We've sailed Penobscot Bay five times -- each for a week -- over the last 10 years, and our most enjoyable trip was on a three-masted schooner that is now plying the Caribbean; she was the 105-foot, steel-hulled Kathryn B.
The Kathryn B was designed Gordon Baxter with the assistance of a naval architect in Florida, where the boat's keel was laid in 1995. In the spring of 1996, Capt. Baxter sailed her to Maine, where carpentry was completed.
The Kathryn B's length overall is 105 feet, with 80 feet on deck. Her beam is 19.1 feet and draft is 7.6 feet. With 63-foot masts, KB carries 3,000 square feet of sail. She can achieve 12 knots under sail and 8-10 under power.
While the KB's accommodations were approach luxurious by schooner standards -- and boarded only 10 passengers -- the actual Penobscot Bay sailing experience is much the same regardless of the boat. Therefore, the following reflections provide insight into the sailing experience rather than sailing on a particular vessel.
[Since the KB has moved to sail the Caribbean, the 46 foot Mistress with six cabins remains to fill this market segment.]
Getting familiar with the boat
As for safety, Capt. Baxter explained that you have four possible points of contact with a boat: two hands and two feet; and at all times at least three of the four should actually be in contact with the boat. Second, when going down passageways, stairs, you should go down backwards, sort of the reverse of going up.
Since boarding is not until mid-afternoon on Sunday, the plan was to let everyone get their sea legs with a short sail across West Penobscot Bay to the the Fox Islands Thorofare.
North Haven, unlike the mainland communities, is not covered up with galleries and gallery wannabes. A couple manage to survive from year to year, earning what they can during the relatively high-traffic summer months, then closing for the long winter when the population drop to a tenth of its summer number.
North Haven Harbor began to clear around 11 am and we decided it was time to move on through the Thorofare toward the lovely and historic village of Castine.
We soon caught up with the fog and going was slow, under power with sails down, a lookout on the bow sprint listening for channel markers and the sound of fog horns. Goose Rocks light was barely visible from 200 feet or so, but the sounds of aids to navigation and other boats eerily sounded in the unseen distance.
Stonington is a true working lobster town as Camden is a working tourist tow. Obviously poles apart, and each with its unique character and, by some measures, charm.
As crustacean fishing has replaced the quarry trade, so tourism is edging its way into the landscape, where chisel-faced fishermen still plod as tourists meander the main waterfront street.
It is here at eateries like that pictured at right where the reality of lobstering at $4 a pound meets the reality presented tourists, lobster dinner for $25.95.
The contrast is at a real lobster pound. At such institutions cheap stainless flatware is replaced with cheap plastic, but fingers are the primary implements. The pounds are readily identified by there more homey sign age--unlike the Cafe Atlantic Deck---that may include a commercial endorsement by a soft drink manufacturer. Regardless of their rough appearance ---thus lobster in the rough---they often have the freshest crustaceans, the lowest prices and sometimes even prime views. Lisa's south of Bath near the community of Five Island is just such a place.
So why do we call it the "cowboy village"? Stonington is decidedly a working man's community. A couple of centuries ago it was fishing, the rock quarrying, then more fishing, now tourism. However, the community has never lost its fierce independence associated with New England lobstermen. These fearsome individuals make a hard-earned living off of the bottom of the sea almost regardless of weather. They are hard working and sometimes abrupt and gruff, and take a reckless pleasure in creating waves in an otherwise pristine harbor.
Perhaps indicative of the attitude of the Stonington native fishermen is the Jolly Roger that flew over a bait barge anchored in the harbor for a number of years. It was gone during he summer of 2000, perhaps they are trying to change their image.
Irrespective of the sometimes unpleasant attitude, Deer Isle on which Stonington is the largest community is a grand and beautiful piece of geography. It is deserving of your attention for as long as you can spare.
The Michelin Guide to New England describes Casting stating "The first and lasting impression one has of Castine is of beautiful tree-lined streets and stately white homes." And so it is.
Our own impression, however, is that Castine is clearly a destination. If you are there, you intended to arrive there or you are lost. It is at the end of the road at the end of a peninsula.
This is quite unlike the situation with the Rocklands, Rockports and Camdens, which are located on heavily traveled highway and "benefit" from travelers going elsewhere, as well as those arriving to visit. The Bar Harbor, Mount Desert Island area suffers from the same traffic malady. But, Castine remains largely pristine in its isolation.
An annual pilgrimage
This Bay is both immediately abutted up to and instantly removed from the tawdriness of roadside tourism. Yet the Bay is beyond, above, removed from, ignorant of and indifferent to the landed ravages of commercialism, traffic and generalized tastelessness.
This Bay and her endless shoreline have established their own definition of perfection and, with the help of human protectors, are able to maintain this natural perfection.
Not always isolated
With a up-river protected harbor, the community was first settled by Plymouth Pilgrims in 1629 and first known as Bagaduce. It remained under British control, but was renamed Fort Pentagoet. The French subsequently gained control and renamed the community in 1667 in honor of French Baron de St. Castine. Subsequent warring over the settlement passed claim to the Dutch and then back to the English.
In 1763, the Treaty of the Peace of Paris passed ownership back to the British, but warring continued. Twenty years later a second treaty was signed in Paris, and the area on the Castine side of the St. Croix became part of the American colonies' territory.
Today the Maine Maritime Academy [MMA] is located on a hill overlooking the town and its training flagship, the State of Maine, is anchored in the center of town.
From Camden Harbor, back to Rockland. And the end of a grand week!