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Old 03-12-2012, 12:11   #1
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MidCoast Maine Inside Passage: Tips?

Hi,
I'm beginning my planning for next summer's cruise to Castine, Maine. In A Visual Cruising Guide to the Maine Coast, I discovered a fascinating inside passage from Bath to Boothbay Harbor. I would love to try it.

Obviously, I will have all my tide and current info in hand, but I would really enjoy hearing from forum members who have sailed the inside passage, specifically with tips about anchorages, moorings, what to avoid and what not to miss. Any surprises, etc.

Thanks in advance.
- Dennis
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Old 04-12-2012, 04:33   #2
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Re: MidCoast Maine Inside Passage: Tips?

Here's map with my crude course indicator...

Click image for larger version

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Old 04-12-2012, 05:31   #3
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Re: MidCoast Maine Inside Passage: Tips?

Dennis,

This is a beautiful passage but you must understand that it is one that you will be doing under power, with the tide and with a great deal of patience. The passage is well marked and deep enough for your boat but the two "Hell's Gates" need some respect from you.

We passed through from west to east on a 25 foot sloop with a 9.9 HP outboard and did fine. We left from Bath where we spent the night at the Maritime Museum (great stop) and went into the Sasanoa River with time to catch the Upper Hell's Gate at slack high tide. We glided through the gate with not a ripple on the water. If you get to this passage on an incoming tide your boat will not make it through and if you get here on an outgoing tide and if you get through with out being thown onto the rocks you will have to stop and clean your pants afterward. Check the charts and you will see that the river is very narrow with ledges and rocks in the passage. When the water starts to move, boats like ours do not want to be anywhere near it. Kids in powerful power boats like to run the pass during the tidal flow but under powered sail boats with a keel should be somewhere else.

From here on it is beautiful. The river is wider and an starting ebb gently helps you on toward the Sheepscot. When you round Hockomock Point to port, the Bay opens before you. It is a famulous place where the shallow water and the reeds are home to birds of all kinds and colors. Hockomock Bay is the intersection on the Sassanoa and the Back Rivers and a lot of the silt and mud that these rivers carry down through narrow channels is dropped when the Bay opens out and the water slows down. Follow the bouys closely as there is very thin water in most of the bay itself. From the visual size of the bay you think that you could spend the afternoon sailing around it but there is very little of the bay that is open to a keel boat.

Now it is time to anchor, have lunch, take a nap, fool around with your partner and reflect on the beauty of the Bay and of life. I say that because by now the ebb tide has built to the point that the lower Hell's Gate is boiling and there are standing waves that should scare you just looking at them. We anchored just west of Bareneck Point. I would be cautious even going down the east side of Bareneck Island as you might get sucked into the Gate and the Boilers. Take your time and wait. You will then have an uneventful passage on flat water across both Upper and Lower Hell's Gates and you will enjoy one of the most beautiful inside passages in Maine.

I would not suggest anchoring for the night along here as the currents are strong and there are all ways a number of high power speed boats passing. I would be happy to provide more info.

Cheers

Ansley Sawyer
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Old 04-12-2012, 05:38   #4
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Re: MidCoast Maine Inside Passage: Tips?

Thank you immensely, Ansley!

Yours is exactly the type of advice I was looking for. Did I understand you correctly to say you made the passage all in one day (without anchoring overnight)?
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Old 04-12-2012, 06:47   #5
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Re: MidCoast Maine Inside Passage: Tips?

Ansley -- that was a great description. We cruise up that way every summer but tend to stay out among the islands. Next summer we've got to try this.
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Old 04-12-2012, 06:53   #6
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Re: MidCoast Maine Inside Passage: Tips?

Cormorant, you cruise to Maine every summer from the Catskills? You'll be coming right by my marina on the Hudson. Maybe we should think flotilla next season.
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Old 04-12-2012, 06:58   #7
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Re: MidCoast Maine Inside Passage: Tips?

We're trailer sailors, for better or worse. . . . We haul the boat six hours from the Catskills to South Portland behind our Chevy Suburban and sail from there. (Last summer I also did a solo trip, cartopping my 8-foot sailing dinghy, and camping on islands.) If you haven't been up that way yet, you're in for a huge treat. I dream of it all winter long. And I know that in my lifetime I will still only get to see a fraction of the Maine coast.

Don't miss Seguin and Damariscove on your way home!
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Old 04-12-2012, 07:07   #8
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Re: MidCoast Maine Inside Passage: Tips?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cormorant View Post
We're trailer sailors, for better or worse. . . . We haul the boat six hours from the Catskills to South Portland behind our Chevy Suburban and sail from there. (Last summer I also did a solo trip, cartopping my 8-foot sailing dinghy, and camping on islands.) If you haven't been up that way yet, you're in for a huge treat. I dream of it all winter long. And I know that in my lifetime I will still only get to see a fraction of the Maine coast.

Don't miss Seguin and Damariscove on your way home!
We've seen your boat out and about. I probably have pictures of it somewhere...

Quote:
Originally Posted by AnsleyS View Post
The passage is well marked and deep enough for your boat but the two "Hell's Gates" need some respect from you.


Cheers

Ansley Sawyer
That can not be stressed enough.... This is Maine where the bottom is most often solid GRANITE not soft, like Chessy pudding....
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Old 04-12-2012, 07:42   #9
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Re: MidCoast Maine Inside Passage: Tips?

Thanks again, Cormorant. Maybe I'll see you up there. It will be my first cruise that far north, though I have sailed out of Blue Hill and Buck's Harbor aboard friends' boats.

Maine Sail, thanks for the emphasis. Sounds like slack tide or "no go" for the gates.
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:13   #10
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Re: MidCoast Maine Inside Passage: Tips?

Dennis,

Yes this passage can be made in a day. I did not discuss the tail end of your proposed passage through to Boothbay because there is nothing much to say except for the Southport bridge where you just need to give the bridge tender your boat name and the owner's name for them to open for you. If you want to stay out of the hustle and bustle of Boothbay for the night there are three coves in Ebenecook Harbor that are great over night anchor spots. The farthest western one, Maddock Cove, has a boat yard at the end where fuel, ice and water are easily available. They also may have a mooring if you don't want to get the ground tackle wet.

Cormorant,

Why don't you drive farther up the coast next year and we can show you great sites easily accessed by trailer sailors. Rockland is a good spot to start. The south end town boat launch has long term parking on the grass where you can leave your car and trailer for weeks if needed. Penobscot Bay opens before you and almost unlimited cruising in protected waters of the islands.

Give me a shout if I can help.

Ansley Sawyer
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Old 04-12-2012, 11:19   #11
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Re: MidCoast Maine Inside Passage: Tips?

Thanks again, Ansley. So, if I've got it right, headed eastbound from Bath, I wait for the slack high tide in Hell Gate 1, ride the building ebb southeast into Sheepscott. Anchor there and wait for the slack low tide in Hell Gate 2, and Bob's your uncle (as the Brits would say).
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Old 04-12-2012, 12:24   #12
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Re: MidCoast Maine Inside Passage: Tips?

Dennis,

Yes but you will probably have to anchor before Lower Hell's Gate, before you get to the Sheepscot, because of the ebb tide through the Gate. If you do not want to sightsee in Hockomock Bay you can probably make it through but Gates on a tide but your timing would have to be perfect and you would have not much time to explore.

After you get through Lower Hell's Gate, you are in Knubble Bay and you can stop at Robinhood Marina with their moorings and resturant in Riggs Cove, just past the Knubble, or you can pass out Goose Rocks Passage into the Sheepscot River. Pay attention to the nun and can in the passage and remember that you are leaving so that the nun is to port.

The Sheepsot is fun gunkholing if the seas outside are too big but the rest of the coast of Maine is waiting so...
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Old 04-12-2012, 12:45   #13
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Re: MidCoast Maine Inside Passage: Tips?

Dennis,

It just struck me that we have been talking about the Sassanoa River passage but we have not talked at all about how you get there. I do not know how much big river traveling that you have done in your boat but it is something that takes great planning. Going up the Kennebec River to Bath takes a bit of planning. I have seen the navigational bouys in the Kennebec pulled under water by the current. You must plan a time when you can be at the mouth of the Kennebec about two to two and a half hours after low tide so that you have slack at the mouth of the river. When you try to match this timing with the need of a beautiful day with a low tide at eight to ten in the morning so that the southwest breeze has begun to blow by the time that you start up the river. You can then set your spinnaker and sail with the tidal current and the wind all the way up to Bath. The corner at Fiddler's Reach may cause you to take down the spinnaker but you may ride it all the way as we have done.
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Old 04-12-2012, 13:05   #14
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Re: MidCoast Maine Inside Passage: Tips?

Ansley, Dennis, and MaineSail -- I hope we all get to meet each other someday. If you ever see our odd little lugsail anywhere, hail us on the VHF and declare an impromptu Cruisers Forum gam.

We did drive to Rockport one year, but it was 8 hours going and 9 hours returning, and there was a near-mutiny among the younger members of the crew.
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Old 04-12-2012, 13:42   #15
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Re: MidCoast Maine Inside Passage: Tips?

Thanks again, Ansley and Cormorant. A raft-up is a solid idea. Beer aboard Plan B, but please don't share it with my dog.

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