Monday, September 28, 2015

Final Maine blog post: sailing in Penobscot Bay!

My folks have loved sailing this bay for over a half century, although they haven't gone sailing here for a decade or so, so when they invited us to join them in a 3-hour cruise on Bufflehead, we jumped at the chance.

This addition to our plans meant we needed to leave Lubec early, in the gray dawn twilight, in order to get to Rockland for the 10:30am charter. We had mostly packed the night before and, with only a little interpersonal flaring, managed to get onto the road and heading south-west, coffee in hand. The drive went uneventfully, other than my losing my google map while trying to get phone service (it turns out that AT&T does not serve Rockland), but used Cynthia's Verizon phone to get us the final quarter-mile. We dropped my folks at the dock, parked the cars, and ran to the boat with no time left on the clock.

No worries! Daniel, the captain, made us feel welcome and relaxed and navigated us out of the industrial harbor with a running commentary than encompassed history, fishing, news, etc. It covered the wooden one-off sailboat we sailed, the lobstermen who worked for harvest or tourists, the cement plant on shore, and people he had met on his boat.

Since his assistant, his 7-year-old daughter, had to stay ashore that day, I got to help raise sails, handle lines, and man the tiller. I loved the simplicity and authenticity of the old wood boat, even to the use of wood blocks with bronze sheaves and securing lines to a board with pegs rather than to cleats. I loved the simplicity and learning ways that one can build more things on a boat rather than needing to depend on manufactured items.

So, we sailed out of the harbor under blue skies, Bufflehead moved beautifully and easily, and the cold water tempered the fall heat to make us comfortable. We sailed out to the traditional first-night anchorage my folk's always used on their charters, said hello to the lighthouse there on the point, and headed back, sipping coffee and enjoying leftover wild blueberry pie Daniel's wife had cooked.

Very, very nice.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Should we be more like dogs?

People say we should be more like dogs, living in the moment, not constantly checking email and logging on to facebook..... but I've seen dogs walking along on a beautiful day stopping at every tree, bush, and rock to check pee-mail.... and occasionally logging on to fece-book.

Enough joking. I DO love the way many dogs adapt to life, the enthusiasm they have for their joys ("YES! Dog food AGAIN! Score!"), the happiness they show when the one(s) they love come home. I love the way they appreciate attention, a loving cheek and ear scratch.

And they always take advantage of a warm sunbeam on a cool day....

Monday, September 14, 2015

Lubec mackerel madness

Buried under multiple blankets and quilts, we sleep well and wake happy & ready for adventures.

We spent most of the day on Campobello Island where we climbed scary rusted stair/ladders,
  crossed slippery rocks to visit a lighthouse,
enjoyed a nice lunch on the porch of a delightful deli,
and the weaker sex took a nap while the other two walked and watched wildlife.

Then we headed back.

After crossing into the USA, we decided to relax and watch the tide, boats, and birds. Cynthia, however, saw something even more interesting: people on a dock casting lines and pulling up STRINGS of fish! She investigated and discovered that these little fish were mackerel and we could catch them each day near high tide.

I had suggested that we NOT bring any toys, including her wonderful collection of fishing gear, so (after an admirable minimum of pointed comments) she visited the Lubec Hardware store (a truly wonderful place!) where she purchased rod, reel, sinkers, and a rig of four lures, all for about $30... and, an hour or so ahead of high tide the next day, had her line in the water.
Once she figured out how to present the lures the only problems were aching wrists and hands. I caught fish. My mom caught fish. Even my dad, using only a drop line, pulled in four fish at a time!
And Cynthia? She refused to stop when she filled a five-gallon bucket, so I brought a bin from the car: we estimate she caught about a hundred fish. Here are a few...

That night we grilled several and found them absolutely delicious. And we stayed up late in the darkness, gutting fish and packing them in ziplocks buried in ice, finally cleaning our frozen fingers and groaning at aching backs and taking hot showers before crawling into bed happy and satisfied.

Of course, when we got home we had fish to process. It took us about three days to fillet, smoke, package, and freeze them all.

Some have already gone into a delicious pâté, a few wonderful salads, gifts to friends, dinner hot from the smoker, and random snacking. Delightful stuff, but SO much work. Maybe next time we will find some more alternatives. One thing I know: Cynthia will be there on the dock most days, fishing with her GOOD equipment, catching buckets of fish, bringing home enough for delicious meals and giving away much to locals. And I'll be by her side, casting and catching, coming home covered in scales, trying recipes, gaining more sweet memories.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

I love the intertidal zone!

Given that Lubec has tides as high as twenty-eight feet, huge areas get exposed. Some of these are mud, but most are gravel and sand. The distance from the cottage to the water can be as little as a couple hundred yards... or nearly a mile, depending on the tide. So, on day two, Cynthia and I drove out onto the wet gravel, following the tracks of other cars that clam diggers had driven. We parked a half mile out and dug clams using a spoon, an empty hummus container, and a sharp rock. Not the most effective method, but we still came up with a gallon or two of nice steamer clams. We also found wonderful large sea worms beloved by fishermen (the largest we had ever seen), masses of tiny red and white threadlike worms, eels under rocks, a big stranded jellyfish,
and reefs of blue mussels.
Cool stuff!

After making an anniversary lunch for my folks (rare grilled steak tips sliced thin on a green salad) and taking a nap, Cynthia and I decided to drive my folks far out on the flats for sunset. We opened littlenecks, packed wine, cheese, crackers, etc, and ambushed them when they returned from town.

I think they enjoyed the day as much as we did!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Lubec, Maine!

Every year, my folks rent a cottage on the coast of Maine in a little town of Lubec at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy. Last year I visited them for a few days and this year Cynthia & I joined them for most of a week. Last year I returned with a camera full of photos and a head full of memories and this year exceeded that in all ways. When I think of Lubec, I think of lobstermen trying to make ends meet by pulling crustaceans from fast flowing cold waters, trees clinging to cliff-like shorelines, bogs where pitcher plants and sundews inhabit unfriendly soils, coniferous forests stunted by thin rocky soil and cold winters, blueberries and cranberries growing wild, apples doing the same, tides that can cover a two-story home, and huge intertidal zones full of clams.

We came to visit for the last few days of the two weeks. Once I snagged Cynthia from work at about 10am after her 24hr shift... and we had dropped off the dogs at their second home... and loaded up... we managed to get on the road before noon; Google Maps navigating, Cynthia snoozing, my bottle of coffee at hand. We passed Boston uneventfully, went through New Hampshire as Michael Pollan read "Cooked", and continued into Maine... and more Maine... and more Maine. As darkness fell, we pulled into the driveway in front of the cottage and went inside to find dinner served and wine and cheese waiting. What a nice welcome! After eating and chatting briefly, we inflated our mattress on the deck and fell asleep under the stars, a chilly breeze blowing gently over us.

We woke to masses of Jerusalem artichoke flowers
 and a beautiful view over the meadow,
 ate breakfast, then went out for a nice long walk with my folks at Quoddy Head Park.
 We first walked through the bog trail and noticed sundew carnivorous plants (the ones that look like they have dew on them) that we had not seen in the sphagnum moss last time,
 then dad headed back and the remaining three of us went all the way to Carrying Place Cove on the shore path, a very complex, strenuous, and beautiful route.

After that, if my memory serves, we headed home, took a nice long nap before a delicious dinner, and slept soundly.

There is too much more to write about here, so I'll post more over the next week...

PS: Cynthia took all these photos.