M/V ARGO CAPTAIN’S LOG July 20, 2013
Lots of new pictures have been added to www.tischtravels.com
Boothbay Harbor to Vinalhavn: We remained in Boothbay one more day owing to poor weather and heavy fog. Fortunately we discovered the Opera House, a simple 19th century white clap board building within walking distance of the dock. That evening the Opera Society presented John McCutcheon, a folksinger and contemporary of Pete Seeger and other famous personalities of the 60’s and 70’s. It was a hot, humid evening and there were about 100 people in the audience. John is a very talented and apparently famous person who played at least eight instruments including the piano, fiddle, banjo, 6 and 12 string guitar, two different and unusual jaw harps, harmonica, the mountain dulcimer, and the hammer dulcimer that evening. He sang both his own compositions as well as those of other well-known folksingers, and his songs brought back memories of the antiwar and political chaos of the 60’s and 70’s. Although all aspects of his performance were excellent, I really enjoyed hearing the hammered dulcimer, an ancient instrument from Iran that is the predecessor of the harpsichord and piano. It is similar to the zither, but larger and more pleasing in its tone as well as very interesting to see being played.
The next morning the fog was a little lighter, so we left Boothbay and headed up the coast to Penobscot Bay and Vinalhavn Island. The course to Vinalhavn is marked with buoys that demarcate a path around the rocks and shoals. Vinalhavn is well known to lobstermen as it is the center of the lobster trade in these parts. It is a beautiful island with several lovely bays in which to anchor. We actually spent a week here while on vacation several years ago, and we were anxious to see the island again. As we arrived, the fog began to lift. We passed through the Fox Island Channel to Inner Seal Harbor on the north side of the island. The sun came out as we passed a little fishing village on Fox Island. This area is very typical of the Maine Coast: small rocky islands worn smooth by the sea; where the sea meets the islands, dark green sea weed yield to golden brown sea weed clinging to the rocks below the high tide mark. Celery colored green grasses carpet the shore above the sand, and then the spruce trees rise to the blue sky while puffy white clouds float overhead. It is not surprising to see seals warming themselves in the sun or to see osprey in their nests along the tree lined shore. The sea here is rich with life as the hundreds of buoys tied to lobster pots testify.
That night the weather turned cold, foggy, and rainy. It felt good to be buttoned up in the boat with Rebecca, who was making a lovely dinner. Also, sleeping on the boat during a rain is very pleasant as we could hear the drops falling on Argo’s decks. The next day wasn’t much better from a weather perspective, so we stayed inside and watched movies and read books all day.
Fourth of July near Bar Harbor: By now it was July 3, so we had to get moving toward Bar Harbor as our daughter, Kathryn, was arriving that evening from NYC to spend the holiday with us. Bar Harbor is on Mount Desert Island, which was named by Jacque Champlain as he found the bald mountain tops desert like, and it lies about 35 miles north of Vinalhavn. Bar Harbor is actually not a very good place for a yacht as it is frequented by cruise ships and is subject to rolling waves that make boat life a little uncomfortable. The place to stay is Southwest Harbor, a working lobster fishing harbor. Our trip from Vinalhavn was lovely, and although the course was littered with lobster pot buoys, the warm temperature and blue sky more than compensated for the inconvenience of dodging them along the way. At midpoint we hailed a lobster fisherman and he carefully brought his boat over to us. We bought seven beautiful 1 ½lb lobsters from him: cost? $20!
We made Southwest Harbor at mid-day and tied up at Dysart’s Marina. It was more than a little intimidating coming in to the harbor. The harbor itself is wide and the fairway to it is open and beautiful, but the area under the sea is rife with ledges, so staying in safe water requires close attention. In addition the area is crammed with boats and lobster buoys. Picking our way through it with a 250,000 lb. vessel took great care. As we got closer I noticed that the marina was built behind a substantial rock island that at low tide was fortunately visible. Then I noticed other markers about the harbor marking similar small rock islands. It was a dangerous place for a captain not familiar with it, certainly no place I would want to come into at night or in the fog.
After tying up Argo she got a bath, we cooked the lobsters and obtained a rental car. We were now ready for Kathryn. She arrived about an hour late from Boston, but that didn’t dampen our excitement at seeing her nor the pleasure of a gilled lobster for dinner accompanied by wonderful Kistler Chardonnay! Kathryn hadn’t been aboard Argo since it was commissioned, so it was a lot of fun to show her the finished boat. The next day, July 4, we launched the tender and took a four hour tour of the west arm and other points of interest accessible only by boat. One of the more interesting spots was Seal Harbor, home to J.D. Rockefeller. Rockefeller loved this area and contributed a great deal to it including a huge tract of land that formed the nucleus of the Acadia National Park. Other Rockefellers, including Nelson and David, summered here as well. David, aged 97, still comes here.
Bar Harbor along with the bays and inlets in this area were a playground for the wealthiest people of the early 1900’s including the Rockefellers, J.P. Morgan, and others. There are many “cottages” in the area similar to those in Newport, R.I., but none are as large or opulent. At any rate, the life style that supported the “cottages” died out after a large fire in Bar Harbor destroyed many residences, and of course, the then new income tax and the Great Depression didn’t help much either. That evening the 4thof July fireworks were set off at the end of our dock, so the back deck of our boat was a perfect viewing.
The next day we toured Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. Bar Harbor is a beautiful family travel destination, a.k.a. tourist mecca. It is a gift-shop-town on steroids; very well done but without much substance save its scenic beauty and the fact that it is the gateway to Acadia National Park. For us, we wanted to see the highlights of the park, and a four hour tour did the job adequately. The park encompasses three large mountains and a wonderful shoreline that is quintessential Maine. The mountains themselves are part of the Appalachian Chain, which extends from Alabama to Newfoundland. The Appalachian Mountains (known variously as the Allegany, Adirondack, Shenandoah, and Blue Ridge among other names) here are more rounded and lower in elevation than their southern counterparts owing to the crushing effects of the Wisconsin Glacier that covered them more than ten thousand years ago. The tour follows a route that covers most of the park, including a trip to the top of Cadillac Mountain where a breathtaking view of the entire region can be seen. Coming down the mountain, the route follows the coastline so that one can experience the beauty of the tidal zone, Maine’s rugged coastline and its beautiful ocean vistas.
The next day we took Argo to Opchee Bay, a little anchorage about 15 miles from Southwest Harbor in order to give Kathryn a short boat trip. Opchee Bay is a very small bay located between three little islands and is noted for its wildlife. After anchoring, we launched our tender and set out exploring. We soon came upon a group of seals sunbathing on a distant island rock. We tried to creep up on them, but ultimately they slid into the water when we got too close. A little further on we spotted three Bald Eagles fishing for dinner. That evening we dined on our outside deck watching the beautiful natural spectacle before us. Once again the menu was grilled lobster and fine wine. The following day we pulled anchor and returned to Southwest Harbor; reluctantly we bade farewell to Kathryn as she left for NYC and we prepared for our trip to Nova Scotia.
Crossing the Bay of Fundy:We planned an overnight passage of about 33 hours to Lunenburg, N.S. from Southwest Harbor, a distance of about 240 miles. We planned to travel with two other boats, Summer Star and Bluewater, both fellow Nordhavns. Milt and Judy Baker own Bluewater (47 footer) and are very well known and experienced boaters including transatlantic crossings in 2002 and 2004. Summer Star (57 footer) is owned by Atle Moe and Khristina Thyrre. They live aboard their boat full time and plan to cruise her all over the world. While in Southwest Harbor we all had cocktails aboard each other’s boats and planned our trip up north.
At 0700 we pulled out of Southwest Harbor bound for Lunenburg. Anytime you set to sea on the open ocean it is a good idea to check the weather. The weather forecast looked very favorable calling for light winds and seas. The other key planning variable that was particularly important on this cruise was the timing of the tides. Our course took us across the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, the eighth wonder of the natural world. The Bay of Fundy experiences tides of 40 feet or more twice each day. Massive amounts of water flow in and out of this area creating very strong currents and dangerous eddies especially near Cape Sable at the southeastern tip of Nova Scotia. When pursuing an eastbound course it’s best to cross the tidal area during an ebb tide as the outflows would push Argo along; logically we would like to be completely out of the area during the incoming high tide. Unfortunately this isn’t possible; so during part of our passage we bucked a 3 knot opposing current that dropped our speed almost in half. Another slowing factor was the unexpected wind of 20 + knots on the nose (rather than the 10 knots that was predicted). As we neared Cape Sable we noted quite a number of targets on the radar screen. By this time it was about 2300 hours and it was dark and foggy and the seas were somewhat higher than expected. The targets were fisherman; some were fishing for herring using large nets that are dragged about 1,500 feet behind their boats, others were looking for scallops. This is the scallop capital of the world with nearby Digby, N.S. its home base. Scallop fisherman drag heavy metal rakes about 9 yards square across the ocean floor in an effort to kick the scallops up in the water to be scooped up into a net. We had targets on the radar all night, so a sharp eye was required. As we made our way north eastward toward Lunenburg from the Cape, a passage of another 15 hours, the seas built to around six feet and the Labrador Current made its presence felt. We made Lunenburg in the fog about 1400 on July 10.
Anchoring in Lunenburg Harbor:Seeing Lunenburg from the water for the first time is a sight to behold. Lunenburg is the only city in North America designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The little town is set on a steep hill that forms the north side of the harbor, and its 18th and 19th century buildings have been maintained as they were in the day. This is not a tourist town; it is still a working village. The pictures on www.tischtravels.com tell the whole story. If you look at them you will see the mosaic of brightly colored buildings that are a treat to the eye and imagination. The bright colors were originally intended to help returning sailors identify the harbor in the midst of the fog. It was famous for shipbuilding, the Bluenose schooner, and its whaling and fishing industry. One of the buildings still has a “Whaling Supplies” sign painted on its side. We took a carriage ride around the town, which was quite intriguing. Some of the houses date from 1700, and fishing is said to have begun here in 1500, although that seems rather early since Columbus didn’t discover the Bahamas until 1492. During its time, Lunenburg was perhaps the wealthiest city in Canada. At any rate, the cod fish were so plentiful that until the late 1940’s people line caught cod fish using only a hook with a metal sparkler: no bait was required. For 500 years the sea gave up enough cod to feed a large part of America and Europe. Then the mechanization of fishing occurred after WWII and within a generation the fish stocks were depleted to the point that cod fishing is all but nonexistent. Unfortunately the same thing is true of the Atlantic salmon, and other species. If there was ever testimony to the mindless avarice of man, this is it. It is hard to imagine an entire portion of the sea being stripped of its fish, but it has happened here. I have not even seen cod offered on a menu here in Nova Scotia or Massachusetts. In the meantime the Canadians are hard at work on fish farming salmon. These are hardly the wild, clean fish of our ancestors or our own childhood. These are the fat, corn fed, hormone induced, parasite prone fish that now come to the table as what many think of as a healthy alternative to beef.
This part of the coast is known as the Bluenose Coast. I haven’t been able to find the origin of the name although the cold, damp winters probably contribute to sporting a bluenose. Today most references to the bluenose are to the famous schooner bearing that name that spent most of its life racing back and forth to the Georges Bank in search of fish. For 20 years she worked in the fishing industry. She competed many times for the International Fisherman’s Trophy and won each engagement against the best that American money and ingenuity could produce. Sadly, after WWII she couldn’t compete against motorized fishing vessels. Despite efforts to keep her in Nova Scotia led by Capt. Angus Walters, Bluenose had her masts cut off and she was motorized and sold to work as a freighter in the West Indies. Laden with bananas, she struck a coral reef off Île à Vache, Haiti on January 28, 1946. Wrecked beyond repair, with no loss of life, she was abandoned on the reef.
We thoroughly enjoyed Lunenburg. Upon arrival we launched our tender to go ashore to meet the customs officer. On our way we spotted our beloved Odyssey tied up at the dock. No sooner had we motored over to see her, but the new owner Don Payzant and his friends greeted us on the dock and invited us aboard. A casual drink turned into an evening of fun and extended into a wonderful chateaubriand dinner with delicious Caymus Conundrum. Don and his friend, Bob, sang and played the guitar; Don’s fiancé, Nancy, and Bob’s wife, Vivian, were great fun. The whole evening was a wonderful delight. Unfortunately, they left the next morning, but we look forward to catching up with them in the Bras d’or Lakes farther north. Odyssey looked great and they are having a great time with her.
We stayed in Lunenburg five days. We had a wonderful time as three other Nordhavns were at anchor with us. Most of the evenings we shared cocktails and hors d’oeuvres aboard one or another of the boats, Milt spent an hour or so helping me understand the new sextant that Rebecca gave me for my birthday, and Bradley Rosenberg on Shear Madness came over with Atle andfixed our dysfunctional bilge pump. On two of the days we tendered over to the beach and walked ashore with our golf clubs to play at the course that overlooks the village. The course is nine holes with two sets of tees for a sort of eighteen hole experience. The best part of the course were the views of Lunenburg and the harbor, many of which I have put on the photo log of our trip.
Reaching Halifax: We left Lunenburg for Halifax on July 15 and enjoyed a spectacular cruise on a sunny day with smooth sea. We berthed at the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron facility on the Northwest Arm of the harbor. Since our arrival we have rented a car and took a five day tour of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. As this log entry is already so long, I’ll save a description of that trip for another entry.
We have put a few new pictures up on our website at www.tischtravels.com. Thanks for looking in on us.
We hope you are enjoying the summer wherever you are.
Captain Randy & 1st Mate, Chief Medical Officer and Galley Maid Rebecca