Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Welcome to Portland!

Approaching Portland from Casco Bay islands

Now here’s a curious phenomenon—after sailing all this way up the East Coast to Portland, Maine, we have found ourselves on the northern shores of Lake Superior!  Well, obviously that’s not true, but the rocky coast seems so much like home.  Even though we are technically now Florida residents, (where our mail forwarding service is located) Duluth and Lake Superior are still “home” to us.  Everywhere we look, it’s so beautiful here! 

In our gift basket from Portland cousins.  
It was as we approached Portland that I coined the word, “Mainey,” for lack of a better word to say what I needed to say. I did think it was a rather childish term I’d coined, but no more appropriate one could be found at the time.  When Carl’s sister arrived, I heard her using the very same word!  Clearly, “Mainey" is an apt adjective.

Historic home on Eastern Promenade, overlooking Portland Harbor
Portland, Maine is the home of Carl’s eldest paternal cousin, Frank and wife, Jane.  Months ago, we had said we would attempt to sail as far north as Portland, Maine this summer to visit them.  As luck would have it, two of Frank’s brothers and wives from Michigan made firm plans to be there during that same time, along with one of Carl’s sisters, Wanda and her husband from Memphis.  
5 cousins and their spouses.

Five cousins along with their spouses, all sitting on either side of 60 years of age, representing two families that had once been as close as any cousins could be— back when they spent nearly every weekend together as small children in Detroit, MI.  Those early formative years; the hours spent concocting death defying acrobatics, conspiratorial plots by the older boys aimed at the younger ones, challenging water games at the beach, the wrestling, the snowball fights, the fine art of teasing, and the hundreds of meals shared during those hot summers and cold winters together.  

One cousin arrived by truck and camper from Michigan.
As I listened and laughed, it was clear that at the same time as they played, those cousins were forming themselves in some fashion, after those four memorable and well-loved parents who had brought the whole bunch of them into this world.   Oh, the childhood events they remembered; the infectious laughter and hilariously surprising stories shared.  A casual observer would not have guessed that this group had shared so little time together since childhood.  But I think that made it all the more special.  
Time on the deck overlooking Portland harbor.

At one point, our raucous laughter was punctuated by a phone call, advising us that our little family reunion had proven to be too raucous by one of our host’s condo neighbors.  While someone moved to close the sliding glass doors onto the deck, the rest of us choked back laughter mid-guffaw. We had successfully morphed back to childhood! 
A gaff-rigged sailboat with two lighthouses.

In between our shared dinners and evenings together, we took in some of the sights of Portland.  There are four historic neighborhoods, which we visited on a tour bus.  There are over 60 lighthouses in Maine (second only to Michigan) and we did our best to see some of them.  Carl and I brought the group out for an afternoon sail one day.   It is not uncommon to be able to see three lighthouses at one time from the water, some of them much closer than others, of course. 
Leaving Portland by Casco Bay Ferry Lines, enroute to Peak's Island

There are 3166 coastal islands in Maine!  I was astonished!  Portland itself, is situated on peninsulas.  For lunch one day, we took a ferry out to Peak’s Island which is across the bay (Casco Bay) from Portland.   Three thousand one-hundred and sixty five islands to go…
The Portland Light on Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Before arriving, I had somehow failed to realize that Portland would be such a city of character and charming brick buildings.  On July 4, 1866, a firecracker and some wood shavings were thought to be the start of a fire that burned much of Portland to the ground.  Following that, determined Portlanders rebuilt with a heavy emphasis on building with brick. Because of that, there are many lovely old brick homes and businesses still standing. 
Granite street in quaint alley of shops

Of course, Maine, known as the Granite State, has no shortage of granite.  I noticed that the street curbs (all of them, as far as I could see) are made of granite, not poured concrete.  The streets that are paved with granite pavers will never wear out.  Dare I say, very Mainey?
On the waterfront.

In my last post I introduced the topic of lobster pots.  Now for the lobsters!  Live lobsters at the grocery stores, at all restaurants, and seafood houses.  You can have lobster rolls; whole lobster or the tail—broiled, grilled or steamed in beer, or cooked in champagne; lobster bisque and lobster chowder; lobster on your salad, on your pizza, in your omelet; Lobster Thermidor, Lobster Colorado, Maine lobster lasagna, lobster Mac ’n Cheese (naturally); lobster stuffed with crab; beef tenderloin stuffed with lobster; baked stuffed lobster; lobster fricassee; ….(starting to feel like Bubba Gump) and while I only tried a couple of these, I can attest to the superb flavor of fresh lobster.  
10 steamed lobsters for dinner!

Our hosts treated all of us to a dinner of whole steamed lobsters one evening.  Before we left Portland, I bought a pair of lobster cracking tools for us to keep on the boat.  If the opportunity presents itself, we will buy lobsters directly from a lobsterman’s boat while out on the water.  I look forward to it!
South Port Marine, South Portland

ADDENDUM for Sailors regarding  
sailboat slips and mooring balls in Portland:

Because we would be having family visit us on our boat while in Portland, and would need to get rides from Carl’s cousin or an Uber driver every day, we docked our boat at a marina. Marinas in New England are without a doubt the most costly of those we have come across in our year and four months aboard Northern Star.  We searched out the most economical marina we could find for our first seven nights there, which turned out to be $2.75/foot at a marina in South Portland. The other marinas, however, offered transient slips for up to $5/foot. Although our marina was on a separate peninsula from Portland, it really was only about a 10 to 15 minute drive from our host’s home on the far side of the Portland peninsula. For our last two nights in Portland, we took a mooring ball on the Portland harbor front at $45/night out on the open water off the point of the Portland peninsula. It was definitely a rock’n and roll’n sort of evening, what with the ferries passing by regularly.  The dinghy dock was also quite a rolling experience, both for exiting the dinghy and walking on the dock.  
Portland harbor.  The large mooring fields are far to the right, close to ferry traffic.

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