Well, it took us three years longer than I thought before we tried the Inside Passage
, but we did it this year and it was a beauty.
Our boat is 31 feet, and has a 9.8HP Nissan
. A big advantage for us is that our boat has no fixed keel
. We were able to sweep back our big pivoting leeboard and proceed with minimal effect from the whirlpools and eddies and turbulence that might've spun a deep-keeled boat.
We wound up running Upper Hell Gate a couple of hours before high slack. We told ourselves we would just poke our nose up into the incoming current
and see how it went, and turn back if it looked dicey. We made decent progress up to about 100 yards from the Gate, where the incoming current
ran at about 5 knots and we motored at 5.5 or so. It took a good 5 minutes to proceed the next 200 yards. Super slow-mo progress. The river swirled and boiled and looked like a mountain stream as it ran over rocks on the edge of the channel.
Once past the gate, it was pretty easy going -- motoring against maybe a 2 knot
current till Hockamock Bay.
Then Lower Hell Gate was a non-event. We must've hit it pretty close to high slack, because we were through it before we even realized we were at the crucial marker.
All the surrounding land, up the Kennebec and down the Sasanoa, was gorgeous and almost entirely undeveloped, with the one big exception of Bath, which still somehow manages to confine all its massive industry into a pretty limited parcel at the Iron Works. They are building stealth destroyers there which are really cool to see.
All in all, if you can't hit perfect slack, I recommend hitting the gates on the rising tide, where the incoming tidal current subtracts from the regular outflow of river current, rather than anything close to a falling tide, where the tidal current is additive to the regular river current.
(Though the incoming current never seemed to make an appearance on the Kennebec: even though we hit Fort Popham at the mouth of the Kennebec at low tide, and we had sort of assumed we would ride an incoming tide all the way to Bath . . . the river continued to flow at a strong pace against us the whole way up. Somewhere there must be current tables for the Kennebec itself but I didn't have them. We were blessed with a strong southerly wind
, though, so for much of the Kennebec we got to cut the motor
and sail upstream.)
It was a great experience, and I wish we had taken it more slowly, maybe spent a day or two in Hockamock Bay and a day or two in Knubble Bay. Townsend Gut into Boothbay is also gorgeous. Instead we were in a bit of a hurry as we had left one daughter at camp back near Portland
and worried about getting stuck by weather
on our return to pick her up on Friday, so we made miles while we could. We spent a day seeing Boothbay before heading out to Damariscove, then Cundy's Harbor, and then back to Portland
As usual with Maine
, there is never enough time to see everything you want to see. You could spend a lifetime cruising that coast and still not see it all. Well, now I will sit and wait through the long winter till we go there again next year. . . .