In the Right Place: Gone

We had one of those small Maine moments on Tuesday (September 18). Near dusk, there were prospects for a good sunset, so we poured a glass of red wine and waited and sipped. (Sunsets go better with red wine and vice versa.) The part of Great Cove in our view was blue and still, a lone sloop sat atop its own reflection there; Babson Island was in a spotlight of sun; thin clouds sheeted the sky here and there; the light was dimming in our tree-lined field.


Suddenly, fog appeared from nowhere and encircled Babson within minutes. That fog ring arose into a tidal wave of mist and Babson was gone; then, Eggemoggin Reach behind the Island and the sky above it were gone; then, the Cove was gone and the fog was marching steadily up the field toward us. Soon after, the field and trees were gone. And, so was our wine. But, we had a stunning two-minute fog ring to talk about at dinner. With a little more wine. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Quintet

We’ll put the image below away now and pull it out in the dead of winter. It was taken September 15, the last sunny day that the members of this classic quintet were playing together. Boats and moorings in Great Cove are now beginning to be removed for winter storage, a poignant time for Cove watchers.


This quintet consists of the following WoodenBoat School pulling/rowing boats, starting at the top: Wild Rose, a 14’ Maine Coast Dory; American Beauty, a 14’ Whitehall Tender; Shearwater, a 16’ Shearwater inspired by the Norwegian Oselver boats (and designed by Joel White); Winslow, a 13’6” Pulling Skiff; and Jesse, a 12’8” Catspaw Dinghy. Thanks to Jon Wilson for identification help.

Late summer through early fall is the time when the leaves start to turn and mooring gear appears in the grass:


(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: On the Ball

A lot of interesting visitors come here. A couple of days ago, we met one in the form of this frisky West Highland Terrier, who was playing ball by himself with a fallen apple.

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He was very friendly until we made a move for his apple, which he would grab and protect before we could lay a hand on it.

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One of the most interesting things about him was his name: “Jamie Fraser.” Fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series will recognize that as the name of the Scottish soldier who doesn’t play ball. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Old Age

Dense morning fog has crept up the field and surrounded us now. This is the third morning in a row that we’ve awakened in a cloud, unable to see the full field and the water beyond. The fog usually burns off by mid-morning and, for a short time as it is evaporating, our world becomes a softer, lusher place.


That’s when September fields become blurred greens, yellows, and browns and the ancient apple trees show the beauty of old age.

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Face Time

Yesterday, we noticed this chorus beaming at its conductor. We think that these are Heliopsis, one of the many members of the sunflower family. We’ve always wondered how young sunflowers “worship” the sun, and these cheery things inspired us to go to the books. They awake in the morning facing east, awaiting the sun; when the sun rises, they track it, slowly turning west as the earth turns. At night, they slowly turn back to gaze east again, ready for dawn.


It seems that this process (“Heliotropism”) occurs because the plants have a circadian rhythm (think internal clock) that awakens an unusual growth pattern in the flowers’ stems: during the day: growth on their east sides is faster than on their west sides; during the night, the process is reversed. This allows the young plants to grow as they turn toward the sun and to return to their original orientation after sundown. Mature plants usually maintain a steady gaze to the east. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Soaked

The effects of a good September rain can be miraculous. Semi-drought conditions dogged Down East Maine all summer until recently. Some wells went dry and spring-fed streams became rocky trails winding through the woods. Then, on September 11, Tropical Storm Gordon, in his death spasm, spattered us with a burst of torrential rain. We haven’t had significant rain since, but Gordon filled wells and spring basins.


Our woods’ streams are now lush with flowing silver, emerald, and bronze waters. The image above was taken yesterday afternoon; that stream was dry September 10. Reports indicate that Gordon deposited between three to four inches throughout our County (Hancock) and that nearby Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park got a needed 5.46-inch soaking. (Brooklin)


In the Right Place: 2018 WoodenBoat Sail-In


In the Right Place: 2018 WoodenBoat Sail-In

Ten windjammers paraded into Great Cove yesterday afternoon, turning a hazy day into a dazzling spectacle. It was the annual WoodenBoat School Sail-In, which had been postponed from the day before due to rain. Leading the event, as usual, was the three-masted Victory Chimes, the Queen of the Maine Coastal Cruisers. She’s a 170-foot schooner out of Rockland, Maine, that was launched in 1900. She sports one of the biggest Old Glories that you’ll ever see on a sailboat:

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Ladonna, also out of Rockland, was launched in 1922 as the Nathaniel Bowditch; she’s 108 feet long:

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Grace Bailey, launched in 1882, is a 118-footer that hails from Camden, Maine:

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The 125-foot Mary Day was built in 1962 for tourist cruising; she’s also out of Camden:

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The Lewis R. French, another Camden schooner, was built in 1871 for hauling commercial cargo; shes a 101-footer:

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Angelique’s tan-bark sails always call attention to her; she’s a 130-footer that was built in 1980 for tourist cruising and also is from Camden:

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Actress is a 56-foot Brigantine out of Belfast, Maine, that was built in 1937:

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The 120-foot J.&E. Riggin is out of Rockport, Maine; she’s a 120-footer that was launched in 1927:

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The yellow-hulled Heritage also is out of Rockport; she’s a 145-footer that was launched in 1983 for the tourist trade:

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The Stephen Taber, hailing from Rockland, was launched in 1871; she’s 110 feet long:

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The 50-foot gaff sloop Vela whisked in and out of traffic. She’s a floating classroom for the WoodenBoat School and hails from Sedgwick, Maine.

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There were many impressive sails that ended up as bowsprit laundry:

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At about 4:00 p.m. yesterday, as the overcast increased and light started to fade, most vessels were anchored and the passengers were getting ready to come ashore for the party.

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At about 6:30 a.m. today, the sun came over the spruce ridge and found a cluster of schooners sleeping:

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Thriving

Much-needed rain is sweeping down much too hard as we try to see Naskeag Harbor yesterday morning. We might as well be in a car wash.

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However, on the way home, we put down the car window to see some of our feathered neighbors that are having a stormy breakfast al fresco.

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Wild Turkeys were extirpated in Maine in the 1880s, but were reintroduced as full-time residents in 1978. Since then, they’ve thrived here under conditions that sometimes are extreme. (When we hear that someone is a “Tough Old Bird,” we try to imagine that person with wattles and a snood.)

Nonetheless, our masochistic garden welcomes the storm as it beats down the flowers and grasses and obscures the view of Great Cove.:

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Eden Revisited

It’s yesterday. We’re walking along the edge of a field that we haven’t visited for months, but we’re making our usual mistake: we’re not looking up. We soon realize this, scan the trees, and – much to our pleasure – we see that the wild apple trees are full of good-sized fruit that was not there the last time we passed this way.

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By “wild” we mean apples trees that are abandoned. Most of their apples will be eaten by the wildlife -- bear, deer, raccoons, wild turkeys, gulls, and many songbirds.

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This fruit originally was fisherman food here. The first Maine apple trees reportedly were brought to Maine in the 16th Century by European fisherman who planted them on the sea islands where the men camped. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: The Mob

We’re in a clearing and hear the piercing cries of an Osprey: “Cheereek!-Cheereek!-Cheereek!” We look up: no high-soaring Osprey. We look in the nearby trees: no roosting Osprey. The cries persist. There’s movement in a treetop more than a quarter of a mile away. With our long lens, we barely see a defiant Osprey being “mobbed” by at least eight Crows.

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This is unusual, at least for us. In our experience, the customary targets of Crow-mobbing are Owls, Hawks, and Eagles. Those raptors kill Crows and mobbing is thought to be a preventative group defense against such attacks. Ospreys, on the other hand, usually eat only fish unless there’s a fish famine, which doesn’t occur here.

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Also, those distant Crows don’t seem agitated.  They fly in, calmly sit near the Osprey and silently edge even closer along limbs, giving the fish-eater cold stares.

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The cursing Osprey refuses to be flushed. After at least a 20-minute performance of Osprey invective, the Crows fly off, seemingly satisfied; the Osprey calmly starts to preen itself, and we move on.

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: A Good Start

The temperature is somewhere between cool and cold at about 6 a.m. this morning. We’re waiting for the sun to climb over the spruce trees and find us, but we can’t stop shivering. It makes us realize that we’ll have to let go of some of our summer ways -- the only thing between our chest and the chill is our thin, short-sleeved shirt. The sun suddenly finds us! We forget about our body; this is a time to try to feel with our eyes.

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We see gleaming. It’s a familiar Sweet Pea vine that has begun its morning prayers to the sun; it holds its aged, veiny leaves open in seeming faithful worship and frail dependence. We gasp and wonder why we’ve never noticed this before. We’re off to a good start. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Windjammer Watch XV

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The Knitting Seafarers purled into Great Cove again on Tuesday (September 4) and plaited out the next morning.  

We’re of course talking about one of the unusual (but apparently very popular) cruises on the historic J.&E. Riggin. During such occasional cruises, enthusiasts simultaneously knit and sail the Down East coast.

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To some, sailing and knitting on a Schooner built in 1927 apparently is as natural a combination as peanut butter and jelly. lthough we initially thought that it might be more like ketchup on ice cream, we realized two things. First, knitting is a time-honored craft and, in the hands of some, an art. Second, doing just about anything when sailing Eggemoggin Reach is a good thing.

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In teh Right Place: Tiny Travelers

We thought that our Twelve-Spotted Skimmers had left us, then the handsome fellow below showed up Tuesday, September 4. (We know that this is an adult male because it has both brown and white spots; females and young males only have white spots. )

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There is an ever-widening investigation by scientists and volunteers to determine which dragonflies migrate and which end their lives in the cold of the North. Twelve-Spots have been sighted within swarms of migrating dragonflies moving southward along the Atlantic coast; Twelve-Spots also usually become evident in the South later than other dragonflies, which is another indication that they might be migrators.

For comparison to the male above, here's an older image of a female Twelve-Spot and a Common Green Darner – a known migrant:

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Stuck

We’re monitoring two flightless male Wood Ducks in a nearby marsh pond. They’re flightless because they’re in a severe molt called their “eclipse phase.”


We know where we can look for them without alarming the shy birds. Sometimes we see both together, sometimes only one. Most of the time, we see neither. But, we see enough of them to conclude that they are having a safe summer. If a racoon or other predator doesn’t get them, they should be back in full dress uniform this fall.

Many birds have significant molts, but those of male Wood Ducks seem more severe due to the contrast between their buzz-cut molt and their full-plumaged beauty. Compare this year’s summer molting drake (image taken September 4, 2018), above, with last year’s fall-plumaged one (taken October 11, 2017), below:

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Windjammer Watch XIV


The 170-foot Schooner Victory Chimes sailed into foggy Great Cove Monday afternoon (September 4); she sailed out in a fair wind and under sunny skies yesterday morning. She's shown below coming in through the fog; her departure is shown further below after a little history.:

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 Launched in 1900, this three-masted schooner plied the Chesapeake and Delaware Bay areas as the Edwin & Maude until 1954, when she came to Maine. Once here, she was renamed the Victory Chimes in honor of a Canadian schooner of that name that had been launched on Armistice Day in 1918.

During the late 1980s, she was bought and restored by Domino's Pizza and named Domino Effect. In 1990, this National Historic Landmark was purchased again, renamed Victory Chimes, and put to work as a Coastal Cruiser hailing out of Rockland, Maine.

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She's shown above as the sun found her yesterday, anchored calmly with her aft sail up as a stay and her passengers ashore exploring the WoodenBoat School campus.  After her passengers returned, she raised sail and spun toward us.

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Unlike previous visits, there was a fair wind that allowed this motorless Coaster to put up a plenty of canvas and depart without a boost from her powerful yawl boat. 

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She headed southwest out of the Cove into a hazy Eggemoggin Reach.

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: A Difficult Sport

Leprechaun hunting season up here begins September 1 and ends November 30. It coincides with the fall mushroom (some say toadstool) season. The Maine limit on taking Leprechauns is one adult male per year, which the State is thinking of raising because we have too many Leprechauns due to a lack of natural predators.

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It’s a difficult sport, Leprechaun hunting. Only those without fault can see them. (We’re told by a neighbor that there’s a magnificent Leprechaun specimen sitting between the two mushroom stalks in the image above.)

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Everyone can see the signs of Leprechaun activity, however, one of which is a mushroom toppled at a Leprechaun party. We believe, by the way, that these images may be of Short-Stalked Suillus Mushrooms (Suillus brevipes), a favorite Leprechaun hiding place. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Places: Fruits

It’s Labor Day, one of our more unusual holidays. This originally was a day for protesting 60- and 70-hour work weeks. In 1894, it was declared a federal holiday in honor of American workers, many of whom never got the day off. In time, however, Labor Day seemed to become better known as the last unofficial day of summer, a day to relax. That brings us to the image below, which was taken here Saturday (September 1).


It’s shows a very relaxed sailor in a handmade wooden boat of vintage American design. That boat and the joy it brings is a reminder of an age when very hard-working and very talented people built and sailed vessels and undertook other types of difficult work that contributed to the exceptionalism of America. We like to think that we’re still benefitting from the fruits of that hard work. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Pecking Order

We witnessed an unusual event yesterday in a dark patch of woods: two female Pileated Woodpeckers were chasing each other, circle-climbing the same tree, and attacking each other. It didn’t look like play. Probably was just a political squabble.

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These are our largest Woodpeckers – about 16.5 inches long – assuming that the larger Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is extinct.

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“Pileated” means “crested” or “capped.” Pileateds mate for life, but there was no male in sight or hearing distance. (The male’s territorial challenge is a loud, maniacal laugh.)

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(Brooklin, Maine)


August Postcards From Maine


August Postcards From Maine

Our August sun seems to rise over Great Cove slower than other months so that we can savor the best of times. Our August woods and fields seem to sing "Summertime, Summertime!" Our August skies seem to remind us to use August fully and well; change is about to happen.

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We can learn from the wildlife: August is a time that they seem to live to the fullest. The yearling buck proudly displays his first real antlers; Goldfinches, Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds,  and Red Squirrels gorge themselves; Painted Turtles bask during the month's easy days. This August, the Monarch Butterflies returned in good numbers and bred well -- a beautiful encouragement.

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Dogs and Cats work hard at their summer jobs in August here. They retrieve valuable sticks, serve as all-seeing boat lookouts, and  -- in the case of Jethro, the popular Harbor Cat -- diligently guard the Harbor Boathouse.

August also is a good time to watch Schooners perform in Great Cove. The big vessels come and go, often parading silently, sometimes giving us an encore magic act in which they appear and disappear.

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But, August in Great Cove is not just for big Schooners. In fact, it's mostly a place where colorful small boats sail in sun and fog, sit patiently on their reflections, or become floating classrooms for the sailors who attend the Cove's famous WoodenBoat School.

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August also is a time to walk the Maine woods and fields and to appreciate wild pond flora and fauna. It's for picking ripened Blackberries and popping them into your mouth when there is no hygiene-minded person around; for Black-Eyed Susans to try to soak up all our sun; for remembering not to pick the pretty purple Bull Thistle; for Queen Anne's Lace and Goldenrod to become poignant reminders that fall is on the way; for fading wild Fragrant Water Lilies to offer their last nectar to passing Honeybees, and for multi-colored fungi to suddenly appear like little lights in darkening woods.

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We began these Postcards with the sun rising over the sea and we finish after the sun has disappeared into the sea. It will be dark within two minutes, but we'll leave a light on for you.

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(All images taken in Down East Maine during August 2018.)






In the Right Place: Windjammer Watch XIII

This is the Stephen Taber bearing down on us during a prior summer’s day:

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All the following images of her were taken here yesterday in Great Cove,  where she sheltered for a few hours during a rain squall.

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The 110-foot Taber was built in 1871 and is a National Historic Landmark that now hails from Rockland, Maine. As with many 19th Century cargo cruisers, the Taber was built with a flat bottom to “ground out” and discharge her cargo without the need for a pier.

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She does have a centerboard to lower during cruising but has no motor; her motorized yawlboat pushes her in light air.

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(Brooklin, Maine)