Fourth of July Cove in Norway.
Warderick Wells, Exuma Keys, Bahamas.
Otok Lavsa, Kornati National Park, Croatia.
Rodel, Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Cala Bennires, Ibiza, Balearic Islands, Spain.
What do all these places have in common? They are among the finest, most beautiful nature harbors ever visited by S/V Windleblo.
Now, we have another to add to the list – Mud Hole, Great Wass Island, Maine.
A foul tide slowed us down as we left St. Andrews as dawn’s first light penetrated an overcast sky. Several factors went into my thinking about the day’s plan. We had to check in to U.S. Customs at Lubec, Maine, before heading south through the Grand Manan channel. Lubec Narrows, where the Customs office was, was notorious for wicked currents at mid-tide, so arrival at slack tide was mandatory. We also had to get on the right side of the tidal stream through Grand Manan Channel after leaving Customs or the going was going to be quite slow. The ebb flow headed our way from 9 a.m. until around 3 p.m. All this boiled into the need for a dawn departure from St. Andrews.
Despite the foul tide, we made it to Lubec just before slack and tied up to the town dock without any trouble. I walked the four blocks to the Customs House and checked in, also without any trouble. By the time I got back, we had been on the dock only a half an hour but the tide had already turned and was starting to boil through the narrows at a frightful pitch. We shoved off without delay.
The bridge at Lubec Narrows is too low for our boat’s air draft, so we had to motor six miles back north through Canadian waters around Campobello Island and North Quoddy Point before turning south and entering the Grand Manan Channel. Just as we rounded the point, a whale surfaced two hundred yards to port for a draw of air.
The tide was finally on our side as we motored into a ten knot wind through the channel. Despite the headwinds, our speed over ground approached ten knots, meaning we had a four knot current helping us. We set course for a return approach to Machias Seal Island and the puffins. This time, the sky was brilliantly clear.
Arriving there, we witnessed thousands of puffins swimming and flying all around. The waters were roiling and we could find no moorings so instead of anchoring and going ashore we simply cruised past the island at two knots watching the puffins all the way.
Leaving the island, we set sail in 15-knot winds and sailed close hauled for Roque Harbor Island and one of the state’s premiere sand beaches. En route, we managed to snag a lobster pot in Englishman Bay, which required a brief swim to cut the offending line free.
We anchored with five other boats just off the beach and enjoyed a quiet, calm evening. At dawn the next morning, I dinghied ashore for a walk on the white sands.
We left Roque Island Harbor at 7 a.m. in time to make it to Mud Hole, Great Wass Island, on a rising tide. The weather was forecast to get snotty, with 30-knot gusts forecast for Tuesday night and fog setting in Wednesday. We wanted to be in a secure anchorage and Mud Hole fit the bill. The only concern was the entry, which one ActiveCaptain.com commenter, a Fiona Lewis of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK, had warned about this way, “Have a change of underwear handy. It’s quite scary.”
Apparently, some ledges just below the surface make the entry quite narrow and tricky, but once inside the protection is supreme – just what we needed to ride out the storm. The bonus was that the trails of Nature Conservancy property on the south end of the island were easily accessible from the anchorage.
Though some fog obscured our approach, it lifted just in time for us to see the entrance to Mud Hole clearly. I slowed to bare steerageway and crawled in. All went well and we were soon at anchor. As advertised, the hiking on shore was among the best I’ve seen in Maine, and we had the unspoiled anchorage all to ourselves, putting Mud Hole and Great Wass Island near the top all-time of nature harbors ever visited by S/V Windleblo.