn a bunch of extra fuel to get through this, we ended up dropping the hook in Hockomock Bay (map) for two hours, to arrive at Lower Hell Gate and The Boilers (another tricky section) at slack water. That put the current behind us afterward, and we ended up having to station keep for ten minutes at the Southport Island swing bridge.

Vector anchored in Boothbay Harbor.

It was a lovely cruise, even if the driving was challenging, and we are back to pleasant temperatures after a couple of cold and gray days. We arrived in Boothbay Harbor on a magnificent afternoon. Even with the two-hour stop, we arrived in plenty of time to hunt around for a good spot to anchor, and we definitely needed the time. The harbor is a sea of mooring balls, peppered with lobster floats, and even though a majority of the balls were empty now that the season is over, we had to try three times to set the anchor with enough swing room. We ended up just outside the inner harbor, west of McFarland Island (map).

Cocktails at Fisherman's Wharf, with the inner harbor in the background.

It took us nearly an hour to get anchored, between hunting, setting, and resetting, which made for a bit of a long day. We splashed the tender, thinking to just go ashore for a draft beer someplace, but while we sat at the bar at the Fisherman's Wharf Inn sipping our local drafts, we decided to just treat ourselves to something nice, and we ended up walking to the very nice Italian joint down the street, Ports of Italy. This place proved to be insanely popular, even past the season, and we were lucky to snag the penultimate table; right after we were seated a half-hour wait list formed. This being Maine, we both had seafood dishes and they would have been worth a wait.

Our view from dinner, the church across the harbor.

This morning we got a bit more exploring in while I tendered over to a marina for gasoline. The dinghy was nearly out, and I was not sure when next we'll see a fuel pump. On the way to the marina, we passed a moored float with nothing but a propane BBQ on it. Floats on moorings are common here, often with stacks of idle lobster pots or other commercial fishing gear on them, but this was a first for us. We also spotted a trawler (the real kind) called Ocean Venture, which caught our attention because the company that built Vector was called Ocean Venturers.


The other Ocean Venture.

Today's cruise was spectacular, but exhausting. It's over now, and we are anchored among the lobster boats in Tenants Harbor (map). Not long after I started typing, I had to give up because the lobster floats became so thick that I had to hand steer for much of the trip. At least I got started, and prepared the majority of the photos.

Marshall Point Light, at Port Clyde, after we'd come through the Old Hump Channel.

This is a lovely spot, and we may even spend a second night here. I had planned to continue north through Penobscot Bay tomorrow to some remote anchorage, but instead we need to be in Rockland, a large community north of here, at 4pm on Friday. That's when the UPS service center there opens, and we're having a MiFi device shipped there from our mail receiving service. Internet access is getting more and more difficult here, where my unlimited Sprint service is nearly useless, and Louise's paltry Verizon data bucket is insufficient even for uploading photos. We're already paying for service on the MiFi, which was doing us no good sitting in our mailbox in Florida.

South Island, approaching Tenants Harbor. The former light station is now a private house.

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