Our Diary Cruising New England, USA
We have definitely slowed down and have become overdosed on "heritage". New England teems with it - it seems that every house/town has a plaque or story on public display. Everything looks pristine in the early summer sunshine. Tales of "first settlers", sea captains, "famous politicians", revolution, civil war abound. This may sound a bit negative but there is a huge sense of community spirit and community pride - which is reflected in clean and tidy towns, manicured gardens, lots of public spaces, statues, wonderful buildings and enviable large houses. New England is a really prosperous part of the US.

From the sailing point of view it really is a great place. The seas are flat and there are lots of anchorages, but for some reason the Americans all tend to pick up moorings - which are numerous (and expensive at $25-$35/night just for the mooring with no facilities). The winds have been light or from the wrong direction so we have motored a lot. Fog is always close at hand but the channels are well marked and visibility is rarely less than half a mile so it's no real problem.

So where have we been? Places that we had never heard of until now…

Our stay in Bar Harbour was a great introduction to Maine. It was lively, everyone very friendly and willing to spend time to stand and chat. Unfortunately we were early in the season (Maine doesn't wake up from their winter until the first week in June). Their population then trebles until September when all the vacationers go home! Lots of stores, leafy streets, white clapboard houses, etc. This, we thought, was great - if all the towns of Maine are like this we will enjoy our stay. So, after three days of brilliant sunshine, we set sail to explore the coast and islands… thousands of them! All with well-buoyed passages through the cuts and lobster pots everywhere, which kept us on our toes. Our first anchorage in "backwoods" Maine was Somes Sound a Fiord-like inlet - typical of all this coast. Very picturesque. A 10-minute walk around the village "did" Somes Sound. Two churches and a bookshop is their claim to fame! The next day took us to Southwest Harbour, a working harbour with lobster boats and lobster piers where you can pick up your lobsters for $8-10/pound - the market price!!

From here we headed for Penobscot Bay a huge inlet dotted with islands and harbours. Many of the rocks were covered in seals basking in the weak sunlight. By now the sun had given way to light drizzle and fog….. lots of this in Maine. Wildlife and wilderness is what Maine does well. Eagles and ospreys fly overhead, seals and dolphins swimming freely and seabirds everywhere. Further off shore whales can easily be found…….Lots of whale watching trips guaranteeing sightings are a testament to this. We visited Stonnington with an opera house in the middle of this tiny town! Castine - another brief wet visit (it was Sunday and I don't think we saw a soul!) then across to Camden, a very lively town. We spent a few days here and, interestingly, met a lovely couple who were touring the US in an RV. Comparing our life styles revealed huge similarities. Then it was on to Rockland - a 10-minute walk and we decided to move on! Then onto Boothbay… We loved Boothbay - a lovely mix of a working lobster port and tourist area. We were welcomed and entertained by the Lobstermen there and learned so much from them about their work and lifestyle. Plus had my first lobster dinner very nice…

We then left Penobscot Bay and went on our own Whale Watch Cruise - sailing/motoring 25-30 miles out in sunshine and clear visibility. We were not disappointed. Two huge fin backs 40-50 feet long were "hunting" and gave us a great display - rounding up schools of fish and then lunging at them from the depths. We managed to get some photos but it doesn't do this sight justice. Especially when one swam under the boat… very scary.

From here we went to Portland, the largest port in Maine……a big city at last! We took a local bus to a huge shopping Mall and did a small re-supply and enjoyed just wandering around window shopping. After a few days with improving weather we arrived at Biddeford, another tiny village. We had now left the rocky coasts and were entering the sandy coastlines of southern New England. Anchorages were starting to get scarcer and tides stronger. The next port of call was Portsmouth. A lovely city where we enjoyed a visit to Strawberry Bank, an historic village where early houses are open to the public. We also met up with Captain Chuck Quinlan who was moored close to us off the Naval base there. A very colourful character who had sailed extensively including being part of a US Admirals Cup team, a number of transatlantic races under his belt, etc. He kindly took us on a car tour of Portsmouth and showed us all the sights of historic interest including the site of the first battle in the Revolutionary War. Taking advantage of his generosity we loaded up with beer and wine at the local store! Portsmouth is in New Hampshire which is known for its no State Tax - so it was a good place to stock up. We also filled up with diesel at 23p per litre.

We were anchored in a channel behind an island which had very strong currents and large tides, so we had laid fore-and-aft anchors. The area as usual was strewn with lobster pots so we were not surprised to find that the bow anchor had snagged a pot. No real problem excepting that the lobster was undersized - so no free lunch. After clearing this snag we headed for Gloucester, an old whaling town, for a brief stop on our way to Boston where we were looking forward to spending some time.

Prior to Boston we stopped off at Salem. Together with Marblehead (just across the promontory) this is a huge boating area with thousands of moorings. At anchor again, we spent a lovely couple of days here touring the historic sites of the "Witch Capital of the World". As a treat we went to see Harry Potter's latest one evening.

Then on to Boston… Following an extended discussion with the harbour master on the VHF we found ourselves at anchor just off the Boston Harbour Hotel - right in the heart of Boston's downtown - and what a treat! We were there just at the finish of the Transat Race (the single-handed race from Plymouth UK to Boston). It was great fun cheering the boats as they arrived - we were positioned just at the point where they stopped to drop sails before proceeding to their berths a 100 yards away. We also got up at 2 am to follow Mike Golding in and even got a wave from Ellen Macarthur has she helped manoeuvre some of the boats in a RIB. (A bit disappointed that she didn't come over to say hello as we were the only foreign boat in the harbour…. suppose that's the price of her fame). We were also disappointed with Boston's reception of these intrepid sailors, there didn't seem to be a great deal of interest or fanfare when they arrived.

We also had ringside seats to the once-a-year turnaround cruise of the USS Constitution, a revolutionary Man of War, complete with an all guns broadside - an amazing sight. Plus the commemoration of the Battle of Bunker Hill parade (here the Brits beat the Yanks!!).

Just as we were raising the anchor to leave Boston, the VHF announced an exclusion zone in the harbour and boats needed to get Coast Guard permission to move around the harbour! We duly sought (and were given) permission to leave, and had just got under way when we suddenly lost all power on board! Hastily picked up a mooring and discovered the deckwash pump motor had burnt out and tripped our fuse box - a quick reset and we could proceed! At this time 4 minesweepers (including 1 British!) came by sweeping the harbour - an interesting sight but most puzzling! So off we went - and about a mile down the harbour were approached by the Harbour Police launch with his blue light flashing! Our small delay had put us within a 1000 metre exclusion zone for a LPG tanker coming into harbour. We were directed down a reserve channel (looked very much like a container wharf to us!) and told to wait until we got the all clear. The minesweepers, exclusion zone, etc. all come under the heading of "Homeland Security" - the continuing US overreaction to September 11!!!!

After a short stop in Plymouth (where we saw "the rock" - a piece of granite worshipped here because it is engraved 1620 and was supposedly the first landfall of the pilgrims) we set off to transit the Cape Cod Canal. The currents through the canal can get up to 5-6 knots so we had to time our arrival at the entrance to ensure we had a following current. This was our first real canal - and was somewhat disappointing! The sides are low and bushy - rather than high imposing walls like the Corinth or Panama canals. But it bridges were imposing to go under - from our perspective we were sure the top of the mast wouldn't get through - despite us being about 60' high and the bridge clearance being 500'!!!

Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts is a pretty holiday island in Nantucket Sound. The capital, Edgartown is full of beautiful white clapboard houses- very picturesque. While Oak Bluffs has a collection of weird and wonderful houses with bright colours and features like turrets and towers!

From Martha's Vineyard we went to Hadley Harbour, a lovely harbour on Cape Cod Sound. It is located on the north end of the Elizabeth Islands, which are owned by the Forbes family, and these privately-owned islands retain their wild-and-free feeling. It is a short trip from here to Woods Hole, which is famous for its Oceanographic Institute, whose most famous member is Bob Ballard, the guy who discovered the Titanic and the "black smokers" deep in the Pacific. They have some great exhibits and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit there.

While at Hadley Harbour we met some great people from the Red Brook Harbour Sailing Club. They are really a great crowd and were extremely hospitable and a credit to the sailing community. Particular thanks go to Fran and Theresa on Stardust, the hosts for the weekend. It was amazing to see how many people can fit on a Catalina 36 without it capsizing! We enjoyed getting back into the party atmosphere again after our "quiet" sail along the Maine coast. We were sorry to see them go - but hope to catch up with some of them again.

After our lovely weekend at Hadley Harbour we sailed over to Newport, Rhode Island. The wind was a gentle SE and lots of 12m (ex America's Cup) sailing boats were out in the bay. They certainly looked magnificent. Although there are many boats moored at Newport, there is a large anchorage off the Ida Lewis Sailing Club. (This is a smaller sailing Club than the prestigious New York Sailing Club next door - and there is lots of rivalry between them. With the Ida Lewis scoring points for raising and lowering the Stars and Stripes first every day - complete with canon to mark the occasion).

We had decided to stay in Newport for the 4th of July celebrations and do some shopping for boat bits etc. Newport's old quaint streets are just great for ambling around with many small stores selling all sorts of things. Close to the harbour is one of the oldest baseball parks in America. Fourth of July fell on a Sunday with a steady build up the week before. We decided to try and celebrate in a traditional US fashion. Firstly, on the Saturday evening we went to a baseball game, which for entertainment value was excellent, although skill level (compared to cricket) could have been better. It is as complicated as cricket but a bit faster with innings only lasting 15 minutes or so. Each of the nine innings was interspersed with family entertainment, sack races with the mums, community singing, and quizzes etc. Sunday the 4th dawned and we were up early to dress ship overall. We were pleased with ourselves when we realised we had beat the Ida Lewis Sailing Club! At lunch time we took our Fourth of July Picnic over to Fort Adams to join the local population. The day was sunny and we had great fun people watching and chatting with the locals (some of whom were participating in the parade in Bristol the next day). The tradition is to have a huge fireworks display to mark the 4th and this year's display in Newport was going to be bigger than normal. The Queen Mary II was due to arrive and had donated an extra $20,000 to the pot. Her arrival was magnificent and she dominated the skyline for the whole evening. (Her intention was to go to New York but was refused entry due to security reasons!) We had been invited to watch the display from another British boat which was anchored close by. So from one party to another we went!!!

At 2-3 am, as we motored back to Poco Andante (a little the worse-for-wear) I spotted an inflatable and outboard floating past. I quickly went and checked this out but no one was on board so I took it back to Poco. We were planning to leave early the next morning for Bristol (about 7 miles north of Newport) to watch their famous parade. So we contacted the Coast Guard and Harbour Master to report the unmanned (and unmarked) dinghy, but so far no one has claimed it, so we have a successful salvage! The weather on the holiday Monday was yuck - lots of rain and a little windy. We arrived and anchored off Bristol and went ashore to watch the parade. It is the "oldest" parade in the US and bands from all over the country turn up to march (it lasted 5 hours!). The rain however spoilt the occasion which was a real shame for all the visiting school bands. In the evening we motored to the Brewers Sakonnet Marina at Portsmouth where we waited for next day's lift out. It was then a busy week to get the boat ready and pack to visit the UK.