We invited a few friends to join us for the afternoon on our yacht
To understand how we ended up on a schooner sailing out of Camden this afternoon, with strong young men tending to the sails and offering us adult beverages, I first have to explain a little more about how we are navigating on this trip. Bear with me.
Mostly we are following the East Coast Greenway route, thanks to a file my colleague Niles uploaded to an app, maps.me. By and large I trust this route. Without knowing all the reasons why certain roads are chosen, we have followed the Greenway’s red line up the coast. We know that we’ll catch any bike paths going our way and otherwise be on the quietest roads possible. But that means that the Greenway is often not the shortest distance between two points. When headwinds have gotten to us, bad weather is threatening, or we have to find our way to our accommodations, we turn to Google Maps for bikes. Sometimes the routes overlap, but typically Google Maps suggests a far more direct — read shorter — route.
This morning we started out of Damariscotta in bright sun and cool temps, feeling good. The roads were pretty but, oh, the hills! We’d crawl up one, fly down the other side, pedal a bit, and then do it all over again. Relentlessly hilly, Maine is. It was pretty daunting to think of doing that all day, because we were facing 57 miles of this. Yet the Google Maps route to Camden was just 29 miles. So we agreed to ride the first section of the Greenway course and then reconsider mid-morning or so.
We stopped at one point, at the top of yet another hill, to take photos of the pretty rocks, because it looked like we were on top of a mountain. Dee checked her map only to find we had gone off our course for a few miles. Rather than backtrack, we agreed to follow this pretty road on down to Route 1, where we could ride east and pick up the course again. At a coffee stop at a convenience store (decaf coffee for Dee, chocolate milk for me, a little table and WiFi and we were ecstatic, doesn’t take much), we met Bill. He used to live in Chapel Hill, near me,and he used to ride bikes. He told us that Route 1 wasn’t great for bikes, that we should take Route 90 to Camden. Which, at that point, with 25 miles on our odometers, meant that Camden could be just 12 miles away. That would give us 37 for the day, more respectable than 29 and yet far less than the 32 we were planning on.
Which is why we came rolling into the beautiful town of Camden at 11:30 in the morning with big smiles on our faces. And the fun was just beginning. We wandered down to the docks to see the harbor and a friendly man suggested we buy tickets to sail on a schooner for two hours.
“$45,” he said.
No way my frugal friend Dee will go for that, I thought as we walked away. But she stopped and we looked at each other. It was a sparkling bright day, nice wind for sailing, and our friend, Lauren, wouldn’t be picking us up until 3pm to take us to her lake camp. We could sit at a coffee shop and mess around on our phones for three hours, or we could go for a sail. So we said yes.
What a treat, and it was all eerily meant to be. We bought the last two seats available for the 12:30 sailing. And it turns out the schooner and its crew had just sailed up to Camden from Key West. It took them seven days and five hours, they proudly told us. We came from Key West too, we told those strapping young men, and it’s taken us seven weeks and five days! We talked with a nice couple from Connecticut. We saw porpoises jumping. We looked back at the harbor, lighthouse, and Mount Battie towering over the town. All in all, our two hours cruising the sparkling bay were the best alternative I can imagine to grinding up two hours more of hills.
Dee was determined to help the crew raise the sails. The main jib was a little too much, but Matt (yep, we are on first name basis) let her pull up the small jib in front (mizzen?).
Back on land, we left our bikes at the police station, as our friend Lauren had arranged for us. I got to meet Lauren, a running friend of Dee’s, when she came to North Carolina in 2009 to run the Outer Banks Marathon with us. Well, not exactly with us. Despite a bad stomach the night before, she ran a great time and won prize money for master’s women, while I failed to meet my qualifying time for Boston. But that’s another story; these are happier and more self-affirming days!
Lauren is justifiably proud of the town of Camden and her family’s camp on Lake Megunticook, where she has been going in the summer since she was a kid. She drove us up to the top of Mount Battie to give us a bird’s eye view of the town and the harbor where we’d just sailed. We smelled the roses in a park by library, also overlooking the harbor — the beauty is all a bit heady and intoxicating.
After dinner in town, Lauren drove us to her camp. It’s peaceful here and beautiful, tucked into the pine trees. Lauren walked me down to her floating dock to check out the lake view. There’s no WiFi here, so even though we are sort of experiencing withdrawal — how do we check tomorrow’s weather? How do we peek at tomorrow’s route? How will Lisa post her sailing blog?! — it’s been good to unplug, chat a bit, and enjoy the quiet.
Lauren in her happy place. Thanks for sharing it with us!