Thursday, July 12, 2012

Little Chebeague and Fort Gorges


Last week I was in need of escape to spend some time on the water.  With just a two days off I quickly loaded the boat and got myself back to the clear waters of Casco Bay for a short and dirty one-night jaunt.  First time the Goat Island Skiff has been in Casco Bay since 2010!  Initially I had planned on going out to my favorite little island, Bangs, scene of many an adventure in IAZ,P, but when I landed on the clear sandy beach of Little Chebeague I was hard pressed to find a reason to continue onwards.

Not only did the nice beach attract me to Little Chebeague, but I saw this little piece of awesome anchored.  Note clear water.

Sweet lines

This is an Atkins XLNC, white cedar on white oak frames.  Please check out the Atkin & Co. page for XLNC here.  You will notice that in the pictures, this boat if featured.  XLNC was also featured in the 2012 Small Boats by Wooden Boat Magazine.  She is powered by a Palmer Model #27 complete with required Pabst Blue Ribbon beer can on the exhaust manifold to prevent water from dripping into the carburator.  This is called Yankee ingenuity and if you are rolling your eyes you are not from New England.

The boat is currently under the care of Bill and Jennifer who were enjoying a week cruising the Maine coast from their summer retreat.  With a setting sun and a falling tide Bill and Jennifer shoved off for home.  For all of 100 yards the boat made cute chugging noises as its bow seamlessly split the water, and then some engine fiddling was required.  Engine fiddling is a very important part of maritime experiences.  If you are not fiddling with the engine, something is wrong.

"This beer can is a fine solution"
After Bill and Jennifer left I set up camp as the tide continued to drop, stranding IAZ,P for the night.  I was alone on the island, on a beach, watching the sun set and the ferries go by.

I'm pretty sure this is the same ferry that almost ran me down during VisionQuest/ManQuest2010 at this very spot!
My evening was spent in quiet reflection as I enjoyed l'heure bleue  some rice, carrots, and hummus, and a swig or two of rum.  There was no wind, just the gentle lapping of water on the beach and the kaleidoscope of stars and Milky Way spinning slowly overhead.

As I was snugged down in my sleeping bag an ugly plastic motorboat showed up  and disgorged several 20-something guys.  Their self-importance was reflected in their constant braying, bottle rockets, frenetic music selections, and general indulgence in noise which totally shattered any optimistic feelings I was having about the world and humanity.  We truly are a pathetic and primitive creature, afraid of the dark and the silence that accompanies it, always insistent to fill the few sacred times with the profanity of our repugnant self-worship.

The next morning I was awakened by a hot needle boring into my nose into my brain.  I swatted at my nose to find a red ant at the tip of it.  Wake-up calls from red ants biting my nose does not figure high on my pleasure list.  I couldn't stop the tears streaming from my left eye.  I was awake, before the dawn, but her rosy red fingers were already streaming over the coast of Maine.

I had a little bit of a breeze from the northwest.  Since it was supposed to shift to the south later in the day, I supposed a period of calm would fall between the two.  A high pressure dominated.  Even though the ebb had begun and I would be fighting all of western Casco Bay to get back to South Portland I decided to shove off and use the wind while I had it.

It turned into a frustrating sail with the current against me, I made barely sufficient headway.  Time to strategize.

Little Chebeague is (A).  Fort Gorges is (D).  Bug Light Park is southwest of the fort, and that is where my vehicle and trailer are.

Purple = wind
Red = nasty currents
Blue = heroic path of jaunty skiff (approx)

Leaving Little Chebeague I usually go west of Diamond Island (marked McKinley Estates) into the broads of Casco Bay.  However, the ebb was on, and the flow was pushing out to the Atlantic (east-southeast of the island group-- to the right on this map). This made getting around Diamond difficult, since the current is rather forceful around the northern tip.  With the wind from the west, I made a gamble, and decided to allow myself to get pulled into Hussey Sound (B).  My hunch was that I would get pushed towards Peaks Island.  The channel on the northwest side of Peaks would also have a strong flow against me, but I hypothesized the westerly wind would be compressed between the islands, like a venturi.  This would give me the thrust needed to overcome the current and get halfway down Peaks Island to (C), where the flow would be reversed in the other direction.

I sped through Hussey Sound (B) worked my way towards the gap between Diamond and Peaks and sure enough, the wind velocity was much higher!  I had a spirited sail through the gap, keeping to the southeast side where the current was least and the wind highest.  I made it to (C) and the current reversed and the wind died, but now at least I was being pushed to my destination.  I was elated!  My strategy worked.  On the backside of Peaks I broke out the oars to row towards Portland harbor and the breeze that awaited me there.

About this point a very nice couple in a powerboat swung by and asked if I was OK.  I affirmed I was. They asked if I wanted a tow.  I politely declined.  They asked again, as if I was a bit muddled-- I was rowing and I didn't have an engine after all-- and I declined once more.  They sped off and I rowed on.

I made landfall at Fort Gorges on the beach.

Fort Gorges is a pretty sweet place.  First, it's a bad-ass fort.  Second, it's publicly owned which means we, as citizens, can enjoy nice things together for enjoyable picnics and family outings.  Third, it's a thumb in the eye our litigious society.  It's a fort.  There are dark places.  There are high places.  There is water!  In short, I love Fort Gorges.

Entry way.  Two massive doors.  Arrow slit windows to gun down the invaders.
Walking into the fort.
Entry way is on the left.  Powder Magazines are straight ahead, the giant wall in the shade

 I explored the officer quarters, which had nice plaster and blue paint on the walls, and then walked up to the third sod-covered roof level where bigger guns were to be placed.  This is a place to wear shoes FYI, there are lots of rusty bolts from the gun placements.  The dark areas and powder magazines are pitch black nighttime dark, so bring a flashlight if you want to go in them.  And bring a friend.  Spooky abounds.  This fort is massive by the way.  Everything about it screams indestructible.

I went up to the third floor to find the 300 pounder rifled Parrott gun that was hoisted aloft but never mounted.  Interestingly, it is on the northwest corner of the fort, with a great view towards the city of Portland as opposed to a southwest corner which would offer a better view out to sea...

Note rifling and beer cans.  This is one of those pictures that you take with a hand that is quickly removed from dark tube lest the beasties eat your fingers off.

Some scale.  I am a size 13 foot.  Note "U S" stamped on metal.  This is genuine US Military Grade weapons technology for the taking!
I spent some time wallowing in the sun and the nice water on Fort Gorges, and then I made a short leisurely sail back to my trailer.

On the way back, I got passed by the legendary "Free Candy 'go-for-it-this-guy-seems-legit' Van" which we Cap'n Jon and I saw back during the Portland Boatbuilder Show this spring.  It was moored off Long Island that morning.

Fenders down and everything.
Until next time Intrepid Readers!  (exciting episode in the works for next week!)

 I love summer.

1 comment:

  1. Rosy-fingered dawn? Seriously? You ARE a modern Odysseus.