Sail Up To Maine – It’s Lovely Up There

A few of our sailing buddies listened to our salty forebears, did just that, and enjoyed the secluded anchorages and stunning scenery that Maine has to offer. Mind you, one or two made a hasty retreat after discovering that the bitterness of cold and the number of lobster pots countered its loveliness. The Maine coast stretches all the way up to Canada, and at this time of year isn’t known for its T-shirt and shorts friendliness. But it is known for its lobster.

With the diesel tank removed from Lady Jane, we could sail no further than Bristol. So, rather than wait until we could get underway again, and experience an even colder version of Maine than our sailing buddies, we left Lady Jane swinging on her mooring and drove to Maine instead.

After getting the bus to the airport, we picked up a hire car (special offer, free second driver, Kia something) and headed off in the general direction of Maine. Two hours later we pulled into the Kittery Rest Area, just north of the New Hampshire border, to pick up some leaflets at the large Maine tourist office there.

After wandering around the displays and arming ourselves with handfuls of information, we eventually decided that flyers weren’t going to hack it. So, we approached the counter to ask for advice. After explaining that we were going to sail up here rather than take the cosy way out and drive, their suggestion was to use Portland as a base as it has water and scenery, as well as restaurants and bars. So, that’s where we decided to go. 

Welcome to Maine

Portland 

The only downside to this decision was that hotel prices in downtown Portland were steeper than the Eiger. So, we turned to Airbnb for inspiration. Luckily for us, we found an apartment available just on the outskirts of downtown. And it was one of the ‘immediate booking’ ones. So, we booked it immediately. The landlord responded within a few minutes and said he would get the apartment ready by 5 pm. I couldn’t believe our luck. And just over one hour later, we arrived in Portland in plenty of time to look around the area before wandering up to the apartment. 

According to the famous singer and star of the 1970’s TV series – Kojak – pictures paint a thousand words. But, in the case of this particular Airbnb property, the pictures didn’t portray the beyond-minimalist look of the apartment. It looked as though someone has just stormed out and taken most of the fixtures and fittings with them, leaving behind shadowy remnants of what was there before, including telltale holes in the wall. And what furniture was left behind was from the 70’s. But, we weren’t moving in, it was a good location, the bed was comfortable, the wifi blisteringly fast, and the water hot. So, we were happy enough with that.

Downtown Portland has plenty to offer for those seeking culture, cuisine or a boozy night out. We shuffled between all three (mainly between the last two) and were not disappointed. There’s no shortage of seafood restaurants and quirky places for a cocktail or two. And prices vary enough to suit the posh or the parsimonious (we undoubtedly lean to the right of those two). There’s no shortage of museums either. And with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s house in Portland, we felt compelled to pay a fleeting visit. 

Maine by Sea

We made a plan to see as much as possible in the few days we had in Portland, starting with a trip out to sea to see what we were missing. The local ferry operates a mail run twice a day, which doubles up as a mini excursion around the islands. So, Maria and I booked ourselves on the afternoon run and plonked ourselves on the benches at the front on the boat to enjoy the scenery without having to deal with the stress of dodging lobster pots. According to the guy doing the commentary on the ferry, divers go down to clear the ship’s running gear of lobster pot lines two or three times a week. And this is in their local waters. I think we dodged a bullet there.

The photos of the islands are below. You may not be able to see the changing weather conditions in the 3.5 hours we were out for – from hot to cold and clear to fog and back within minutes, creating a continually changing and spectacular scenery.

Maine by Air

Neither Maria or I had ever set foot in a helicopter, and we thought this would be the ideal opportunity to strike that off the bucket list. So, we booked a flight with Seacoast Helicopters to take us over the islands so we could see the islands from all angles: land, sea and air. But if we are honest with ourselves, the real reason for doing this was to grant the inner children a treat and have a flight in a helicopter. 

After a quick, but thorough briefing from Julie, our pilot, we squeezed ourselves into the little red helicopter. And after an impenetrable exchange of words between Julie and air traffic control, we were up off towards Casco Bay – flying over the islands we had visited by ferry the day before, but seeing them from a very different perspective. It was beyond fun, and the half hour in the air flew by.

Earlier that day we took a trip to the beautiful Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, a little further north of Portland, where we walked the trails, spotted our first Chipmunk, and enjoyed a clarity of light that photographers drool over.

With our trip to Maine over all too quickly, we headed back towards Bristol. But not before making a diversion to New Bedford and R&W Ropes to get some replacement genoa sheets for Lady Jane. The photographs below don’t portray the size of the store too well – it’s huge. And the staff are entertaining. It isn’t every day we are serenaded in a shop by a member of staff playing a three-string guitar found in a skip. And that’s the thing with this adventure of ours –  we never quite know what to expect wherever we go.

Next, it’s back to Bristol to get the tank fitted, install some more solar panels, and prepare to head south to New York then the Chesapeake and some warmth.

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