New England Odyssey: Navigating Wealth, History, and Loved Ones!
The Gulf of Maine
When we arrived in Newfoundland back in June, the Canadian lobster fishing season had just concluded. The pristine waters welcomed us with no traps in sight, offering an idyllic experience. However, our journey took a different turn as we ventured into Maine.
Upon entering the Gulf of Maine, we found ourselves surrounded by a sea of lobster buoys. The relentless tides in the gulf tossed us about as if we were caught in a washing machine, forcing us to navigate through the tumultuous waters while dodging lobster buoy after lobster buoy.
We happily pulled into Bar Harbor (in the dark) and dropped anchor after an exhausting 2-day motor sail beating into the wind.
Lobster Love Affair
Bar Harbor isn't just a town; it's a love letter to lobster. From the moment we stepped foot ashore, we found ourselves immersed in the world of lobsters. The air was filled with the tantalizing scent of buttery lobster rolls, rich lobster bisque, and creamy lobster mac 'n' cheese. There were colossal lobster signs, lobster-themed attire, lobster-adorned bumper stickers, and even cuddly lobster plush toys everywhere we looked.
In Maine, they certainly leave no room for you to overlook the creature that brings prosperity to their shores!
However, we weren't there just for the crustaceans. We were excited to explore Acadia National Park and more importantly, meet with family again!
The Downside of Cruising
Living the cruiser lifestyle means spending extended periods of time away from family and friends. This can be emotionally challenging as we miss out on important family events, gatherings, and quality time with loved ones.
We were really looking forward to reconnecting with family and friends now that we were back on the East Coast of the US. Our first meet-up was with my brother's family in Bar Harbor.
For my brother Jim's 60th birthday, his wife Candice planned a family camping trip to Acadia National Park. We were able to coordinate our plans to meet up with their family in Bar Harbor. Jim wasn't privy to the planning, so it was a surprise for him when he walked into a restaurant and there we were, sitting at his table!
Candice was hoping for a family sail but we had just arrived the night before at midnight and after the two days of relentless buoys and churning waves, we were happier to visit on land.
We really enjoyed laughing and catching up with Jim, Candice and their two daughters, Emma and Sophia. We hung out for two days, visiting all the shops in Bar Harbor. Emma and Sophia were daring enough to try Lobster Ice Cream. They confirmed it tastes as gross as it sounds.
The Sand Bar that puts the Bar in Bar Harbor
When walking around Bar Harbor, you will notice lots of people lined up on the shore watching for a mysterious stretch of golden sand to emerge from the depths.
Walking the sand bar seems to be a required ritual of visiting Bar Harbor. We fulfilled the obligation.
Timing is key. Get ready to dash across when the tide is out, but be quick about it. The sea has a sense of humor, and you won't want to end up with soggy sneakers!
When we walked across it, a tuna skeleton and an empty lobster pot were revealed. However, the most curious thing we saw was a car driving across the sand bar. After watching it weave in and out of all the people walking, we were really hoping it would get stuck on a giant boulder and then disappear into the sea at high tide. No such luck, it returned whence it came. We found out that driving on the bar is allowed even though it seems like it shouldn't be.
The bar also interfered with our dinghy rides ashore! After one long dinghy ride at low tide, we made sure to only travel to and from the boat at high tide. It was the difference between a 10 minute ride back to the boat or a 45 minute one!
We were sorry to see the Murrays leave at the end of the weekend but I made plans to visit them in Saratoga Springs, NY later in the fall.
Acadia National Park
Acadia National Park is a stunning natural gem. The name “Acadia” is a tribute to the French influences and translates to “Heaven on Earth.” The park is renowned for its dramatic coastal scenery, including rocky shorelines, granite cliffs, and pristine beaches. Cadillac Mountain, the tallest peak on the eastern seaboard of the United States, offers panoramic views of the surrounding islands and ocean.
The park includes a network of well-maintained trails suitable for all levels of hikers, bicyclists, and horseback riders.
Acadia has a well-designed system of scenic drives (designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. , famed landscape architect of Central Park, NYC and Seneca Park, Rochester, NY),
Park Loop Road offers opportunities for sightseeing, with numerous pull-offs and overlooks. We took a Trolley Tour through the park to view the dramatic sights and hear about the park's history. We learned about the lengths two rich men, George B. Dorr and John D. Rockefeller, went to preserve the area for all of us.
After too short a visit to the park, we set sail down the coast, headed for Portland.
Maine is famous for its picturesque coastline dotted with historic lighthouses, each with its own unique charm and history. These lighthouses have played a crucial role in guiding ships safely along Maine's rocky shores for centuries. As we sailed down the coast, we saw them all.
The Rich and Famous It turns out you can't swing a dead lobster without hitting a famous person's house in Maine. Bar Harbor has its famous summer occupants including Martha Stewart and Dick Wolf of CSI fame.
On our way down the coast, we noticed an interesting-looking pyramid structure. I googled it to see if I could find out what it was. It turned out to be at an old-timey fog bell rebuilt by Andrew Wyeth, the artist. He owned that and the lighthouse behind it. Both are featured in several of his paintings.
We anchored for the night in the small bay with a few houses on shore. The main attraction was a large contingency of seals sunning themselves on rocks and making a racket with their barking noises.
I googled the area to find out a bit about the surroundings. It turned out we were anchored directly in front of E.B. White's former home. It was where he penned his classic Charlotte’s Web.
When we arrived in Portland, we saw a marina full of super yachts. One yacht was so big, we mistook it for a small cruise ship. It turned out to be media mogul, David Geffen's 400 million dollar Rising Sun. The 453-foot yacht includes a gym, a wine cellar, a spa, a movie theater and can accommodate up to 16 guests and 45 crew members.
We were interviewed by a local reporter on our opinion of Geffen’s mega yacht. I wouldn't say we were misquoted but we definitely said more than what she put in the article. I did find it absolutely hilarious to read. We are more interested in The Lagerhead. LOL and there aren't 2 Ns in Diane!
Friends from Rochester!
We got interviewed while we were waiting for our friends to arrive. Rich and Megan Sarkis and their two young boys were on their way to their Maine getaway further up the coast, They made a pitstop for lunch in Portland to visit with us. It was lovely seeing them again and spending time with them. We enjoyed a walk through Portland's picturesque waterfront, historic Old Port district.
Our dinghy did get a "ticket" in Portland. Not a speeding ticket (it's much too slow for that) but a no parking ticket. We rowed into a small beach, that is only used for kayak tours, and hauled our dinghy out there, then tied it to a tree. It beat rowing it for 45 minutes to the mega yacht marina and paying $30 a day to tie up. This worked great the first day. But the second day, after meeting up with the Sarkis family, we found a Move it or Lose It note attached to our boat. We thank the Portland Park Rangers for the warning first!
After Portland, we headed down the coast to Boston. I would like to say we had a lovely sail but what little wind there was came directly on our nose. We motored the entire way. It was so calm that Dave threw out a line for fishing. We let Otto, the autopilot, do most of the steering.
Damn You, Buoys!
We were just chatting and enjoying music when we felt a thump and heard the worst noise ever. We had run over a lobster pot buoy and the propeller had chewed the plastic up and spit it all over the ocean. One second later we heard zzzzzzzrrrrrr as the fishing line started feeding out the reel. Dave’s pole had hooked a big one.
In the frenzy of Dave trying to bring in his big bluefish and me trying to turn off Otto and hand steer, I ran over a second lobster pot buoy. These were big offshore ones that were connected by a line that floated on the water. They were not set up like all the other ones we had seen.
The rope on this one spun up around our propeller shaft and made it impossible to reverse. Thankfully, we still had forward steerage, so we kept going. This was a good thing because the lobster fishermen were close by checking their pots and I didn’t want them to find us there surrounded by their chewed-up buoys.
Surprise, surprise we arrived in Boston yet again in the dark. The city lights made it easy to get into the anchorage.
We were planning to go into Boston but it turned out not to be a very friendly place for cruisers. We were anchored by three yacht clubs and none of them would let us tie up on their dinghy dock. If we had a generic inflatable dinghy like everyone else, we could have snuck over and blended in. But Dave’s 12-foot wooden dinghy is quite noticeable.
In hindsight, the best plan for visiting Boston would have been to grab a $35 mooring ball right in the city marina and use the water taxi service to get ashore. We did not plan ahead so there were no available mooring balls when I called.
Since I’ve been to Boston numerous times and Dave’s been there once a couple years ago, we decided to forgo sightseeing and just fix the prop.
As much as he didn’t want to do it, Dave dove in the murky Boston water and cut the fouled line off our propeller.
We left after that for a stopover in Plymouth on our way to the Cape Cod Canal.
Cape Cod Canal
Timing is everything when it comes to tides and currents. The Cape Cod Canal is one of these areas you have to plan for or else you could run up against 6 knots of current against you. Since our boat only does 6 knots, that wouldn’t work for us.
We started the canal in a blanket of fog but that lifted as we traversed it. We shot through the canal in 45 minutes and averaged about 10 knots.
On the other side, we anchored in Onset. We dinghied into town and met up with our friends from Rochester, Chris and Dawn Delancey. They were on the Cape for their annual vacation there. We celebrated more good timing!
They picked us up and showed us around. We went to a lovely location, Cape Cod’s Heritage Museums & Gardens.
The Heritage Museums & Gardens is situated on a 100-acre property that was originally owned by Charles Owen Dexter..
We wandered through the stunning array of meticulously maintained gardens. There were themed gardens, including a maze garden, a daylily garden, a rhododendron garden, and a hosta garden. There were waterfalls and ponds throughout. Our friend Dayle would have loved it there!
The museum is also home to an impressive collection of antique automobiles from various eras. We enjoyed checking them all out. My favorite was the Curtiss Aerocar, a camper from the 193os.
We returned to Onset for dinner and a walk around the village. We stumbled upon an interesting place half bar/half diner that had an amazing jazz trio playing. We enjoyed drinks and music there. We had such a great visit with the Delanceys.
Connecting with family and friends along the way is a real highlight of cruising.
Rhode Island is one of the few states Dave hadn’t visited yet, so our next stop in Newport checked that off his list.
Newport, Rhode Island is a captivating blend of history and seaside charm. It has cobblestone streets lined with colonial-era buildings. It is a sailor's dream come true with its prestigious America's Cup history. The Harbor Master told us Newport is the undisputed sailing capital of the United States but Annapolis might have a problem with that statement.
Next Level Rich $$$
Newport has earned a reputation as the East Coast playground for mega yachts. The city's stunning harbor and deep waters make it an ideal destination for yacht enthusiasts and owners looking to showcase their floating palaces.
We found the harbor lined with an impressive fleet of mega yachts. These floating marvels ranged between 100 feet to over 300 feet in length. Some of the world's wealthiest individuals and celebrities dock their luxurious vessels here. We saw both sailing and motor mega yachts.
We learned the NYC Yacht Club has a summer home in Newport! Yes, the entire club can come to Newport to sail. It isn't just any home either, it's one of the Gilded Age mansions. From snooping online I found out it costs $25,000 in initiation fees and $12,000 annually to be a member (in case you wanted to join)!
Our First Mooring Ball
The anchorage is very tiny and very crowded. We attempted to set the anchor but we ended up way too close to a catamaran. After a couple other failed attempts in tight spots, we opted for a city mooring ball instead. Upon further research, we were happy to have chosen the mooring ball.
The harbor has a soft mud bottom and lots of boats drag there. There are cables laying exposed on the harbor floor which routinely snags anchors. We watched diving teams running back and forth in zodiacs throughout our visit. They cut the chain to free the boat but you lose your anchor. We enjoyed the peace of mind and the closer proximity to the dinghy dock too.
Mansions Fit for Royalty
We took a trolley tour to marvel at the jaw-dropping Gilded Age mansions that dot the coastline of Newport. Opulence knows no bounds at these "Summer Cottages". These grand estates look like they are right out of the Great Gastby (that's because the 1974 Robert Redford movie was filmed at one of them!) If you listen carefully, you can hear the echoes of lavish parties from the past.
These historic homes were the summer residences of America's wealthiest families during a time when industrialization and wealth accumulation were at its peak. We visited two of these incredible mansions.
The Breakers: Considered the most famous of all the Newport mansions, The Breakers is a stunning masterpiece designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt. It was commissioned by Cornelius Vanderbilt II and showcases the height of Newport's Gilded Age glamour. The mansion's Italian Renaissance-inspired architecture, opulent interiors, and oceanside location make it a must-visit attraction. Poor Cornelius only got to spend one summer there before he died.
Marble House: Another Vanderbilt family mansion, Marble House is named for its extensive use of marble in its design and decoration. It's famous for its richly decorated interiors with plenty of Tiffany glass and gold leaf. The Chinese Tea House on the property is a charming touch that we really enjoyed visiting.
Alva Vanderbilt, the wife of William K. Vanderbilt, championed women's suffrage and hosted extravagant parties at this lavish residence. She also was the first in her circle to initiate a divorce and she got to keep the house! She then married the twice-divorced bachelor down the street and used Marble House as her extra closet.
My favorite story on the tour was about an extravagant dog party. In her book, Elizabeth Drexel Lehr recounts many summer events held in Newport, including a party she hosted at her rented home Arleigh for the pampered pooches of Newport.
"So we sent out invitations to a ‘Dog’s Dinner.’ All our friends’ dogs were asked (accompanied by their owners of course). There must have been at least a hundred of them, big dogs and little dogs, dogs of every known breed; many of them came in fancy dress…The menu was stewed liver and rice, fricassée of bones and shredded dog biscuit." (from the Newport Historical Society).
I wonder what the servants thought of that party and the cleanup!
In the end, all those rich people got what was coming to them.
In 1914, the US instated income tax. The mega-rich couldn't afford to pay taxes on all their many properties. The first to go were their "summer cottages".
After viewing all that wealth, we got back on our humble little Lagerhead and sailed south to the familiar waters of New York!