Great Chebeague – Big Nothing!

Port Clyde to Great Chebeague Island

Thursday (8/5) – Great Chebeague Island – near Portland, Maine

Although wanting to stay and explore more of this great town (Port Clyde), we knew we had to move closer to Portland and do so before the weather was forecasted to turn against us.  We had made plans to get to Great Chebeague Island in Casco Bay, but had several bailout locations planned in case it got too rough. The wind was out of the northeast and (hopefully) blocked mostly by the land, with the waves behind us. However, rain and fog were also expected, therefore we headed out in less than ideal conditions.

The main reason for going back west and to Portland was because Mark had to fly to see a NJ client on Sunday afternoon.  In the past, he flew out of Bangor, we got a rental car in Belfast, and Denise stayed on the boat there.  But this has not been an ordinary year, and flights times in Bangor were awful and were very expensive when seats were available.  Instead, he secured more favorable rates out of Portland and we made plans for the boat and Denise to stay in Rockland. This would enable more time on the Penobscot Bay when he returned from the trip.  However, getting a rental car was impossible, and the U-Haul van he did manage to rent still required Denise to make two, 2-hour round trips to take him and pick him up in Portland.  Finally, we decided it was just better to take the boat to Portland, stay there, and then come back to the area after the trip.

With this in mind, we left our mooring in Port Clyde just after 8:00 am to make the 40+ miles to Great Chebeague Island.  As we left the harbor, we passed Hupper Island to our right, and got a glimpse of the summer home of Justice John Roberts (of SCOTUS).  It is now more like a compound as he purchased two homes next to each other, both from Steve Thomas (of PBS’ “This Old House”) over a period of 10 years.

Making our way through the channel and out the inlet we immediately hit fog and some light rain. However, the waves were not bad and we were able to cruise along, negotiating lobster pots along the way. The worst was the 10 miles crossing Muscongus Bay, until we rounded Pemaquid Point.  Then we were able to run between rock islands near Boothbay Harbor. Again it was a little bouncy as we crossed the Sheepscot River and by the time we rounded Cape Small things had settled down.  By 10:00 we knew we would make it to our destination for the evening and would be able to make Portland on Friday, even if the weather was bad.  Finally we approached Great Chebeague Island and could see the numerous boats already on moorings.

It was still somewhat foggy, but we had clear visibility and could see Little John and Cousins Island to our right.  We found an open mooring ball from the Great Chebeague Inn and hooked up to it for our evening stay. There are only 8 and they do not take reservations; they are on a FCFS basis, so we felt lucky we got one of the remaining balls. 

Shortly after we arrived, a Sabre (“Nightingale”) pulled up onto one of the moorings. We knew this boat from pictures we had seen on the BC/Sabre Facebook Page.  However, due to weather, we did not venture off the boat to go meet them.  They launched their dinghy and went to shore, then returned back not long thereafter, but did not stop as it was raining.  We never did get to meet them.

“Nightingale”

It was raining off and on all morning and into the early afternoon, so we hunkered down and stuck to work, working on blogs and tentative future itineraries.  We had good cell signal and therefore were able to communicate with the outside world.  This allowed us to be productive, all the while wiping the rain from our boat leaks.  We will definitely be addressing this in the coming days when in Portland.

We watched another boat come in and pick up the last mooring ball for the inn, then shortly thereafter the hotel launch boat came and picked them up. It was pretty obvious they were going to dinner at the Inn, and we had investigated this option as well. However, the restaurant was sold-out for the night, so it would be dinner on board for us. That was ok as the place has a reputation for very expensive dinners, for which you are paying for the sunset view. Even though the rain had stopped, it was still cloudy and overcast and therefore it would not be worth it on a night like tonight.  However, in the process we did learn that the hotel did in fact have a launch that could come and pick us up.  Even still, we were not enthusiastic about getting off the boat; we had decided to wait until tomorrow morning when things would be much nicer.

Great Chebeague Inn from mooring

Throughout the day we watched the ferry come and go just off our stern.  The channel into the dock ran not far from our boat, and every time they went by (about 1 per hour) they would rock our boat. We hoped they would stop in the evening, but unfortunately, they continued until after 9 pm.

Chebeague Island Ferry

Friday (8/6) – Park A – Great Chebeague Island – near Portland, Maine

It was a beautiful morning when we woke up, with a little bit of fog that soon dissipated by the time the ferry had made its second appearance.  Since we had a very short trip into Portland, we were not in any hurry to get underway today.  We did however, wish to explore the island a little bit before heading out.  So after breakfast we launched the dinghy and headed over to the town dock, shared by the ferry.  We even timed our arrival so that we would beat the arrival of the next ferry and not have to deal with their wake on the dock when trying to tie up our dinghy.

Ferry terminal and dinghy dock at Great Chebeague Island

When we arrived at the dinghy dock, we quickly learned there was very limited space for visiting dinghies. The majority of the dock was for lobsterman and islanders.  As we arrived there were some locals there who directed us to where we could tie up, and then told us about the dock fee which is strictly enforced. We had no knowledge of this as there is nothing in Active Captain, and if we had we would have taken the launch offered by the inn.  Upon further investigation we saw the sign and the fee box, with instructions on how to pay online.  After Captain Mark got us all paid up, we set about to hike up the hill to the Inn; we wanted to pay our mooring ball fee for the night.

The road is a long slow incline to the top of the hill where the inn sits, overlooking the thoroughfare between Great Chebeague and the islands to the west (Little John and Cousins Islands).  It’s a beautiful sight and on this morning it provided us an opportunity to get some great pictures of the water, islands and the Chebeague Inn.

Once at the inn we checked in at the front desk to pay the fee, and we were initially told it was $75/night; $25/night if you are staying at the inn.  We were surprised to hear this and complained that there is nothing in any of the information that states this, and in fact it says it is free if you eat at the restaurant. We later learned this is no longer true either.  After we told her that we could have very easily just left the mooring this morning and they would not have collected anything, the hotel clerk relented and took our $25.  Afterwards, we walked around the hotel to see this old but lovely inn.

After our visit at the inn, we walked up the main road to get some exercise and to see some of the houses on the island. Besides the inn, there is pretty much nothing else on this island except summer homes and rental properties, and the eastern shore beach was too far to walk. It was a bit buggy and it was getting hot, so after about a mile we turned around and went back to the dock and got in our dinghy. We headed back to the boat just before the next ferry took off so we did not have to worry about their inevitable wake when in our dinghy.  We are glad we stopped here for the night, but agreed that unless you plan to eat at the inn, there is no reason to come back.

Once back on board, we readied the boat for departure for Portland. We will pick up the rest of this day in our next post.  

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