Bowsprits Galore

Belfast was great. A quiet city that climbs a hill away from the harbor and stretches into modern suburbia; the downtown corridor architecture is a throwback to a hundred and fifty years ago, but with the occasional modern loft perched atop a commercial building. Now mostly restaurants and boutiques a long time resident explained that it was once populated by mills and processing plants. “A place that you wouldn’t want to be,” She said, adding that “there was a distinct smell and it all drained into the harbor.”

I thought about this sitting on the back deck of Caprica watching the parking lot of Young’s Lobster Pound fill and empty like the tide. We watched the occasional workboat, cruise ship, and yacht enter or leave the harbor but the small cut was filled with stalwart blue water boats.

Of all the harbors we have visited, Belfast is by far the quietest, calmest and safest. Well protected, Caprica occasionally turned against the mooring with the opposing tide and current. The mooring was obligatory, and we lucked out to be assigned City no. 3 just a hundred yards from the nearest landing. At $35 a day, it was a deal to have the security of several thousand pounds of granite holding Caprica against a powerful reversing current.

Fog filled the harbor leaving the outline of boats as ghostly specters most mornings and evenings during our stay. The currents, islands, swirling eddies, mist, seals, loons, harbor porpoises and early morning chill are part of the harsh beauty that makes Belfast a favorite summer destination. Leaving Belfast just a few days ago was a turning point in our trip as we generally head south, waiting for weather windows to launch across the Gulf of Maine to Cape Cod.

We always hope to go further north, to explore the islands or even reach as far as Canada, but there is never enough time. Around the middle of July, I start feeling the pressure of getting closer to home port and the job. I start watching the weather extra closely, waiting for the dominant southerly wind to pause just long enough the make a passage. Or if we have to, beat into the wind close hauled pounding through ocean waves. We’ve done this before when a low-pressure system morphed into a gale.

The invisible force that tugs us south said it was time to leave Belfast, framily members and to point south.

It was an easy hop to Rockland where we met up with S/v Satisfaction; a fellow G-dock resident and their close friends from the Foreign Service days. Again, Caprica is anchored away from the mooring fields and by the industrial wharf. A few large tugs, research vessels, and car carriers linger on their steel keels in the low tide mud waiting for their turn in dry dock for a refit.

The days have been beautiful, comfortable and serene. A stark contrast to what we return to. It’s hard to get motivated to leave the harbor, to beat south into the wind. I occasionally propose Bermuda instead.

The harbor at Rockland is loaded with classic sailing vessels flying multiple sails from rarely seen topgallant masts. Penitents and flags flying, these sleek hulled vessels with their enormous bowsprits are the working boats of a bygone era. They represent a class of skilled craftsman, childhood memories and a group of dedicated sailors.

The Friendship sloops are deceptively fast and are formidable advisories to the modern day cruising sloop. With long overhangs, bowsprits galore and huge sail areas, the Friendship sloops did short work of Caprica as we entered Rockland harbor. We anchored in our usual spot just as the night’s regatta finished and the gaggle of sloops returned to the public docks. Eleanor, Maggie and I jumped in the dink and zipped to the public docks to take a look.

While Maggie disappeared towards town, Eleanor and I strolled the public docks to get a closer look at the classic sloops. From inside one of the classics, a friendly smile beamed out with a flickering hand wave. Then a “Do you want to come aboard? See the boat?” The gentle voice from inside the Friendship sloop emerged into the cockpit. We met new friends and discovered a fantastic coincidence.

As we chatted with the owners and I learned the history and allure of the Friendship Sloops, the conversation paused briefly. I was asked if I was a member of any sailing and cruising groups to which I said yes and listed a few including Maine Cursing and Sailing. Wayne, whose cockpit and shade awning I was enjoying while Eleanor was off touring another classic boat asked if I made a post with a little girl peeking out of a hatch about places to anchor.

Wayne was one of a few helpful souls that responded to my post, and two short weeks later, I was sitting on his boat enjoying his hospitality. That’s just cool.

As I write this post, I sit in my own cockpit watching the Friendship Sloops glide around the harbor wondering which one is his.

So how long are we going to be in Rockland and where are we going next?

I don’t know.

We are watching a strong low-pressure system develop and move up the coast. What it does determines what we do. But one thing we know for sure is that Rockland is beautiful, and the people here are great.

Special thanks to Maggie Cooper and Kirsten Cronin for their photo contributions.

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