Saturday morning brought a light mist with the promise of rain in the afternoon. Our plan was to go across the western part of the bay to Rockland – a short 10 nautical mile journey.
Windjammer Leaving Pulpit Harbor
After breakfast, we raised anchor and headed out. As we crossed the bay, the coastline was shrouded in mist.
Light Fog Over the Maine Caost
Occasionally we saw dolphins cruising through the waves and one lone seal as we entered Rockland Harbor. By 11 am, we were tied up at Trident Yacht Basin.
Coming Into Rockland
Sailing Into Rockland Harbor
Trident is Rockland’s newest marina. It sits at the end of the basin and has mostly face docks, all floating. We were on a face dock on the harbor side but were quite comfortable with very little rolling. Trident also has a restaurant on site, an extremely pleasant and helpful dockmaster, Charlie, very clean and spacious restrooms and showers and a courtesy car.
As we were pulling into our dock we noticed what looked to be a carnival right on the waterfront. It turns out that this was the 67th Annual Maine Lobster Fest. Who knew? Once off the boat we could hear the music and could see the Ferris wheel turning. We decided we would have to check it out.
We walked along the spacious and landscaped walkway that connected Trident to the main Rockland waterfront. This landed us right at the lobster fest entrance. As special arm band allowed us to walk through the festival grounds without paying. The drum section of a marching band had just finished playing. There were several rides for the kids, arcade games, cotton candy and funnel cake booths, a large stage where a swing band started entertaining everyone, and many food venues featuring—what else?—lobster! Lobster rolls, lobster chowder, lobster dinner. You name it. We also learned that there was free admission on Sunday. So we exited the festival with the plan to return the next day.
Big Band at Lobster Festival
After the Parade at the Lobster Festival
Next on our list was the Farnsworth Art Museum. This was a fascinating museum. Their main exhibit was “The Shakers: From Mount Lebanon to the World.” They had a large collection of Shaker furniture, household goods, tools and clothing, as well as several very good narratives outlining Shaker philosophy and growth in the U.S. Although the Shakers believed in simplicity and practicality, they crafted even mundane household items with beauty.
From there we moved on to “The Wyeths, Maine and the Sea.” This was an exhibit mainly of Andrew and Jamie Wyeth paintings featuring subjects of, or related to, Maine. N.C. Wyeth, Andrew’s father, had moved his family to mid-coast Maine in the 1920’s, and the influence of the coastline and the work of fishermen plainly influenced many of these works. There were other artists’ works presented too from the likes of George Bellows, Rockwell Kent, Andrew Winter and more. These artists likewise were influenced by Maine’s environment and fishing culture.
The Farnsworth also had several interesting standing collections of Maine related art that was both traditional and more modern, as well as an exhibit exploring the “Nude” in both traditional and contemporary (sometimes bizarre) ways.
Adjacent to the main museum is an old church that has been converted into a separate gallery for paintings by three generations of the Wyeth family: N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth, although other lesser known members of the Wyeth family are represented here along with the works of a few other artists. It was interesting to see the varying styles from one generation to the next. But all three generations, at least in the work in this gallery, explored common themes of fishing, the sea and the Maine coastline. The church, by the way, is a former United Methodist church, which the museum says was one of Rockland’s most prominent and venerable structures dating from the last part of the 19th century. One wonders how it ended up as an art museum. We should have asked.
Done with the Farnsworth, we headed to Main Street, which is chock full of galleries, shops, restaurants, etc. One of the first things we saw was the Audubon Society’s Puffin Project Visitor Center, which was open to the public. We decided to save this for our return trip.
We moved on to some of the many art galleries, which presented a wide selection of traditional, contemporary and abstract paintings and sculpture. This was some of the best art that we had seen so far in Maine. We especially liked the Dowling Walsh and Harbor Square Galleries. Dowling Walsh had a show of Colin Page paintings that had just opened up. Beautiful, vibrant paintings of lobster dinners, boats, and Maine bungalows that were more than 50% sold after only a few days! And Harbor Square had an eclectic mix of interesting works, including hand-crafted jewelry.
It was time for a break, so we headed to the Atlantic Baking Company for some much needed chocolate chunk and oatmeal raisin cookies. We also picked up a loaf of multi-grain bread, which I especially enjoy. Jim’s view is that such bread is nothing but sawdust with a few wood chips thrown in. I’m trying to convert him, but it’s a hard sell.
Our last stop was the Puffin Project Visitor Center. The Puffin Project is an Audubon Society effort to bring back the Atlantic puffin to the coast of Maine. Prior to the late 19th century puffins were plentiful along the Main coast. But the Victorian fashion of feathered hats and other accessories created an enormous demand for bird feathers and puffin feathers were one of the most popular. As a result, puffin numbers plummeted. In 1973, the Audubon Society under Steve Kress embarked on an effort to restore puffins to Eastern Egg Rock in Muscongus Bay. To do this, Kress and others, removed chicks from thriving puffin colonies in Nova Scotia and brought them to Eastern Egg Rock where people fed them and reared them in burrows as they would have been reared by their natural parents. The timing was crucial because after a certain age, puffins imprint on their environment and return to it year after year for breeding. The hope was to remove the Nova Scotia chicks before they had imprinted on their Canadian islands and thus could imprint on Eastern Egg Rock.
In late July and early August of each year, puffin chicks leave their burrows without their parents and take to the sea. They remain at sea for about five years and then return to their island of birth to breed. The Puffin Project chicks, however, did not return for eight years even though the scientists had attempted to create the appearance of a thriving colony on Eastern Egg Rock using puffin decoys. But in the eighth year, Kress and other observed puffins on Eastern Egg Rock with fish in their beaks for fledgling chicks. Since then the puffin colony has steadily increased and the project has been extended to several other islands. Now, puffins are big business. Boothbay Harbor, for example, advertises puffin boat tours so that people can catch a glimpse of these once rare birds.
As we headed back to the boat, the lobster festival was in full swing. The rock bands had now taken to the stage and they were playing to loud applause. We enjoyed the music from the comfort of Curiosity and then got ready for dinner at Primo, one of Rockland’s many excellent restaurants.
We had a fabulous dinner at Primo’s . Primo’s is a farm to table restaurant just outside the downtown Rockland area. But we borrowed the courtesy car, and had no problem getting there. We started our dinner with a delicious pork belly appetizer and then followed it with local swordfish and wild salmon. The fish was perfectly cooked and dressed with local vegetables. We ended the meal by splitting a desert of profiteroles filled with salted caramel ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce. It was really, really good.
The music was still going when we returned to Curiosity. We weren’t sure how late they would go, but by about 10pm, the bands had stopped for the night. It was a beautifully cool evening. We had all the hatches open and even needed the wool blanket on our bed! Not exactly Maryland in the summer.
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The next day was another beautiful cool morning. We had a leisurely breakfast, read the papers, did laundry and then headed for the Lobster Festival around noon. The festival was a happening place with large crowds and long lines for every imaginable type of lobster. I got in line to get a lobster roll. Every few minutes, lobsterman would come through rolling large wheelbarrows full of just boiled lobsters. It took about 15 – 20 minutes but I finally had my lobster roll – it was packed with fresh lobster meat and was about half the price of a lobster roll that you could get anyplace else. It was delicious. The lobster was tender and sweet, covered in just a hint of mayonnaise and on a fresh potato roll. And what delicacy did Adrienne get at the lobster festival. She got grilled chicken in pita bread. What can you say? She is not a lobster aficionado.
After lunch we wandered about the fair, visiting a number of tents where local artists were selling their wares. We saw a lot of interesting items including a handmade alpaca hat that Adrienne tried on but did not buy. Adrienne wanted me to ride with her on the Ferris wheel but I refused. I don’t mind the wheel when it is turning but I hate being stuck on the wheel as it slowly bumps along unloading passengers. My irrational fear of heights says no way am I getting on that contraption. Since Adrienne did not want to go alone, she took solace in the company of Rocky – an enormous red lobster statue.
A Really Tall Guy
In conjunction with the lobster festival, the Coast Guard Academy had brought its training vessel the Barque Eagle to Rockland’s harbor. The Eagle is a 295 foot tall ship that the Coast Guard Academy uses to train all its cadets in seamanship. As part of the festival, the ship was open for public tours, so Adrienne and I walked over to the Coast Guard station where the Eagle was docked. The ship was massive. It has a permanent crew of 57 personnel, which is supplemented with cadets for training. The ship had formerly been part of the German navy, but after World War II, it had been confiscated. The spoils of war were being split up among the Allies. The ship was originally allocated to the Russians but they decided it needed too much work. When the US got it, the navy didn’t want it so it ended up at the Coast Guard. As one of the cadets said, the Coast Guard gets all the hand me downs that the other services don’t want.
The Barque Eagle
When we visited the ship, there were a large number of Coast Guard swabs on board to answer questions. Just like the Naval Academy with its plebe summer before midshipmen start their first year, the Coast Guard has a similar program for their pre-first year cadets, who are called swabs. We talked to a number of the swabs who struggled occasionally to answer our questions, referring us to the more experienced crew. Adrienne remarked that all the swabs seemed incredibly young. I guess we are just getting old.
Dock Line for the Eagle
Foredeck of the Eagle
A Long Way Up
In the stern of the ship, there were three massive wheels connected together to steer the ship. We asked one of the crew why there were three wheels. She explained that in rough seas it often takes six persons to steer the ship – two to each wheel. The ship lacks most modern conveniences like autopilots. The officer described the voyage they had taken on the Eagle last winter. The ship had been in Baltimore for some needed repair work. The work was finished in December, and in January the crew sailed the ship back to New London. As you may recall the weather last January was incredibly bad. At one point the officer stated that the ship was barely making 1 kt off Long Island. It was a long cold miserable trip. Whether one or six are steering the ship, they are outside with no protection from the elements. Talk about building character!
Foul Weather Gear Ready
The Three Wheels
Look At the Size of These Buoys – Ready to Be Deployed at coast Guard Station
After the Eagle, we continued to wander around Rockland visiting a number of galleries. Rockland seems to be a real art haven, while not all the art was to our taste the range of art was remarkable. After another trip to Atlantic Baking Company for more cookies, we headed back to the boat by way of the festival. As we entered the fairgrounds we could hear the crowds cheering and an announcer’s voice booming, so we went to investigate. What we found was the Lobster Festival crate race. A string of 50 crates (each about 31 inches long) were roped together and placed in the harbor between two floating docks. The racers needed to race across the crates from one dock to the other without falling in the water. Unless the racer was extremely fast, a crate would sink from the racer’s weight before the racer could get to the next one, spilling the racer into the very cold harbor. We watched many racers take a spill, particularly the older and heavier competitors. However, there were several young kids who were able to race across barely getting their feet wet. One seven-year old girl wearing a short green dress (with matching green socks, of course) was unbelievable; she just flew across the crates. It looked like she could run forever. Her name was Scarlett Flint. After watching for a half-hour or so, we wandered back to the boat for an on board dinner.
Running the Crates
No Longer Running the Crates
Will He Make It?
For dinner, we got take-out pizza from Café Miranda – a restaurant serving an eclectic mix of foods. As we ate dinner we heard what seemed to be an auction going on at the festival. We could not figure out on what people were bidding thousands of dollars. We had to find out. So back we went to the festival. Because it was the last day, the place was shutting down. The tents were being taken down and the vendors were packing up. But the announcer’s voice was still booming through the fairgrounds, but we could not figure out from where it was coming. Finally we found it – it was not an auction at all, but the crate race. What we thought were dollars being announced were in fact the number of crates that the remaining racers had run, and they numbered in the thousands. Three young competitors, including the Scarlett, were still running. They would run 500 crates and then take a break. Scarlett had already run 4500 crates. Two boys were right behind her in the number of crates run. Generally, the greatest number of crates run by the winner is in the 2000 – 3000 range, with the world record being 6000 crates set several years previously. Scarlett and the boys seemed to just keep running. It was growing steadily darker and the announcer’s voice was rapidly fading; he could barely talk as he called out the number of crates each competitor completed. We watched Scarlett hit 5000, then 5500 and then 6000 crates breaking the record. At 6500 crates, she took a break. One of the other boys started racing again and soon he was at 6000. By this point it was getting dark so we headed back to the boat. We learned later that the race had to be called for darkness. Scarlett and one of boys had both reached 6500 crates and were declared co-champions. It was a sight to behold.
The next morning we decided to visit Camden using one of the courtesy cars. Our original plan had been to cruise to Camden and take a mooring for a day or two. We had been unable to get dock space and had been warned that the moorings could be very rolly but figured it could not be that bad. However, we had run into another Fleming owner at the festival, and he had told us how bad the moorings were and recommended not doing it. So we decided to do a land cruise to Camden instead.
Camden is only about 30 minutes by car from Rockland. We reached Camden a little after noon and found a very quaint little town with a few art galleries and a number of touristy t-shirt shops. It was fun to wander around but after about an hour we had seen all there was to see in town. We did take a look at the moorings and of course the seas were perfectly flat – not a ripple in sight. Since we had time we drove up to the Camden Hills State Park that has spectacular views of the Penobscot Bay from the top of Mount Battie.
View from Mount Battie
That evening, after returning to the boat and changing into more appropriate dinner attire, we returned to Camden to have dinner at Natalie’s. Natalie’s had been voted the best restaurant in Maine and it did not disappoint. We sat on their deck overlooking Camden Harbor as the sun set. It was a lovely cool evening. I had the five course lobster dinner, which included four courses of lobster plus dessert. The lobster courses were lobster poached in butter, lobster consommé, lobster yakitori, and grilled lobster. All were outstanding. Adrienne had a three course dinner, starting with seared tuna, followed by swordfish, and then dessert. We both thoroughly enjoyed all the courses other than the desserts. The desserts were their least successful courses but the other dishes more than made up for the desserts. All in all it was a great meal and we heartily recommend Natalie’s.