Coast of Maine: Casco Bays islands

It was nice to see our bluebirds were thriving while we were briefly home.
And especially great to celebrate our sons’ 32nd birthday! Love you, Ethan and Gage

On July 15th we finished restocking the boat with clean laundry, staples,and fresh foods, as well as the things we had forgotten with round one – bathing suits! games! The weather had finally cleared and it was a hot/humid day as we dinghied back and forth from the Traip Academy boat ramp with trips. Ethan and Zu kindly did the final car trip with us so we could leave our cars at home. We got Loco Coco’s takeout to enjoy on the boat amidst the bags of food and clothes and STUFF. Everything was stowed by 9 pm and we enjoyed a cool night on our Back Channel mooring – except for the gaggle of girls who decided to loudly swim from a close by dock at some point in the night.

Morning, sunshine!

7/16 – up at 5:30 and off the mooring by 6 am. We have learned it is best to travel in a trawler early in the day before the seas and waves build and the afternoon thunderstorms roll in. The fog was light and burned off quickly. We came out of the mouth of the Piscataqua river, past Whaleback light and Fort Foster and turned northeast. 3-4’ swells were consistent, which made us rock and roll but all went well. Back in the area of needing to be super alert at the helm to dodge lobster pots, avoiding getting tangled up in their lines. A true sport!

Uneventful, always a blessing, trip along the coasts of York, Wells, Ogunquit and S. Portland. Beautiful day with 12-14 knot winds but from the southwest which was to our advantage. We think of wind so much differently than we did when we were cruising on a sailboat!

After about 50 miles, we turned into one of our favorite anchorages by the breakwater at Richmond island. Initially we were the only boat, but we were soon joined by 4 other quiet neighbor boats.

This beautiful, historic island has been in the Sprague family since 1913. We are thankful they still allow visitors on the island, although limited to the beaches and trail. The 226-acre island off the coast of Cape Elizabeth has been the site of native American habitation dating back thousands of years and English fisherman settled here in the 1630’s. This island hosted a thriving boatbuilding industry in the 1700’s and a busy fishery employed many people. In more recent times, people tried potato farming and sheep farming. Remnants of a sheep shearing site are still evident. We’ve come here on most of our down east trips each year as our first stop up from Kittery or our last stop heading home at the end of the season.

The island boasts four beaches (Clam Cove Beach, Broad Cove Beach, John’s Cove Beach and Breakwater Beach). There is a perimeter path for hiking which is almost three miles long with scenic ocean views continually. There is a variety of ecosystems as you hike along, including fragile sand dunes, degrading pine forests, patches of sweet wild raspberries and abundant grassland.

On our exploration, we met two of this year’s caretakers at their cabin overlooking the bay and the breakwater. They were from S.Portland and Isle au Haut island, splitting the position with another couple. They noted a new path had been cut through the pine forest around one of the two campsites. We asked about the degrading stand of pines, and they indicated it was just from wind and weather, natural cycles of an island forest.

Walking the trail, the evidence of sheep was continual as the trails and rocks were covered in sheep dung so we anticipated a big herd, but didn’t spy them until we’d almost completed the perimeter trail. In the fields, we spotted about 50 of these gorgeous black and white sheep with their curlicue horns. We didn’t quite know what to make of each other, but they cleared the trail so we could walk through.

Those horns! They might be Jacob’s sheep or maybe a Swaledale?

Back at the boat, we had a refreshing swim with my traditional lap around the boat. Need to brace up for these cold water swims!

Light rainbow through the fog after the rainstorms – that’s one of the degrading pine forests on the island

We’ve always struggled on our boats with refrigeration, and having adequate storage of fresh food as well as keeping food cold enough to avoid spoiling too quickly. I am always turning the temperature of the small boat fridge down to save the food while Dean tends to turn it up to save the battery charge. And we have to run the generator for an hour or so most nights to have sufficient charge to keep the refrigerator going, even after a day of motoring. The coolers with blocks of ice are tedious, needing to be drained each day to avoid having our food swimming in the cooler.

So, this past winter/spring, Dean added flexible solar panels to the top of our bimini (the canvas covering the top of the helm/driving station) and it works great! Even on cloudy days, it gives us some charge while on sunny days it keeps our batteries 100%. Our new ICECO cooler is efficient and that, combined with the boat fridge, allows us to keep fresh foods for days….along with cubes of ice for drinks and the occasional quart of ice cream. Luxury!

After our morning hike and swim, we pulled up the anchor and cruised a couple hours to another well-loved favorite of ours, Jewell Island.

On our travels, Dean spotted an ocean sunfish, a prehistoric looking fish that likes to “bathe” in the sunshine to thermofuel itself before it dives deep to fish. The fin at first appears to be a shark fin, but it flops side to side as the fish lies on the surface. This “moya moya” fish has a flattened body, is as tall as it is wide, and is one of the biggest/heaviest bony fishes in the world. We’ve probably seen 2-3 of these in the last 10 years so its always a treat (as long as I am not swimming with them….)

Moya moya ocean sunfish flapping lazily in the sunshine

Many family and friends are familiar with this anchorage from our travels on Clare, as well as sailing Antares and Genesis. Jewell Island lies on the outer fringes of Casco Bay and is state-owned with first-come, first-served campsites as well as anchorages.The harbor between Jewell and Little Jewell is narrow with a tight area for anchoring given the 10 foot tides here. There were already 8 boats in the harbor but several were day boats. We anchored closer to the harbor opening as we needed sufficient swing with the tide and wind changes. Boats came in and out all afternoon, dropping off or picking up campers, or finding an anchorage.

You know I love to spy herons! This guy squawked loudly as he landed to draw our attention.

We did discover something slowly floating with the current toward the field of anchored boats, heading toward our hull first. It was like an iceberg, with most of the mass below the surface of the water. Totally covered with oozing blobs of sea creatures, it appeared to be an old red nun marker. Honestly, I had never seen something so ugly come from the ocean! Dean was able to tie a line to it and pull it toward the shallows, out of the current, so hopefully it would be aground as the tide receded, avoiding a collision with boats.

Our sea anemone expert sources, Heather Dame Glon and Mael Glon, told us that these are meridian anemones, and that this is one the ways invasive species spread. Heather knows, she’s travel to the far reaches of the world to analyze their spread.

Rather than walk the wet and buggy trails to the sub-spotting towers (from WWII?) as is our usual, we chose to kayak the perimeter of the harbor. The rock formations are very coppery here, and in the evening sunset glow seem as if they are on fire.

Cloudy and rainy for the evening and through the night, so everyone closed up their boats and went below. Our little trawler is super comfy and dry in foul weather, which is much appreciated. Reading and Bananagrams rounded out our day. K-1, D-0

Rained through the night and most of the morning on 7/18 so we had a mellow morning of reading, planning, phone calls, and pancakes. The rain ended gradually and the visibility improved, and people started emerging from their below decks cocoons, poking their heads out their hatches and emerging on deck.

We pulled up our anchor, and wove through the islands a relatively short distance into Potts Harbor, thinking we might anchor there for the night. While a classically beautiful harbor with a town docks, seafood restaurants, and boats anchored nearby, we felt drawn back to a perennial favorite, the Goslings in Harpswell, in hopes of kayaking, swimming, and maybe walking the island. We gently and as quietly as a motorboat can, cruised by the spit of land, rock and seaweed where the seals congregate at low-ish tides.

About 50 seals were “lounging” on the seaweed and rocks in various poses and groups, turning their puppy-dog faces toward us in curiosity. Some slid-humped-rolled into the water and peered at us with just their eyes and snouts, and we heard lots of grunts, belches, and other “noises” from them. Such beautiful colors and poses.

Amazingly, we were the only boat in the little harbor that is made by the two small islands of the Goslings and Upper and Lower Goose Island (goslings must have parents, right?). It is a popular anchorage and the islands have a few campsites, along with an LLBean adventure kayak camp site. It is also on the Maine Island trail route. We had our pick of moorings and were eventually distantly joined by a group of 4 young ladies who were dropped off for an overnight at one of the campsites. We had a lovely kayak, then a swim with a grilled dinner.

We watched the clouds stream by, threatening rain (again), searched for osprey, eagles, and deer. At around midnight, low tide, we heard the “chatter” of the seals on the rocks. It was a quiet night with little rocking as we were so protected.

In the morning, after our usual coffee/tea and reading, we paddled to the rocky spit of an island padded with seaweed and home to the seals. We stayed significantly offshore and quietly floated by, but they were wary of people and all slid-humped-rolled into the water on some kind of a silent signal to “all go.” They then proceed to swim around us in gradually decreasing circles, popping their faces up from all different sides and angles to peer inquisitively at us before either slipping under or doing a more animated dive. They got braver and braver, moving closer and closer, and we could hear their “whoosh” when they surfaced or dove. Awe-some.

On Monday, 7/19, we headed into Harraseeket River to the local Harraseeket Yacht club where John Karp (remember our NYC cruise) and his wife, Heidi Bishop, are kindly sharing their mooring with us while their boat is Rockport. We love this area just above Yarmouth in S. Freeport. John and Heidi also graciously lent us a car for the day so we could food shop and do laundry in anticipation of guests arriving Tuesday. I was a bit surprised when I realized John had left me their Audi Quattro TT to “play” with, but once I got the hang of the clutch and turbo, I did have fun. Squishing laundry AND 3 bags of groceries was doable but snug. Monday night John and Heidi came for appetizers and drinks, always great to see them.

Thanks, Lia, for the laundromat visit and the pic of me and the TT; special thanks again to John and Heidi for the loaner car

Tuesday we eagerly awaited the arrival of our next crew, friends Kim and Jack from home. They arrived between rain showers and brought dinner from Day’s Seafood restaurant in Yarmouth. First time we’ve had lobster on the boat in years and our fresh naked lobster salad was delicious. So good to have them aboard but we were leery of the weather report – more rain and thunderstorms. What good sports to come anyways. If nothing else, we could play games?!?

Wednesday the weather said cloudy morning with mid afternoon thunderstorms possible, so we took the opening we had ad cruised 3-4 hours out into Casco Bay sound, around Bailey-Orrs islands, up the New Meadows river and into The Basin, a “hurricane hole” that we arrive at by weaving up a deep narrow entrance and into a broad sanctuary, essentially surround by land on all sides. Another favorite anchorage for us because of the island in the basin, Basin Island, usually has a nest with either eagles or osprey on the point, herons hunt in the low tide, ospreys dive around us, and the water is the warmest for swimming that we ever experience in Maine. There are also Nature Conservancy trails that are easily accessed and the kayaking is fun. What’s not to love here?

We anchored about mid-basin and had a few other quiet neighbors around us. After lunch, we took the dinghy to shore, wading thru the mud and seaweed (thank you Dean) to get ashore. There is an old mica mine site on this point, and evidence of mica was scattered on the beach, catching and reflecting the light. Anyone know what mica was mostly mined for?

We had a lovely 3 mile hike – albeit a little buggy due to the moisture from all the rain – through beautiful woods with dark lush ferns and brightly colored mushrooms, old apple orchards, and water overlooks.

On our dinghy ride back to the boat, we circled the little island and spotted the majestic eagle with a huge nest in a tree – seemed like a duplex with two staggered nests. As we came around the point, we saw another eagle in a nearby tree.

Swimming was next on the agenda and did not disappoint – the water was probably in the mid 60s*F, so much warmer than we’ve experienced, and Kim and I swam laps around the boat, lounging a bit afterwards in the water. Another delicious grill meal, complete with fresh veggies from Kim’s expansive home garden, and local raspberry pie. We finally had a quick rain shower – it had turned out to be a beautiful “rainy day” and once again we were surprised by a better day weather-wise than forecasted. Sunset, watching fish jump, almost full moon rising, and great discussions and laughter followed.

Of course, a tour of the engine room was needed.

Quiet night then Thursday 7/22 I awoke with a plan to kayak around the island and capture a picture of the eagle. It was a bit windy with the wind funneling down the basin, so Dean help stabilize my kayak as it wanted to spin in the breeze while I was trying to capture the eagle, who patiently gazed down at me. Success!

In pairs, all of us enjoyed a paddle exploration of the various parts of the basin.

We exited The Basin around mid morning to catch the tides and current, and we thankful for another beautiful cruise on a partly cloudy day. We opted to stop in Pott’s Harbor at Erica’s Seafood, tying up at their dock for lunch.

Nice surprise, we saw Tim Fisher and his wife Katie, friends from Dean’s days at the PNSY and their cruising crew passing by on their dinghies for an exploration. Then the final leg back to Harraseeket Yacht Club to sadly drop off Kim and Jack. We had two exceptionally beautiful days – so different than the weather predicted – and we were thankful.

We had a day layover before our next crew, Ethan and Lia, so we tackled a few projects. Dean began varnishing some of the wood that is dominant on our old boat, and I walked 3 miles each way for food supplies. Kayaking each day, and watching the busy harbor between squalls and thunderstorms.

The castle in Harraseeket, symbol for the yacht club
Tumultuous clouds with a partial rainbow
In-and-outs, the system for dinghy storage: ingenious
Raised flower beds at the HYC, pointing to Clare while Dean refills the water tanks
The youth sailing program at HYC appears excellent, and we greatly enjoyed the waves of kids playing around in optis, 420s, and day sailers. So much fun had by all.
The weather remained tumultuous over the next couple days, with afternoon thunderstorms and rain circling around us. The heavens declare the glory of God!

We are thankful for access to John and Heidi’s mooring as a base for friends and family to join us in short spurts. Harraseeket river and the surrounding areas are gorgeous.

By the grace of God we go, with gratitude,

~Karen and Dean

Categories: 2021, Maine, Uncategorized


  1. Thanks for the travel updates. I particularly enjoyed the part about John’s Cove Beach. Looking forward to joining you later on.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You guys take the greatest pictures and write so professionally about your trips. I really enjoy reading your posts. It was great to see you guys as well that day in Potts Harbor. I wished you had planned to spend the night there, as we had a great time on the harbor float that night. All five boats fit on one float. I am back up Maine working on the camp.



    • thanks, Tim. It was great to bump into you and Katie as well. Looked like you were having a great trip. We had to deliver our guests back to Harraseekett, otherwise we would have stayed. Camp is looking pretty nice! Enjoy the rest of your summer!


  3. Sounds like the weather is behaving most of the time. Love reading these descriptive accounts of your journey and seeing your terrific pictures! See you next week!

    Liked by 1 person

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