Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Layout

Carrie Rose’s layout is a bit confining. A good land based example would be a studio apartment. Carrie Rose has approximately 250 square feet of sleeping, cooking, pooping, relaxing, and piloting space. Place about three hundred pounds of Homo sapiens within and it can get quite small.

The designer was Lynn Senour. He designed fast fishing boat that worked the waters of the Pacific Northwest. He was noted for his interiors. Our vintage 32 foot Nordic Tug (1990, #44) benefited from his skillful touch.

The boat is divided into four spaces: salon/kitchen, pilothouse, head, and bedroom. The interior has three levels. To go from the salon to the pilothouse is three steps up; to go from the pilothouse to the bath and bedroom is four steps down.

Charlotte and I have designated spots. These were gleaned without any discussion. It happened naturally. I spend my time stretched out athwartship on the long pilothouse bench. Charlotte lives fore and aft on the salon’s port couch with her back propped up against the back wall.

There is no wall between us to hinder conversation. Though I had not thought of it before, the fact that there is no TV or video limits the need for a common space. We read, write, paint, and of course, seek distraction with our smart phones, when there is a connection that is. These are mostly solitary pursuits.

A small table on the starboard wall of the salon functions as the dining table. A sophisticated Norwegian oil lamp swings above it. The kitchen is mid ship and faces aft. I stand with the stove/oven in the middle, the small frig to my right. There is a workspace above it. To the left is the sink. It is very convenient.

Storage is scattered throughout: some above and behind the kitchen, some below the salon’s couch, some tucked along the side of the starboard wall. Everything has a place but still we end up hunting and pecking, not remembering where the pasta and the sauce, the crackers and the cookies are stored.

Wine and beer are a different matter. We always know where they are. The bedroom is offset. This was done to provide the semblance of a double bed as opposed to the usual V-berth. It has its pluses and minus, but it does provide for a small seldom used seat to the port. The previous owners explained that under the seat cushion was their liquor cabinet. Except for the unholy hot Chesapeake, the bubble wrap padded space is always cool, and so wine and beer is stored there.

The pilothouse sits on top of the engine, really the machinery room. The main engine, generator, holding tank, batteries (3), various pumps and filters, and a whole lot of wiring and hoses are accessible by lifting two heavy hatches in the floor. There is enough room to get most jobs done without standing on my head. It is a space I know intimately.

Like I said, the bedroom is offset. Behind our heads is the head. It is a tiny space but a functional one. Years ago I got rid of the electric toilet and reverted to a manual one; another thing that has pluses and minuses, but mostly works.

Since we are in the habit of cruising for weeks on end without a stop, the shower comes in handy. I can barely stand in it. The walls are close and usually cold. I have been known to wrench my back from violently twitching upon contact with the wall.

The first person in has to get the water’s temperature regulated without wasting any. This means a cold drench to begin with. The second person has to clean up, so either way it is trade off, and I usually am first. As scant as the shower is, it is hard to describe how refreshing it is. Well worth the contortions needed.

So, Carrie Rose is 250 square feet of efficient well used space. It has kept us sane after weeks of confinement. Though, maybe, I should reconsider the use of the word sane.

Holbrook Island, Maine


Carrie Rose has been travelling in the fog. Fog is often depicted as a contiguous mass but is the opposite. It comes and goes, lightens and thickens, rises and falls. It blows across landforms like syrup defying gravity. Add to this a boat moving at 8 knots (I should slow down) and the possible outcomes begin to multiple.

Fog is the result of the dew point and the temperature coinciding. For the last week both have been in the mid fifties. The fog has been undulating in and out of the anchorages and harbors but has never completely cleared. Living in a cloud has its downsides.

The 100% humidity turns every surface cold and clammy. Nothing dries and it is difficult to warm up. I began to wear a wool sweater and watch cap, a funny sight in July even for Maine. Lobster boats venture out to do their daily work, but the cruising fleet huddles deep in the harbor.

This self imposed quarantine does offer a respite from daily travel. There was time to do laundry. The hardware store aisles were explored. One hundred dollars was left at a classic used bookstore whose owners are retiring after forty years. New suede boat shoes and a bright yellow polo shirt with an embroidered lobster and pine tree was bought.

Back at the boat, I drew what was directly in front of me. I struggled with the background and then it was gone, obscured by a white cottony haze. It began to rain. There were thunderstorm in the forecast and then, sun in the morning.

That would be welcomed. The cruising community is getting antsy. Dock lines cannot wait to be cast off; there will be a mass exodus at the first sign of blue sky. But in Maine, the fog is never far behind.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Just to remember 7-10-2018

High Tide

Campobello Retreat

View from guest cottage

FDR's and Eleanor's bedroom, scene of childbirth and polio

Low Tide

1 – Woke up at 6:30, left industrial lobsterland at Head Harbor at 8:00.

2 – Big black back of whale (minke, I think) surfaced just to our port side outside of before mentioned harbor’s entrance, then many smaller whales were sighted along with porpoises and razorbilled auks.

3 – Tied to the pier at Roosevelt Campobello International Park.

4 – Had “Tea with Eleanor”, a heart felt presentation by the local staff who also served tea and Eleanor’s favorite ginger cookies.

5 – Left the pier to anchored a 100 yards off because of shallow water at low tide.

6 – Anchor was reset twice due to not holding the first time . . . a rare occurrence.

7 – Windy! from the SW.

8 – An unexpected thunderstorm rolled in from the north and just missed, but did washed the salt off the deck.

9 – Fog crept in from the SW engulfing Eastport, Maine a mile across Friars Bay, and then cleared.

10 – A beautiful sunset as the wind quieted.

Mistake I. Harbor, ME

Industrial Lobster

I am not sure how to capture the level of, well, anxiety is not the word . . . so, what is the word . . . that cruising new areas brings. Carrie Rose and Sir Tugely Blue (our cruising companion) spent two nights in a big bay in New Brunswick where we were the only boats within sight. A few small local boats appeared but we were alone. It was rolling; both stabilizers were deployed as well as ninety feet of anchor chain as the tide went from 14 feet to 32 feet twice each day.

After two days the anchor was raised to cruise to Head Harbor on Campobello Island, the Canadian island made famous by the Roosevelt clan. To get there, Letite Passage, a place renown for outrageous tides, current and generalized maelstroms, needed to transit at near slack tide and then, with a favorable current.

By the way, did I also mention that there are a couple large ferries crisscrossing the passage every half hour? Carrie Rose entered at 7.7 knots and exited at over twelve with the help of the current. It is not that any of these passages are worse than say, Barnegat Bay in New Jersey; it is the anticipation that causes the stomach juices to churn.

The water east of Letite Passage opens to the Atlantic and is peppered with many small islands. Canada had extended the lobster fishing season by nine days this year and today was the deadline to get the traps in. Lobster boats were out in force scurrying from one buoy to the next.

Head Harbor is tucked behind a beautiful red and white lighthouse perched on equally striking weathered rocks. There are two ways in, one direct and the other around a small island, a detail I had not paid much attention to. Suddenly at the squeeze point, a smiling lobsterman was looking at me from his quickly moving boat. I pulled my throttle back to idle to access the situation.

The description in the cruising guide described this as a working harbor; really, it is a narrow inlet. There are two substantial wharves consisting of tall creosote wooden piles capped with concrete. And as seen in Chesapeake fishing communities, the rest of it is a haphazard collection of spindly sticks holding various floats and sheds in place. Two lengths of these headed back into the narrowing inlet and made up a channel. I told myself not to go down there but never the less did while searching for where to tie up.

This is the infrastructure of a worldwide lobster distribution system. It is downright industrial. I know that as a species we push to extremes and this place looked ready to burst. If the lobster catch plummets the lobstermen, their intermediaries, the bankers, and then the communities will disappear. I am stating the obvious. It is the same for any natural resource: plunder while plunder can.

The lobster boats populating Head Harbor were distinctive. The newer of these Canadian boats are almost square. In Maine the lobster boats are sleeker, retaining a higher ration of length to beam. And it is the odd lobster boat in Maine that has an inward facing windshield, whereas they all do in Canada.

Other differences between the two fleets are that the U.S. season starts May or June, and the Canadians are done in June only to start up again in November, while most of the U.S. boats are pulled for the winter.

This in itself would require unique design considerations. There are the intangibles of any design: what worked for my ancestors is good enough for me. The traditions and the specific requirements (i.e. water depth, weather, type of fishing, etc.) are what make each regions boats distinctive.

But to get back to my original thought, a word that is similar to anxiety but not anxiety. In Head Harbor, I was perplexed as to where to tie up in this morass of rough looking floats and deserted lobster boats. Dave on Sir Tugely Blue did the smart thing and asked the first lobsterman he saw, who was unloading his traps with a crane some twenty five feet up onto the wharf. Next, I heard on the radio, “We will tie to the blue boat and you tie to us.”

So I tied to Sir Tugely Blue, Sir Tugely Blue tied to the blue lobster boat, the blue lobster boat was tied to a float with a shed on it, which was loosely tied to the wharf. And this conglomeration of fine recreational craft, well worn working boat and decrepit shed were raising and lowering 17 feet every six hours.

To add to the excitement, substantially wide boats doing the work of a lobster boat repeatedly passed close to our stern. They streamed down a channel just wide enough for their width, spun around with feet to spare, docked, unloaded their traps, dropped off lobsters at the various sheds waiting to process them, and repeated the process until dark.

As I took it all in, I realized I had just done the same thing with no prior experience, in a foreboding place, and with the help of a cooperative local lobsterman and our fellow cruisers. I relaxed, but only a bit.

Tomorrow another new place, and the next day and the next, it has been that way for nine years now. There is a feeling of boredom (not the correct word either) when at home that takes weeks to unravel. The bungalow doesn’t move, the streets do not rise and fall, the city deals with our waste, and the utilities supply ample electricity. A drive to another state does not require contacting customs.

Once home, it is blah until it isn’t . . . and then it is time again to leap into the unknown. But it is not time to think about that yet. Now it is time to leap!

Mistake I. Harbor, Maine

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Chamcook Harbor

Chamcook Harbor is a small inlet off Passamaquoddy Bay. Passamaquoddy Bay is a larger inlet off the Bay of Fundy, and the Bay of Fundy is an even larger inlet connected to the Atlantic Ocean.

The tide here is seventeen feet, so when anchored in 21 feet at low tide enough anchor chain had to be put out for in six hours it would be 38 feet. 120 feet (all I have) of 3/8 inch chain was lowered connecting Carrie Rose to a hopefully well buried 45 pound anchor.

Chamcook has a pair of loons. Loons keep their distance unless they are trying to dissuade you from approaching their youngsters. The Chamcook loons did not get much closer than a football field. I was to begin my daily shakuhachi practice (Charlotte is a saint) when the loons started calling to each other. As much as they are the butt of jokes, their call penetrates the soul.

It was a cool night after a 94 degree day. The 100% humidity made it seem warmer than it was. I had a vivid dream about trying to find my apartment at the hospital, and got wrapped up in the sheet and blanket, quite frustrating.

The cloud shrouded sun rose at 4:50 AM. I managed to ignore it until six. I boiled water, made tea and toast, and sat down to eat when I noticed five black dots about 200 yards outside the port salon window. At first, I thought they were the eider ducks that flew by low to the water the day before. I grabbed my camera and took a few pictures before using the binoculars.

What I discovered was the loon family out for a swim. There were the parents and three young football sized youngsters. My experience with loons is that the kids are kept near the shore hidden from danger. The parents will be fishing but aware and will intervene if anything threatens their babies.

Carrie Rose has been stopped in her tracks by a couple of determined loons. So, to see the five of them together in the middle of the bay was a surprise and a treat. I went back to breakfast and when I looked up again there was only the parents. They had stashed the kids near the shore.

There was some commotion and suddenly the parents were airborne. One flew direct at me. I grabbed the camera again but it would not focus on the grey underside silhouetted by the sky’s homogeneous gray background.

Loons are big birds and powerful fliers once they manage to get off the water’s surface. Their large black feet stream behind the tail feathers. They joined in formation with one leader and a tail gunner, and flew out the opening of the harbor into darkening clouds and fog.

Sometime later, I thought I saw them again but there were only four. These were eider. A male I think and three young brown birds. They paddled to shore and simultaneously disappeared beneath the water only to pop up and start to preen. Carrie Rose makes a good perch to observe the local waterfowl.

Later that morning, mother loon and two beautifully marked siblings spent a few hours fishing to the north of us. The wind steadily increased from the west. We received some strong gusts but the bulk of the wind was pushed over us by the low slung hills.

All morning we had loons to the starboard and eiders to the port. The loons were more active but then they were older, already decked out in their adult plumage, whereas the eider mom had four small rust colored children to contend with.

She would fish ahead of them as they floated downwind. Each time she came up, she looked back to see them farther away until judging the situation untenable, she swam back to corral them and moved forward. They stayed in a neat little buddle, while the loons roamed freely.

The wind sped up and with one particularly strong gust, a large black bird flew over the western hills. It clawed high in the sky, hovered, blew downwind, and repeated the same maneuver until it was out of sight. It was big. I thought B-52, but then a B-52 would not have finger like feathers pointing horizontally in line with its long slender wings.

I captured a fuzzy picture of it hovering directly in front of me and noticed whitish feathers under the wings close to its body. It was an immature bald eagle fishing in the harbor, off the bays, attached to the Atlantic where Carrie Rose spent an eventful morning spying on the bird life.

Chamcook Harbor, NB, CA


When in a new harbor town we make it a point to visit the library. It is a place to obtain local information; often it has local art and artifacts, and many times books for sale. The State of Michigan’s towns have the best selection of unique books. A few of them kept me entertained for years while cruising up and down the Great Lakes.

I wondered why these little libraries had such great books. Is it because a population of well-heeled summer folk with eclectic taste occupies the towns, or are the locals beneficiaries of a first rate education and the curiosity that comes with it. I admit to a big city prejudice in my thinking.

Here in St. Andrews, New Brunswick the library had a book sale in the sub basement. Though the books were not of interest to me there were magazines at five for a Loonie. I purchased four Small Craft Advisor and one The Sun. Small Craft Advisor is self explanatory (boats, of course) but The Sun requires an explanation.

The Sun is a skinny literary magazine with a few black and white photographs. I first found it online when I was trying to publish something, anything. They never did publish my work but I continued to read it in paper form when I occasionally bought a copy at the Women and Children First bookshop in Andersonville, on Chicago’s north side not far from my home.

After a few rejections, I realized my nonfictions stories were not depressing (or insightful) enough. The magazine is a beautiful piece of work and extremely well edited. It is palpable for the eyes, if that is possible. I was immediately drawn to it, and then, once reading had to stop.

I know that all is not right with the world, and due to my years in health care, I have experienced much of it. But my life has been blessed. The issues I have had have been of my own making.

I was raised in a loving family, had a delicious meal almost every night, did not want for much and the things I wanted I mostly got. I obtained a comprehensive education several times over and I am writing this from the pilothouse of my boat hanging on an anchor in a small cove in maritime Canada.

So, when I saw The Sun I thought I would give it another try. A poem, several letters to the editor, a compelling piece of non-fiction, and I had to put it down: too melancholy for a warm sunny day in New Brunswick.

Chamcook Harbor, NB, CA

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


Welcoming Sir Tugely Blue

Our Vacated Pier

Night Scene with Fog

A quiet night spent rafted to Sir Tugely Blue due to Carrie Rose having to vacate the pier so as not to be burned to her waterline due to the Canada Day fireworks show, and due to the mornings subsequent cleaning of the pier by the St. Andrew’s fire department, and this was all due to the harbormaster having only one mooring available and due to me winning the coin toss but somehow ending up on the pier.

The sun came up clear and calm. The new inverter provided AC current to toast the bread, and a can of butane to boil water for tea and coffee. As the above was enjoyed, a small British racing green dinghy decisively rowed to a small sailboat of the same color.

I recognized the type of sailboat from a decades old article in WoodenBoat magazine. It is a Thunderbird made of plywood (a new material 60’s) in southern California, but don’t hold me to the particulars, you know how memory plays tricks.

The boat is distinctive because of its reverse shear: convex where most boats are concave. With the slight backward bow of the mast it looks tightly strung ready to spring off its mooring.

A middle aged man with some tawny hair intermix with grey, spent a long time futzing with the mainsail. He raised and lowered it. He flaked it on the boom and replaced the white sail cover with a green one. He was methodical.

In the mean time several whale watching boats came and went from “our pier”. The fire department drove down the quarter mile long pier and slowly hosed off the cinders left over from last nights (Canada Day) fireworks display. Fighter fighters seem to have all the time in the world until they have no time at all.

Carrie Rose and Sir Tugely Blue bobbed and spun around the mooring quietly apart even while connected by multiple ropes and separated by four large bulbous white fenders. My man on the green boat disappeared below only to throw up a sail bag and disappear below again.

It was a beautiful sight St. Andrew’s harbor that morning. The wind filled in robbing the morning of its calm warmth. I fetched my skull cape and flannel shirt, then blue jeans and a fleece vest. I stopped at the socks. It is July after all even if we are in the far Down East.

St. Andrews, Canada


Very Low Frequency Antennas at Cutler, ME

Sunrise Over Mink Island, ME

Atlantic Clouds

Lobster Buoy On Steroids

Welcome To Canada

Canada Day Fireworks!

Today was interesting (as if the other days here haven’t been). Bar Harbor was left behind. The cruising guides warn about rounding Schoodic Point. Tourist Maine ends and serious Maine begins. The books list the attributes that boats and their crew should possess to venture further east. Yes, that is what I said, east. This section of Maine is referred to as Down East, so when I sense that I am travelling north I am actually travelling east.

Today was the calm after the storm. The waves on the Atlantic consisted mainly of southern swells, which at times were large enough for our cruising companions about a quarter mile off our stern to disappear while in the trough. The following swell pushed us into the ever changing fog with an extra knot. As we moved into it, the air chilled. The fog, sometimes thick with no blue sky above, sometimes diaphanous with the solar panel completely exposed to the sun.

Though the fog provides fewer visual clues, it heightens the sense of awareness. I am glued to the radar. Each of the three front windows receives a good look searching for lobster buoys. Of which there were at least four new varieties including one as large as a beach ball. The buoys would pop out of the fog and require quick evasive maneuvers.

As I did this, I inadvertently favored the unseen coastline when suddenly Charlotte saw breaking waves on rocky islands and implored for more sea room. Her wish was granted.

The radar screen requires almost constant attention in between scanning the front windows. I search for new sickly yellow blips and try to discern if they are stationary or moving, and at what speed and direction. This is exhausting.

Carrie Rose passed through a narrow channel defined by rocky islets. At times the rocks were visible and at times not. Several miles away from our destination at Cross Island, the fog deepens. On the radar, the fishing weirs, which were clearly marked on the chart, became visible as four small grouping of jagged lines. And there was the blip of an earlier seen lobster boat.

Lobster buoys appeared in clumps before me, and unexpectedly from above the fog, multiple red and white latticed towers appeared as if strung together with gossamer threads. They seemed too close and spooked me. I took a deep abdominal breath and remembered that Cutler (the closest village) is the base for a long range submarine communications facility. Charlotte took pictures of it as the fog cleared revealing the true absurdity of what lay before us.

It was time to head for the nights anchorage. The fog mercifully cleared as we turned into a space defined by the larger Cross Island to the south and Mink Island to the north. About a quarter of a mile in the anchor dropped in 21 feet at high tide. Later at low tide with the water eleven feet lower, we had backed into two lobster buoys. They threatened to entangle Carrie Rose’s anchor chain, rudder, and propeller. This is not a good situation.

With the urgings of our friends on Sir Tugely Blue, the preparation of a dinner of fried polenta with sautéed carrots, zucchini, and onions in a light tomato sauce was interrupted so we could gingerly extricate Carrie Rose from the offending buoys and anchor in a safer location.

The procedure was done efficiently without much fuss and that is when I thought that little by little, we seem to be getting the hang of this thing called cruising.

St. Andrews,Canada

Thursday, June 28, 2018

First Water

Atlantic Boat Company on Herrick Bay in Brooklyn, ME

Buddy Boat

First Water's First Dinner

It is Maine in the summer: 60 degrees of low skies and driving rain. I am sure there is plenty of fog out on the water but we will not venture there today. Today is a day to hang out on the mooring. The mooring is just north of Bar Harbor’s famous bar. Since it is low tide it is visible with only a few stalwart tourists making the trek from the city to Bar Island.

Yesterday Carrie Rose was gently slid into the waters of Herrick Bay by the attentive staff of Atlantic Boat Company. For all their macho mannerisms, they are dainty when it comes to moving, repairing, replacing, advising, and consulting. Of course, this comes at a cost but Charlotte assured me that despite the profligate projects we would still be able to have wine with dinner.

The main repair this year was a new exhaust system. I think that at times I am a bit too caviler about certain of the boat’s shortcoming. For many years, I noticed some dewy like fluid appearing on the long, long fiberglass tube that makes up the majority of the system. In fresh water, it did not seem to be an issue. But then last year during our cruise to Maine, unable to rid the boat of the peculiar fishy oceanic smell I realized that the entire tube was covered with a sticky briny like substance.

When fresh water was available, I would hose the tube down and send the salt back to the Atlantic, only to have it reappear after the next leg up the coast. Try as I may, it could be ignored no longer. In the fall, I gave Dave, the yard manager, a list of winter projects with a new exhaust being the priority.

One of my many faults is curiosity and this coupled with questionable mechanical skills has gotten me in trouble more than once. Many years ago, the exhaust system split, sending gallons of lake water into the bilge. Then, being younger and more agile, and unable to move the boat out of the harbor thus crippled, I repaired it. This new iteration of an old problem is not a job for a new Medicare subscriber.

As the fall moved to winter, I called Maine and discussed the job with Hank (Dave was gone), and as winter moved into spring, I discussed it again with John (Hank was gone). It got done and when Wayne and company put us in the water, we both searched for leaks. None found, Charlotte and I made the lobster ridden 30NM jaunt passed islands, lighthouses, harbors, a 900 foot cruise ship, whale watchers and ferry’s into Frenchman Bay.

Our destination was a mooring just off the College of the Atlantic at the festival of the Acadia School of Traditional Music & Arts. Every June they have a comprehensive festival featuring Irish, Scottish, Quebecois, Cape Breton, Cajun, Acadian and Old-Time styles. The concert was a rollicking display of fast fiddling, percussive dance, longing lyrics, flutes and accordions and a few obscure Scandinavia instruments.

And to make our first water more enjoyable we shared it with Dave and Judy on the majestic Sir Tugley Blue. We have discovered many first waters with them from the North Channel in Lake Huron, through the Canadian canals and now Maine. There is nothing like islands, conifers, and cold water in a Nordic Tug . . . .

Bar Harbor, ME


Early to rise one recent June morning, I decided to take a walk around Montrose Harbor, a place dear to my heart. The place where I learned to sail and where, in many ways, I grew up. It is also where Carrie Rose, our 32’ Nordic Tug, was moored for over a decade.

This June will be the ninth year since Carrie Rose, and us, left Lake Michigan and our mooring at Montrose. We have traveled thousands of miles through Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, the canals of Canada, Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River to Lake Champlain and the Hudson River, out into the North Atlantic along the coast of New Jersey to Chesapeake Bay and last year north to Maine where she sits awaiting our return.

A few highlights have been the canals of Canada, the wind and waves and weather especially on the Great Lakes, the sincere and earnest people of Vermont, and then NYC. How exciting to motor on the Hudson under the Tappen Zee bridge, pass the Palisades and into downtown Manhattan with as much hustle bustle on the water as on the streets.

There was the trepidation of leaving, passing through the Verrazano Narrows and around Sandy Hook for the first time into the North Atlantic and south on the New Jersey coast. The New Jersey folk were as gregarious, as their coast was treacherous.

Then to Chesapeake Bay, which at first seemed an isolated cruising ground, but turned out to be surrounded by millions of people, with a McMansion around every bend. The year spent there was one of the hottest ever, 100 degree plus everyday. But we were in the perfect spot, and though we did, we rarely needed to travel more then twenty miles for another perfect anchorage. There were so many eagles that at first I mistook them for flocks of crows.

Last year (2017) it was north to Maine. Throughout the cruise, we interacted with multiple diverse communities and cultures. Though not historically true, America seemed to get older the farther north we went. I think because much of the “oldness” is still present. It is in the buildings, in the speech, in the food and drink, and in the attitude of the people.

When we finally crossed the border into Maine the isolation was palpable. The coastline is more on the edge and the lobster culture predominates. Carrie Rose negotiated dense forests of lobster buoys, which predominate the landscape at about one per square foot. It is hard to imagine how the cages sort themselves out on the bottom, as it is to believe there are enough crawly lobsters to fill them.

This summer Maine’s coast will be explored. The water is deep and cold; the tides are eleven feet or more. I am thinking of this as I sit on the Montrose Harbor promontory. I can see the center city with cranes building taller skyscrapers into the perfectly blue sky. There is just a fringe of clouds, lacelike in the distance outlining the blue green water.

There are only a couple of boats out on the lake. The cribs sit stoically three or four miles offshore. A slight breeze disturbs the surface just enough to obscure the reflections of the buildings on Lake Shore Drive and in the distance the sun’s rays are sparkling off the wavelets.

Along the abutment, it is obvious that it was a drunken melee over Memorial Day, cans and bottles, smashed and broken, litter the pale concrete along with trash. I am depressed to think that the revelers can be so clueless to make such a mess for someone else (hopefully) to clean. But I choose not to dwell on the negative this glorious spring day.

I have inhabited this place since I was a kid on a one speed bike. Back then there was a group of German immigrants, many trained in the classical arts of stonework that chiseled and craved the limestone rocks that made up the shoreline into beautiful images. Images of mermaids and moon landings and family crest were painted with vibrant colors. They tolerated me and even gave me tools to do my own primitive memorials.

Little by little, as limestone is apt to do, the paint faded, the sharp chiseled corners rounded, and their world disappeared. I wish I had a camera for now I fear the images only exsist in my mind. The lake reclaimed the wood and stone to the point where it has been replaced with a functional but sterile series of concrete steps.

The Great Lakes are a magnificent background to live one’s life, and representative of that, is Montrose Harbor’s Magic Hedge. It provides a resting place for thousands of birds migrating north and south along the coast. The hedge, born out of neglect and saved by the local birding community, is a world famous site amidst a decidedly urban setting.

The rustic hedge is packed with birds, some exotic and some not, depending on the time of year. As I walked through it that morning, I kept waiting to be attack by one of the cranky red-winged blackbirds. Lucky, I escaped injury.

When I started to walk along the harbor, fluffy fledgling geese were laid out helter-skelter on the boat ramp. Their necks placed haphazardly as they stretched pitch-black legs readying them for another day of foraging. Compared to their alert caretakers, their lethargy was striking.

So this is my tale of a June morning spent wandering in familiar territory that I still find full of surprises. A place that keeps me here, and a place I think of when people from afar ask me how can I stay in Chicago, and I always say, “How could I leave!”

Bar Harbor, ME

Friday, December 29, 2017

America The Beautiful/Sequel

The North Atlantic Ocean offers endless possibilities for apprehension. When cruising on the western shore of Lake Michigan the fact that Michigan is 50 to 90 miles away is a cause of anxiety. But once in the Atlantic the miles morph from the tens to the thousands. This increase in distance is palpable in the way Carrie Rose rides the waves. Unseen or even unheard of storms affect the day’s passage.

Six to eight miles off shore the swell, which in my Atlantic experience has been from the SE, begins to pick up the boat’s rear and send it rushing down an extra knot or so. The wave’s peak eventually catches up to the boat and with a whoosh, passes under the keel. Now the boat’s forward motion is slowed as the aft sinks into the trough, and then the process begins again.

Waves develop in patterns. About every seventh wave on the Great Lakes is larger with an occasional one being totally out of proportion. Think minuscule rogue wave. It is impressive, and elicits a hoot and a holler from the crew. These waves are the exclamation point of the journey.

At one moment we are amongst the waves and then suddenly the waves are amongst us: either on the crest with distant views of breaking white caps, or below in the troughs surrounded by walls of dark blue water.

At some point, it is time to head for shore. With the push of a couple of buttons, the autopilot alters course. The boat’s motion takes on a different feel, and several times this year the combination of wind and waves conspired to make me queasy. It does not last long though, because the sea state is in constant change as Maine’s jagged coast manipulates the surface of the ocean.

It is not a simple task to approach the final destination. Many waypoints need to be meticulously followed since for the most part, over the last seven years of cruising, every destination is unique. Islands (both seen and unseen), bays, reefs, mountains, and tides and currents influence Carrie Rose’s path to a slip, mooring, or anchorage.

Each destination requires a different mindset. Different switches, lines, fenders, and gear need to be readied. Different tomes need to be reviewed. And different levels of trepidation inform the procedure. Charlotte and I have become adept at this needing few words to set the plan in motion. Of course, the plan is in constant review. Even after the boat is secured and the engine turned off the process continues.

If we are anchored I will take the next half hour to listen to the weather radio, observe landmarks, enter the Lat/Long into the log, set the GPS on anchor watch, and second guess myself as to where I chose to drop the hook. This can be exhausting.

If on a slip, I adjust the lines and walk the docks to observe how the locals are attached. If they have extra lines, I will come back and do the same, for every harbor has its own idiosyncrasy only known to the natives. This saved us much grief.

Moorings are a different story. Though easier than both of the above, they require faith in the unknown. A mooring is made up of numerous fittings, all prone to failure if not maintained properly. It is a calculated risk, as most cruising is after all. We trust that all will be well. This saved us many sleepless nights.

I started to write about the different Americas we encountered in the thousand miles from Kent Island, Maryland to Herrick Bay, Maine. About the people we met, the food and the culture we experienced, the nature and city landscapes we glided by — that is, about America the beautiful, but I was swept up in the details . . . so be it.

To our family & friends, Happy Holidays from Charlotte & Dean


It only took 1000 nautical miles to go from shallow mud and heat to deep granite and cold. Somewhere in those miles, we crossed the crustacean differentiation line passing from blue crabs to green lobsters. The boats morphed from skinny to wide, and the buoys from a hodgepodge to a constant presence. Carrie Rose went from heading north to heading down east. The language changed but I am not a good enough writer to describe it. The geography aged, the further north (with a few exceptions) the older and more interesting. Flat salt marshes barely holding their heads out of the rising sea slowly transformed into a tree lined rocky coast covered in moss and lichen, and unlike the southern realms, this northern mountainous landscape will require millions of years to erode. South in the heat folk were polite if not a bit edgy. Mid trip in the lands of New Jersey and southern New York an infectious nervous energy developed. We basked in the instant familiarity and joy that was exhibited to us for the fact of having enough nerve to show up in a boat from Chicago. Maine has a more reserved population. They are going along how they have always gone along, and will continue to with or without us. It seems they would be just as happy to be left alone, as long as the world continues to buy their lobsters. Carrie Rose floats through these communities untethered. It is a liberating feeling. When we pack up and head home for another winter of family, friends, and culture it is usually about time and brings no regret.

Deacember 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

Living with Lobsters

A friend asked for more detail about lobsters and considering the number of buoys I dodged, I agreed. So, here are a few pictures with comments about living with lobsters in Maine…

A fine example of a lobster boat weighed down with all the gear needed.

Lobster pot buoys on the Sheepscot River...remember we are navigating through these.

Pulling up pots.

Buoys get tangled.

Boats appear out of the fog.

Sailing through the "mine field", as Charlotte is fond of calling the conglomeration of buoys.

Stonington, Maine on Deer Island is a working lobstermen town hidden away on Deer Isle Thoroughfare.

A fellow Nordic Tug negotiating another "mine field".

A distinctive boat loaded for bear.

A sense of humor on Islebourgh Isle.

The working part of the boat with the pulley...looks dangerous!

The table complete with bait bags and rubberbands for the claws.

Beautiful aren't they...