The “prettiest spot in Maine” as our hub to Penobscot Bay adventures

Arrived August 4th in the quintessential coastal town of Camden Maine. Located in mid-coast Maine, Camden has been called the prettiest spot in Maine. Interestingly, it is one of only two places on the Atlantic seaboard where the mountains meet the sea. Camden has been the site of woolen mills, ship building, anchor manufacturing and more – here’s a great site to learn more about the history here (click:

Busier than usual harbor traffic today as they are gearing up for a weekend of racing, so there were few options for mooring. Thankfully, we snagged a spot on a float in the inner channel via the town harbormaster, which worked out beautifully – out of the rolling that tends to occur in the outer harbor, especially in the winds that we expected with the rainstorms. Dean loved being near all the action, watching the big racing and charter boats coming in and out. Such gorgeous wooden sailing boats, including Marilee 1926 from the NYYC, which our brother/BIL John had raced on earlier in the season.

Wooden boats readying for the Feeder Race out of Camden; Marilee is the innermost boat

We got in early enough to walk around town, scope out public parking areas for our next guests, and to shop for provisions. Beautiful sunset to round out the day.

The sunsets are still showing signs of the smoke from the west coast, sadly.

Thursday, 8/6, was as damp as predicted, with a fairly steady rain all day, densest whenever we needed to be out in the dinghy picking up/dropping off people. Thankful for good raingear – thanks Heidi and John again! We had a somewhat spur-of-the-moment visit with Karen’s PT colleague, Connie Johnson and her husband, Bob, who were up from Virginia experiencing Maine, and our travels were able to intersect for the morning. Hearty friends who come out in the pouring rain to visit with us AND bring baked goods to enjoy with our tea. So great to catch up with them.

Karen’s PT colleague and friend, Connie; picture by @whataboutbob

I went to the Camden library to drop off a book that they agree to inter-library return for me (yay!) and to use their internet to upload pictures from my devices. Then another walk around town and a leisurely window shop before back to the boat to doff all my raingear. More boat watching, planning, and list making as we have a quick series of guests back-to-back (bunk to bunk?) over the next couple weeks, and planning for drop offs and pick ups and provisioning and….all takes time.

Our friend Geordie arrived (during a break in the rain) in the mid afternoon, complete with his required bottle of Scotch and a beautiful bouquet for me. Boat flowers – so lovely – never had them before, and Dean was able to find a safe spot to secure them against the rolling of the boat.

What a treat! Splash of color

Wooden boat after boat rolling in, rafting together with crews in matching gear, readying themselves for the 3 days of racing coming up. So much busyness and excitement it was palpable and we greatly enjoy vicariously participating.

On Friday, we watched the parade of sailboats leaving to be ready for the race start. One boat, a beautiful green wooden sailboat ~40’, had no motor, so had a crew member in the dinghy pull the boat off the dock and out the harbor by rowing the whole boat. We feared for his start of the race in the light wind (since the boat was sail-only) and the starting race was miles out. Other boats were being towed or motored out to the starting area. We rooted for “Greenie,” but it didn’t look good when we went out to watch the start as Greenie was still at a distance…but, lo and behold, at the 10 minute warning, Greenie was coming in and was in perfect position for the start! Cheers to ingenuity! The start was beautiful to watch with all the sails and boats and excitement.

Not sure it’s real name, but we dubbed it “Greenie” after the green hull. The underdog positioned itself perfectly for the start of the under 50’ fleet.
And they are off!

We then cruised to the Holbrook Sanctuary area in hopes of walking the trails in the area. Both of the anchorage areas directly related to the Holbrook sanctuary (mainland and Holbrook Island) were somewhat crowded by our standards, so we chose instead to anchor behind nearby Ram’s Island which was perfect. Quiet, protected, and beautiful with the rugged island, the nearby seals, the tidal sand connectors at low tide, and the views. We dinghied back to the mainland access to the Holbrook Sanctuary trails and enjoyed a great hike. Then back to swim aka bath in the brisk ocean water and a yummy grilled meal. Striking sunset with the sun turning a fiery red as it sunk into the low fog bank.

Morning view of Ram’s island, with the mirror image of the layers of ocean, seaweed, rocks, and crowning of pines.

Saturday lunchtime stop on Butter Island, which is west of Deer Isle and north of Eagle Island. This is an island owned by the Boston Cabot family, which allows boaters access to 3 of their beaches and trails to the top of Montserrat Hill. Popular kayak and day boater stop – one we had attempted a couple times but opted elsewhere because of wind direction and rolling seas, so it was exciting to be finally able to stop and explore.

Nubble Beach on Butter Island – thank you to the Cabot family for allowing hikers and boaters on your private island.

Nubble Beach was an easy beach to land the dinghy filled with shells and periwinkles galore with several kayaks pulled up nearby, then a nice hike to the summit, passing raspberries and blueberry patches. Seemed like Sal of “Blueberries for Sal” fame should be popping up in the field or maybe a bear grazing nearby?

The viewpoint of Butter Island

Interestingly, Butter Island had a hotel in the late 1800s, during the steam ship age when steamers brought summer guests from Boston for holidays. Like other Maine island resorts, the “New England Tent Club,” as it was named, succumbed to the progression of automobiles as steamer travel declined. We didn’t see any trace of the old hotel, but they must’ve had fantastic views. Thank you to the Cabot family for keeping this access open to us.

I love this poem left on the summit, written by Thomas Dudley Cabot, 1897-1995:

On This Hill
I’ve found a rest where ospreys nest

And eagles cry, and waves break high

With rhythmic rote from storms remote

And far a’sea, come, home to me

The foggy veil reveals a sail.

In flooding tides my hope abides

For those who find the sea is kind

But now for me must ebb the sea,

And on this hill to rest I will.

I bid you sit and rest a bit

To count your share in worldly care,

And what you do to help the view

Of those who come to love this home

In times ahead, when I am dead.

On Saturday, our destination goal was to head to Seal Bay to join Allegra with crew Heidi Bishop and John Karp, who were having a weekend sail. Seal Bay has a beautiful entrance off Winter Harbor, with huge round boulders and small islands that you weave around and through until you enter a second “bay.” We anchored slightly away from the crowd in a more shallow area – Dean likes the trickier areas after he careful scopes them out.

Heidi dug mussels from the nearby shores, under the kelp and in the mud, and Heidi and John hosted us on their beautiful boat, Allegra, for mussels in butter and herbs and cocktails. Stories were told…

Heidi, in search of mussels in the low areas
Success! Anyone can dig mussels but a license is required for clamming. Heidi is a skilled Maine forager!
Geordie at the helm

On Sunday, 8/8, it was switch-out-crew day. We cruised into Camden again, fueled and filled our water tanks, then settled onto another town float in the inner harbor. So great to be in the middle of all the harbor action with day-cruise boats coming and going loaded with tourists, transient boats swirling around, and the edges of the small harbor busy with restaurants and stores -lots of hustle and bustle and people!

The harbor heron, who squawked up and down the harbor and made himself at home on boat railings and floating wharfs. There was an abundance of schools of fish in the harbor
Common cormorant

Met Sue at the dock, who had graciously done a food shop for us so there were many bags to load up. Finding parking on a Sunday was a challenge, but we were able to eventually put her car in the overnight lot that we found with Geordie, by the fire station. Quick stop for all for ice cream by a lovely foot bridge over the little stream through town, obviously loved by a gardener. Thanks, Geordie, for the ice creams and your visit!

Lady J, one of the fabulous assistant harbor masters in Camden – a great source of info!

Hot day, hottest we’ve had in a few weeks. Stowed the groceries and settled Sue into her bunk accommodations, then packed up the laundry into our roller bag (so handy for groceries and laundry) and hiked ~ .7 miles uphill to the local laundromat. Feel like I’ve been discovering such lovely laundromats! Dean thankfully met me to help bring the laundry back to the boat. Chatted with our dock float “roommates” on a sailboat alongside us and learned they are from Santa Barbara CA, where the Bensleys lived for a few years when Dean was ~6 or so. Sue was able to remember some details of life in CA and it sounds like this guy also learned to sail at the same yacht club and attended the same elementary school. Small boating world, sometimes!

Delicious dinner of stuffed mushrooms and kale salad, brought by Sue, which was a lovely treat to end a hot sticky day as the sun set and temps cooled. Quiet night, excellent for sleeping.

Quick morning walk to drop off the extra coolers to Sue’s car and to explore the town without so many tourists while stretching our legs. Boat chores then off again, heading over through the Fox Island Thorofare again – such a quaint picturesque area.

Dean decided to revisit Perry Creek (ask him sometime about our last experience there in 2018), which is a beautiful creek on Vinalhaven Island. We got a MDI YC mooring at the base of the creek, this time not venturing so far up the creek which narrows and shallows up dramatically at low tide. The same tiny floating house was present – love the outdoor shower and flower pots, and, of course, the setting. Lots of other boats nearby, but we were a little more separated and closer to the narrow portion of the creek with great views of the mud flats, rocky shore, and easy access to the hiking trails.

Float little house with gorgeous flowers, a sleeping loft, outdoor shower and more. Could you weekend here?

The hiking trails were lovely, with moss covered rocks and tree roots, mushrooms of various colors galore, and evidence of the rocky island in clusters of rock piles. We hiked to the summit of North Haven (215’!) with beautiful hazy/foggy views, then back down to a scenic outlook via a creek side trail. A bit challenging for my arthritic knees, ankles and feet, especially trying to keep in sight of the Bensley/Reetz mountain goats, Sue and Dean.

Happy hikers at the highest point on Vinalhaven, a whopping 215’ Dean, Karen, and Sue

Amazingly quiet night, and we enjoyed watching the eagles in the trees, the herons fishing in the mud flats, and the occasional seals. Fog in the distance, which gradually enclosed us overnight.

Dean and Sue
A treasure found along the trail, “Cairn Cottage”. Zoom in to see the creative details.

On 8/10, as the fog lifted a bit for sufficient viewing, we cast off in search of our next adventure spot.

Reflection of the sun breaking through the clouds and fog – calm waters

Cloudy and moist, with a combination drizzle and fog most of the day. We anchored off Burnt Island, which is a newly preserved island by the North Haven Conservation partners. An osprey nest greeted us on the point with the dock and ramp. Trails were new, being cleared, and wound all around and through the island. Moss covering piles of downed trees and rocks and roots, and lovely beaches which would be excellent for a lobster bake or picnic. Raspberries were fading for the season, but we found a delicious patch of black raspberries that were ripe and sweet. Milk weed with a variety of caterpillars, including the monarch! Sue found two bright yellow and black feathers, which our resident ornithologist, Heather Glon, helped us identify as from a Northern Flicker. Views were limited by the fog but still glorious.

Northern Flicker feather (thanks Heather Glon for the identification)
Ripe wild blackberries
Monarch caterpillars and milkweed

Lunch, then we hauled anchor and set off to find a nighttime anchorage within Sue’s desires for a hike, swim, and seals. Hoped for a swim but chilly with the fog and drizzle. Anchored off Calderwood Island in a lovely isolated cove with a gentle beach, and set off for our second exploration of the day with trails up to a viewpoint (minimal view – fog) and down to a far point. Mosquitos were prevalent so we paced along.

Peak of Calderwood, trawler Clare quietly waiting in the fog

Late grilled dinner then, of course, games and reading. Lots of Bananagrams happening on these cold wet days and nights. Fog enveloped us so we couldn’t see the nearby shore, but the seals “chatted” all around us so we weren’t truly alone. A subtly rolling night but so quiet.

Fog! Everywhere! So dense we could barely see the shore on Wednesday 8/11 throughout the morning. Blueberry chickpea flour pancakes and extra rounds of tea and coffee as we read, talked, laughed, and caught up on the news as we had internet access. When it lifted a little, we slowly headed back to Castine to a float. The fog lifted once we secured the boat, and we enjoyed about an hour of sunshine and dryness before the fog returned.

Sidenote: I am participating in a 30 days of composition photography challenge with “A Year with My Camera” EDPS Camera Club (highly recommend), and Sue and Dean are helping in their own way with interpreting the prompts and finding ideas as we hike. We have worked together on “balance,” “3s and 5s,” and “patterns.” Hear it’s a hot and humid day at home in Kittery, but the fog keeps us a little chilly on the water. Love this boat that is so comfy even on wet days!

Walked the main road out of town to the point via Chestnut St, a historic section with beautiful gardens galore which we admired with oohs and aahhs. Lovely public lookout onto the backside of the Curtis Lighthouse at the entrance to Camden Harbor. Cyrus HK Curtis (1850-1933), believed to be the richest man in the world at the time, having made a fortune in publishing, tore down the last lime kiln to build the yacht club around 1906.

Backside of Curtis Lighthouse, looking out from Camden

Fog was so thick that night that the only structure on land that we could spy was the clock on the church steep, which seemed to be floating in the night like a false moon. Lots of games, more laughter with stories and warm tea for the evening.

Thursday was crew transition day again as we said goodbye to Sue who headed back to NH, and welcome later in the afternoon to John and Cindy. Between crew, we ran a few errands, including my opportunity to visit the local bookstore, Owl & Turtle, which was a treat to explore. 😷

The MA Bensley crew arrives – Johno and Cindy

Did the unload and car shuffle with J&C, storing large quantities of food (again!) and settling everyone in. Then another walk out toward the point, where J&C scouted potential houses and we experienced this…..

Bad day for the rental driver…not sure how the story ended….

Left Camden on 8/13 (Happy birthday, Al!) cruising as the fog lifted and had a lovely scenic cruise up toward Belfast then out to Holbrook. Beautiful, including a floating stop in the wide bay for a jump in the water, as the weather was so warm. That was a real treat and we really felt for the folks onshore in the heat and humidity. Picked up a guest mooring on the mainland by Holbrook, jumped in John and Heidi’s dingy, and went ashore on Holbrook island for a walk. Got a mini-foraging lesson from Heidi, and enjoyed the beautiful vistas and the natural fields filled with milkweed and butterflies.

We were as hot as we look….
John found the old swing and tested the integrity of it
Capt Jesse Holbrook and others in a family cemetery in the woods

Changed our night anchorage to behind Ram’s Island. Swims for all, including John and Heidi, complete with fresh water “sprinkle showers” to bring our core temps down. So hot…Cocktails on our upper deck with stories all around. Then a late grilled dinner and…bed. Quiet night for all.

Heidi and John anchoring nearby behind Ram’s Island
another glorious sunset over Penobscot Bay

Awoke Saturday 8/14 to fog (again) which slowly dispersed as the sun and temps rose. Low tide kayak around Ram’s Island and the neighboring islands, then anchor up to start our journey with breakfast underway, as thunderstorms predicted in the afternoon. Little to no wind, and once again the temperatures climbed and fog was off and on.

Anchored off Burnt island again in hopes of taking John and Cindy for the hike around the island. We started, walked less than 1/4 mile, but soon turned back as the skies darkened, then turned that ominous blue-black color while the wind whipped up the water. Secured the boat and readied ourselves for high winds, potential anchor dragging, and hail. Thankfully, the strongest part of the storm passed close by but north of us and the hail never manifested. Thankful, as always, for our cautious and competent captain. Our friend, John Karp, reported seeing a water spout near him by Camden.

The skies cleared and we had a late afternoon hike on the perimeter trail around Burnt Island, with black raspberry treats. John kayaked to the island ahead of us (crazy energy needing to burn off) and was sure we wouldn’t miss him on the trail by leaving us “signs” until Dean ran and caught up with him.

“John went this way”
Some previous hiker left this bouquet for us to find and enjoy

Swims, then dinner, games (Banagrams – don’t ask who won, wasn’t me), and a quiet night with clear starry skies.

Leisurely morning and cruise on Sunday, as John prefers we SLOW DOWN although we are already pretty slow moving on our “slow trawler.” Long route around the northeast side of Vinalhaven, gawking at the island homes, the rugged island terrains, birds (guillemots!), seals, and porpoises.

John dominated my usual role as first mate – much faster and skilled than I! Semi professional foredeck man for the win!

Arrived in Perry Creek and was pleased we had options of the generous “guest” moorings as the Sunday day cruisers headed out. Hiked the trail up to Fox Rocks, through the highest point of Vinalhaven. Views were very different with clear, non-foggy, glimpses of the Fox Island Thorofare, Camden Hills, and more, sights that were hidden behind fog and haze on our last trip with Sue.

Dean and John kayaked up the length of the creek, over/around the shallows and saw a small waterfall. Cindy and I kayaked in the smaller inlet in search of eagles (no luck) and explored the depth of the mud flats that we about to emerge as the tide poured out. Swims, of course, before a vegetable, rice, bean taco bar. More banagrams (success!) before bed to help us digest our late dinner. Clear quiet night with the moon waxing just past half and stars filling the sky.

Dean – John
beautiful boathouse on Perry Creek
Love these sweet faces

We are realizing we’ve had a streak of 5 sunny days in a row which feels excellent after a rainy wet July. We will always appreciate good weather, but also know the rain and fog are part of the boating experience. Just nice to fully dry out! Lazy slow morning with discussions trying to understand the world’s problems and hear about John and Cindy’s home and boat dreams. Long slow cruise back through the Fox Island Thorofare, watching some fishing boats casting nets and gathering schools of fish – the buoys lining the next edges looking like a string of pearls. Wonder what fish they were gathering?

See the fish?

Lunch anchorage in the lee of Lime Island, stalling our trip back to Camden to drop off John and Cindy. Rolling lunch stop, but beautiful beach and view of the surrounding hills and islands. Some swam (everyone but me) then we did the final jaunt back into Camden harbor by late afternoon. We are really appreciating this easy harbor to receive and drop off crew, the beauty of the harbor town, and the access to provisions and laundry. We walked up to get J & C’s car from the public lot, then John gave me a lift to the “Clean Bee” laundromat. Dean and I got local Chinese food take out (not recommended but most Camden restaurants are closed on Mondays/Tuesdays due to short staffing) and I was able to get back to the boat just in time for a group FB call with some dear CCHS (our high school) friends to catch up on all the news – weddings, puppy training, summer trips, and more. Another quiet night on the floating dock, with the steeple clock chiming each passing hour all night long.

The harbor heron in the fog

Just Dean and I onboard Clare for the next week so we will explore some new (to us) anchorages, islands, and coves as well as some favorites. Hoping the tropical storms don’t bring fog, cold or wet weather in excess.

Always thankful for this time on the water with my love, and for all the visits from family and friends. Our cup is full! And thanks for reading along. Praying you are all well, praying for the world in so many ways.

By the grace of God we go, with gratitude,

~ Karen and Dean

Photo by Dean! Boat hair, can’t care ❤️
Categories: 2021, family, Maine, Uncategorized


  1. Amazing pictures and account! Such organizational planning going into this trip to coordinate everybody and the details of life! Thanks again for sharing.


  2. She writes it like it is. Wonderful visit we had in Maine.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the pictures and the stories. Keep writing and sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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