Making Tracks on Moosehead Lake
The sneaky patch of wind came across the water, catching my wife, Marianne, by surprise. She was driving our 24-foot Corsair trimaran when the puff slingshot the boat's speed to a casual 14 knots-upwind.
Her eyes bugged out as the wild mustang we were riding bolted from the paddock. Like a cool pro, she pealed the boat downwind as I'd taught her to do when sailing iceboats, turning the heel into afterburner speed. She has iceboating instincts? Cool. I learn something new about her every day.Then our speed rapidly climbed. "Take it!" She tossed the tiller extension at me. So much for instincts, I thought. Since most puffs of wind on an inland lake are short-lived, our speed soon dropped back down to somewhere in the 9- to 10-knot category, still pretty darn good for only 24 feet of waterline. Speed is something I require in the boats I choose to sail, and it certainly seems like a better way to go cruising.
Our trip on Moosehead Lake, Maine, was a little different. It was closer to a wilderness canoe trip. Tents weren't needed, though, and we covered much more territory. We were sail-camping on a lake in the middle of the Maine woods, home to numerous seaplanes and the famous Maine fishing guides. There were no neat rows of mooring balls to which to tie, nor was there anyone wandering the streets with overpriced cups of coffee in their hand. Boutique fudge shops? No way.
Think loons, tall lodgepole pines, bacon over a campfire, outhouses, soft pine-needle ground cover, lumberjacks, and quiet morning mist across the lake. We were at the edge of the wilderness. In fact, when we first rolled into the town of Greenville, we knew this trip was going to be different. At the town's only pay phone was a gentleman dressed in camo with a dead bear piled in the back of his pickup. I wasn't sure which was more unusual: a bear in the back of a pickup or someone still actually using a pay phone.
Greenville, our launching point, was dramatically scenic. As we edged up and over a steep-crested hill, our tri in tow, the lake suddenly came into view and the town appeared in the distance, at its southern tip. At exactly that same scenic spot was the Indian Hill Trading Post, which has all the supplies you could ever want from a supermarket and camping-supply store all in one. Our questions to the staff in the trading post about sail-camping got us some puzzled looks, but they knew the lake area, and their information was a step in the right direction.
Trying to see all of the lake was going to require the entire week. Located in the center of Maine, Moose-head Lake, extending 30 miles north to south and 10 miles wide, is a waterway that doesn't seem to end, given its endless bays, inlets, hidden coves, and islands. At its southern end, where we launched, summer homes were scattered about, but the farther we traveled north, homes and people grew scarce, and in the quiet bays, the loons were the only residents. Mountains poked their shoulders above the thick forest, their slopes traveling all the way to the water's edge. It felt as though we'd sailed deep into some faraway wilderness.
Our trip fell nicely into place months before, when I learned that I'd have an extra week of time on my hands. Marianne hinted that we ought to do some cruising. Masterfully plotting moves ahead in her mind like a chess grandmaster, she casually asked me where I'd like to cruise. Not paying too much attention, I must've mumbled something about trailering a trimaran somewhere to a big freshwater lake-my dream trip. I know that most cruising types would've chosen a destination like Fiji, with its white, sandy beaches, but my heart will always be in the wilds of some sort, so why not try and combine my two loves, sailing and woods? To my utter surprise, she pulled it off, and Bob Gleason of The Multihull Source stepped up to the plate, enthusiastically offering one of his Corsair trimarans for us to use on the trip. This was Christmas Day, and I just got my Red Rider BB gun.