Seal Bay to Isle au Haut

If we thought yesterday was foggy, then today it was a white out. When we woke, we were barely able to see the top of the mast looking through the hatch. Therefore, it was a great morning to stay cuddled in the V-berth, catch up on reading, and wait for it to burn off. By 9am it was slightly more visible so we unwound our track into Seal Bay, now at low tide exposing many more rocks than we witnessed on the previous day’s dinghy ride or entrance.

The fog lifting from Seal Bay showing many more rocks than yesterday!

We headed the 7 miles southeast across Isle au Haut Bay in THICK fog using just the electronics and dodging MANY lobster pots. At one point it was hundreds and all Brandon could say was “this seems excessive.”

So many lobster pots to avoid!

We decided to sail down the Isle au Haut thorofare and anchor just off Point Lookout. As soon as we got close to the island, the fog dissipated and we sailed down this narrow channel passing the town dock and approached a dredged channel. There was mixed reviews of how deep the dredged 75 yard channel is – some say 5 feet, some say 6 feet at low tide. It was one hour past low tide and we draw 6… but we decided to go for it at a very slow speed and held our breath. I stood on the bow looking for possible rocks and we watched the depth sounder go as low as 2-feet below the keel but we made it out the other side and found a mooring that even said “Guest” which is free but still decided to tuck into the cove more and anchor.

Point Lookout – This is where the Wilson family stayed in the 1970s.

I just wanted to take a moment to talk about anchoring… We heard a lot about how we would have to seek out moorings everywhere we went in Maine because it is really rocky up here and anchors don’t hold well. I don’t know if it’s just where we have been going and its a coincidence, but everywhere has been super muddy and great holding ground. So far we grabbed one mooring and that was more because it came with trash removal, showers, and a dinghy dock with access to lobsters.

When we anchor, (we have mostly been in 20 feet) we put out 100 feet of chain and have a Rocna anchor and we have yet to have it not set on the first try (knock on wood…) Brandon and I have our system down pretty well where he drives and I set the anchor on the bow using our windlass. We spraypainted the chain every 25 feet in a pattern of “red, white, and blue” so red is 25 feet, white is 50, blue is 75 then 100 is a little red then white, 125 is blue then red. So I just need to keep saying “red, white, blue” to myself to know how much is out. I then add a snubber which is a hook that attaches to the chain that splits into two lines (some people do just one). This takes the load off the windlass by distributing weight and adding a stretchy aspect to the anchoring in variable wind strengths.

At anchor in Isle au Haut near Point Lookout

Okay… back to the day. Isle au Haut was on my list to visit because I had heard about it for many years from the Wilson side of the family. Especially from my grandmother, Betsy Wilson who passed away earlier this year. My father and aunt also always spoke of it so fondly and I had seen many photos. Last year, just a few weeks before Betsy passed, I was telling her about our plans to cruise Maine. She had me pulling out photo albums to talk about all the places and people of Isle au Haut. She had cancer in the 1970s and after her surgery, she came here to recover with the family but then returned for many years after. She said it “restored her soul” and anyone who visits this corner of the world would be hard-pressed not to feel that way.

Betsy with her corgi, Edward, at the cliffs

My aunt, Cicely, even texted me these photos today which was a nice reminder as they were the same ones I reminisced with Betsy just a few months ago.

Taken over 20 years ago of my aunt and grandmother, we are anchored just over Cic’s shoulder right now.
Close to where we hiked today of the Wilson children and my great-grandmother. And Ann the dog!

Most of Isle au Haut is part of the Arcadia National Park and I really wanted to do a hike. The cruising guide recommended Duck’s Harbor to the south for hiking but there was still access to the park from the town so we opted to go for the town because I wanted to see the places I heard so much about. I also read there was a shack that served lobster rolls. So I planned the afternoon: lobster rolls and hike to a summit and down to a lake.

The Post Office

Well… my romanticized plans of the afternoon did not exactly come to fruition. The lobster shack is only open Thurs-Sunday and the market is pretty sparse so I bought some crackers, prosciutto, cheese and an apple for which turned out to be $33 – but at least we had sustenance (and supported the local economy that is clearly hurting right now due to lack of tourism) before the hike which I THOUGHT would be 3-4 miles.

Fresco lunch at the General Store

Turns out my map reading skills were amiss as well and due to Covid, the ranger station was closed so we couldn’t ask anyone for recommendations. We hiked to the summit through a thickly wooded path that turned out to have NO lookout. We were just now 400 feet higher than we started and still surrounded by the same trees at zero feet!

The Summit, the view was “amazing”

At this point it was more like 3 miles in so we abandoned the idea of the lake and got back to the road instead of the trail. All in all, it was more like 6-7 miles and while I love running distances, Brandon is not the endurance athlete in the couple, yet still, it was not worth something I would recommend either. So we can tell you where NOT to go on Isle au Haut now. Follow the tips from the cruising guide: go to Duck Harbor and hike south to the cliffs! Skip Bowditch trail!

Happy campers hiking down hill finally!

We went back to the market to get some refreshments and ice cream before heading back to the boat for the evening and making plans for the rest of the trip. It’s sad but becoming a reality. It’s Tuesday and by Friday we need to be heading back South. The plan is somewhere on the East side of Vinalhaven then Tenant’s Harbor (a bigger harbor) to refuel before we head home. The good news is that Friday/ Saturday should be a following wind to send us away from Maine but don’t need to think too much about that yet, at least two more days of adventures await.

Good night from Isle au Haut

Food:

  • Breakfast underway: Blueberry pancakes and bacon with bloody marys
  • Lunch: Prosciutto, crackers, local cheeses, and an apple
  • Dinner: Mushroom risotto with chicken sausage with a balsamic glaze with a side garden salad and lemon balsamic dressing

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