Octogenarian Odyssey Part VIII

Wanda White Stovall


To celebrate both of us turning 80 and our 60th wedding anniversary, my husband, David, and I took a long-distance cruise on the Down East Circle Route. The journey took more than 2,000 miles from New York Harbor through the Erie Canal and the St. Lawrence River, around Nova Scotia, and down the New England coast, ending back in New York Harbor.

Ready parts one through seven.

Part VIII: Southwest Harbor, Maine, to New Jersey

May 30–August 19: Southwest Harbor, Maine

After leaving The Bottom Line in storage last fall, we eagerly returned to the boat, which had emerged from winter storage and was once again docked in Southwest Harbor. Unfortunately, the GPS was not functioning after being reconnected. Shoals dot the area near the marina, so we decided to wait for a technician, who promised to arrive soon. We quickly adapted to marina life and started some needed projects.

We made the difficult decision to replace the continually problematic dinghy. After considerable research, we chose a 12-foot inflatable with a 15-horsepower propane motor from West Marine. Both performed well as we cruised Somes Sound and Northeast Harbor.

Family members visited, and we never tired of showing them the area’s many attractions, including trips to Bar Harbor and visits to the local shops. Our aft deck dinners featured steamed lobster and blueberry pie. The months flew by, marked by constantly changing floral displays of rhododendrons, lilacs, daisies and oakleaf hydrangeas.

David and I took a final dinghy journey to Somes Sound on Aug. 18 and lingered in the area for a sentimental farewell to our wonderful summer in Maine. The following day, we brought the dinghy up on the dock and power-washed it to clean off the algae and gunk that had accumulated during its prolonged stay in the water. Afterward, we attached it to the davit, lifted it onto the bridge and covered it for the season. Our son, Dave, arrived the next day eager to continue the journey he began with us in New York Harbor the previous year.

August 20: Rockland, Maine

Our Down East Circle Route Cruise had taken us up the Hudson River, through the Erie and Oswego canals and the St. Lawrence River, around the Gaspé Peninsula, through the Northumberland Strait, around Nova Scotia, and across the Gulf of Maine to Southwest Harbor. Finally ready to resume our long-delayed cruise, we would continue down the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts to the Cape Cod Canal before heading through Long Island Sound to New York to complete our journey.

After fueling and pumping the heads, we made a short cruise to Rockland, approximately five hours from Southwest Harbor, encouraged by the lifting fog. David expertly moved the boat out of our tight dockage, past the ominous shoal at the marina entrance and into the harbor.

Dave took the helm as we entered the channel leading into the Gulf of Maine. Although I was eager for him to see the beautiful scenery, blanketing fog soon obscured the view. Experienced with radar, Dave carefully navigated through the numerous narrow passageways between islands.

After an easy dockage at Landings Marina in Rockland, we enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Landings restaurant. On this day one year before, we had an accident in Canada that caused considerable damage to the boat. Since it was our 61st wedding anniversary, we celebrated that and our successful, safe journey to Rockland.

August 21: South Portland, Maine

Dave remained at the helm for the five-hour journey to South Portland. Intermittent fog continued to hide the beautiful scenery. Although more common in warm water, we saw porpoises playing beside the boat, a surprising sight this far north.

Avoiding the crowded Portland Harbor area, we selected the easily accessible Spring Point Marina in South Portland. We could see the iconic Portland Head Light and the massive fortifications built to protect the harbor during the War of 1812.

August 22: New Castle, New Hampshire

We departed early in light rain and headed to Wentworth by the Sea Marina in New Castle, New Hampshire, a five-star accommodation with excellent docks and service. Unlike the previous day, we had limited fog and following seas, making the five-hour cruise scenic and uneventful. Dave again remained at the helm throughout the day.

Wentworth Marina provided a courtesy car for guests, and we drove into Portsmouth. With chic shops and restaurants, the downtown had an air of vitality and prosperity. People enjoying the lovely weather crowded the streets. We restocked the galley during a quick trip to a local grocery store.

August 23–24: Boston

Fog obscured our view from Wentworth Marina to Boston Harbor. Dave showed some apprehension as we neared our destination. A busy shipping and recreational area, Boston Harbor has limited visibility. Unfortunately, fog hid the incredible beauty of the harbor approach and view of the oldest continually used and staffed lighthouse in the U.S.

Adjacent to Long Wharf, the small, family-owned Boston Waterboat Marina is immaculately maintained and efficiently operated. Our dockage near the entrance gave us a great view of the harbor and the changing scene on the wharf. The historic downtown and North End areas are easily accessible from the marina.

Eager to have some real Italian food, we walked to the North End for dinner. Afterward, we enjoyed a lengthy stroll through the area, enjoying its active night scene. We spent another day in Boston sightseeing, visiting museums and returning to the North End for more authentic Italian cuisine.

August 25: Sandwich, Massachusetts

Within minutes after the early morning fog lifted, The Bottom Line left the dock with Dave again at the helm. We enjoyed the sights of the harbor and the receding city view. To shorten the journey, we plotted the route to Sandwich through some offshore island channels. The challenging route requires astute piloting, which Dave found more interesting than the usual offshore course. We easily accomplished the five-hour voyage with favorable weather, light winds and smooth seas.

Situated near the Cape Cod Canal entrance, Sandwich Marina offers a welcome haven in stormy weather for boaters escaping rough seas. Although a pleasant place to dock, it’s far from shopping conveniences. Reservations are a must as docking space is limited. Sandwich is a charming, historical New England village with lovely homes and inns.

August 26–27: Port Jefferson, New York

After our short day’s cruise from Boston to Sandwich, we planned a 12-hour trip to Port Jefferson, New York, on Long Island’s northern shore. After fueling, we made an early morning departure in perfect weather.

Adjacent to a lovely hotel with a popular restaurant, Danfords Marina is near the bustling downtown area. We chose Danfords with its floating docks rather than the less expensive city docks nearby, which are fixed. Tide changes make safely exiting the boat on a fixed dock difficult.

Interesting and inviting, Port Jefferson and the surrounding area feature old estates and large homes. Ready for good food and a down day, we sat on the hotel restaurant’s lovely terrace overlooking the water and enjoyed great seafood. A nearby Japanese restaurant served delicious sushi. Port Jeff makes an excellent choice for R&R.

August 28–29: Jersey City, New Jersey

The five-hour journey through Long Island Sound to New York City awed our son, with its scenic lighthouses, historic buildings, LaGuardia Airport, Rikers Island and numerous small marinas enlivening the approach to Manhattan.

Hell Gate marks the confluence of Long Island Sound and the Harlem and East rivers. Its eddies and strong currents can be dangerous to boaters. The East River’s strong current can easily push boats into the stone walls along the banks or into numerous hazards in the water. Fortunately, The Bottom Line’s powerful engines kept it on course. As we neared the tip of Manhattan, the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, United Nations, and other iconic structures and familiar bridges became visible. What a magnificent view.

Turning starboard near the Statue of Liberty, Dave approached Liberty Landing Marina. Our assigned slip was adjacent to the park, with a great view of New York’s skyscrapers from the aft deck. Having crossed our wake and completed the Down East Circle Route Cruise, we celebrated with dinner at Maritime Parc, the marina’s excellent seafood restaurant.

Our son had been with us at the beginning and the end of our journey, making this a special occasion for our family. David and I felt a wonderful accomplishment and had made many great memories. Our Octogenarian Odyssey allowed us to enjoy nautical experiences, accept challenges and realize a dream.

Wanda White Stovall

Wanda and David Stovall live in Fort Worth, Texas. She is a retired speech pathologist, and he is a semi-retired certified public accountant. Their boat remains at a lovely marina near Wickford, Rhode Island, where they spend five months of the year enjoying delicious seafood and great boating experiences in this beautiful area.

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