Post-Cruise Maine

img_5238I learned several things in Maine. First, leave stereotypes behind. I’d pictured Maine as a pretty “white” state, but the first two Maine residents I saw when I got off the plane were Korean. Next, one of the women working at our car rental place wore a hijab. And then I ran into some black folks. Maine, clearly, is not as white as I’d assumed.

I learned that most men wear beards (cold winters?). Lots of people in Maine are at least a little overweight (cold winters?). People there, for the most part, are incredibly friendly and helpful and welcoming. And hooray! Maine has no billboards and is astoundingly free of trash.

Maine is old. Old towns, old cemeteries, old houses. Some houses we saw listed for sale were 200 years old and more. Maine is full of hills. They call some of the big ones mountains, but if you’re a Westerner, they’re hills.  Yes, yes, I exaggerated and there are real mountains, though they’re more rounded, softer looking, than the ones I’m accustomed to. And the tallest one is not as high as Bisbee.

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And, everywhere we went, around every curve, across every field, in every village and town, there was beauty.

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But to the story.

The schooner sailed and motored slowly into the harbor, gently rocking its way slowly to the dock. We all gathered for a group photo, hugged goodbye, and made our way up the gangplank. We didn’t have to carry much because the crew members jumped up and began carrying things for us.

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Once on land, Kathy, Barbara and I said our goodbyes to Cousin Jill and her husband Bruce, who was there to pick Jill up. Bruce is my blood cousin, but since he married Jill, I now have a wonderful female cousin too.

The remaining three of the group got into our car and headed north, past Camden (recently voted one of the ten best small towns in the US) and Belfast, then up towards Bangor. The two-hour trip took us nearly four because of all the stops we made at lovely spots.

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Downtown Camden

We finally arrived in Old Town where we’d be staying the next four nights with Andrea of Clear Light Midwifery. We’d found her on Airbnb. And, wow! Once again, we couldn’t have picked a better place.

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We had the whole upstairs of Andrea’s house. She stuffed us silly with her wonderful baked goods, pointed us to interesting places to see and even let us wash a few loads of clothes.

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My sweet room

We all fell in love with her two dogs and two cats. We quickly became family – walking the dogs, feeding the chickens, and sleeping next to purring kitties. In all, it was a wonderful stay and I highly recommend Andrea and the beautiful place she lives in.

Our first morning there dawned gray and drizzly. We pulled on warm clothes, grabbed our rain gear and headed out. We roamed a cemetery and some back roads, finally ending up in Bangor. What to do on a drizzly Sunday? Browse the stores and have a good lunch.

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We were all impressed by the quality of shops in downtown Bangor. No big chains, just lots of independent places and tiny chains of just four or five shops. Mexicali Blues is highly recommended!

On day two it was sunny but windy. We again donned warm clothes and headed out to Moosehead Lake searching for the ever-elusive moose. We saw none, but we sure saw warning signs.

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We also saw lots of fall color and ate lunch at the Stress-Free Moose Pub and Café. More killer clam chowder!

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On our third day with Andrea, we headed out early to Acadia National Park where we got in for free on my Senior Pass.

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We drove the loop, saw seals, stopped for gorgeous views. We were unable to get into the park’s restaurant because it was totally reserved before we got there!

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Then we headed up Cadillac Mountain. It is known for being the first place on US soil to receive sunlight for five months out of the year—mid October through mid March. This is due to its far eastern position and its 1500+ foot height.

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The only negative at Acadia was the crowds. Well, and we couldn’t get into the restaurant. We hadn’t thought it would be busy but we were wrong, wrong, wrong. W-a-y too many people and we had a difficult time finding parking spots when we wanted to stop. But it was lovely nonetheless.

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Busy!

After lunch in Bar Harbor, we headed back to Old Town carefully not stopping at another LL Bean outlet. Whew!

When we got home Andrea was gone—delivering a baby! Also, a friend of hers had arrived for the night. Andrea eventually came in tired and in need of a shower, smiling about the beautiful new baby she’d helped bring into the world.

We left on Wednesday taking a pretty straight shot south. We wanted to be near the airport on our last night since we had a 7 AM flight. We walked Old Orchard Beach, succumbed to a serving of fried dough, walked it off, then went back to the restaurant Barbara and I had gone to our first night in Maine. Clam chowder!

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Fried dough

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Old Orchard Beach

Up early, returned the car and made it to our flight.

Goodbye Maine! We love you!

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The Cruise

For years it was my dream to take a sailing cruise. I won’t do big cruise ships. They kill whales and dolphins and mess up small ports where they stop. So how to cruise? Sail!

I was turning seventy and decided that now was the time, so I booked on Schooner American Eagle out of Portland, Maine, during the fall color season.

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Boarding

And I invited girlfriends to join me.

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Barbara, Jill, me and Kathy

We motored away from the dock in Rockland a little after ten am on Wednesday. It was a glorious sunny Maine morning, not even cool enough to be called “crisp.”  Everyone was on deck to watch town slip away.

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Soon almost all on board had taken seasickness medicine or put on our pressure point cuffs designed to prevent seasickness. Due to the smooth sailing, however, none of that was necessary. By day two I’d taken off my cuffs, never to put them on again.

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Protected (from noting) with my anti-nausea cuffs

We headed north, staying near the coastline, searching for the elusive fall colors. Maine had enjoyed a long warm fall, and that meant the leaves were just starting to change.

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But change they did! In just the few days we were sailing there was a noticeable difference.

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A few things about the cruise as a whole, starting with the not good. The only, ONLY not good was the lack of wind, and that certainly was not the fault of Captain John or the crew. It meant, however, that we had to motor rather than sail for a good part of the trip.

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Buoys mark lobster traps in a calm sea

That said, everything else was as close to perfect as one can imagine. The four-person crew and the captain were experienced, friendly and helpful, and they all had a good sense of humor.

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Captain John explains some of the basics.

Though there was no wind, shortly after we left groups lined up to help tug the ropes and hoist the sails. We knew we would find wind eventually.

The weather was beautiful, perfect, even the last day when we were totally fogged in. After warm days, blue skies and lots of sun (and some mild sunburn), the fog was a treat.

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Taken a few hours after rising when the fog was finally burning off

The food was amazing, and there was so much of it! Beautiful salads, plenty of fruit, and everything was homemade. Each meal had breads, biscuits, cookies or pies – all baked in the schooner’s wood stove oven.

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Lunch set out on deck

We stopped the last full day, Friday, on Wreck Island for a lobster boil Matthew the cook had even roasted eggplants and made fresh baba ganoush.

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That along with good crackers, fresh veggies and several kinds of cheese proved the perfect appetizer. Then as we ate on the beach, one of the crew came around with wine.

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I ate two lobsters, by the way.

We went ashore each day and two crew members, Chris and Justin, organized us into rowers and supervisors for the trip.

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We roamed two small towns, one on an island, and visited another tiny island where we hiked through the woods to a lighthouse.

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Everywhere we stopped the towns or islands were beautiful, full of vibrant fall colors, and where we saw people they were friendly and welcoming.

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Church in Castine, Maine

One stop was long, and the four of us went separate ways but soon enough we had all slipped into a local pub for a glass of wine. Justin and Chris were there, just finishing a beer, so Jill quickly bought them another round to ensure we’d have enough time to leisurely sip our wine.

One bit of excitement was when we got attacked by a pirate ship.

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The Pirate Ship!!

I was on deck, lazing in the sun and gazing out to shore, paying no attention to a cluster of people on the other side of the ship. Suddenly, BOOM!!! We’d been fired upon!

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Justin’s fancy earplugs

The crowd on the other side of the boat was laughing and pointing at Justin. He had pulled a tiny cannon out of a box and stuffed paper towels into his ears as earplugs. Soon he lit a fuse and there came another BOOM and a puff of smoke.

This was followed by the folks on both schooners laughing and waving at one another. A few BOOMS. The only breaks to the lovely quiet on the water.

For three full days we glided between islands, sometimes at full sail when we picked up some wind.

Pumpkin Island

When the breeze was cool I slipped into my cabin to read, but otherwise I was on deck soaking in the beauty and the clear salt air.

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Similar to my cabin, but mine was smaller!

I really cannot say enough about how good this trip was! We met people aboard who were on their fifth sail with Captain John on the Schooner American Eagle. They said they’d tried other sails but this was the best. Although we had no other experience on schooners, we all agreed it could not have been better. Five star rating!

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