The trip from Camden to Castine on Sunday morning was like the polar opposite of the trip to Boothbay. Mostly. The day was warm, the water was like glass and it poured rain like it was the end of the world. Man, water can be so very wet. To get to Castine we traveled north along West Penobscot Bay, keeping Islesboro to our right at all times. There was not a lick of wind so we motored the whole way. I just stared in awe at the absolutely gorgeous scenery, swiveling my head from the mainland to the islands and back. It is incredibly beautiful.
Beacause the waters were so still, we became aware of dolphins swimming all around us. We remembered that there is a Cape Porpoise in Maine, and wondered whether we were actually seeing dolphins or porpoises. Turns out there are both in Penobscot Bay. You can tell the difference by the dorsal fin: Dolphins have a curved fin; porpoises have a triangular shaped fin. We saw only porpoises after that. Seals are also pretty common. We saw a few here and there wherever we went poking their little snouts up out of the water. So cute!
Another thing about yacht-club sponsored cruises: Racing is part of the program. A lot of folks participate in races from port to port. I am not typically a fan of sailboat racing, starts and mark roundings in particular. Imagine if you will that you are coming to a rotary or roundabout at the same time as twenty other cars, all moving as fast as they can, all without brakes. That’s kinda like what a mark rounding is. Starting is similar and involves crossing an imaginary straight line between two ostensibly fixed points that seem as dangerously close to each other as you are to the other twenty boats converging on that line.
There’s lots of yelling about the rules and sometimes boats have to take penalty turns for not following them. So now you are trying to go across the line or around the rotary while a 30 foot piece of fiberglass spins around in circles next to you. I’m seasick just thinking about it. (Uncompensated product plug: RELIEF BAND . If you or someone you know suffers from seasickness, but loves to be on the water, this is your answer. It has been a miracle for me. Thanks, Janet Drumm!)
Racing on the Cruise is not this intense. It is a pretty relaxed system, where you figure your own elapsed time from start to finish. The only hitch is that if you commit to racing, you cannot turn on your engine. You must travel under sail alone. No matter whether the wind is strong or light. I really wanted to race. Justin and I did it last year on our J30 and had a blast. We always finished last but we always finished, and felt incredibly accomplished.
So each morning on the Cruise we would agree to race that day. Races are often laid out according to specific marks. Navigational marks are buoys, giant hunks of metal held down by anchors and identified by their color, whether they have a light and how often it flashes, whether they make a noise, what kind and how often, or all three. Marblehead Bell for example is a red and green flashing red (2+1) bell at the mouth of Marblehead Harbor. When you are traveling by boat, you typically chart your course according to navigational aids like this, as they assure that you are in the right place, or at least going the right way to get there. While racing, you head toward a particular buoy, and keep it to whatever side of the boat is indicated either by the buoy itself or in the sailing instructions.
During this trip, I learned that a bell and a gong are NOT the same thing! I had always thought they were interchangeable. The difference? A bell has a single tone, while a gong has multiple tones! There you have it!
What I learned on My Summer Vacation Part IV is coming soon. I’ll get to the boat issues, and share a terrific cocktail recipe. Surprisingly (or not, given the vacation so far) they are related. I will also tell you a few facts about fjords, fjards, and how much I hate lobster pots.