In a year when everything was shifting rapidly, Maine was my rock

Seguin Island lighthouse. Photo by Albert Presgraves

March/April 2022

By Albert Presgraves

For Points East

One thing that changed was that I needed to do a one-week quarantine to ensure I hadn’t been infected when I worked too close to some people who were not in my very small bubble. Under this unusual circumstance, and with my wife Jenny’s encouragement, I moved onto our boat as a safe place to isolate myself.

I immediately started checking the weather to see where I could sail for a few days. This was early September, still summer by the calendar. But the days never got too warm, and the nights were cool. At the mooring in Freeport Harbor, it didn’t take a lot to provision Magus, our Banjer 37 motorsailer. We only had to move some additional food items from the house and vegetables from the garden.

I made a few dinghy trips on the first afternoon, and at least one the next morning. By noon that day, I decided it would be mostly downwind to Seguin Island, about a 20-mile trip, so that’s what I did. The last half of that jaunt was full sailing without the engine. That’s always pleasant.

Seguin is a great spot, fairly remote and wild for being so close to civilization. The non-profit organization Friends of Seguin Island does a great job of keeping things maintained and updated. They also keep several public moorings available, and I had my choice. A little swell was coming around from the southeast, so I went all the way into a mooring just off the rocky beach. A few more boats arrived after me, and moorings were still available. I took a walk up to the lighthouse and other parts of the island, but I never got close to anyone.

The next morning, I did some projects and waited for the tide to begin flowing up the Kennebec River before dropping the mooring. As soon as I did, I discovered I had no steering. None. Fortunately, conditions were calm – with a swell, of course – so I hopped in the dinghy and rowed over to the nearest mooring with a long line and got resecured. I thought about how much more disastrous it could have been if the steering had failed on the sail the previous day, or as I nonchalantly motored up to the mooring.

I was hoping I would not have to use the emergency tiller to limp back to Freeport, but that was always an option. I will spare the details, but I determined that one of the 49-year-old hydraulic hoses for the autopilot steering pump had failed. With some ingenuity, I was able to seal off the failed hose and restore the steering system, getting covered in hydraulic fluid as part of the process that took several hours. No autopilot for the remainder of the trip, however. Still, I was happy that the steering was back in operation and that I had a good complement of tools, odd parts, and a gallon of hydraulic fluid on board.

By the time I dropped the mooring the second time, it was well after noon, and I was late for the advantageous current in the Kennebec River. However, it was not fully against me, either, which is good, because it can run four knots at midtide. I arrived at the city float in Bath around 4:30 p.m. The standing rule here is, no overnight dockage on the town float unless you get permission from the harbormaster/police department, which was not a problem. My daughter and her family live in Bath, so the four of them came down for a fully distanced dinner – me in the pilothouse, them in the cockpit with a steady cross breeze. When the rain came in, it was time for them to leave.

The hook for the next part of the trip was something I’ve wanted to do for over 30 years: travel on the Sasanoa River, an inside passage between the Kennebec River near Bath, east to the Sheepscot River. From there, it is easy to continue to Boothbay Harbor through Townsend Gut, separating Southport Island from the mainland. In “A Cruising Guide to the Maine Coast,” by Hank and Jan Taft and Curtis Rindlaub, this part of the Maine coast is described as “the land of the geographical cul-de-sac. Long, narrow bays and salty fingers cut between chains of ledges and mountains running north and south. Rivers great and small run down to the ocean in a complex pattern of coves, estuaries, marshes, and back channels and swirl around large island offshore.”

The inside passage is “one of the great adventures of the Maine coast,” the guide continues. “Like marriage, it is not to be entered into lightly, but advisedly… and soberly. The current in two of the stretches, Upper and Lower Hell Gates, can be awesome for those of us not accustomed to running whitewater rivers in deep-keeled boats.”

I checked the tidal current predictions in some detail, but things are never completely as predicted. In Upper Hell Gate, I should have had a favorable current, but it was against me at two or three knots for a short stretch. At Lower Hell Gate, it had changed to being favorable earlier than predicted, so all was good. The scenery was spectacular.

Below Lower Hell Gate, Knubble Bay leads to the Sheepscot River via either Goose Rock Passage or Little Sheepscot River, between MacMahan Island and Georgetown Island. Since I was not going across the Sheepscot to Townsend Gut, I turned south between the two islands, along a route lined with an interesting mix of year-round houses, with docks and fishing vessels, and fancy cottages with docks, and beautiful sail and power yachts. Classic Maine coast.

The tide was still running south on the Sheepscot, so I made a fast passage down the river, crossing over to the east side, and arriving at Cape Harbor on the southern end of Southport at around 3:30 p.m. I picked up a mooring from the Newagen Resort, which had a heated pool among other amenities. The resort seemed busy, but everyone was wearing masks and keeping their distance.

The bar even had live music that night, but I did not think it made much sense for me to go this time. I did visit with my friend Jay since he lives in a house right next to the resort lodge. We stayed outside the whole time, of course, but I was able to enjoy his wife’s muffins the next morning.

The next day had light winds from the west, so the 26 miles back to Freeport was a motorsailing experience that went fairly quickly. I passed to the south of Sequin, making a sort of circumnavigation of the island from two days earlier, and I was back home on the Freeport mooring by 3 p.m. It was a quick four days and a great COVID adventure.


Albert and his wife, Jenny, continue to have fun living and gardening in Newport, Maine, on Bliss Woods Farm, where Jenny trains dogs at her Whole Dog Camp. See more about their adventures and plans at