In 2013, my husband, Tom, and I joined Massachusetts’ Great Blue Hill Sail & Power Squadron/34 for a few days. It was easy and fun, and we wanted more. The next year, we joined the cruise for the entire week and enjoyed a great vacation filled with sailing, food and laughter. At the end of the week, Joe Kelliher announced that he was going to organize a three-week District 12 cruise to Maine the following year.
Not concerned with fog, lobster pots or an overnight sail, Tom and I wanted to go for the full three weeks. We had never taken three weeks off work before. Tom thought we should go with Andy Sumberg since Joe wanted each boat to have three people for the overnight passage. I thought we should take our boat. Tom coveted Andy’s electronics; our boat, Vesta, had none. Andy said I told him we were going with him to Maine before he knew he’d decided to go.
However it happened, Tom and I picked up Andy and his wife, Mindy, at 8 a.m. on Saturday, July 18. We drove to Westport, Massachusetts, home port of Portland, Andy’s Catalina 350. By 10:30, we had dropped the mooring and were on our way to Maine!
The first leg of the trip took us up Buzzards Bay and through the Cape Cod Canal. After a fast sail up the bay, we found ourselves a bit too early to enter the canal. We tucked into Hospital Cove in Cataumet, Massachusetts, and picked up a mooring owned by another United States Power Squadrons member. We had a few hours to wait, so we prepared for the overnight passage with a quick nap.
A change of course
Heading out of the cove, we crossed a boat flying the United States Power Squadrons ensign going in the opposite direction. Upon closer inspection, we discovered it was Joe Kelliher on Sails Call. Joe informed us that the strong southwest breeze up the bay, coupled with the strong northeast current out the canal, had filled Hog Island Channel with large standing waves. Been there, done that, no desire to repeat. Joe was killing some time before heading up the inside “old canal approach.” We would follow. Life was easy with United States Power Squadrons friends.
We spent the evening in Harbor of Refuge, meeting up with the rest of the fleet: Rich Terry and crew in Avanelle G, the Elders and crew in Knot Too Fast, Marty Becker and crew in Nose Job III, and Sue Haley and crew in Fantasia. By the numbers, we were six vessels—five sailboats and a trawler—four squadrons, and two districts, and we were just starting.
Or so we thought.
On the day of our planned overnight from Sandwich to Tenant’s Harbor, we woke to a forecast of late afternoon storms off Cape Ann, complete with lightning, damaging winds and hail. A quick check of the charts confirmed that we and the storm would arrive together. Tossing aside the schedule and dropping Mindy ashore, we headed for Provincetown to spend the night. It was a beautiful evening, and we gathered on Portland to test how many people could fit in the cockpit. Fourteen was a tight squeeze, but it was great to meet our cruise mates.
An overnight passage
On Monday, we awoke to a favorable forecast and started for Maine. We headed for Rockland to return to the cruise schedule and had a quiet day watching the sea life as we crossed Stellwagen Bank. By sunset, we dropped our sails and turned on our engines for the evening passage. We would stay in contact throughout the night. Andy’s radar wasn’t working, but five boats around us had radar.
We started our “four hours on, two hours off” watches at 9 p.m., which was just about when the autopilot on Nose Job III went off duty. It was a quiet night. We crossed through a fishing fleet with more lights than Fenway Park. The cold and damp rolled in around 10. The fog rolled in shortly after. We kept in close formation—not so close that a steering burp would result in a collision but not so far that we couldn’t see at least one or two other boats through the fog. (Visibility was about 100 yards.)
In the morning, just as we reached Muscle Ridge Channel, the engine on Avanelle G stopped working. Sails Call stood by Avanelle G until a tow arrived. The rest of the fleet continued to Rockland and arrived at about 2 p.m. Life was good.
The ‘Maine’ event
The next three weeks were a blur of iconic Maine islands, seals and harbor porpoises, black guillemots and northern gannets, classic sailboat regattas in Eggemoggin Reach, lots of wonderful sailing, and beautiful flowered window boxes. We visited the Farnsworth Art Museum, Thuya Lodge and Garden, Great Harbor Maritime Museum and Curtis Island Lighthouse. In turn, we were visited by an osprey at the top of our mast, which left a present upon its departure, as birds are known to do. We had cookies at 10 a.m. and a glass of wine at 5 p.m. We ate blueberry pancakes on Knot Too Fast and drank dark ‘n’ stormies on Sails Call. Mantra, Efficacy and Elsie Marion joined the cruise. We made new friends and missed old ones when they left.
There was plenty of advice and assistance to tackle any problem. We hauled Andy up the mast for a radar recovery and rescued a runaway (perhaps cut-away) dinghy. We slept and sailed and learned new DSC and AIS features. We watched the storm clouds roll into Potts Harbor and observed 35-knot gusts as we set our anchor in the basin. We saw lobstermen at work, young people in love and children at play. We watched the sunset in Pulpit Harbor and the sunrise in Isles of Shoals.
Three weeks flew by. We started the cruise with friends and ended even better friends. As we headed through the canal on our final leg with perfect northeast winds to run down Buzzards Bay, our minds turned to the next summer. How about Long Island and Connecticut—maybe Montauk, Shelter Island, Fishers Island, Mystic? We looked forward to more good times with good friends.
This article first appeared in the Beverly-Marblehead Sail & Power Squadron newsletter, Hannah’s Banner.