Saturday, August 14, 2021

Bah Hahbah is fah enough

We are anchored in a familiar spot, west of the bar and island that give Bar Harbor its name (map). It's been a week since my last post, and I am afraid I left our readers hanging, so I am taking some time out to update the blog.

We had a comfortable evening in Tenants Harbor, and we even tendered ashore to the diminutive town and wandered to dinner at local joint The Happy Clam, which specializes in German cuisine. Dinner was quite good, and we were distant enough from the live music at the bar and music venue out back to have an enjoyable evening. On the way back to the dock we stopped at the local general store.

Postcard from Bar Harbor.

Unfortunately, later in the evening a swell had moved in, attacking us from the gap near Southern Island, and we had a very rolly night. I did deploy our makeshift "flopper stopper," consisting of a "drift sock" (the item I picked up at Cabela's in Portland, with the help of good friend Dave) with a weight on the end, suspended from our davit crane. That helped a little bit, but not enough, and Louise once again had a rough night. If we end up having to stay at Tenants again, we'll try the other anchorage a little bit to the north, which is protected to the south by a ridge of rock.

We weighed anchor Sunday morning for a very pleasant run to Isle Au Haut, with a quick excursion outside the 3nm limit to take care of business. Having no need, on this visit, to steam through the tight harbor, especially at a low tide level, we instead proceeded around the north side of Kimball Island, headed for our familiar anchorage in Laundry Cove (map). It was a bit more crowded on this visit, but we had no trouble finding a spot and had a blissfully calm and swell-free night. Needing nothing ashore, we had a nice dinner aboard and left the tender on deck.

We passed this low-power house on our way back from dinner in Tenants Harbor.

We again weighed anchor Monday morning with our sights set on Winter Harbor. We knew the weather would be better on Tuesday, but we had a short weather window wherein we thought we could make it to Passamaquoddy Bay, in the hopes of perhaps cruising New Brunswick for a few weeks when Canada opened their border to US boats, nominally on August 9th.

I'd been working on the logistics of a border crossing for a few days, and the route we had planned had us stopping in Winter Harbor and Jonesport on the way to Lubec. Regular readers may remember our cruise to Lubec and beyond last season, so this was all familiar ground, other than Winter Harbor itself, which we bypassed last time.

We bashed through a good deal of chop, with three foot seas on maybe five seconds. A bit bumpy but not intolerable, and we could have made Winter Harbor as planned. As we approached Frenchman Bay, however, we opted to divert inside the Cranberry Islands for a bit more protection, and to give us an earlier stopping option. After a lot of bashing and dodging lobster floats, with perhaps two more hours ahead of us, and disappointing findings on the Canada front, we took the bailout and dropped the hook in Cranberry Harbor (map), stopping around 2pm. The lone restaurant in the harbor is dark Mondays, so we had another nice meal aboard.

Vector, left, anchored at Bar Island, as seen from College of the Atlantic.

The disappointing findings were these: While Canada did, indeed, open the border on Monday, and there is a relatively convenient Port of Entry at Campobello Island, they wanted us to have a negative PCR test (in addition to our proof of being fully vaccinated) within 72 hours of arrival. And while that sounds simple enough, most testing sites in Maine are using the state lab, which has a stated turn-around of 3-5 days for results. Privately, some test sites would admit that the results were often back in 48-72 hours, but there were no guarantees.

Making things even more complicated, the only two test sites within a two-day cruise of the border are in Machias and Calais. Neither is accessible directly by Vector, although regular readers may remember that we got close enough to Calais last year to tender in, and we could likely get close enough to Machias to tender there, as well. But wait... you can not get tested by walking in. These are both strictly drive-through sites; you must arrive in a car, and you remain in the vehicle while you are swabbed.

After a lot of head-scratching, plenty of on-line research, and a dozen phone calls, the only workable plan we could concoct went like this: Cruise Vector to Eastport, Maine, and anchor. Tender ashore first thing in the morning and rent a U-Haul pickup truck or van -- there is no car rental in Eastport. Drive to Calais, arriving at Walgreens before 10am, as the pharmacist informed us the FedEx pickup of test samples happened at 11 and if we missed the pickup, there was no way we'd have results in 72 hours.

Sunset over Mount Desert Island, as we came around Bar Island headed home.

We'd then drive back to Eastport and wait, crossing our fingers for results in 72 hours. We would make an appointment with Canadian Border Services for inward clearance (mandatory) right at the 72 hour mark and hope for the best. If the results were later than that, we'd have to turn back at the border and repeat the process. The rental truck, at $20/day and $0.70/mile, plus gas, would cost us $80 each attempt. (On the plus side, we could make a Walmart and grocery store run while we were in Calais.)

By the time we went to bed Monday night, we had more or less concluded this was a fool's errand. Roughly 160 nautical miles, round trip, to Eastport, in order to spend money gambling on a less-than-even chance of having test results to cross the border. All so we could spend perhaps three weeks cruising the Bay of Fundy, before we have to turn around and begin heading south anyway. We had a go/no-go decision deadline of Tuesday morning; if we did not take this window, we'd reduce that three weeks down to something less than two or maybe even one.

We awoke Tuesday morning to dense fog, and that was the final nail in the coffin. The mad scramble to make Eastport in the two days of decent seas would now be two days of intense concentration and hand-steering to avoid lobster traps that, in clear weather, I can see at least a minute or more ahead of time, but in fog will have mere seconds to dodge. As Lando said, this deal is getting worse all the time.

A less foggy view of Bar Harbor from our anchorage. Bar Island at left, Bald Porcupine Island in the distance, and Bar Harbor at right. The land bridge is just beginning to surface and you can see people ready to cross.

And so it is that, after a relaxing cup of coffee in Cranberry Harbor, we gave ourselves permission to call Frenchman Bay our turn-around point for the season, and spend a couple of weeks cruising Maine on a very relaxed schedule, rather than continue to New Brunswick this year. I plotted a course for Bar Harbor, where we knew there was a comfortable anchorage with plenty of services, but less than two hours of plowing through the fog.

I did have to run the foghorn for perhaps half the cruise (my threshold is about a half mile visibility), and we had the occasional sailboat that was inexplicably sailing in fog without monitoring the radio or sounding signals. Approaching the pass between Bar Island and Sheep Porcupine Island a flotilla of kayaks appeared out of the fog ahead of us and I had to go full astern, but we otherwise made it without incident, and dropped the hook where we are now.

This is an incredibly calm anchorage; I would even call it serene. We're just a half mile from downtown Bar Harbor, and if the tide is high it's a 0.6nm tender ride to the dinghy dock at the harbormaster office. At half tide or lower the bar becomes impassable; 90 minutes before low tide it becomes dry land and the tourists begin flocking to Bar Island over the "land bridge." Our dinghy ride then stretches to 1.4nm, going the long way around Bar Island.

The Village Green preparing for the 20th annual Carol Dyer Luminaria lighting tonight, in honor of a beloved children's librarian lost to brain cancer two decades ago.

Since arriving, we've been ashore nightly for dinner, and I've made more than one excursion to the grocery store. The harbormaster gave us a number for a diver and we had the hull cleaned one afternoon -- it's gotten so bad in the last two months that the diver ran out of air before he could finish the whole job. I've enjoyed strolling around town, and I have also knocked some boat projects off the list.

Maine has been doing pretty well, relatively speaking, with case numbers. But no one walking around town is from Maine; a quick scan of license plates reveals tourists from every state along the eastern seaboard and quite a few inland as well. And the town is packed; today is Saturday and every hotel has its No Vacancy sign out. Accordingly, we are back to our mid-pandemic tactics -- masks indoors everywhere, keeping plenty of distance, and only outside dining. Fortunately, more outside dining has popped up since our stay here a year ago.

We'll stay here through the weekend -- no sense in battling with the weekend sailors and other traffic -- and then we will move along. I had hoped to maybe cruise up to Ellsworth, but the harbormaster informs me there is not enough depth at the dock, so we'll do something else in that part of the bay. Our next stop from here is likely Southwest Harbor, another very short cruise.

1 comment:

  1. Seems like you made a good decision to not try for a Canada visit this year - way more relaxing to not go through all those steps to be able to visit.
    Aren't you tired of this "here we go again" covid stuff?! We are. Although vaccinated as you both are,
    we're back to our previous precautions also. Masks indoors, no inside dining, and distancing as much as possible. The reprieve was short-lived. We recently traveled back and forth between our CO and TX homes. We weren't in our Class B van this time. And it was hard to find patio dining in some of the rural towns, so we got take-out and ate in the car. Less than ideal, but the safest option! (Especially in TX where the governor has said there can't be masks mandates, and very few people were wearing masks!!)
    Stay safe and enjoy your adventures!


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