Monday, September 21, 2020

Capital investment

We are under way upbound on the Kennebec River. We're bound for Augusta, the state capital, or as close as we can get given channel conditions. Winds from Hurricane Teddy will arrive tomorrow, with 16' waves out in the Gulf of Maine. We figure we'll be most protected here, some 35 miles inland.

Vecor, looking diminutive at the Augusta city dock, on the Kennebec. The river was like a mirror this evening, a condition not likely to repeat during our stay.

We had a lovely night off Farnham Point on the Damariscotta, where it was dark and quiet. As much as I would have liked to run the dozen miles up to the head of navigation at the towns of Newcastle and Damariscotta, nature delivered us another very good day to run outside, and we seized the opportunity, heading back down river in the morning.

In order to have a favorable tide for most of the day, we had to push against the flood to leave the river, but as soon as we turned around Ocean Point and into Booth Bay we had it with us. So much so that I had to dial the throttle way back in order to time our arrival at the Southport Island swing bridge in the Townsend Gut. Still, I had to station-keep for several minutes.

Vector at anchor in the Sheepscot, off Wiscasset. I snapped this from the deck at the Twin Schooner Pub; that's Sprague's Lobster  in the foreground.

Once through the bridge we finished retracing our steps from the last trip, turning north out of the gut into the Sheepscot River. We rode the flood all the way to the head of navigation at Wiscasset, where we dropped the hook in the designated anchorage across the river (map). The Sheepscot is stunningly beautiful, and we had a very nice cruise.

Wiscasset, being right on US-1, is a tourist town, and on a sunny weekend it was quite busy. We went ashore in the warmest part of the afternoon to stroll around and take it all in; we had passed through here in Odyssey but did not stop. Wiscasset belongs to Museum in the Streets, with many historic buildings. We enjoyed our walk.

Downtown Bath, from in front of the aptly named Over The Moon lingerie shop.

We knew it would be far too cold at dinner time to want to sit outside at any of the three or four restaurants in town, and so before returning to the tender, we stopped for an afternoon beer on the otherwise empty deck at the Twin Schooner Pub, part of Sarah's Cafe. Two lobster shacks were doing a brisk business in lobster rolls, including Reds Eats, which is famous enough that the line, well past lunch hour, literally went around the block. I thought briefly about returning ashore at dinner time and picking up a couple of rolls to go, but even that would have been a frosty experience, and a tourist town is not the best place for a lobster roll.

The lighting was not in my favor, but I snapped this Zumwalt-class stealth ship in front of Bath Iron Works as we made for the railroad bridge. It showed up fine on radar. The Zumwalt herself was there on our last pass through.

We left the tender in the water, in case I wanted to return in the morning, or maybe land at the Edgecomb landing across the river. With chilly temps, I was uninspired all morning, and we decked the tender well ahead of the change of tide, for more flexibility in our departure.

Another view of downtown Bath, behind the historic Hallet's Drug Store clock.

Just a mile and a half south of town, on a tidal channel known as the Back River (one of numerous channels with that same name), which was our planned next leg, lies the Cowseagan Narrows, crossed by a high bridge that connects the enormous Westport Island to the mainland. After seeing a warning on the chart and studying the Coast Pilot on this stretch, we wanted to hit it fairly close to slack:

Currents are strong and erratic through Back River and in the vicinity of the fixed Cowseagan Narrows Bridge, clearance 48 feet, that crosses Cowseagan Narrows about 2 miles south of Wiscasset. The edges and shoals in the narrows make the channel quite narrow at this point. Mariners are advised that passage through the narrows should not be attempted without local knowledge, and then only by small boats at slack water.

That kind of verbiage is enough to give any mariner pause. We could see the bridge from our anchorage, and could also observe some boats on moorings between us and the bridge, which I used as something of a current gauge. When it looked like things were pretty slack, we weighed anchor and headed toward the narrows, secure in the knowledge that we had an extra ten feet of depth at close to high tide.

Bath has decorated the barricades protecting the outside dining. The cranes at left reflect the Bath Iron Works shipyard.

As it turned out, it was easy to navigate and to control, even having to dodge lobster floats, but my timing was off ever so slightly, and we shot through the narrows with three knots behind us. I'm glad we were paying close attention, because hitting those narrows at mid-tide would have been quite the wild ride.

The tides meet just a few miles further, at Youngs Point, and our timing there was perfect. We had favorable tide the whole way, so much so that, when we reached the confluence of the Sasanoa in Hockomock Bay, we had to drop the hook in the exact same spot we did five years ago, this time to wait for the tide to actually become less favorable, so we would not have five knots or more behind us at Upper Hell Gate.

The old Customs House in Bath. Pretty much every port city in Maine had a Customs House; we've seen one at almost every stop.

Reading my blog entry from that passage reminds me that five years ago, we were a lot less experienced and thus a lot more nervous about such things. On that passage, we wanted to hit the gate at slack, with a touch of current against us. Now I am happy to have it behind us, but not five knots' worth. Just as we dropped the hook to wait, I saw the local Boothbay tour boat, Pink Lady II, on our AIS, coming up through Hell Gate against the tide, so I called on the radio to ask about conditions. He reported four to five knots, but said we would be good in about an hour. Local knowledge.

Bath City Hall.

In order to reach him, I had to time my call in between the Coast Guard and Sea Tow handling a Mayday call just a few miles from us, a cruiser that ran up on the rocks near Spectacle Island. When the call first came in and we copied the location, we could see it was very close to us. But at our speed and against the tide we were 45 minutes out, and the fast boats coming from Boothbay arrived in perhaps ten minutes or so. All six aboard were rescued and the boat was recovered.

We set a timer for an hour, and when it was up we weighed anchor and continued through the Sasanoa and Upper Hell Gate, retracing our old steps to the Kennebec. We shot out into the river well before the railroad bridge tender's quitting time of 4:30; the bridge was already open but we called to advise her of our passage.

Vector in her "usual spot" at the Bath town dock, in front of the park.

I had originally planned to end the day upriver at Richmond, but the hour at anchor meant we ran out of tide just as we cleared the bridges, and it was already 4:30. I called the Bath Harbormaster on the phone for permission to tie to their float overnight (map), which we shared with a Loop boat named Lee Ann. We topped up our water tank, and walked into town, insulated pizza-carrier in hand, to pick up a pie at well-rated Bruno's Woodfired Pizza.

The takeout pizza plan was again owing to the low temperatures and stiff breeze that is making outdoor dining uncomfortable. But when we arrived to place our order, they showed us their back patio, protected from the wind and sporting a warm gas fireplace. We had a nice pizza dinner with draft beers next to the fire and were quite comfortable. Bruno's is new since our last visit, and we can recommend it.

Downtown Augusta; their town mural, left, is smaller than Bangor's.

Much of the rest of the town is just as we left it five years ago, including the nice dock and adjacent park, and the shops and restaurants along the main street. The quilt shop that Louise visited back then seems to have gone away, and some places are struggling. Bath Iron Works continues to build the Zumwalt-class stealth ships here.

This morning we went back ashore after it warmed up a bit (it was in the 30s overnight) and walked to the IGA grocery across the street to stock up on a few provisions. This continues to be one of the very easiest-to-access grocery stops, especially to a Vector-friendly dock. We dropped lines at the turn of the tide, just after lunch.

The Olde Federal Building, Augusta.

It has been a beautiful cruise, with the leaves just starting to turn. The river is blissfully free of pot floats, and is mostly unspoiled forestland along the shores. Few come up this way; we've seen only two other boats since we left the dock. Lee Ann left ahead of us, bound for Hallowell, so we will pass them later. Their presence there means that Hallowell will not be a backup option for us if Augusta does not work out, but we'll figure something out.

Vector at the Augusta dock. We're using the whole float.

Update: Well, I almost managed to finish this post, in fact I was loading the photos, when things got very skinny, and I had to hand-steer for the rest of the trip. And by skinny, I mean both narrow (most of the way) and shallow (in some spots). We did cross one 7.5' sounding, at a tide level of perhaps +1.5' or maybe even 2'.

Two small tables outside State Lunch. We are the only outdoor diners in Augusta.

We made it through successfully, though, and we're tied to the city dock in downtown Augusta (map). I called the city's community services office to let them know we wanted to stay on the dock; the manager, who also serves as harbormaster, welcomed us to Augusta and let me know he would inform the police that we are here.

Our view from dinner. It's hard to capture just how nicely painted these facades are.

We tried to anchor in the river before coming to the dock, but the bottom is scoured rock. We're still ruminating about whether this dock is up to the challenge of holding Vector in 20kt winds, gusting to 30. That said, we'll likely stay put, as it's nice here, and about as far as we can get from the storm. Dinner time rolled around before I finished the post, and we had a very pleasant dinner at a cocktail bar called State Lunch, just a couple of blocks from the dock, on Water Street, in the old downtown.


  1. I have waited in that line at Red's Eats many times. Well worth it.

  2. Are you guys intentionally waiting for freezing weather? From Annapolis in January and Sturgeon Bay in late fall, I can tell you it is complicated when every marina has shut off their water and pump out systems., and when some drag their floating docks out of the water for winter.

    1. LOL, yeah. Last time we were up here, we left on September 27th, so we're pushing back up against that. Our clock runs out on the 6th, so we won't be much later this time. Soon enough we will be headed for warmer climes; someplace where the eateries are still serving outdoors. Perhaps our paths will cross and we can lift a glass, at an appropriate distance.

  3. Love to read about your boat travels! I admire your sense of adventure. The challenges of all the navigating, tides and currents would be too stressful and beyond our abilities. Not to mention the high probability that I would be seasick a lot! So we stick to our Class B campervan travels. Safe travels to you in these crazy times!

    1. Thanks for following along. I think there is a Class-B in our future, whenever we decide we're done with the boat. After 16 nomadic years, we can't yet envision settling down anyplace.


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