Monday, July 31, 2017

Kittery and Portsmouth

After we got back from hiking in Vermont we spent the weekend at Kittery, doing a few boat jobs (including the engine and generator service) and also exploring Portsmouth, across the river and the local area around Kittery Point Yacht Yard.

Memorial Bridge

We took the dinghy over to Portsmouth and parked up just under the Memorial Bridge which connects New Hampshire to Maine, it was only opened in 2013 to replace a similar vertical lifting bridge in this spot that existed since 1923 - it's a really interesting design and cool to watch it lift up to allow boats through. Portsmouth is one of the biggest towns we have been to and it has a great mix of tourism, arts plus historic buildings. There's lots of music venues, a concert was setting up alongside the river and we even saw outdoor book reading on the glorious sunny Saturday afternoon we spent there.

Wharf in Portsmouth

Tugs on the Piscataqua River

Returning back to the boat for a BBQ that night and the next morning I took advantage of the free bikes and the yacht yard and went to explore Fort McClary State Park and a great farmers market in the village.

BBQ time at Kittery

Askari in Kittery

There has been a fort protecting the entrance to the Piscataqua River for over 275 years, the original was owned by the Pepperell Family however it was confiscated as the family remained loyal to the British. The current fort is named after Major Andrew McClary who died in the revolution at the battle of Bunker Hill in Boston. It is worth a visit for interesting paintings and information about the history plus the grounds and stunning views of the harbour.

Fort McClary

We discovered new styles of mushrooms at the farmers market at the North Spore Mushroom stall and made a fantastic lunch with local sour dough bread - yum!!

Maine Mushrooms!
Monday morning Andrew got up early, while I slept in a little, and we headed 'Down East' - that's what it's called in Maine, apparently as you sail down wind and more East than North through the Gulf of Maine.

We loved Kittery Yacht Yard and Jason the manager was just fantastic - we would certainly recommend this as a place to leave or store your boat.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Hiking Vermont

Moving off the boat for 6 days was super exciting and alot of work to get both her ready to leave and get packed and organised. We ended up taking nearly all dirty clothes as the hotel had a laundry so we thought we might as well, we also took our left over frozen chicken which we steamed in the microwave for our packed lunches - always the cruising sailors!! Andrew had a load of hotel points that needed to be used up - we had planned to take 2 nights in New York but instead got 5 in Vermont - super cool! The hotel had a heated pool and hot tub and we got an upgraded room with a huge bed - it was perfect. We stayed in the small town of Waterbury which was so pretty, had some great restaurants, good brew pubs and was centrally located the green mountains for some fab hiking. (It's also famous for being the home of Ben and Jerry's - which drew a huge crowd - but not us!!)

Waterbury train station

River view in Waterbury
We quickly found the Green Mountain Club visitor centre - they are the stewards of the Long Trail, which is the oldest long distance hiking trial in the United States and runs the full length of the state to Canada. The whole trial takes 20-30 days so we hoped to do some parts of it, plus the three highest peaks in Vermont.
The Green Mountain Club
We picked up our maps and spotted a cider house on the side of the road - what we found that cider here is apple juice and hard cider is the stuff which contains alcohol. It was pretty good too.
Map Reading with a Hard Cider
Our first day on the tops and it was so rainy the woman in the national park office thought we were totally mad going out for a hike. We set off to climb The Chin in Mount Mansfield National Park - Mount Mansfield is the highest peak but you can drive to the top or take a cable car, so we opted to avoid that side. The good news was there was no one else out there and it wasn't too cold but as we got higher the winds were just so strong it became dangerous so for the first time ever we turned back on a mountain summit attempt.
Hold onto your hat stuff

Tough going on our first day hiking
We returned to the park and opted to return to the hotel for a soak in the hot tub, we met a lovely Canadian family and then crashed in the room with internet TV and a meal I bought from the boat - cheap night!!

The next day the weather was quite a bit better and we climbed Mount Hunger (3540 ft) - it was a straight up and down climb which was a bit challenging for our old knees but the scenery and views were spectacular, complete with a Waterfall and wildlife.

Mount Huner - quite steep at the top

From the top of Mount Hunger

Chip Munk

Not sure what he was
That night we had a dinner reservation at Hen of the Wood - a restaurant we found randomly and oh my gosh what a find - this was the best meal I have had since we arrived in the US; coupled with an incredible setting and perfect service. It was so good we made a restoration to come back on our last night in Vermont.

Wednesday was the Camels Hump, which involved part of the Long Trial and yes the knees were painful but we couldn't miss this one - such an iconic Mountain in the area.
Off we go again!!

View from Camels Hump

Selfie from the top

The Hump

A rest near the bottom
Beer is a big deal in Vermont and there was so much to choose from, some beers are so famous they limit how much one person can buy like Heady Topper - we found this amazing beer store that had so many to choose from and even pour their own Growlers - Andrew was in his element.

Beer Galore
For our last day hiking the rain returned so we opted for a gentle walk in Little River National Park - a nice loop that went through old settlements and a saw mill including a few remnants along the way. This was a great camping area too right on a reservoir. We called into the Cabot Factory Shop on the way home and picked up some good cheese - although their slogan have the 'best cheddar in the world' was a bit questionable..... some of the people we met in store didn't know Cheddar was a place?!?

Little River State Park

An old engine on the walk
That night it poured with rain but it let up just a bit to allow us to get out to Hen of the Wood again for a warm welcome back. Honestly if you are in the area you have to try this place set in an old mill - such good food.
Waterfall at the Hen of the Wood
We stocked up on fantastic Vermont produce at the Hunger Mountain Coop and made it safely back to Kittery Maine, crossing the fast running river at Piscataqua Bridge - we hadn't seen a Moose in Vermont so I was excited to find one at the Kittery Trading Post!


Friday, July 21, 2017

Gloucester to Portsmouth via Iles of Shoals

We had a really nice relaxing sail from Gloucester in gentle winds and it was such a beautiful day we decided to call in to the Iles of Shoals for lunch on the way to Portsmouth Harbour - where we had a booking at Kittery Point which was our first stop in Maine - the river is the boarder between the two states. 

The Isles of Shoals are about 6 miles off the coast and there is nine in total with great names like Appledore and Smuttynose On this perfect day the harbour at Gosport was stunning, so we borrowed a mooring and lit the BBQ. After a lazy lunch the wind had picked up a little and we have a great beam reach into Portsmouth Harbour.

It was amazing to see the difference between one side of the river and the other - lobster pot floats were just so dense on the Maine side - a sign of things to come. We tucked into our spot at Kittery and met the fantastic Jason who manages the Yacht Yard there - he couldn't have been more helpful. We had heard this was a good spot and had a plan to try and leave Askari here while some weather came through and we could explore Vermont. Jason was more than happy to help, so we hatched a plan, booked a hire car and zoomed off to Vermont a day later with our hiking gear!

Sailing to Iles of Shoals
Bean bag time
Our first glimpse of the Iles of Shoals

View of Smuttynose Island
View from our mooring at Kittery Point

Gloucester, MA (Glostah)

We had a leisurely motor sail from Salem about twelve miles to Gloucester, passing Manchester by the Sea and lots of rocks in the bay. There was lobster pots everywhere so we had to keep a close eye out but otherwise it was a nice morning in overcast conditions.

Gloucester sits on Cape Ann in Massachusetts and is Americas original seaport; you may member it from 'The Perfect Storm' or from Wicked Tuna on National Geographic. It is also home to the oldest art colony in America. It remains home to one of the biggest fishing fleets on this coast and is a real working town - we had a fantastic time there, also visiting Rockport on the other side of the Cape. As we have moved up the coast the accents have changed alot and in these parts you say Glostah and Lobstah...... 

We followed two fishing boats into the inner harbour, passing by the building where cooper based antifouling was invented in 1863. This antifouling was provided for a step change in the fishing industry as fouling of the boats slowed them down considerably, however sadly it was the cause of significant pollution in oceans all around the world. The building is now home to Ocean Alliance which is an oceanographic research organisation looking into whales and ocean pollution.
Tarr & Wonson Copper Paint Factory where copper based anti-fouling was invented.
We took a mooring right off the fish processing plant, with a great view of the historic city and a little bit of fishy smells and fans from the buildings, however we liked it as it gave us a sense of where we were. The harbour master ran the moorings and the fee includes the launch service ashore. Our launch driver, Dave, told us all how he remembered the day of the Perfect Storm and knew a couple of the people who died. That night we decided to watch the movie again and spotted so many sights from Gloucester. 

Our view of town

Gloucester Fishing Boats
Our first day in Gloucester and we did went for a long walk through town and all along the seafront. There we found the two fishing memorials - the Fishermans memorial and the Fishermens Family memorial. The fishermans memorial was completed in 1925 to honour 300 years of Gloucester loosing men to the sea over 5000!! It was amazing to see the step changes as the industry moved from sail to power and then more gradually and electronics and weather forecasting improved. 

Fishermans Memorial

Scooners on Gloucester Harbour
We walked out to the headland to a stunning park and found a perfect cove for swimming.
Cove in Gloucester Outer Harbour
We decided to stay a bit longer in Gloucester so booked the mooring for two more days. To explore the heritage museum, visit Rockport and take the dinghy ride through the canal. We also learned from the lady at the visitors centre that the Tuna had just started running that week and one of the best restaurants in town had it straight on the menu - we had a fantastic meal at Tonno - highly recommended!

Lobster everywhere in this town
The Maritime Heritage Museum was right next to the harbour loop where we came ashore so we decided to pop in - the displays were informative and we learned alot about the fishing industry in particular. They also have kind of working spaces on the wharf around the museum to allows you to interact with those involved in research - we saw a really interesting experiment the marine biologists were doing with european green crabs to try and develop this invasive species for food. We also met 85 year old Paul Harling who maintains a Dive Locker on the site showing his amazing collection of dive gear, including his first dive mask he made from a Gas Mask when he was a teenager.   

Paul and his collection of dive gear
I was super excited when we came across an Oyster Upweller on the wharf and met the builder and some of the interns working on the project. I have just read a great book called 'Shucked' following a year on a New England Oyster farm so recognised it immediately. They have just loaded 60,000 baby Oysters into this system as part of a project to restore the coastal environment in Massachusetts. 

Oyster Upweller on the wharf

They let me hold the babies

One of the larger babies - a perfect mini Oyster - 1-3 years and he/she will be ready to eat
 Did you know that a single oyster can filter up to 2 gallons of water in an hour?? Learn more at

Dory Workshop
When fishing took place from Scooner's Dories would be lowered into the ocean - often about 10 from a single mothership and only about 18 foot long - no wonder so many fishermen lost their lives.

We had some work to do on our own boat next day - not a very nice job either..... Our holding tank sensor had stuck and in the US we are using pump out facilities in harbour so it's really important to know how full our tanks are. I have put that one out of memory although it is always nice when we do a job on Askari and get to see some of the beautiful workmanship behind our paneling, all neatly labelled. After a yucky job we went off to explore the Blynman Canal that runs through Cape Ann in the dinghy. The Annisquam River was dredged to create this canal which is full of boats and house boats, plus a few marinas. On the Gloucester side the Wicked Tuna fleet are based and fishing boats cut through the 4 mile long canal to save going round Cape Ann.

Opening bridge

Interesting house boat

Made it through the other side to Annisquam

Annisquam Harbour

Askooby with her fishing boat friends

Live Music at Harbour Loop

Scooners in Gloucester
 The next day we took the bus - yes public transport! We went over the Cape to Rockport, a touristy but very cute fishing and arty place.

Motif #1 - most painted building in the US

Rockport Harbour

More Lobsters

Low tide in Rockport

Art district of Rockport
Friday morning (21st July) we got up early and slipped out of Gloucester on a beautiful morning
Leaving Gloucester

Leaving Gloucester - Scooner Adventure