Downeast~Anchorings off Maine

by noah


Your weather will often be gelid and clouded.  Your waters will often be dark and uneven.  Your winds will often be shifting and sudden.  But you will welcome it all because there is no other way to understand the ruggedness and resilience of Maine.   The state’s granite harshness, Atlantic cold, hundreds of islands, and punctuated seasons are its attraction- they feel very frank, free, and somehow unaffected by the swiftness of modernity.  And to justly appreciate a large aspect of Maine’s character you must take to sail.  The rough seas, shoals, ledges, and intemperate meteorological conditions will connect you to the state as the sea is but a seamless extension of the land.

Now, the question of when to cast off is of primary importance. Maine, being both vacationland and replete with a massive lobster fleet, is best avoided June thru August. To absorb the solitude and toughness of the seas (while at the same moment avoiding vast discomfort), pull anchor in early May or mid-September. The weather will vary dependably between pleasantness and inclemency, and your fellow seafarers will be less numerous.  Both months will test your sailing prowess and give you a sense of emancipation that only an uncrowded ocean can bring.

Next, there are several ornaments of the coastline that you must visit while making headway.  Each remains within several hours of sail (depending on the winds & tides) of each other.  These anchorings are frequented, but not overwhelmed when you sail in the off-season.  Be assured you will find what you are seeking in solitude, wildness, beauty, and quiet.

Brimstone Island:  44° 0′ N / 68° 46′
Anchor overnight on the pebble beach that you see on the NW corner of the map. The island is uninhabited and rises 112 feet above sea level with panoramic views of Maine’s mountains and other islands.

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Matinicus: 43° 51′ N / 68° 53′ W
Matinicus remains the farthest island off of Maine before reaching the totality of the Atlantic.  It has a rugged year-round population that goes back centuries. Matinicus does not provide the best anchorages in terms of privacy or protection from the elements, but Old Cove will suffice.

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Burnt Island: 43° 52′ N / 69° 18′ W
Anchor on the north end of Burnt Island and you will face a rocky shoreline.  Though it does not look like the most protected of spots, rest peacefully knowing that you will be adequately protected from heavy winds and seas. When you anchor, row over to the small island (Little Burnt) located in the NW corner of the map and you will find the depth makes for Caribbean blue water, a notable difference from the somber ocean of Maine.  If you are up for a challenge, wait for high-tide and sail very carefully through the narrow strait between the two islets.

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The Seal Trap (Isle au Haut):  44° 3′ N / 68° 39′ W
Anchor deep into the cove for a dose of seclusion.  If you have a dinghy, row onto shore and walk throughout the secluded woods of Isle au Haut.  Pay close attention to the tides as Seal Trap becomes shallow very quickly.

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Sailing Maine’s coastline will require your immense attention because the Atlantic is fickle and the underwater shoals recurrent.  Such challenges make memories and allow you to absorb the shaking, beautiful brutality of nature.  What will remain with you the most, however, are the small moments of insight the adventure will provide.  More than anything, remember you are both reading a book and writing a story.  The book you study is that of how Maine winds, sails, waters, and tides all interact.  The story you are writing is that of your own life.

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