Enjoying Belfast Again!

Saturday (7/31) – Belfast, Maine

The day started with a run for Denise, who loves the options of running in this town.  There is a walking/biking/footpath that runs along the river, called Harbor Walk. It starts downtown and has a trail head at the north end of the river that is about 4 miles away.  It also includes a footbridge across the river that can be followed for about a half mile before turning to sidewalk along US1.  With this mostly flat path and a trail that is paved and shaded, Denise enjoyed the run as did several other runners, walkers and dog-walkers.  At one point going in the opposite direction she saw a young man who had on an “FSU Running” t-shirt, but he and his companions did not stop when she said “Go ‘Noles; I am a ‘Nole alumni!”. Sadly, she never saw them again.

Footbridge from north side

After her run, Denise walked up the inside Farmer’s Market, held every Saturday in town.  It’s a great concept as they are able to be there year-round, and the vendors don’t have to keep setting up and taking down booths and tents.  She noticed there were quite a few less vendors than there used to be, and when asked the standard answer was “Covid”.  It has effected these small business owners more than most realize.

Farmer’s Market Building

Once back on the boat, it was chore day, starting with the laundry.  There is no facility at this city marina, but about ½ mile up the hill in town there is a great laundromat.  Using the marina dock cart, we took all the sheets, towels, rags and clothes up the hill and in about 90 minutes we had it all just about done.

Laundry Day

We were not sure we would be able to go to a real grocery store, but we needed a few things. So Denise walked back up the hill to “The COOP” (pronounced co-op, not coop), located right near the laundromat. It is like a miniature “Whole Foods”. Sadly, it too has been hurt by Covid and they have far less in the store than they used to, and their prices on some things make Whole Foods look like a discount food store.  However, she got what she needed and returned to the boat.

Belfast Co-Op (mini Whole Foods)

Meanwhile the boat in the slip next to ours left, and we had been asked to move over to their slip. It was an easy task with no finger-pier in between, and in no time we were now off the fuel dock and away from the constant boat traffic.

IO at Belfast Marina – original slip (top left)

Unfortunately, this did not work to our advantage.  In the afternoon (as we were getting cleaned up and ready for church), a center console boat was trying to back into the fuel dock, and on his 3rd attempt he panicked and his bow hit our boat.  This time there was some damage (cosmetic) to our gel-coat and now we have a big boo-boo on our beautiful hull.  Fortunately, there were witnesses, including the assistant dockmaster and a lobsterwoman who told Denise she couldn’t believe he tried to back in against the current. It was a poor decision that will now be a hassle for us to get repaired.  Captain Mark got all the information, including the guy’s registration and insurance information and we will be filing a claim.

We then had to hurry to walk up the hill, through town and got to mass at St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, just in time for the 4:00 pm service.

On the way back from church we stopped at Alexi’s Pizza, as Mark had been craving it and wanted to see if they had garlic knots (they did not).  Additionally, the place came highly recommended by the folks in town.  The food was good and the staff of young people were so energetic that it was fun to watch them.  They have a great team there and we liked the pizza and salad we shared. It was a great way to end a Saturday.

Walking back to the boat, we noticed a sign for the Belfast City bus and its schedule, including a route that would take us to the Hannaford’s grocery (Mon, Wed., and Fri. only).  The service was free, and the pickup was right at the marina; it could not be more convenient. We were not aware they even had such a thing because in the past when here we had access to a car (friends or family) and never investigated it.  However, this would be most helpful to go to the real grocery store, if they were really operating in this post-Covid era.  We did some initial research about it on line, but realized we needed to call them on Monday to see if they were going to run their usual schedule.

Belfast Bus Schedule

Tonight we were treated to this spectacular sunset we captured from the bow of our boat:

Saturday’s Sunset over Belfast

Sunday (8/1) – Belfast, Maine

In the morning Denise went for a walk through downtown, back along the Harbor Walk and over the footbridge and back. The path took her past the Front Street Marina, and today she noticed a beautiful wooden steamer yacht named “Cangarda”. It had just been moved out of the hanger and the worker who was doing some prep for future work shared that it was a private owner and they take meticulous care of it.  Once back on the boat, she did a little research about this beautiful boat that is available for charter.  You can read more about this boat here and here.

Once Mark was up, we headed out to Traci’s Diner for breakfast.  We ate here in 2019 and loved their options, but this time we sat in their “Maine” room, not the “80’s” room.  The food is good, inexpensive and the staff is very friendly.  And they are known for their lobster omelets which we still have yet to try.  Some things are just better left alone.

We spent the entire day hanging around the marina and watching other boats come and go. Periodically people would stop and ask about our boat, or other cruisers would stop and we would chat for a while. We had also learned this weekend was a fishing tournament for mackerel and stripers with a grand prize of $1000. This doesn’t sound like much payout compared to some of Florida’s big fishing tournaments, but considering the most a boat will put up for entry fee is $40, it can be quite a return on investment for the winner.  Plus it is for a great cause: “Operation Reboot Outdoors” which is an organization that provides services and outings for wounded vets.  Needless to say there were lots of boats coming into and out of the marina and boat ramp all weekend.

We also ran into cruising friends Ruth & Herb, whose boat was on another pier in the marina.  We had met them in 2017 through our long-time sailing friends Irv & Marsha (“Hang Out”) who would spend every summer in Belfast.  Ruth & Herb are very interesting people and are truly a couple who are “growing bolder not older”; Herb is 100+ years old and Ruth is in her late 90’s.  They spend every summer in Maine, cruising on their American Tug appropriately named “Ancient Mariners”.  In the winter they are in Boynton Beach, FL. Although they move slowly and have some hearing loss, they both are very sprite and are a lovely couple. We feel honored to know them, and amazingly many of the cruisers we run into also know of them.

Ruth & Herb

Mark also spent a large amount of time working on filing for an insurance claim with Allstate (the offender’s insurance company) and with BoatUS-Geico – our insurance.  He was trying to schedule both for claim inspections in Portland, where we were heading next weekend. As luck would have it, Allstate’s guy was closer to Belfast and was thankful that he didn’t have to go to Portland and he set an appointment for Tuesday.

It was a laid back kind of day, and we had previously decided to eat dinner on the boat. Mark cooked up some great fajitas (Denise did all the prep) and we relaxed in the evening watching a little television.

Monday (8/2) – Belfast, Maine

Early in the morning Denise went for a run taking the Harbor Walk and then across the footbridge to the other side of the river. Usually she turns around, but today she ventured to the other side where she saw a war memorial, and then followed the road which became a sidewalk along US1.  This is the route to take (by car) to Young’s Lobster Pound, but she didn’t go that far (no shoulder or sidewalk) before turning around at the Nut House and heading back over the footbridge to the Harbor Walk path, down around the river, and then eventually back to the boat.

At 8:30 we called about the bus and discovered they were in fact operating, but only for individual pickups which had to be scheduled in advance.  Initially they told us it would be Wednesday, but later they were able to get us scheduled for a 9:30 pickup.  When it was time, Denise walked up to the dockmaster’s office for the pickup.  Mark was originally going to go but opted to stay on the boat and do some work. Denise took the bus to Hannaford’s and when she was done, the driver returned her to the marina, all before 11:00 am.

In this process, we learned that the bus service was only doing individual pickups due to Covid. It seemed to us they could have adopted the rules the Island Explorer bus used in MDI, or just limited the passenger counts on each bus, and still serve the community.  Instead, they take a bus (not a van or a car) and drive it around town for individual pickups one at a time.  What a waste of taxpayer money.

About the time Denise returned, we watched what we called the “big boat shuffle”; several large boats (yachts) had to be repositioned.  It started with the large ketch sailboat that was on the end dock next to us having to leave; their extended stay at the city marina was over. They had secured a spot at Front Street Marina, but could not move over there until the yacht in their future slip left Belfast. The sailboat was being replaced by the 117’ personal motor yacht (another boat named “Rebecca”), which had been docked at the town wharf.  They had to leave the wharf because an American Cruise Line ship (“Independence”) was coming into town, and in fact had been waiting in the harbor since 10:30. Complicating this, Rebecca had to turn around 180°, with her stern now facing the harbor entrance. The harbormaster was trying to coordinate all of this activity all the while other boats were still coming in for fuel, new arrivals to moorings, and new boats leaving and entering slips. The large sailboat had limited maneuvering capability and finally went all the way out of the harbor until all the other boats were repositioned.  Once they left, “Rebecca” turned around, then came up to the pier across from us.  Finally, “Independence” came into the town wharf. What a circus!

About the time all this got settled and the cruise ship was finally docking at the wharf, it began to rain. We felt for the steward who was assisting the Captain of the cruise ship.

Cruise America captain in rain – Steward holding the umbrella!

We spent the afternoon working for our clients, working on the blog, cataloging pictures, and talking with family.

In the evening, the city had a street festival with a band and some local activities.  We were told there would be food there and since most of the restaurants in town are closed on Mondays, we went to explore and maybe grab a bite to eat.  It was at the top of the hill and on a cross street of Main Street, which they had blocked off for the event.  By the time we arrived, it was well under way with lots of people and the band was playing a few country songs (NOT Mark’s favorite music genre).  There were food trucks (mostly sweets) and the YMCA had a game area for kids of all ages.  There was even a promo booth for Moxie (a New England soda Denise’s family is most familiar with, but nobody likes).

Street festival
Band playing at street festival
Moxie booth at street festival
Games at street festival
Games at street festival

After about 20 minutes, we decided that there was nothing there we wanted to eat and headed back down Main Street to see if there was a place to get dinner, otherwise we would find something to eat on the boat.  We noticed Delvino’s was open and tried our luck at getting a table, only to find there was an hour-long wait. However, there were two empty seats at the bar and we were able to sit there right away. Once again we had a terrific meal and our bartender/waiter was interesting to talk to. It was a great way to end a busy and fun day in Belfast.

Tuesday (8/3) – Belfast, Maine

This morning Denise went for a walk along the Harbor Walk, but towards the south end of town. Just past the end of the Harbor Walk, it turns residential with streets that run down to the water, and a few that are parallel to the shoreline.  There are a few public access points and parks along the water, and she was able to view parts of Penobscot Bay on this beautiful morning.

Mark was ready for the surveyor (Allstate Claim Rep) when he showed up at 8:30.  He wanted to see the hull damage up close, so he had put the dinghy in the water and used it to move to the port side of the boat for which there was no pier.  It didn’t take him long, and within an hour he was done with pictures and gathering more information. He later emailed Mark the report.  Meanwhile, Mark had gone to Front Street Marina and obtained an objective 3rd-party estimate to use for comparison purposes only.  This is a very reputable yard and their information is one that can be trusted.  They did mention that the earliest they would be able to do the work (if we wanted them to do it) would be during the winter; we will be long gone by then.  Since the damage is more cosmetic (not structural) our intention is to have the gel-coat repaired a little closer to home.

Throughout the last two days we also got to talk with Ryan, the first mate & engineer on “Rebecca”. We learned the boat whose hailing port is Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is privately owned and not in charter. The Captain is from Belfast, has his family here, and is the reason they are staying here until the owner comes back on board. One thing that was clear was that they do not have the electrical service for this large yacht on this pier, so they are forced to run generators even while at the dock.  Yesterday, Ryan promised us they would run the generator on the opposite side of the boat during the night so it would not disturb us, and he was true to his word. We also got to watch them fuel up this beautiful yacht.  The boat can hold up to 7000 gallons of diesel and since the marina’s tanks only has a 1000 gallon tank, they fuel had to be ordered and delivered in trucks.  It took 3 full trucks, and about 3 hours to fill the tank.  Although we don’t know the price of this particular fill-up, Ryan mentioned that when they last filled up in the Bahamas their bill was $36,000. We cannot even imagine.

Despite all this activity, we spent the entire day at work.  In addition to the usual calls, emails, etc., Denise had to prep and deliver a sales presentation for a prospect, and Mark had numerous calls and emails to address for clients.

During the late afternoon, our friends Ruth & Herb (“Ancient Mariners”) moved their boat to the fuel dock where they took on fuel and got a pump-out. They were leaving for Rockland in the morning and ended up staying on this dock overnight. It was nice to have them next to us once again.

In the evening we took the dinghy across the river to Young’s Lobster Pound. This is one of our favorite places in Belfast, and where we took Claire, John, Johnny and Scarlett when they were with us in 2019.  When we arrived there was almost no one in line, but we realized neither of us had brought a wallet.  Mark took the dinghy back to the boat, and by the time he got back to the lobster pound, there was now at least 15 minute wait.  Denise had jumped into the line before he got back so we only had to wait about 5 minutes before ordering; it took us longer to decided what we wanted from the plethora of lobster combination dinners, fish platters, oysters, steamers and mussels.  Mark ended up with a swordfish platter and Denise got lobster.  We had secured a spot on a picnic table on the back deck and had a terrific meal with a spectacular view.  We headed back to the boat and got treated to this spectacular sunset.

Once again we have enjoyed this wonderful town that is not near as touristy as others on the Maine coast.  It is a fun place with lots to do, but tomorrow we will be leaving.  Here are a few other pictures from our stay:

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