23 August 2010


I seem to be alone in this, but Maine is not one of my favorite places to cruise. I have always had three objections:
1. The water is too cold for comfortable daily swimming. Since this is my favorite form of exercising, swimming is important to me.
2. Fog. I have never enjoyed the adventure of groping through the fog, and now it is even more stressful.
3. Lobster pots. While I enjoy eating lobster, weaving between the swarms of pots that now exist, means there is no relaxing, no chance to enjoy the scenery, just total concentration on what is immediately ahead of you.

Why go to Maine at all? You may be the one among the multitude that falls in love with the scenery, the uniqueness that is Maine. You may want to spend a cool summer and not battle the heat. You may enjoy the challenges of navigating in fog and dodging the obstacles. You just might want something different. Why do I go? Because so many friends are cruising there, Because my son and family, which includes my youngest grandchildren spend two weeks there every summer. Because the local people are simply wonderful, and I do love lobster, especially when the price is so right. I certainly suggest you give a Maine cruise a try if you have never been, and here are my suggestions for surviving the challenges that can make it all too much if you are like me.

THE COLD WATER. It's cold for sure, has averaged 62 degrees most of the time we have been here. There are differences in locales; far up the rivers or n shallower pools, you may find warmer water, water that makes it up to 68 degrees, my lower limit. Have a wet suit of some type if you are totally determined. Find a resort with a heated pool, like Linekin Bay Resort, where you can anchor and pay a day fee, or take a mooring, if you prefer. Not too many places like this, but they do exist, enquire around. Substitute walking in the comfortable weather as your major exercise.

THE FOG: The first law for cruising in foggy country, if you are a wuss like me, is AVOID WHENEVER POSSIBLE. The weather in Maine is mostly fine, mostly light to no winds, never too hot, but fog can form. Listen closely to the forecasts; when you hear those words patchy fog or fog possible, stay put, or move during the part of the day that they are not calling for fog. Prime rule for surviving the Maine cruise and enjoying it, is be flexible, and do not have a tight schedule, so you can wait for the sunny days to travel. If you do get caught, and sooner or later you will, have a radar, and know how to use it, have a fog horn and have your radio tuned to 16, so you can broadcast your position, and listen to those who are giving theirs. Plot your course as far off the beaten path as possible to avoid the majority of traffic, skip the wiggling through the island obstacle courses that can be fun on a clear day, and try to plan your passage to stay as much inland as possible, since it may be clear there. Go slow, have two of you at the helm, one running the boat, the other the radar man, with his, or her eyes glued to the radar set. If you go ashore in the evening, leave plenty of lights on in the mother ship, know what direction you took going to shore, and have a compass in the dinghy if you find yourself groping your way back. A radio is a good thing also. Nothing beats just waiting out the fog, plan your cruise so this is possible.

THE LOBSTER POTS: If you enjoy lobster where the price is right, then you have to have a positive attitude toward most of the pots. I see no excuse for placing them in a channel going under a bridge, or a narrow, tricky passage, but they are usually there. So start by protecting your boat. A long keel with either a small space between the back of the keel and the rudder, or a shoe that runs from the keel to the rudder post will prevent most lines from getting wound up in your prop, the worst scenario. If this does happen to you, I've been told reversing may back the line off. Don't know for sure, never happened to us so far. If you have stabilizers, put something in front of them to keep the lines from getting between the stabilizer and the hull, and then keep the stabilizer in standby if possible. This has worked for us. We did catch pots on our stabilizers three times in the past. This year our score is zip. Thirdly learn to use your binoculars to look ahead, and figure out where there is a clear channel, though it may be narrow, or the area with far fewer pots than others. Sometimes this is along the shore, sometimes it is close to a course around a buoy that everyone must round, and sometimes you simply get out of phase and can't find anything but a web of pots. That's where you press on regardless, and hope for the best.

A big change in cruising Maine from our first time thirty years ago is the impossibility of anchoring in so many places, because of the proliferation of moorings and pots. Study your guides, pick brains, use internet sites and identify where you can anchor, if that is your preference, or where there is a possibility that you can get a mooring, or a marina berth if the pocketbook allows. It really helps to do some planning. It seems to be a routine to take any empty mooring, and if the owner comes along, you relinquish it. We don't do this. You never know what size boat the mooring was designed to handle, and how well it has been maintained. Granted it is calm about 95% of the time at night, which is why most people get away with this.

So back to the planning board, the backbone of your survival tools for your Maine cruise. If you want to anchor, know the places where anchoring is no problem. If there are places you just must go to and can't anchor, make sure you can get a mooring or a slip. Plan your cruise to stay longer in fewer places, so you have plenty of time to wait out bad conditions, and less time spent traveling. It is not the joy of relaxing and appreciating the scenery it once was, so make what is is, work for you. Join a group cruise of some sort. We were part of two groups, and participated in two rendezvous. The planning that goes into these cruises multiples your enjoyment, and the sociability can't be beat. We would never have known the pleasure of seeing the Maine Botanical Gardens, or enjoyed an evening at the Acadia Theater at the head of Soames Sound, or found some of the great restaurants we did, if someone else hadn't done their homework. If we come back next year to join friends and family, I will enjoy it more knowing what to expect and how to plan where we will go and how to keep the frustrations to a minimum.