The weather was forecast to be dreadful on Friday, which is when we planned to leave for Boothbay Harbor, 115 nautical miles from Marblehead. We figured it would take us three days to get to Castine, where we were scheduled to rendezvous on Sunday. I became more and more panic-y on Thursday, as we were on-loading the boat, and eventually we decided to sleep aboard and leave as early as possible on Friday.
We motored out of the harbor at about 6AM on a grey, chilly morning. To get to Maine, you have to get around Cape Ann first. That’s where Gloucester is. If you click on the picture here you get an idea of our route. And of my drawing ability, but that’s not really relevant here. Once you get around Cape Ann, it is pretty much open ocean until you get past Cape Elizabeth in Maine.
We had been out for a few hours and had just passed Thacher Island, when Justin, at the helm, yelled “OH MY GOD! I JUST SAW A WHALE! FULLY BREECHED!” The skipper and I both replied where? where? and started looking around us. Nothing but shades of gray. He insisted he had seen the horizon below the whale’s tale. A few hours later, the skipper yelled, “OH MY GOD! I JUST SAW A WHALE COMPLETELY OUT OF THE WATER!” Where? Where? from me and Justin. We scanned the horizon and saw nothing. He, too, swore he had seen sky beneath the whale.
Now I was the only one on the boat who had not seen any evidence of a whale. I continued to look for spouts, the release of water through a whale’s blowhole, one of the surest ways to spot whales. It was difficult, though, as the waves and the winds were high, so essentially the world itself was a spout. Soon enough, the cry came up again (Melville did this with so much more skill). This time we all saw a pod of whales, we think they were humpback as they were YUGE, playing, leaping out of the water, again and again. One, two, three at a time. Straight up and then flopping down. It was like SeaWorld, without the whole captivity thing.
We watched for nearly 30 minutes, until we were too far away to see them any longer. I tried to take a photo, but with the boat bouncing up and down combined with all the water around me it was impossible. The truth is I don’t need a photo as I will never, ever forget this amazing sight.
We continued on toward Boothbay, arriving at 11:30 PM. A long day that looked pretty much like the below video for the entire 17.5 hours.
When you are the only one awake on a boat midway across the Gulf of Maine in 20kt breeze with waves coming over the bow and both sides, you do some thinking. I thought a lot about what the hell I was doing at the helm of a 40′ sailboat–not my own–in the middle of the freakin’ Gulf of Maine in freakin’ 20 knots of breeze. And I understood that it was because I was capable. I learned that I can capably take the helm of a 40′ sailboat in 20 knots of breeze in the middle of the Gulf of Maine. That was a great thing to learn.
On Saturday, we were up and on our way to Camden by 7AM. We got there in plenty of time to shower, shop and enjoy a lovely dinner at Peter Ott’s. We also bought provisions including Stonewall Kitchen’s blueberry pancake mix. Initially we bought the plain pancake mix, with the intention of buying fresh Maine blueberries at French and Brawn. We learned that Maine blueberries are not ready until the last of July/early August, so we sent the skipper back to Stonewall Kitchen to replace the plain mix with the blueberry mix.
If you are not bored to tears yet, stay tuned for Part III where I promise I will get to the dolphin/porpoise stuff, tell you the difference between a bell and a gong, and explain why oil and water leaks are really bad on a boat.