Published: September 17th 2006September 17th 2006 August 21 - September 12, 2006
Wow! Two humpbacks sighted on Stellwagen Bank off Cape Ann, Mass.
St. Peter’s, Nova Scotia - Chebacco Lake, Essex, Mass.
18,351 miles to date
1,942 miles this leg
Ah, September, this rarest and most treasured of months. When we were planning for this trip, friends and relatives across the country urged us to visit them
in September. “It won’t be too hot or too cold, and the leaves will be starting to turn,” was the gist of their suggestions.
But since we can only spend September in one spot, we chose New England. We crossed from New Brunswick into Maine on Aug. 24 and have meandered from that state’s coastal band through New Hampshire to Vermont and on to Massachusetts. We’re glad to be back in familiar territory—as I (Shelly) attended college in Massachusetts and explored pretty far and wide—and especially glad that we seem to have escaped the late summer heat by hiding out in eastern Canada for most of July and August.
It made sense to post this round of photos in reverse chronological order, and that’s how I’ll report on our hosts, but first, a LIST OF FIRSTS
, because we experienced a number of “firsts” on this leg of
Our friend Vicki is the naturalist aboard the whale-watch boat. Port Townsendites will remember her as a former resident.
Aug. 23 - First whole lobster dinner for Jeff (if you haven’t already, see our last entry: Lobster Special!).
Aug. 24 - First bear sighting, a large cub that bounded across the road in front of us on a rural thoroughfare in southern New Brunswick.
Aug. 26 - First New England contra dance, experienced with the band Airdance at the American Folk Festival in Bangor, Maine (that’s BANG-gore, by the way).
Aug. 27 - First oil change for Matilda “at home” rather than at a mechanic’s shop, thanks to our Hope, Maine, hosts having the equipment and oil disposal capability.
Aug. 29 - First time sailing on a Herreshoff 12-1/2, at WoodenBoat headquarters in Brooklin, Maine
Aug. 30 - First rays of sunshine to hit the continental U.S. landed on us as we stood atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. At 1,530 feet, it’s the tallest mountain on the New England coast and therefore first to intercept eastern light.
Aug. 31 - First backing-up collision in Matilda, while jockeying into position at a New Hampshire campground in the dark. Our bike rack bumped a skinny little tree that still managed to
put a bend in the rear-wheel “fork” of my bike. The driver (not me!) then had to spend the next day fixing the damage, which he did.
Vicki explained how humpbacks create bubble nets to herd and confuse their prey, then lunge in with their huge mouths wide open. This humpback is feeding on sand eels, visible leaping in its mouth and in the beak of the gull alongside.
Sept. 3 - First poetry reading attended on this trip, by poet and pastor Tom Kinder of the First Congregational Church in Thetford Center, Vt. He performed a very special marriage ceremony for my Uncle Ralph and Aunt Maureen last year, and is a darn good sonnet writer to boot!
Sept. 4 - First time making tapioca pudding with soy milk and sucanat, at my aunt and uncle and cousin’s house in Hartland, Vt. It was pretty good! We enjoyed a bottle of wild blueberry dessert wine on the side.
Sept. 5 - First fire of the fall, flickering cozily in the fireplace of Daphne and Carlos’s log cabin in Quechee, Vt.
Sept. 6 - First time (I hope) Jeff has been surrounded by two thousand nubile young women wearing (in some cases) only their underwear and shrieking like banshees, at Opening Convocation ceremonies at Smith College. I don’t remember so much skin showing when I was a student there… Jeff’s comment: “Now I know how Caesar’s minions must’ve
felt when confronted with screaming, naked blue Celts!”
Vicki on Dock
Vicki standing on a life-size outline of a humpback whale on the dock in Gloucester, welcoming us aboard Cape Ann Whale Watch.
Sept. 7 - First viewing of Al Gore’s warning film about global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,” in Northampton, Mass. Highly recommended, regardless of your politics. In fact, global warming in the U.S. is a very political issue, so get educated!
Sept. 9 - First up-close sighting of humpback whales feeding with bubble nets. This was made possible by our friend Vicki, who works as a naturalist with Cape Ann Whale Watch, and got us comp tickets for a cruise out of Gloucester, Mass. Vicki can identify the whales by their fluke patterns, and recognized 29 individual humpbacks on our 4-hour cruise.
Sept. 10 - First inadvertent swim, caused by a capsize of the Sunfish Jeff and I were sailing on Chebacco Lake, where Vicki lives in a lovely lake house. Fortunately (1) the water was warm, (2) we were wearing lifejackets, (3) I hadn’t brought my camera, and (4) Jeff’s weight on the centerboard righted the craft in less than a minute. It was a textbook self-rescue!
The past two weeks - First pursuit of job opportunities in Port Townsend that would start around the time we’re planning
to be back. Acting on help-wanted classified listings in The Leader, I submitted an application last week and Jeff is working on one due at the end of the month. We are well aware that timing is key to securing good jobs in our small town, because positions don’t open up that often. Those of you reading this from Port Townsend, let us know if you hear of anything!
The skyline of Gloucester, Mass., one of the oldest fishing communities in New England and the homeport in the novel/movie "The Perfect Storm."
Our most recent host was our old friend Vicki in Essex, Mass., who surprised us a few months ago with an e-mail saying she’d sold her house in Port Townsend and moved to Massachusetts, and wouldn’t we come visit her? It was our pleasure to do so, and we spent four relaxing days at the lake house she shares with some very nice housemates and her dog, Darwin.
Vicki came east for a naturalist job with Cape Ann Whale Watch
, which partners with Ocean Alliance
(they each pay half of her salary, and Vicki oversees Ocean Alliance interns) to provide high-quality interpretation of whale encounters on Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and surrounding waters. Vicki got us out on a whale-watch cruise that she later said was in the
The house right on Chebacco Lake near Essex, Mass., that Vicki shares with a couple of housemates.
top 5% of this season’s trips for observing natural whale behaviors. She was able to identify 29 individual humpbacks, plus several minkes and a lone fin whale. The coolest thing was watching the humpbacks lunge-feed, deploying bubble nets to herd their prey (sand eels this time of year), then lunging open-jawed through the center of the squirming mass. These are baleen whales, so after each huge mouthful, they squirt the water out with their tongues, leaving tasty but tiny morsels trapped in the fringes of their baleen. A wonderful cruise on the 115’ Hurricane II, and some nice views of Gloucester harbor to boot.
Smack-dab in the middle of Massachusetts, we paused in Northampton to visit Smith College
, my alma mater. Our timing was such that we arrived the day before classes started for the semester, so we got to attend Opening Convocation. This is basically a pep rally for the 2,600 students about to get down to serious academic pursuits at this distinguished women’s college—and it is open to the public—but even though he’d been forewarned, Jeff thought it was pretty wild. I hadn’t remembered my classmates being so rowdy, but then again, I’m probably getting old and
Dinner at sunset on the lakeside deck, with Vicki and her housemate/house owner, Roy. Shelly munching on leftmost corncob.
I hadn’t been back on campus for six years, so I enjoyed seeing the new student center, the remodeled art museum, etc. I visited with my favorite professor and my glee club conductor and wandered through the plant house where I’d made cuttings in horticulture class. A little stroll down memory lane.
Our host in Northampton was a classmate of Shelly’s who has settled within walking distance of campus and is now devoted to her 9-year-old son Jesse and 4-year-old twins Tor and Linnea. I found Jean to be a kindred spirit because she had sailed on tall ships, including the first Pride of Baltimore, and when I graduated she gave me her Henri-Lloyd foulies, a gesture I’ve never forgotten. It was great to see her again.
Further north on the Connecticut River, we stayed with my uncle Ralph and aunt Maureen and cousin Melanie in Hartland, Vt. We were excited to see the house Ralph recently built for the family, into which they’d moved last February. As we expected, it was beautiful: a model of simplicity and livability, with lots of clear-finished wood and sunlight. Our favorite touch was the two rocking chairs by the
Shelly & Jeff on Sunfish
We tooled around Chebacco Lake on Roy's sunfish, and after a fluky gust, engaged in an unintentional capsize-and-righting exercise! Thanks to Vicki for use of this photo.
low-hung window in the kitchen area, which got a lot of use.
These were the first relatives we’d stayed with since North Carolina, and there’s something to be said for being with people who know you and your habits. We could simply relax between bouts of playing hard with Melanie, age 10, who loves to run around a soccer field, around the bases of a backyard baseball game, or around the country roads on her bike.
Maureen, a naturopathic physician, gave Jeff some more advice about kicking his food sensitivities, and he’s trying a new diet regimen where he introduces possibly allergenic foods one by one and waits three days for a reaction. This means he’s cooking all his own food right now, to stay away from grains and added sugars. This is a tough row to hoe, but he’s showing tremendous dedication, just wanting to get down to the bottom of why he still doesn’t feel quite right.
We reconnected with a former Adventuress shipmate in nearby Quechee, Vt. Daphne and I had sailed together as educators in 1999 and she kept sailing longer than I did, making a particularly epic voyage in 2001 aboard the
Vicki in Slough
Vicki took us on a memorable paddle in the Essex River estuary. We followed the meandering slough for an hour, until we could no longer navigate its narrow tunnel.
Denis Sullivan from Florida up the east coast and down the St. Lawrence Seaway as far as Buffalo, N.Y. Not long after, she met Carlos, a man on a mission to make a documentary film about the impacts of the Garrison Dam in North Dakota, and Daphne was swept into the project. Together they filmed, wrote, edited, and produced a labor of love, moving to a log cabin in Quechee for the last year and a half of work.
The resulting 78-minute film, “Waterbuster,” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this May and has just been released on DVD. We went away with a copy of it and were very moved by the story of how Carlos’s Hidatsa/Mandan relatives were displaced from their homes on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation by the 1950s dam project. The big-picture importance of this very personal narrative is how the U.S. government broke its treaty with the Hidatsa/Mandan by condemning reservation land by eminent domain, an action that could have been fought in the courts, but wasn’t. All of us whose lives are affected by big-dam projects (as we certainly are in Columbia River country) should watch this film for an account of
Shelly in Drowned Meadow
Shelly paddles over a drowned meadow. The water level was unusually high, due to spring tides. Spiders and crickets hopped aboard our kayaks, anxious for dry ground.
the trade-offs. Learn more at www.waterbuster.org
We spent a week on the Maine coast, delighting in watery recreation and a big music festival in Bangor, the American Folk Festival
. We also visited the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport and the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. Plus we ventured to Brooklin to meet the editor I’ve been writing for at WoodenBoat
magazine. Tom Jackson showed us around the impressive WoodenBoat campus, which in addition to the publication offices includes a boatbuilding school, a retail store, and a boathouse from which a fleet of small craft is maintained. We were thrilled to wrap up our visit with a sail in one of those classic craft, and the Shellback Dinghy we rowed to and from the sailboat’s mooring inspired us to think of building the dinghy from a kit. Check out what a sweet little boat this is, here
Wanting to explore Mt. Desert Island, which contains most of Acadia National Park, we made a cold call to the best friend of our Durango, Colo., host, and were welcomed, no further questions asked, to the home of Ellen and Chris in Seal Harbor, Maine It turned out to be one of
H.A. Burnham's boatshop on the Essex River, a typical coastal Massachusetts scene from an era that hopefully will never be bygone.
those fated meetings, where we forged a bond in two days that will probably last a lifetime. Even shy daughter Emma, nearly 3 years old, warmed right up to us. We felt blessed to make their acquaintance.
Chris has one of those jobs that makes us say, “Wow!”: he is one of six groundskeepers for the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden, and he gave us a private tour upon our arrival. The John D. Rockefeller, Jr., family has long ties to Mt. Desert Island, and the garden was once associated with the family summer home, a 100-room mansion called The Eyrie. But the house was demolished in the 1960s and the garden became one of only a handful of formal gardens to have “survived” its residence.
One thing Jeff and Emma had in common was a special diet. Little Emma has been diagnosed with eosinophilic colitis, a rare and potentially debilitating disease in which above-normal amounts of eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, occur in the digestive system. Basically, “bad bacteria” builds up in the intestines and irritates the lining so it’s always inflamed. This painful condition can only be alleviated by avoiding a whole host of foods
Our host in Northampton, Mass., was a college classmate of Shelly's named Jean and her three lovely children: Jesse and twins Linnea (left) and Tor (second from right).
that stimulate bacterial growth, and the diet Emma is on is called the “specific carbohydrate diet.” Among other benefits, it has been found to alleviate symptoms of autism! I won’t go into more particulars, but if this strikes a chord with you or someone you know, Ellen has her own long-distance counseling business and can help. Her website, www.createyourownhappiness.com, is temporarily under construction, but you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In all other respects, Emma was a cheerful and delightful little girl, and we enjoyed going to the beach with her and her mom, helping her dress up in fairy costumes, playing with dolls, etc. We went off on our own for a day to explore Acadia National Park
and a highlight was bicycling on the historic “carriage roads” (now no motorized vehicles allowed) around Eagle Lake. The view from Cadillac Mountain, if we squinted, could be the view from Mount Constitution on Orcas Island in Washington state, so similar were the Maine islands to the San Juan Islands. The same green jewels set in a turquoise sea.
A real treat was meeting up with my former oceanography professor in Bar Harbor. Jim was on the Williams-Mystic
Smith Student Center
Northampton is home to Shelly's alma mater, Smith College. This student center (on left) is new since she graduated, and manages to share the architectural space next to venerable JMG Hall.
when I was a student there in 1997 and only recently left to take a job as coordinator of the Schoodic Education and Research Center
in Acadia National Park. I had read this information in the program’s alumni magazine and it wasn’t too difficult to track Jim down. He invited us to breakfast with his family and reminded me all over again why I liked Jim’s personable style, whether he’s teaching or socializing.
Which brings us to our hosts in a little town called Hope, Maine, which is near Camden and Rockport. We stayed with Jeannine and Justin right after we crossed the border from Canada and they helped us make the transition back into U.S. culture. We worked all the “eh’s” out of our systems and gradually lost the lilting manner of speech we’d adopted from our Canadian friends.
Jeannine and Justin win the best-things-come-in-three’s award for (1) making us sushi rolls, (2) taking us kayaking on Rockport Harbor, and (3) helping us change Matilda’s oil. Justin was able to dispose of the oil at the shipyard where he works, the Lyman Morse Boatbuilding Co.
Jeannine is a Williams-Mystic and Smith classmate of mine
Shelly hadn't been back to campus for six years, so she enjoyed catching up with Prof. Sue Freeman, for whom she worked as a research assistant in the education department.
and the only person from our maritime-studies program to become a USCG-certified vessel captain. (And you guessed it, she was a religion major!) She worked on Maine’s “windjammer” fleet for a while, then met her now-husband Justin (also a licensed captain) in a marine electrician’s course at the Landing School
in Maine. Together they spent two years captaining private yachts in the Caribbean and along the Gulf Coast, leaving a job in Mississippi just two weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit. They’ve come ashore and bought a house in Hope so Jeannine can go to nursing school, but their next goal is to renovate a 30-foot fiberglass ketch they recently acquired after much searching, and sail around the world. Knowing them, they’ll do it.
There’s not much to tell from our final days in eastern Canada: we made a beeline from Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, to Richibucto, New Brunswick, for our lobsterboat outing, then another beeline from there to Hope, Maine We’re very glad we took the time to explore the Maritimes, as we’re less likely to return there than to other parts of the U.S.
As for the rest of our September, we plan to spend it on Cape
A visit was also paid to Shelly's Glee Club conductor, Jonathan Hirsh, who took a break from auditioning choral hopefuls to reminisce.
Cod, in Mystic, Conn., maybe Long Island, and finally NYC!
There are more photos below