Season’s last ride

guest-plouffBy Tim Plouff
For Points East

Fall. This four-letter word creates passion in many, but I lament the nasty season that follows, so please excuse my disdain for the arrival of autumn. Fall means the end of boating for another season, and it means numerous chores to get ready for the white season. It means darkness, and cold, and no boating – unless you are of the fortunate few who migrate to some lovely place below Florida, or the equator, to some location that requires few clothes, ample sunscreen, and the will to have fun every day.

With the approach of Columbus Day weekend, my mental state required at least one last boating trip. I craved one more time down the ramp before the leaves filled the yard and the only weekend respite would be cheering for TB12 and the Patriots, to stick it to Goodell.

The summer of 2016 afforded several great weekends here Downeast, lasting through July, August, September, and early October. With a Friday forecast of low 70s, light winds and clear skies, work was doomed for the back burner. With my faithful navigator involved in other activities, she was unable to enjoy my day of playing hooky. But two other fellow worker-bees didn’t need their arms twisted for one last day at sea. Their gleeful responses to my invites bore the fervent passion for maritime trips one appreciates in a crew.

Jo Ann Peavey and Ruth Susee would be making their third outing on our Sea Ray 215 Tegoak this summer. One could be forgiven that they acted like two 12-year-olds; boating in early fall, with Maine’s autumn wonders in full display, is a special treat. Mother Nature may have been pummeling Jamaica this day, yet we were reaping some of the best that she can offer.

Pushing off from the brand-new paved ramp and elongated dock at Lamoine State Park (a vast improvement over sinking into the former beach-sand ramp), we idled east toward Hancock Point and Sorrento in the northern reaches of Frenchman Bay. Some fisherman pulled traps, while clammers tried to beat the coming red-tide alert. Recreational boats, however, were few and far between on this bluebird day.

Marveling at our good fortune, we soaked up the foliage and the grand views of the mountains in Acadia National Park. Sunlight glimmered not only on the small waves, but also off from the windshields of the cars climbing Cadillac Mountain. It was so calm we felt like we could almost hear the tourists as they exited their vehicles.

Motoring along, we ducked behind the north side of Calf Island, where a long sand beach beckoned inspection. The dock was removed, so we chanced a low-tide visit in hopes of finding a treasure or two. We were rewarded with some sea glass and the solace of a fall day brushed by deep red maple leaves and a rich, blue sky. This is far cry from the season ahead, I thought to myself.

After a floating lunch, I throttled the Sea Ray toward the eastern side of Stave Island in Gouldsboro. Stave is now listed as a Maine Coast Heritage Trust public-access island. The flooding tide had just covered the expansive sand bar that almost links this large island to the fishing village of South Gouldsboro, and I hoped to fit through the narrow opening. As the crew watched for errant rocks, we glided over the sandy bottom in three feet of water. It was a piece of cake on this day.

Pushing past the inside of Jordan Island, we cruise toward Grindstone Neck and the entrance to Winter Harbor. Just as we rounded the daymarker for the harbor, three fins popped up on the starboard side, and I shouted for the cameras. They chased us for a while, then four more fins spun down toward Mark Island Lighthouse, at the entrance to Schoodic Bay. The crew ran around the stern seeking camera angles, and, just like that, the porpoises were gone.

Squeezing past the ledges at Spectacle Island, I pointed out the large private “cottage” ashore, rental for which is rumored to be $5,000 a week. If the views from this sweet island are as magnificent all summer long as they are today, this could be a bargain. Such is the mind’s perspective when all feels right when at sea.

Heading back west to Bar Harbor, we had the tide on our port side and a growing breeze on our nose, yet we swiftly crossed Frenchman Bay behind Egg Rock, glided past the breakwater, and quickly tied up at the town dock, between tenders from a visiting cruise ship. These vessels are now staples of the Bar Harbor tourist season. With close to 150 annual cruise-ship visits, including those by the industry’s behemoths, the whole of MDI gets a piece of this lucrative seasonal action.

The sun was getting lower, even if temperatures on this stellar October day were not. As we left the dock, throngs of visitors crowded the town dock, and Jo and Ruth grinned shyly as they realized their good fortune in being able to leave port via the sea, rather than by car or bus.

Running northwest back to Lamoine, we savored the bay’s reflections of the mountains and villages on this side of Mount Desert Island. What a beautiful autumn day we’d been granted. What a great last ride to hark back to until next spring. Our mental health check-up complete, fall didn’t feel like such a bad word after all.

Tim has been trailer-boating with the 2000 inboard-V-8-power Sea Ray 215 Express Cruiser Tegoak (“place of breaking waves”) since 2005. He writes the weekly “On The Road Review” automotive column for “The Ellsworth American,” while his day job is as wholesale oil and Shell gasoline sales manager for Dead River Company.