Maine Cruise – Days 4-5 – Annisquam River, Isles of Shoals, Boothbay Harbor

Boston skyline.

After two days in Boston, we were ready to roll.  Monday dawned clear, dry, sunny and calm.  We were at the Mystic Marine fuel dock, right next to the Charlestown Marina, at 7:30 am, easy and fast in-out, less expensive than Harbor Fuels, and a 10-cent discount for Sea Tow members (which we are not 🙁). We were on our way by 8:00, and took a gander over to the Boston downtown waterfront with the city as a backdrop.

The 25- mile trip to Gloucester was flat and fast.  There was a slight rolling swell left over from the storm, so we kept the throttle down a bit to keep things comfy at 10  – 12 knots.  We were just about the only boat out there: one sailboat and a few commercial fishing boats.  Period.  Very peaceful.

Enjoying a flybridge trip through the Annisquam River.

Once inside outer Gloucester Harbor we stayed left and headed for the Annisquam River.  The Blynman Canal bridge opened immediately for us, unlike a weekend when traffic clogs the works. The Blynman Canal is not for the faint of heart.  Vertical clearance is eight feet, so pretty much everyone needs an opening.  Horizontal clearance is a mere 37 feet.  We have a beam of 13.5 feet, which leaves us a skinny 11.75 feet of clearance on each side as we pass through.  Add a two knot foul current to that (it can run much faster – we timed it well) and your adrenaline spikes.  I was too busy to take a picture.

We need an opening at the Amtrak bridge also, another skinny horizontal clearance but huge compared to Blynman.  Then the fixed Route 128 bridge, which is easy.

The north end of the Annisquam River.

Other than the bridges, the four and a half mile ride through the marshy tidal river is lovely. We highly recommend it.  It’s shorter than going around Cape Ann, but because it is a no-wake zone you don’t really save much time. Draft can be an issue.  Esmeralde draws three and a half feet so we were fine, even though we did the trip an hour before low.  We did it on our Sabre with a seven foot draft and had no trouble, but we did that trip near high water.  We also did it on the Able which drew three and a half, and we did bottom out briefly on that trip.  There is shoaling in a few spots so it’s worth reading the cruising guides closely.

Once outside the river we headed for Isles of Shoals.  It was a very easy, calm, pretty 20 flybridge miles.  We got a spectacular show from a pod of porpoises feeding.  Sorry, but the iPhone couldn’t capture it.  By 2:00 p.m. we had picked up one of the Portsmouth Yacht Club moorings.

We are conflicted about Isles of Shoals.  I have cruised there multiple times since I was a child and have some fond memories.  It can be rolly, and if you can’t get a mooring and have to anchor, dragging at 2:00 a.m. is highly likely, thanks to the rocky kelp bottom.

The dogs don’t like Malaga much more than we do.

Bruce can’t stand the place and calls it Devils Islands because apparently the Unitarians don’t like dogs, which are restricted to a nasty, rocky, kelpy, slimy, guano infested rock pile called Malaga, so the necessary trips ashore can be unpleasant at best.  Every time we go there, he vows to never go back.  Unfortunately it is the only convenient stop-over when crossing the Gulf of Maine.  *sigh*  So we stayed for the night.

There is some interesting and colorful history in the islands involving colonists, pirates, fisheries, artists, poets, murders, the revolution, marine research, and the Audubon Society.  Not a lot is happening on the islands currently, other than the Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore Island, and the Unitarian Universalists conference center on Star Island.  A few day trip boats make the trek from Portsmouth and Newburyport loaded with tourists.

Sunset at Isles of Shoals.

The New Hampshire-Maine state line runs right through the islands.  We slept in New Hampshire, but crossed in to Maine all three times we took the dogs ashore.  We enjoyed a beautiful sunset, a relatively un-rolly night, and were underway at 7:00 a.m. immediately after walking the dogs.

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to Maine we go!

Seventy miles to Boothbay.  Coffee and breakfast under way.  Glassy calm, gentle roll. Easy ride.  A few visits by porpoises, loads of sunfish and sea birds, few other boats. By 1:00 p.m. we were approaching the Maine Coast, with Seguin Island to port.  By 2:00 we were running in along Southport Island, back on the flybridge, and enjoying the lovely and familiar Maine scenery.  Such fun to see it from the flybridge vantage point for the first time.  And the fog was lurking to the east.

By 2:30 we were secure on a mooring at the Tugboat Inn and Marina right off the town docks.  The sun was out, boats were coming and going loaded with tourists.  Maine summer in full swing: we had arrived.  We enjoyed the afternoon poking around the village and giving the dogs some well deserved exercise.

Blueberry Martini.  I had to. First night in Maine.

For dinner, we returned ashore to Ports of Italy and enjoyed a surprisingly good meal of seafood salad and osso bucco at the bar, where we met some crazy fun tourists from Orlando.  We showed them a picture of our boat, and they announced that it looks just like Spongebob’s boat.  We had to google that one. Very funny!

After dinner we retrieved the dogs from the boat and bought them some ice cream at Finn McCools Ice Cream.  It was a colorful, fun evening.  We look forward to many more in the days to come.

Esmeralde on her mooring in Boothbay Harbor.


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