Box Wine and NE Winds


Winter Harbor Marina is quite rough around the edges, not my first choice for a home but for some reason I seem to enjoy it in an underdog kinda way. I greet the shady looking fishermen at all hours hours of the night when I walk down the ramp and try not to slip on fish guts when I get to the dock. There are more people around the dock at night than during the day, aside from the folks riding the ferry.

It is difficult to sneak past Mr. Hibbard as I row Little G back to my boat. He has the harbor on lockdown and knows every light, sound and boat in the harbor. Sometimes I get lucky, other times he shines his massive spotlight at me and invites me over to his cabin cruiser for wine and various items of food such as cottage cheese, chimichangas or burnt jalapeño poppers on the grill. Sometimes it is difficult to get back to my boat without getting loaded on box wine and junk food. We both exchange our stories for the week, until it gets late and I start to yawn and Mr. and Mrs. Hibbard start slurring their words. If they were younger then I would call the family for an intervention, however they are old, scruffy, and no one really cares.  So I hang out with them and listen to their stories until I start to fall asleep.

The place has personality with its grumpy marina supervisor, the alcoholic Hibbards in their cabin cruiser equipped with a pirate flag, and sketchy fishermen at the dock. It is nice to live in a place where no one is all that judgmental and we all look out for each other.

The shifting winds are also making things much more pleasant in Winter Harbor. With the fall winds out of the north east, the cove becomes very calm. The crisp, bug free air puts me right to sleep at night. Or maybe it is the box wine.


The Dead Seal

Sometime we get lucky with seaweed patches and find oars, however today I found a dead seal. I called the local marine biology college and asked if they wanted it. They said they would send someone to pick it up. I was committed now and I had retrieve it, which was a challenge. I recruited my friend to help and he threw rocks at it in hopes that the wake of the stone hitting the water would move it closer. Some of the rocks hit it.

It was just out of reach of the longest stick I could find in the forest. A few passerby’s stopped jogging to watch two grown men trying to poke and throw rocks at a dead seal. After a while a got a throw bag and tied a rock to the end and eventually snagged a fin and pulled it ashore where my friend could get it with a spade.

It was pretty ripe, I regretted calling the college. I tossed it in the back of my truck.  The student picking it up said it was probably killed from a boat strike due to the fact it was missing its head. I could not deny his logic. He grabbed it and slung it in his truck, spilling blood and possibly intestines into the road. I spent the next twenty minutes hosing and sanitizing my truck, for science.

Farewell to The Pirate

After giving the Pirate the boot from the mooring, we got a lobster boat to tow him over to Sand Cove, which is the rich end of town. He still does not have a transmission for his unhealthy engine so he will be stuck there. However, he could sail his boat to wherever it is he is going. Sand Cove is a couple of coves down and it’s where the very expensive yacht club is located. You have to be a millionaire to be a member of the exclusive club. There are plenty of moorings in Sand Cove, as well as very expensive boats way out of our league. I am sure they will love having this guy anchored in their cove.  I will keep an eye out for him and see how long he lasts over there. He is kinda like a stray dog, people just throw him a bone once in a while. I did not mind him hanging around.

There was some concern when he capsized his dinghy while moving his new anchor to his boat. No one seemed too concerned, he was swimming around gathering all the junk floating around from his dinghy. There may have even been some laughing and pointing as the ferry loaded passengers. I felt a little bad, I too have capsized my dinghy while loading things.

Locally Sourced Electricity

Some people like to get all of their food products from locally sourced establishments, which is great and expensive. Not many people can say they made pulled pork using only the cheapest pork from away, and locally sourced electricity created completely off the grid by solar panels. A crockpot does not pull all that much electricity, however it needs to be able to run for 9 hours. After work, I would have one of two possible outcomes… cooked pulled pork or salmonella and a dead battery.

The cigarette lighter inverter seemed to be working alright, until it didn’t work at all. I think it may have blown a fuse. The 1100 watt inverter was then turned on and worked perfectly, however it pulls more electricity than I need and will most likely kill the battery before I get out of work.  If I worked 9-5pm during normal daylight hours and I could turn the crockpot off while the sun is still charging the battery bank, then life would be good, assuming the fog did not roll in and cover the solar panels. Arriving back at my boat after sundown did not help the cause. So long as the pulled pork is fully cooked before sundown and dead batteries, I would then have a warm pulled pork sandwich when I got back to Big G.

To my surprise when I arrived back at my boat well after dark, my crockpot was still bubbling away and I had the best pulled pork sandwich of my life, made off the grid. Then I got the meat sweats.

The low rumble alarm clock

I have never wanted to shoot a lobster fishermen so much in my life. You can not fish until thirty minutes before sunrise, which means the fishermen sit and idle at the mouth of the harbor at 4:30am until they can start hauling. Between the rollers, wakes of the lobster boats, and the low rumble of diesel engines it is hard to sleep between 4-7 am.  They would not even hear the gunshot over the rumble of the engine.

Just the other day a lobsterman came into the mooring field to haul traps around 5am and threw a wake big enough to topple some books off my shelf.  If I could have just popped out of the forward hatch like a gopher and thrown a few rotten tomatoes, I would have felt much better. Although, that would probably result in me getting shot.  Lobstermen own the coast unfortunately.

Cast Away/The Pirate is here to stay. He stated he bought a new transmission for his boat, which is supposed to have been shipped overnight. That was a week ago and I have not heard the awful sound of an unhealthy engine. No one wants to work on his engine, nor does anyone think he will pay. He also stated he is going to stay a month while he goes to pick blueberries and make money. I suspect he will do the sailor sly and sneak off in the middle of the night at some point, most likely before paying for things. He is kinda like a puppy, you yell at him, he looks at you like he knows he made a mistake and then you feel bad for yelling at him. Not sure what will come of him, I should stop in and say hi but I don’t want to get my shoes covered in oil and whatever else is on the floor.

Plans were made this weekend to go sailing and have a picnic somewhere away from people but that got fouled by a Coast Guard random drug test. Volunteering as a deck hand on a passenger ferry in my spare time has eaten many of my weekends. After realizing we were no longer going sailing on our day off because I had to pee in a cup made me rather grumpy.

The Pirate

Well our Castaway can not leave until the Coast Guard gives his boat the stamp of approval. Although no one will really stop him if he drifts off in the middle of the night. Actually, we are hoping he drifts off in the middle of the night. With a two day head start I am sure the Coast Guard could probably find him in a couple hours. Can’t imagine the boat moves all that quickly.

Mr. Hibbard calls him the pirate, which is amusing because he is the one with pirate flag on his boat named after a printer WYSIWYG. Mr. Hibbard said he would pump his bilge every night while he is gone and he hates it because his shoes are black with oil after being on the boat for five minutes. No one has seen The Pirate in five days, and he said he would only be gone for two or three. We are all hoping he is getting his transmission fixed so he can leave, the boat is kinda ugly, but strangely enough it fits into the landscape quite well because nothing is really clean cut around our mooring field. Who really knows what he is up to, hopefully he is fixing his engine or making money to fix the engine. I think Mr. Hibbard might just let his boat sink at some point when he gets tired of getting his feet dirty.


The ferry captain calls him Castaway, which I thought was appropriate. He looks like he has not shaved in a year or so and smells like he has not showered in at least a week. It was not a BO smell, more like fermented chemicals of some sort mixed with mud. His boat was a sad looking sight, and the Coast Guard vessel beside it did not help his cause. Not wanting to bother the Coast Guard, I asked the marina manager what was going on this late in the evening as I was returning to my boat from work. Castaway had called the Coast Guard because he was taking on water and his engine was dead. As the Coast Guard was towing this unnamed vessel, it forced more water in through the prop stuffing and they thought he was scuttling his boat, which is common for drug dealers.

The Coast Guard called in a welcome party for him in Winter Harbor, there were state officers, local officers, and the warden service all waiting to throw him in cuffs and turn his boat upside down at least three times. Each department searched the vessel and found no illegal items. I think they did not like his wise cracks and may have known him from previous contacts. The warden service was kind enough to throw all his books and maps into the bilge, even his Bible. They issued him a summons for no registration and no type IV personal flotation device. I kinda felt bad for the guy.

After the Coast Guard put him on a mooring I grabbed a of couple beers and rowed my way over to what was left of his rig in hopes of a good story. Right away I realized that he was missing one of his two masts. It looked to be in parts on the deck along several lobster crates filled with coal, salvaged moorings, and broken parts to his boat. The mast that was standing was very dry, and cracking, the green paint was old and flaking off. His boat looked like the cover of a Farley Mowat book, but with one mast.

I was afraid to look below deck and my fears were confirmed when I looked down the hatch and smelled a combination of lacquer and diesel fuel. It was trashed. It was like a bunch of trash got turned upside down and trashed even more. It was closer to a workshop full of trash than a living space. There was the bottom half of a fiberglass dinghy on his futon, a stove for burning coal, lots off clutter with no value at all. The water was up over the floor boards with a nice layer of diesel covering everything. This guy has been living on this vessel for just under a year.

I brought my starter battery over so he could get his engine going and pump the water down. When the engine turned over it was as probably the most awful sound I have ever heard coming from a diesel and I had an overwhelming urge to get my 20 gauge and put it out of its misery. It was as if his engine was full of stones and the prop was striking concrete at the same time. Actually I wanted to put the whole boat out of its misery.  It was so loud we had to yell to communicate. He pumped the water down and I left my battery on board over night so he could keep up with the water coming in.

The following morning I did a welfare check on him and I was very unpleased to see his boat was still floating. In retrospect I probably should not have given him my starter battery. He had lost his anchor not long ago and I gave him one from my four-piece collection. It was the one that I had recently lost and recovered. With the hardware removed from the anchor, I am pretty sure it is worse than useless. It did not work on a 30 foot boat, it is not going to work on a 40+ foot boat. I told him it might be a bit small and he should get lots of chain.

After chatting for a while I learned he also made an attempt at the Bahamas last winter. He left Portland, Maine on December 25, which is insane. I secretly hoped he did not make it as far as we did but he made it to Ocean City, Maryland. And he did the trip solo, with a boat that looks like it has been sitting in a backyard for the last 40 years.

Night Sailing

It is a good thing I am not required to sail in a straight line. If one were watching my boat from the sky it would like I am a very drunken sailor. There is definitely an art to night sailing alone in Maine. With an auto pilot, a spot light and a little moonlight it can be done. It requires lots of running back and forth across Big G to quickly swerve around lobster buoys. With thousands of buoys in Frenchman’s Bay, and currents against me, it made for a long boat ride. There were some stretches where I had a few minutes to sit on the bow and shine my light into the water. I saw a few schools of mackerel, lots of jellyfish, and several patches of seaweed drift by with various amounts of trash. There is plenty of time for contemplation while on a boat traveling at about three miles an hour.  If the ocean is calm enough, it looks like the sky is both up and down.

It took three hours to get across the bay and I pulled into Bar Harbor at about midnight to pick up Stefanie. Words can’t explain how happy I was to have my new anchor in operation. There is nothing better than dropping an anchor and going directly to sleep without worry.

There are now three spare mediocre anchors on Big G. I am not sure what to think of this. I suppose if I lose one I can just put out another one of equal value if not worse than the first, which may not necessarily solve my problem. Or I could string them together and hope I snag another lobster trap. I suppose the traps are not a complete nuisance to boaters. If you drag anchor in any direction you will catch a lobster trap which will slow the dragging a bit. My mooring had one snagged on it for a while last season.

The anchor lost at Frazier Point while visiting with the in-laws was recovered. Fortunately for me, there are scuba diving classes occasionally at the marina and Schoodic area. There has not been a group of scuba divers that are not up for a challenge. Last summer I challenged a father and son to find my prescription glasses and grapple that were lost off the stern of my boat. I offered them money but they would not take it. Both items were waiting on my deck when I returned from work.

I did not really want the anchor back except to give it to the guy I bought it from and tell him it is trash. What I wanted off the anchor was the chain and hardware, which is worth more than the anchor itself. However, you can never have too many anchors. There is a fourth anchor at the bottom of Winter Harbor. I put it off the stern to keep my boat pointed into the waves, which worked great until the line snapped. I might try to grapple it back up but I am not sure I care enough to do it.

Mine Fields of Maine

After hauling about 50 feet of anchor line up I decided I did not want to pull any more and tied the it off on a cleat to rest.  It probably clocked in at several hundred pounds with the anchor, 30 feet of chain, and at least two lobster traps. It seems more often then not we pick up a trap or two while at anchor these days. Despite efforts to avoid them, we usually get tangled up with them one way or another. We put the line in the winch and it was putting weight on the dodger and we bailed on that idea. I was getting frustrated at this point and I put my gloves on and got it done at the expense of my back.

Getting to Sheep Porcupine island was a bit difficult, the depth was about 50 feet right up to about 30 feet from the shore line. I had to drop the anchor in a spot where it would run aground if the tide shifted, which it did. I usually pay out 4-7 feet of rope for every foot of depth, and Big G swings around on anchor depending on currents. When we got back Big G after our land excursion the depth was 5.3 feet. I hauled on the anchor line right away to get us further out and started pulling the anchor up while Stefanie started Humphrey, the engine.  When I knew the anchor was off the ground I told her to put it in gear and it instantly pulled the trap line into the prop. We had drifted a little ways by this point and decided to let the anchor fly in 50 feet of water and went swimming to clear the rope out of the prop. Stefanie told me to cut the line and I should have listened to her. Usually I save the line because traps are expensive and it’s not very nice to cut them.

When hauling the anchor up for the second time the trap broke free of the anchor and unfortunately there was not enough line for the 50-100 feet of depth and the buoy and trap went to the bottom. It will probably get snagged and retrieved by some other trap set on top of it. The buoy is also floating some distance off the bottom and could easily be grappled. I had the intention of putting it back, it just didn’t work out. About a stones throw north from where we were anchored the depth drops to over 300 feet. It’s probably a hole filled with hundreds of lobster traps.

Other then that mishap, our day was perfect. We went to Turtle island and found some sea glass, goofed around on the beach, which we had all to ourselves, found some sea anemones to poke.  After getting back to Big G we took a short nap and then made it back to Winter Harbor without even starting the engine. We even caught the mooring without having to start Humphrey. Not bad for an Amateur Yachtsmen.

I Found an Oar

It started off as a miserable day full of fog and rain. I was two shackles short of having my new anchor and chain in commission. Mold levels are getting a bit high for house standards, however as far as boats go it was about average.  The tides have been above average lately and the surf has been impressive causing very large patches of seaweed to float around like shag carpets over the ocean. I lie awake in bed while my boat is on the mooring listening to the ferry engines go into reverse as they pull into the dock. It sounds a little like a boat propeller driving through loose gravel. I was tempted to tell them their engines sound like ice skates on concrete but I figured they already know. The dense fog mixed with seaweed patches the size of football fields makes for difficult maneuvering because by the time you see the seaweed it is too late. However, seaweed patches collect stuff, usually logs, trash, buoys, styrofoam, and boards, among other things. It is best to take a look to see if there is anything worth salvaging and to my surprise I spotted an oar. It was a bit salty with worn out leather and chipped paint but it was still nicer than my oars. It felt better in my hands with a tapered handle, and the leather and girth fit into the oar lock much better. It was a great find and I have now broken even on losing oars and finding them.