At Home Down East | Cruising World

At Home Down East

Mid-western cruisers find a slice of home in the crisp, cool mornings on Mount Desert Island in Maine.

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It’s a peaceful, if slightly foggy, morning at anchor in Somes Sound, on the coast of Maine.

David Gillespie

Waking up at anchor in Somes Sound, the inlet that runs up the center of Maine’s Mount Desert Island, feels strangely similar to our home waters on the mountain lakes of Colorado: the crisp, cool mornings in the middle of August, a brisk row to take the dog ashore in the early fog, and those beautiful pine-­covered mountains (we’d call them hills in Colorado, but still). My wife, Sandy, and I sailed here from our new home base in New Bern, North Carolina, aboard our Tayana 42, Bel Canto, as part of our summer cruise of New England.

Although this is our first time here, Mount Desert feels just like home, but bigger. Bigger water, bigger boats, bigger distances under sail and, of course, bigger obstacles. Nearly everyone mentions the lobster pots, and while they aren’t as bad as I was expecting, they are relentless. Colorado sailing requires constant sail adjustment because the wind rarely blows in the same direction for more than five minutes. Maine sailing is constantly altering course to avoid the pots because there never seems to be a clear path for more than five minutes. I’m not sure how anyone sails through here at night.

Mount Desert Island is home to Acadia National Park, and there you’ll find a full range of hikes — from easy walks around lakes to very aggressive rock-face climbs — all of which include stunning views. My favorite is the trail from Sand Beach to Otter Point along the red, rugged rocks on the eastern side by the ocean. They bring back memories of so many great concerts at the famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre at home.

Like many cruisers, we dreamed of Caribbean waters and sandy beaches when we headed out our first year, more so than the type of wooded scenery we’d just left behind. I imagine that this explains why we didn’t see the same parade of boats headed north for the summer as we did when we went south. Even in the peak-cruising-season months of July and August, we never had an issue finding space in anchorages.

Visitors to Mount Desert Island will find plenty more to love beyond the scenery. There is an excellent bus system that will take you just about anywhere on the island. Cruisers can easily find what they need near a bus line, whether it’s a day of hiking, or laundry and provisioning in Bar Harbor. Add in the abundant lobster rolls and chowder, and Down East Maine becomes a very hard place to leave.

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