Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Pine Tree State--Yep, There's Plenty of Them--and Other Observations on Maine

Maine: it must be a fad. No fewer than nine of my friends vacationed in the Pine Tree state this summer or fall. 

But how many of them sailed?

Having finally emerged from the slump I descended into when I dropped my camera into the drink from a dock on Swan's Island, while--or maybe because--my friends were negotiating to buy lobsters at the other end of the dock, intending to boil them alive (it's enough to upset any self-respecting vegetarian), I would like to share with those of you who are NOT vacationing in Maine a few additional observations from my sailing trip in September.  
Here is Larry choosing his 1-pound dinner while I troll through the bottom mud with a 20-foot boathook, fishing for a 1/2-pound Olympus.
Lobster boats (photos are at the bottom of the ocean) and sleek sailing sloops (photos below) dot every harbor. The surprisingly clean, well-kept, and freshly painted lobster boats (alas, no photos) surprised me--quite a change from the usual dirty working boats in most fishing harbors of the world. The lobster industry is flourishing because the lobster population is exploding, apparently because the lobsters' predators (big fish) have been fished out. The prosperity is reflected in the quality and high level of maintenance of the homes in the fishing villages--again, quite unusual.

Eleven-foot tides require docks that float up and down with the water level.  Boaters tie up to these, and long ramps that connect the floating docks with the upper shore creak and groan as they adjust, their slope ranging from almost level at high tide to steep angles at low tide.
Every few mornings in September, dense fog rolls in (apparently more frequently in August), reducing boaters' visibility to a few hundreds yards or less. Many of the navigation buoys rely on bells clanking in the fog. Lighthouses employ fog horns. For us, iPad-based marine navigation and a robust radar helped reduce the anxiety of sailing in the fog.
On the rocky coasts (when visible), rows of stately pines reach for the clouds. Despite the thriving tourist trade and the usual profusion of expensive new mansions along many sections of the waterfront, there is still plenty of heavily wooded coastline in Maine.
Lighthouse photo by Larry Catlett
Farther inland, rock and pine dominate the windswept landscapes.  

In contrast to the natural beauty, Mainers love profusions of flowers, in parks, gardens, and window boxes. May they enjoy these bursts of beauty before the winter snows set in.
In even greater contrast to natural beauty--everywhere in the world--are the scourges of Tourist Central, such as the ones in the town of Bar Harbor, gateway to Acadia National Park.
Hanging out in a tourist town has one big advantage, however--restaurants. A break from primitive cooking on a crowded boat. And in Maine, a chance to lose one's self in the culinary ecstasy of wild blueberry ice cream and blueberry pie. Here we are rushing intently off to town to take advantage of those delectable delights, probably for the fourth or fifth time.

Final observations: in Maine or elsewhere, sailing wouldn't be the same without settling back on our cockpit settees at sunset, to enjoy the subtle layers of color in the sky above, on the water's surface, and in the rum cocktail balanced on my lap.

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