Cruising in Maine

Maine seamanship techniques, and the difference between cabins, camps, and shacks. The hazards of Lobster Pots. (Reader response and new photo posted 18 September 2001)


We’ve been learning more about cruising in Maine, the local culture, and some interesting seamanship techniques.

A few days ago we were anchored off a pretty cove on Round Island, in the Merchant Islands (near Stonington). As it was a bit tight, and the tide was up, we decided to carefully survey the bottom to check for any uncharted bumps. We did this in our normal fashion, going dead slow and circling the edges of the anchorage, watching the depth sounder and making a track with the plotter.

The islands and sea bed in this part of the world are pretty much granite, which of course is very pretty when you see these big boulders lying on the shore. But it is HARD stuff. We’ve hit coral, lots of mud and sand, and even a few normal (soft) rocks over the years. But nothing to compare with the resounding thwangggg that rang through BEOWULF’s hull upon coming into contact with our first bit of Maine granite. We were moving at less than half a knot so the impact was barely felt, but everybody in the anchorage sure heard it.

Kind of makes you wonder what it must be like to hit something that hard going ten to 12 knots…

In reading up on the history of Maine it seems the French and English did a bit of fighting over who would control the area. The French lost the war, but we suspect they left a lot of genes in the local population. Nothing else would account for the strange anchoring habits we’ve observed-all of which look very French in character.

Tiny anchors are the norm, and judging by the amount of re-anchoring we observe, they must be in use to preserve the bottom of the various bays-so as not to allow the anchor flukes to penetrate. Folks hereabouts rarely set or check their hooks under power, and when they do, it is only with a tiny amount of reverse rpm. And they really like to anchor close. From our recent sojourns to the Caribbean, we can attest that all of the above are highly developed skills amongst the French.

An old friend who lives in this part of the world has explained to us the local definition of housing. When city dwellers from further west speak about their “cabin” in Maine the generic definition is something in excess of 8,000 square feet. A camp is more modest, typically 3000 to 7000 square feet. The homes which the locals live in, typically less than three thousand square feet, are shacks. It goes without saying that some of these cabins, camps, and shacks are very nice.

We’ve been getting in some daysailing. Not very relaxing as there are literally millions of lobster pots which one has to weave through. Last Saturday we hooked two on the prop in three hours. But as the prop was feathered and not turning, we could pull the lines to the surface with the boat hook and then cut the lines free. The water temperature averages around 58F and we want to avoid bodily contact at all costs. If this hooking while sailing trend continues we may try tying a knife to the boat hook.

When the sun is out and the wind calm it is very warm, and the colors are wonderful. Of course this combination of events happens rarely. But that makes you appreciate it all the more when it occurs. When we get to thinking that running the diesel heater to warm up the boat in the morning during August is, well, a little weird, we consider what the Chesapeake is like right now. Hot, humid, and pretty much windless. So maybe Maine summers aren’t so bad after all.

We’ll be in Stonington next week, at the Billings Diesel and Shipyard, doing a bit of maintenance. Our engine and genset are both due for injector checks; and we need to have a look at the engine turbo, check valve clearances, and trace down a small oil leak. We’ve also got a list of misc. items to change on deck. After which we’ll be heading back to where the water’s warmer and the jellyfish thrive this time of year.

This article elicited a response from one of our readers, which we’ve posted here:

Ouch! Please let (the Dashews) know that cutting lobster trap lines is the same as throwing $600 overboard for a local lobsterman. So 2 trap cuttings in one day (as reportted on 9/8) cost our local hardworking friends more than $1000. Think about the average lobster @ about 11/2 lbs. and you begin to understand how long it will take to pay for the equipment now at the bottom of Penobscot Bay. A little care and a watchful eye and cruising sailors can avoid trap lines pretty easily. Many of us have done so for years. A little inconvenience to us ….a challenging livelihood to the lobstermen without visitors making it a lot less profitable. Just wanted to let you know how serious the cavalier attitude (“just cut the lines”) sounds to Mainers! Otherwise…we hope the cruise was enjoyable. Rich G Reply from Steve Dashew:

We felt bad when we had to cut the buoy lines ourselves. However, we were consoled by the fact that that the pots are normally in strings of two, tied together, with a buoy on each trap. So, if one buoy is cut (a common problem as you know) both traps are not lost. Regards – Steve Dashew

Posted by Steve Dashew  (August 17, 2001)

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