Magnificent MDI!

South Portland (Tuesday, 8/1)
We flew back from Orlando early in the day which allowed us to arrive into Portland with lots of day left.  After unpacking suitcases and stowing away everything we had brought from home, we borrowed the marina loaner car and went to the grocery store. Our fridge was empty and we needed to re-provision for the coming days and weeks.  We had picked up a rotisserie chicken for dinner and enjoyed it after putting away the groceries.

That evening we walked around the docks of Spring Point Marina one last time and said good bye to some of the wonderful staff that had made our stay complete.  We then planned for our early departure the next morning and headed off to get a good night’s rest as we knew we would have a long day ahead of us.

Northeast Harbor – MDI (Wednesday, 8/2)
Having spent time in Casco Bay already, we had decided to head to the Eastern-most part of Maine that we wanted to explore, then work our way back towards Portland during August.  So we plotted our course to go 110 miles from South Portland to Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island (MDI), skirting our way up the coast. We knew if the weather or fog got bad we could escape the Gulf of Maine; after Cape Small we could always cut up a river and take an inside passage to Penobscot Bay, and then work our way around the top, with plenty of harbors to pull into if need be.

We weren’t 20 minutes from Portland when we encountered fog. Initially it was not bad, but even with radar, it was challenging.

Spooky fog

Add to that there are lobster pots EVERYWHERE and in thick fog you cannot see them until the last minute. It is like someone threw confetti on the water.

Lobster pot “confetti”

There were times when we had to slow the boat down to be able to see.  At one point it was so thick that Denise insisted we pull into the Boothbay Harbor area and get some respite until the fog burned off.  We went to the eastern side of the harbor and up Linekin Bay to an anchorage/mooring area.  We found an unoccupied mooring ball and hooked on it to wait out the fog.  In the meantime we decided to eat lunch and relax to see what the fog was going to do.

Mooring at Linekin Bay – See fog in distance

After watching the fog come in even heavier, then lifting a bit we decided to bite the bullet and continue on our way. So at 1:30 we left the mooring and headed back out to the harbor and back into the Gulf of Maine to continue our travels.  For the next 5 hours we cruised (sometimes very slowly) through fog that would sometime abate, but would reappear just as quickly as it left.  In addition to this being tedious, we felt robbed that we were not getting to see lots of beautiful hills and islands that we were cruising past.  Our only entertainment were the seals and a baby whale (we think) we spotted in the water along the way.

Eventually we pulled into North East Harbor and contacted the harbormaster for our mooring ball assignment, as we had a reservation.  It took a bit for him to finally answer the vhf, but when he did he informed us we would be on a float, not a mooring ball and gave us the assigned number.  However, when we went to approach the float there were already boats on both sides and we had to circle back around it. This was a very tight part of the harbor and we were a bit frustrated, not to mention tired.  Finally, we were assigned a different float and working with the driver of the launch we located it on the eastern part of the mooring field.

Western Way – Approaching NE Harbor

NE Harbor moorings

IO on float in NE Harbor

We tied up the boat and called the launch back for a pickup so we could go check in.  Once on shore we got the lay of the land and instructions for how to catch the bus that takes you all around MDI.  We took the launch back to the boat and prepared to eat dinner on board as we were too tired to go out.

It was then that we received a call from Caroline & George (“Lydia B”), Gold-Loopers we had met in Oriental, NC as they were in the slip next to us there.  Caroline had seen us motoring in the mooring field looking for our float and wanted to say hello.  They are from Massachusetts, have a house in Florida where they winter, and we knew they were headed up to Maine this summer.  We chatted for a while and agreed to meet up sometime during our stay.

We ate dinner and almost immediately went to bed. What should have been a 6 hour trip today ended up taking 10 hours and we were thoroughly exhausted.

Northeast Harbor – MDI (Thursday, 8/3)
Today was a day full of adventure and fun.  It started off in the morning when we took the launch from our float to dock and then walked to the park at the marina.  Here they were having the weekly Farmers Market, and we wanted to check out what they had to offer.  It was relatively small with only about 15 tents selling all type of food products; everything from veggies, plants, cheeses, organic chickens and beef products.  We bought some sausage from one guy, and then some vodka pasta sauce from Luigi before taking the launch back to the boat to drop off our packages.

Luigi at NEH farmers market

We then took the launch back to the marina to catch the bus that would take us into Bar Harbor.  The bus system on Mt. Desert Island is really great and is free, thanks to the generous funding by LL Bean. The pickup for Northeast Harbor is right near the marina office, making it quite convenient. It was about a 30 minute ride into Bar Harbor, with a few stops along the way.  All buses drop you at the Village Green in downtown Bar Harbor, which is central to the town and in the heart of this tourist mecca.

MDI Bus at Village Green

Village Green – Bar Harbor

As it was now lunch time, our first stop was to Bar Harbor Lobster, a place recommended to us by one of the bus drivers.  We sat outside as it was a beautiful day, and enjoyed terrific lobster rolls served with homemade potato chips.

Lunch spot

At Bar Harbor Lobster

Lobster Roll At Bar Harbor Lobster

After lunch we made our way to the National Park office to purchase passes to get into Acadia National Park.  We were able to get individual passes for $12 each, and they were good for 7 days. This enabled us to go in and out of the different venues at all of the park locations, including at Vinalhaven Island as well.  From there we walked around some of the shops in town and then made our way to the waterfront.  We stopped in at the Harbormaster’s office to inquire about space availability, and to investigate if we wanted to take our boat here. It would not be a long way to go, but it is expensive and the moorings in the harbor are very exposed.  We are not certain we want to come here, so we did not book anything.

Downtown Bar Harbor

Moorings in Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor Waterfront

We knew we wanted to go to Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, but the bus service does not go there.  Our only real choice was to take a tour and we had already decided we wanted to take the 4-hour multi-venue “Oli’s Trolley”.  However, there was not sufficient time left in the day, and we wanted to make sure we would have a good weather day to do this tour. So we stopped into the Oli’s Trolley office at the waterfront and purchased our tickets for Sunday’s 11:00 am tour.

From the waterfront, we walked to the road that took us to the sandbar that connects Bar Island with the mainland.

Sandbar to Bar Island

You can only do this when there is low tide, or 2 hours before or after it.  Since we were still within the timeframe we walked out on the sandbar and all the way to Bar Island.

Walking out to Bar Island

On Bar Island sandbar

On Bar Island sandbar

We did not have time to walk any of the trails on the island, but we were able to get a glimpse of what they would be like.  We then headed back across the bar and into town as the paddleboard and kayak-renting companies were packing up to get off the sandbar as well; the tide was coming in.

From there we walked back through downtown and to the Village Green where we caught the bus to take us back to NE Harbor, and the launch to take us back to our boat.

During our time on the float we established that we had no good internet connection and cell phone was very spotty. We had talked with Harbormaster and he advised that they were in the process of upgrading the Wi-Fi and it seemed to work closer to the docks. We had inquired about moving into a slip (and being near the office) and were told one would be available tomorrow, so we decided to stay a few more days and move into a slip.

The Harbormaster had also told us that AT&T was in the process of bringing on a new tower, and that evening we went from having 1 bar to 5 on an LTE network.  Progress!

Not wanting to cook after a full day of activities, we took the launch to NE Harbor and had dinner at a restaurant called “The Colonel’s” – a restaurant & bakery that is known for their donuts and pastries.  This gave us an opportunity to walk downtown and “window shop” because it was too late and all the stores were closed. Yes, we left the restaurant with a few sweets to tempt our taste buds and expand our waistlines.

“The Colonel’s” restaurant

We walked back to the marina and saw that people had started to arrive to “Movie Night in the Park” where they were showing a Harry Potter on the portable big screen.  Since we had already seen this and we were tired from our day’s adventures, we took the launch back to the boat for the night.

NEH Movie Night

Northeast Harbor – MDI (Friday, 8/4)
We had packed a lot of travel and adventure in the last two days and we were tired. We woke up slowly and were feeling fatigued, so we opted for a casual morning on the boat.  Additionally, we were waiting on word that a slip would be available in the marina.  Finally around 11:00 we were able to move off the float and into the slip, connecting to shore power (which our batteries badly needed).  Here our internet connection was better, but still was a bit challenging.  With a weak internet it was hard to upload pictures, or to stream any of news, movies or music that we had become accustomed to doing while on the boat.

We spent the day working on the boat, as well as meeting and talking with some of the other boaters in the marina. One boat that came in across the dock from us was a beautiful Hinckley picnic boat named “Blueprint”. Come to find out they are the owners of the Chick’s marina in Kennebunkport – a place we wanted to go to, but at $6 per foot (plus $50 for power) we determined it was not in our budget. Now we know how they can afford such a beautiful boat that costs over $1.5 million!

“Blueprint” at NE Harbor

Later in the day we walked into downtown NE Harbor (which is officially known as the town of Mount Desert).  We located the bike rental shop and made arrangements to rent two bikes in the morning.  We walked to a few other places around town and then made our way back to the boat for a quiet night.  It was really foggy and we hung close to the boat for the rest of the evening.

IO at NEH slip

Downtown NEH

“Muscle Man” Sculpture

Here are some other pictures from around the marina:

Harbormaster & visitors center

NEH Harbor Marina

Yachtsman’s Building at NE Harbor

Ferry launch to Cranberry Isles

Northeast Harbor – MDI (Saturday, 8/5)
Since we had been traveling or tied to a float for the last several days, Denise needed to get out and move the legs. So she started the day with a run around the neighborhood and town, seeing some beautiful homes, great town landmarks, past the local yacht club (NE Harbor Fleet), and even startled a doe and her fawns.

Running on Neighborhood Rd – NEH

Gilpatrick Cove Inlet – NEH

House overlooking Gilpatrick Cove

NE Harbor Fleet (Yacht Club)

Startled deer

WWI Memorial – NEH

Mt Desert Library – NEH

Mt. Desert Elementary – front

After her run, we ventured to the bike shop and picked up the rented multi-speed mountain bikes.   From there we rode out of town up a huge hill and picked up one of the carriage trails in Acadia National Park.  The carriage trails are 45 miles of crushed stone roads created by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. between 1913 and 1940. Their purpose was to provide a smooth road for the horse drawn carriages, but are now used by hikers, bikers and cross country skiers. You can also book horse-drawn carriage rides on these trails in Bar Harbor, but we were feeling more adventurous and went for the bike ride.

NE Harbor – Start of bike ride

Our travels took us by Bubble Rock, Eagle Lake, and around Jordan Pond, where we stopped and had lunch at the restaurant (Jordan Pond House).  They are known for their famous popovers, so of course we had to indulge in this historic landmark house treat.  They were good, but expensive – we personally like those from the Stonewall Kitchen boxed mix better.

Denise on Carriage Trail Bike Ride – Acadia

At Bubble Rock – MDI

At Jordan Pond – MDI

Jordan Pond

Jordan Pond House

Popovers at Jordan Pond House

After our lunch break we continued riding the trails to complete a circle that would take us back to our trailhead entrance, and back down the hill (thank goodness) to NE Harbor.  We returned our bikes to the rental shop and walked back to the boat.  We had rode nearly 15 miles and Denise felt like she had completed a duathlon today.

Long Pond Stop – Bike ride – MDI

In the afternoon it got foggy and was a little damp when we walked to Mass at St. Ignatius Catholic Church.  The church was small and there were less than 50 people in the congregation, but it was warm and inviting. We were asked to bring up the gifts and we were not the only visitors, but the residents were grateful and made us feel welcome.

St. Ignatius Catholic Church

On the way home stopped at the Lobster Shack, figuring we could get a quick dinner of lobster rolls from their walk-up window.  Well, we patiently waited almost 10 minutes to get our order taken by the young man at the takeout window.  Then it took another 30 minutes for them to fill the order. They claimed they were slammed and while the place was full, there were not that many tables. True, we had no idea how many phone-in orders they had received, but we only saw two other “to go” orders pull up while we waited.  Eventually we got our food and walked back to the boat to eat it on board.

Northeast Harbor – MDI (Sunday, 8/6)
We were up early and ready to go to catch the first bus to Bar Harbor.  We needed to allow time to get there, and also to get a picnic lunch to take with us on the Oli Trolley, which began at 11:00 am.  There was already others waiting for the bus, including Caroline & George (“Lydia B”) whom we sat near and chatted the whole way to Bar Harbor.  Once there, we walked to the Hannaford’s grocery store and got a few deli sandwiches for lunch, then walked to check-in point near the waterfront.

The Oli Trolley tour up to Cadillac Mountain, first stopped at Sieur D Mont’s Spring where we met with a National Park Ranger who told us about the heritage of Acadia and the Indians who originally lived there.  We also learned how the spring was once polluted by caffeine as a result of the septic system in the park, which has since been repaired and the spring now reclaimed.

Our tour bus

Park Ranger at Sieur D Mont’s Spring -Acadia

Caffeine-free pond at Sieur D Mont’s Spring – Acadia

We then were taken to Thunder Hole where we ate our picnic lunch, and then walked down to see the water rushing through the rocks.  Because it was not an incoming tide we did not get to hear the roar that we would have otherwise had we timed it better, however the views on this side of MDI were really beautiful.

At Thunder Hole – Acadia

At Thunder Hole – Acadia

We left Thunder Hole and headed to Jordan Pond.  Since we had just been there the day before, we knew enough to go upstairs of the gift store to grab a beverage instead of paying the exorbitant price at the restaurant.  We sat outside talking to others from our tour, then re-boarded the bus to head up the mountain.

Our last stop was our desired destination of Cadillac Mountain, and we were not disappointed.  There was a bit of a traffic jam as it was a beautiful day and everyone wanted to be at the top of the mountain. But, it was worth the wait as we were treated to spectacular views of Bar Harbor to the north, Frenchmen’s Bay to the east, the Gulf of Maine to the south, and Penobscot Bay to the west.

Here are some pictures of our time at the top:

Overlooking Frenchman’s Bay – Cadillac Mountain

Cadillac Mountain

Overlooking Bar Harbor – Cadillac Mountain

When we knew we were coming to MDI, Denise wanted to come up to this mountain as her parents had visited here on their honeymoon, and her older siblings had been there before she was born.  At 1,530 feet, Cadillac Mountain is the tallest mountain on MDI and is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard. It is also the first place to view a sunrise in the United States and for this reason many people trek up the mountain road in the dark to see the sun come up every morning.  You can learn more about this spectacular place here. We highly recommend this park (Acadia) and a trip to this spectacular place.

Once we finished the Oli Trolley tour, we went into downtown Bar Harbor and got an ice cream from a place known for their (Maine) blueberry ice cream.  It was good, but a little too sweet to make a habit of it.

Blueberry ice cream

Afterwards we took the bus back to NE Harbor. It had been a very fun day and we really loved Acadia National Park and the NE Harbor area.  We felt very lucky to be able to be here on our Island Office.

Northeast Harbor – MDI (Monday, 8/7)
Not wanting to leave the area, we decided to stay another day and got the approval from the harbormaster that we could stay in our slip.  Once we got this approval, we headed back to Bar Harbor and Hannaford’s to buy a few things for the boat, and immediately took the bus back to NE Harbor.  All this before lunch!

Since we had not really explored the town of Mount Desert at all, we took the afternoon to do so.  First we walked up the hill to the Asticou Azalea Gardens (one of two gardens in the area).  It was really a peaceful place with lots of flowers, trees and a nice pond.

Pond at Asticou Gardens

NE Harbor from upper road on way back from Asticou

It didn’t take us long there, so then we spent the rest of the afternoon walking through the shops in and around downtown.

Downtown NEH

Downtown NEH

Downtown NEH

Downtown NEH

Garden in downtown NEH

Mt. Desert Muni Offices

But before leaving we placed our “to go” pizza order from “The Colonel’s” which we later walked back to get for dinner that night.  And yes, we also got a few donuts to take with us.

Much to our chagrin, tomorrow we have to leave this wonderful place. We can understand why some people come and spend all summer in just this single location as it has much to offer and is easy to get to other places on MDI.  Here are some other pictures from NE Harbor and the town of Mount Desert:

Somes Sound – MDI (Tuesday, 8/8)
Reluctantly, we left NE harbor at 11:15 am and headed out of the harbor and west around into Somes Sound.  It was a cool and slightly foggy day with the clouds hanging low covering up some of the peaks of the nearby mountains. Touted as the only fjord in North America, we found it to be not quite that, but certainly it was awesome in its beauty.

Entering Somes Sound

Homes on eastern shore

Western shore anchorage

We cruised north from the inlet, through an area known as “the Narrows” and into the area known as Somes Harbor.  Here we contemplated anchoring, but had been told of a guest mooring we could pick up and when we found it empty we took advantage of it.  Anchoring in deep water with significant tides means lots of chain and line that needs to be let out and frequently adjusted. Mooring is easier and we will take up on one whenever we have a choice.

Moorings & anchors in Somes Harbor

House in Somes Harbor

After settling the boat, we watched a Gold Looper boat (“Inspeyered2”) come in and anchor, then take their dinghy to the shore and walk towards the small town of Somesville. There is an MDI Bus stop there you can take into Bar Harbor, but we had no plans to go back that way.

Loopers “Inspyred 2”

We launched our dinghy to go check out “Able’s Lobster Pound” outside of Somes Harbor and on the eastern shore of Somes Sound.  We had called there and were told they were closed for the season, but wanted to get more information. There is also a boatyard there and we wanted to see what the moorings were like there should we decide to spend a second day in this area.

So we took the dinghy to this area which was about 2-3 miles away from our moored boat.  As we approached the mooring area, we saw a boat named “Jersey Girl” that looked familiar. When we got closer we saw the hailing port was Merritt Island, and Denise told Mark that this boat was not only from our home marina (Harbor town), but it was from the same dock (“E”) dock as our boat.  We stopped, knocked on the hull and introduced ourselves to Larry & Lisa Herman. They were as surprised to see us as we were to see them, and we chatted for a while about our travels north, surviving hurricane Matthew (they are full-time liveaboards) and the beauty of MDI.  They filled us in on the story about Abel’s Lobster Pound not being open; the manager quit the first week and they were unable to fill the position so they closed for this summer only.*  We talked of our mutual plans as to when to head south and then said good-bye and headed back to Somes Harbor.

Henry Abel & Co – Jersey Girl at Mooring

We cruised to the eastern side of the harbor and into a small cove that is bordered by an Acadia campsite where people were out exploring the waters of the cove.

Cove near MDI Campground & Somes Harbor

We then cruised back by “Inspeyered2”, but they had not returned to their boat so we returned to our boat and settled in for the night, hoping to connect with them at a later time.

Sunset looking towards the Sound

*We later learned there was more to the Abel’s Lobster Pound closing – they are retiring.  The story in the Mount Desert Islander can be found here.

Southwest Harbor – MDI (Wednesday, 8/9)
We awoke to a clear and cool morning and what a lovely site in Somes Harbor.  Birds were chirping and the water was so calm; it was pristine. After eating breakfast and taking in the sights, we pulled away from our mooring and headed out of Somes Harbor.

Leaving western shore

Near Valley Cove – western shore

We left the harbor chasing a seal that had decided to come out for breakfast, but quickly dunked under the water as we approached.  We cruised across the sound with the lovely mountains now clearly visible today, and with the waters calmer than they were yesterday when we came in.  The sights were beautiful and we were really glad we spent the night in such a great place.

Leaving the fjord of Somes Sound

It took us no time to cruise out of the Somes Sound and make our way to Southwest Harbor, taking in the large homes, hotels and sights along the way, including the SW Yacht Club’s fleet at Greening Island.

Somes Sound mountains behind us

Historic Claremont Hotel

Yacht Club sailboats – Greening Island

Approaching SW Harbor – CG Station

As we approached the harbor where we had a reservation for a mooring ball for the night, the Coast Guard was shooting off flares – apparently a training for their young recruits.  The CG Station is located right at the point as you enter the harbor, and right next to it is Beal’s Lobster Pier- not difficult to miss.

CG Flare Test

SW Harbor

We contacted and were escorted by the Harbormaster to our assigned mooring ball, and successfully picked it up on the first try.  This is a large mooring field, but plenty of space between the yachts and lobster boats so we felt quite comfortable.

SW Harbor rental

Once settled in, we launched the dinghy and took it to the dock near Beal’s, walking nearly a mile to get to town. Once there we explored the small shops, gourmet grocery store and walked around to the park and the police department just off the main street. After that we headed back to the boat for lunch, to do some work, and to work on the blog.  We also did some planning about our future stops and read our books.

Dinghy Dock

Beal’s Lobster Pier

Signage in SW harbor

Flags near park in downtown SW Harbor

SWH Public Library – Main Street entrance

SWH Street banner

We had heard there were some good restaurants in SW Harbor, so we decided to try one of them for dinner. Right across the water was Beal’s Lobster Pier, and it would have been the most convenient. But we wanted something different this evening. So we took the dinghy back to town, this time using a dock that was a little bit closer to the businesses and restaurants.  From there we walked to “Red Sky” where they had an appealing menu.  We attempted to get a seat in the small dining room, but they were booked solid for the night. There were two seats available at the bar, so we grabbed them and had a delicious and enjoyable meal. It was perhaps the best but most expensive dinner we have eaten so far on this adventure.

Dinner at Red Sky

Dinner at Red Sky

After dinner we walked back to the dinghy dock and then took the dinghy to our boat, getting back just before it got too dark to see our way.  We were glad we came to SW Harbor, but after NE Harbor it was anti-climactic and we were glad we were only planning to stay one night. Tomorrow we will move on to Frenchboro.

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