Like Carver's Point, our place at McFarland's Point did not come with wifi. This was particularly unfortunate, as son Brian and daughter-in-law Ardy were expecting baby #2 (grandkid #5 for us) any moment. Luckily we did have cell phone coverage from Verizon, and after Draelen was born on Sunday, neighbors invited us on Monday to use a picnic table next to their cottage, where we picked up their wifi signal and were able to Skype on our iPad with ABCD (Ardy, Brian, our grandson Cedro and of course Draelen). While we were admiring little Draelen, Ardy's parents arrived with Cedro and we captured a screen shot of the moment, thanks to Skype, of Cedro meeting his new sister for the second time. We appear to be pretty excited too, it seems.
The South Bristol cottage was a learning experience for us. In the future, we learned, we need to emphasize the importance of canoeing when we first contact the owners of a cottage we're thinking of renting. This one advertised a canoe, but it was a minimalist Coleman that had seen better days, and that was the very least of its problems. The big issue was where it was located -- on the shore of a mudflat. Yes, twice a day the shore for some 150-200 yards out is mud, thick mud. Close to shore you only sink in 1-3 inches, such as when you launch the canoe, say, 4 hours after low tide. Any closer than that and you're goin' down, down, down into the muck.
There was one possible work-around -- launch within 2 hours of high tide and paddle 3 miles around McFarland's Point from the so-called Back Cove to the Front Cove, aka McFarlands's Cove. Almost every neighbor is a first cousin of the owner of the cabin we were renting, since the land was bought in the 1930s from a fellow named, surprise, surprise, McFarland by their common ancestors. Marianne, the cousin who let us use her wifi, also said we were welcome to bring "our" canoe up on her beach if we brought it around the point.
Twice we tried, and twice we had to turn back and limit our canoeing to the Back Cove. Each time we came out into the St. John's River, as the tidal estuary in this area is called, the wind, chop and ocean swell were too much for us. All we had to show for it were a few nice shots of the rocky shore. Then we had two rainy days. Finally it was Thursday. The wind forecast was calm, so we said we were going out, no matter what. But it was now low tide. Uggggghhhh.
The first 10 yards from shore were sloppy but OK, sort of. Then our shoes started going in deeper, and deeper, and deeper into the silty wet clay. 50 yards from shore, with at least 100 yards to go, we were going into the mud so far our crew length socks were disappearing. Then Louise almost lost her shoe 8 inches down, as the muck tried to pull it off her foot. Jeff's shoes were more tightly laced, so Louise sat on the back of the canoe and Jeff pulled canoe and passenger with a rope tied to the front of the boat, an image from the expedition of Lewis and Clark or a novel by Jack London. 80 yards to go . . . 60 yards . . . 35 yards . . . plop. Down on all fours. OK, scrape off a little mud, we're almost there. You could see our less than direct route still etched in the mud two low tides later. Somehow we reached a point where the canoe was sort of floating and Jeff could climb, or rather slither, in. He was not a happy camper.
But for the launch, it was a great canoe trip. We paddled down to Witch Island for lunch, and a kayaker who paddled over with her young daughter led us to the tree where an eagle had been resident for the past few years, though not this one. We passed an amusing channel marker put up by local lobstermen on a shoal that had probably dented a few of their boats over the years before they did something about it. We stopped at Osier's store and selected two lobsters, which they steamed for our supper, while other lobstermen arrived at the pier behind our canoe to deliver yet more fresh lobsters for the market. We admired Lil' Toot, and Marianne's house on the shore behind it. And yes, we left the boat on her lawn overnight so we could launch on the nice gravel beach of the Front Cove the next morning, even at low tide.
Before closing with a few shots from our equally successful canoe trip the next day, we'd like to take you back to those two rainy days. The first one was actually only intermittently drizzly, and we found a three hour window of dryness to walk a mile to the small public library. There was a book sale on, and for ten cents we picked up a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, plus a map to a local nature preserve that had a trail from the library parallel to the busy highway we had walked along to get there. Much safer and more interesting. We even went past the Thompson Ice House, where a fellow named Thompson dammed a small creek to create a pond that he then cut up into large cubes of ice each winter. You can see the ice house across the pond, with a ramp that was used to haul the ice up during the cutting season. It was stored in hay for insulation, and sold to ship captains wanting refrigeration for their catches of fish headed to Boston or points south.
The next day was truly a stinker, rain all day, and by (a slightly extended) bedtime, it was done. All 1,000 pieces. Now we can check that off the summer bucket list, for what would a summer vacation be without at least one jigsaw puzzle? Also breaking up the wet day was a pleasant surprise -- Marianne came by and asked if we'd like to join her for dinner in a seaside restaurant a few miles away. Would we ever! What a nice antidote to cabin fever! Turns out she was also interested in Holland, so we showed her our "Going Dutch With Your Bike" presentation that we gave at the REI store in Seattle and also to the Evergreen Tandem Club that we belong to in Seattle. For an audience of one, the iPad screen worked out just fine.
As noted, our final day featured another good canoe trip. We paddled past the good ship Louise and through "The Gut," the name of a narrow passage crossed by the third-busiest bridge in Maine. It's currently a swing bridge, but not for much longer. Soon, perhaps this Fall, the State will finally commence work on a new drawbridge.
After an hour's paddle on the wide Damariscotta River we came back through the Gut and headed back to Witch Island. It's named for Hetty Green, a wily investor who became known as the "Witch of Wall Street." She was possibly the wealthiest woman in the world when she died in 1916. She bought the island and lived on it at one time, though now it is yet another nature preserve. We pulled our canoe up on the island's one beach, about 1 1/2 canoe lengths, and sat nearby for lunch. Luckily we were done in 55 minutes, for at 60 minutes the canoe would have been floating away on its own on the rising tide.
Our next cottage features something special -- another couple! Good friends Louise and Masaharu are driving up from Washington DC to join us in Georgetown, Maine for a week. We hope you will too when we get that next blog post written. Check back in a few weeks!