Written by Facilities Manager Oakley Jackson
The Apprentice Shop crew and I set sail aboard Castor, one of the shop built vessels, from Hurricane on the afternoon of Monday the 28th of September. With a steady southerly we made good time out around Heron Neck on Greens Island. The breeze stayed on our quarter the whole way as we sailed between Sheep Island and Carvers and out past Saddleback Ledge with its weathered little lighthouse tower. Approaching Isle Au Haut we neared several ledges with seals perched high above the sea. Though we were a good ways off the seals spooked and we witnessed them making a plunge off an 8 ft. sheer cliff into the water below. Exciting show!
We dropped the hook for the night in Duck Harbor and erected a tent/fort with a tarp draped over a sprit between the masts. Dinner was cooked on board and the moon gave us an incredible show as it rose into a mackerel sky, it was the night following the super moon eclipse. The next morning we awoke to fog and decided to take a hike up Duck Harbor “Mountain” for a nice view of the harbor, despite the reduced visibility. Sailing away from Isle Au Haut we set a course of 320° towards Winter Harbor on Vinalhaven. The fog shrouded us in its folds and we had to rely on the compass for what felt like a long while. The occasional lobster boat crossed our path, but thankfully our course was true and we emerged from the grayness at the mouth of Winter Harbor.
Sailing past Big Hen Island we tucked in behind Little Hen and anchored for lunch and exploration ashore. Little Hen is part of the Maine Island Trail Association (MITA) and affords a great little campground barely above sea level. With it still being early in the day we decided to sail on past the Goose Rocks sparkplug lighthouse and through the Fox Island Thoroughfare. With snotty weather in the forecast we took refuge in Southern Harbor on North Haven. We made landfall just before the rain began and gratefully took shelter at the Gates’ home. We listened as the wind picked up and the rain poured down. Big thanks to Josie for recommending the safe haven of her house.
The onslaught of rain and wind had not ceased by morning and we decided we needed a plan B if sailing on to Rockland did not seem like a wise choice. With the forecast calling for winds of 30 knots, gusting to 40, and seas building to 6 ft. we agreed to give the bay a look and return to Browns boatyard if we deemed it too rough. Castor is a sturdy vessel and with reefs in both in the main and foresails she took on the waves gallantly, charging through and sending blown spray onto our already rain soaked heads. As in the words of John Masefield’s Sea Fever the wind was“like a whetted Knife,” but we gritted our teeth and sailed out into the rising tempest. By the time we were abreast of the Sugar Loaves at the western end of the thoroughfare the gusts were putting severe strain on the rigging. With the words, “I’ve seen enough” I turned the helm hard to leeward and began the retreat towards land. After tacking our way back through the Thoroughfare downtown North Haven we snagged a mooring and abandoned Castor to ride out the storm. Although it was tough to call the expedition early it was clear that we had made the right choice. We were grateful for the days of sailing we were given and all felt rewarded to have tested our vessel in strong winds and to have had her perform so beautifully. I am already looking forward to next year’s expedition!