Friday, September 19, 2008

View from our friends........

This blog is being written by Rick and Lynnie Tierney who were so very lucky to be invited by Vicki and Norm on Tide Hiker for a 10 day cruise in Maine. What fun!

We met Norm and Vicki at the docks in Portland, Maine, and set off the next morning, heading NE for Casco Bay. The scenery along the coast is nothing short of spectacular, until of course the fog rolls in. Then the anxiety level bumps up a few notches, and while sounding fog signals underway at about 5 kts, four pairs of eyes alternately scanned the radar, chart plotter, lobster buoys, and fog bank for when the radar blips turned into real boats.

We certainly had fun learning about the lobster traps. We read somewhere that at any given time there are about three million lobster traps deployed in Maine, all with their colorful floats. At times it seemed that whatever harbor or anchorage we entered, at least two million of them were there with us; endless opportunities for wrapping one of the float lines around a prop. We found them plentiful in anywhere from 15’ to 350’ of water, and then learned that as the season progresses, the lobsters move to deeper water, and the watermen follow. After a couple of days worth of dodging lobster buoys Rick began to consider the logistical challenge of sorting out who “owned” what color pattern for the buoys.

It always seemed reasonably obvious that each lobsterman has their own unique color pattern, but how is it that they’re all unique? There must be a master government regulated lobster buoy color pattern clearing house for the State of Maine! How else could order be maintained? Well, it turns out those folks in Maine have been doing this for a lot longer than there have been governments. Rick asked a couple of the locals and discovered that there is indeed a clearing house of sorts for buoy color patterns. It seems to generally fall on the shoulders of the local harbor master for a given area. He makes sure the color patterns are unique for that area only, so duplicates are possible in other parts of the coast. It seems to all work OK somehow. For those who relish knowing how much markup there is on a pound of Maine lobster at your local Piggly Wiggly in Georgia, we were told that lobstermen currently get about $2.50/lb out of the trap. Put another way, at today’s fuel prices, a lobsterman has to haul about 2 pounds of lobster per gallon of fuel just to maintain his vessel and break even. But the traps usually looked pretty full when we saw them pulled up, so hopefully the lobster folk are doing OK. After all, we always depend on their product for our New Year’s Eve meal in North Carolina, where the local Food Lion sells Mr. Maine Lobster for $12.99/lb.

Every day was an adventure. We visited some fantastic channels, harbors and anchorages with names such as Five Islands, Booth Bay, Tennants Harbor, Fox Island Thoroughfare, Carver Cove, and Rockland. I know lots of folks recommend restaurants, and it’s hard to avoid the cliché sometimes. However, if you’re ever in Rockland, and you want some really wonderful local fare, don’t miss Contes, located on the waterfront near the town docks. There you will have a most unusual dining experience, but get there before 7:00PM as that’s when the line forms. It’s hard to describe exactly, but we all agreed that great food was plentiful, and the ambience was very similar to eating inside a working lobster market, complete with restaurant supplies piled all around the paper covered tables.

We fondly remember visiting Mosquito Island; at least one of them, and took the dingy about 50 yards to its shore for a hike. There was even a summit to explore. Norm led the way, followed by Vicki, then Lynnie, with Rick, last taking pictures. We all had applied bug spray. However, it soon became apparent that whole-body environmental suits would not have sufficed. Shortly after Norm disappeared into the woods, he came running back down the hill, engulfed in a serious swarm of mosquitoes and black flies. We quickly launched the dingy and returned to Tidehiker to nurse the bites with wine. So much for island exploration in August. Later that evening, shortly before dusk, there were several people on the island, some wandering around, and others trying to harvest mussels on the low tide. So perhaps the bugs drop off as daylight wanes. We didn’t try again, however.

For Lynnie, there were some wonderful cooking classes with both Vicki and Norm. We laughingly remember how we did the Conga Line to Vicki’s music on the upper deck as Rick let the chicken burn on the grill. We put the table up out under the stars and watched the sunset. Magical. We hope to be invited aboard again to share some more wonderful meals!

Vicki also taught Lynnie a new card game called Blink. Lynnie still has no idea what the game is about since from the time the first card was played Vicki started laughing. Those of you who know and love Vicki know that she has an infectious laugh. Lynnie lost every game but would play it again tomorrow just to hear Vicki laugh. Rick was watching, and Lynnie was laughing harder than Vicki. Then of course, Norm and Rick followed suit.

We also learned about the value of Sippy-cups. We believe that every boat should have a few dozen on board. Everyone knows that at some time, when you least expect it, your adult beverage in a lovely wine glass may end up somewhere outside of said glass. Unfortunately, when it lands on a laptop keyboard, this can, in fact, kill a computer as did happen with the Tide Hiker PC. Fortunately, things are back to normal as concerns the PC, and we are all still friends. Amazing.

So, what do we miss MOST about cruising with Vicki and Norm in Maine? Hmmm, how about:
- we aren’t with Vicki and Norm
- we aren’t on Tide Hiker
- we aren’t in Maine.

We miss the natural exuberance of Vicki and Norm in the morning. Being retired guys, the Tierney’s don’t usually get up very early in the am. When we would emerge from the guest suite, there was always a smiling Norm, who was plotting out the day’s cruise, giving us a big ‘Good Morning’! Then a walk down to the galley for some much needed coffee and Vicki would add her own big ‘Good Morning’. Wow, what a wonderful way to wake up!! The rest of the day was an extension of those feelings.

We had a grand time. Thanks Friends!!

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