Monday, August 29, 2011

Maine Maritime Museum and the Bath Iron Works

Bath Iron Works is the largest steel shipbuilding yards in Maine. They currently build destroyers for the U.S. Navy and give tours in conjunction with the Maine Maritime Museum. We made reservations for the tour before we knew Hurricane Irene was going to head our way. It all worked out, we had time for the tour and still had time to get someone to hunker down for the storm.

The tour was Saturday morning, but the tickets were good for two days of visiting the museum. I arrived Friday in time to explore the museum on Friday, and spent the night alongside the Kennebunk River. I did ask permission at the ticket desk and was told 'no problem, people stay there all the time. But the next morning someone from the administrative offices at the museum came down to tell us we had to leave, spending the night is forbidden because it upsets the city of Bath. Don't know what was really going on, I even heard the ticket lady who gave us permission was reprimanded as well. But if that was the case, why did they wait until morning to tell us and not kick us out the night before?

I thought the museum was one of the better maritime museums for telling the history of boating and ship building along the Maine coast. There really wasn't a lot of artifacts like most maritime museums. Although, they did have this display of tools used at the shipyards. Look at the size of the crescent wrench up on the wall. Wow!

Well into the 1800s, these small, square masted sailing vessels did most of the local as well as coastal cargo work. They would have been considered the 'pickup truck' of the times. They were eventually replaced by schooners which were faster, even though they usually could not carry as much cargo.

The state of Maine even opened a Maritime Academy in 1941, which is still in operation today. Students graduate after 4 years with the skill necessary for entry level positions as deck officers of engineering officers on merchant ships.

This two masted schooner was once an active cod fishing vessel, plying the waters around Nova Scotia. It was retired in the 1960s, but is now part of the museum. Maintained much as it was when it was an active fishing vessel, you can walk through the boat and get a feel for what it might have been like to be out on one of these sailing ships for the purpose of hauling in tons of fish back to port.

1919 was when the end of an era for wooden shipbuilding in Bath's south end. The shipyards of Percy and Small have survived and are now part of the Maritime Museum. Between 1894 and 1920 they launched 41 large, wooden schooners. The shipyard today looks much as it did when it closed back in 1920. Above is the Paint and Treenail Shop.

Our guide is holding a treenail. It looks like a small, miniature baseball bat, but is used like a wooden nail to hold the ship together. Although many shipbuilders did use iron nails, Percy and Small preferred to use these wooden treenails. A ship could take as many as 26,000-34,000 of these treenails depending on the size of the ship.

The boats were not actually put together inside, but built outside, next to the shops. In the shops all the lumber was cut, planed and pieced together, then brought outside for the actual building of the boat. Along the banks of the Kennebunk River there were at one time over 200 of these wooden ship builders. The banks are sloped and the river is deep, making this a prime location for launching these large boats.

The amount of rope required for the riggings were tremendous. A six masted schooner could take up to 7 miles of rope. Ropemaking required specialized machinery and a long, narrow building where the hemp could be twisted into the ropes. This diorama show a 2 block long J. T. Donnell ropewalk, which was one of several which existed at one time in this area.

Today wooden boat building is once again popular, but for pleasure boats, not working boats. This is the shop of Ned and Kathy Harding, located on the museum grounds.

A boat in progress.

A completed sailboat.

Of the 4 types of lobster, the American Lobster is what you will find in the coastal waters off Maine. Although there are records showing the Indians fished for lobster, it did not become a commercially viable industry until canneries provided a way to preserve and ship the product to markets off the coast. Once refrigeration and modern methods became available to ship live lobsters, the market for lobsters increased even more. By the 1860s there was concern about the lobster industry being overfished. By 1895 laws were in place to control the take of lobsters, by size as well as numbers. These laws have been updated and changed over the years. Somewhere I read that the industry brings in over 91 million tons of lobster each year.

Bath Iron Works has been constructing steel ships for over 100 years. Currently owned by General Dynamics, it was founded in 1884 by General Thomas Hyde. Over the years it has built private, commercial and military vessels. It has the reputation of building some of the best steel built vessels on the water.

During the tour our guide talked about the Liberty Ships, built in quantity during WWII. Because they expected to see them bombed and sunk, and because they need large quantities (over 234 were built) quickly, they weren't built to the same standards as other ships. At its peak Bath Iron Works launched a Liberty Ship every 17 days. Many did last for decades and one is still floating at a museum in San Francisco.

The Snow Squall, last of the American Clippers. Built in 1851 in Cape Elizabeth, ME, she was ran aground near the Faulkland Island in 1864. In 1979 she was rediscovered by a historian and the project began to bring her home. Pieces of her hull were first brought back to the U.S. in 1987.

No cameras or cell phones were allowed on the tour of Bath Iron Works since it is now considered a naval facility since it builds navy ships. This is as close a picture I could get, viewing part of the shipyards from the museum. During the building of the Liberty ships the shipyard was at its peak and employed 12,000 people. Today it only launches one or two ships a year and employs about 4000. Many of the employees are 2nd and 3rd generation, their parents and grandparents having also worked at the shipyards too.

Following the tour I headed south with my ultimate goal to arrive at Cabela's where I planned to sit out Hurricane Irene. But on the way I stopped at the L.L. Bean Flagship Store in Freeport, ME. Well, my timing was terrible as there were all kinds of activities going on over the weekend. Traffic was horrendous, streets were narrow and almost all the parking lots had "NO RVs". I made my way to the only lot in the area which was marked for RVs.

It consisted of one small lot, with 5 lanes, where you could park end to end up to 3 RVs or trailers. Although, two of the lanes could not be accessed by any larger RVs because of the angle necessary required to turn from the road into the lot. And if you parked end to end behind someone else you were stuck there until they decided to move on. When I returned the unit in front of me was still there, so I ended up unhooking my car and backing both my car and the RV out of the lot. NEVER will I take an RV or recommend taking an RV to Freeport. And to top it off, I wasn't really impressed with L.L. Bean. They had about 5 stores, along with many other outlet stores, but yet they didn't seem to have much selection except for clothing.

Because of all the activities there were radio stations covering the events and many tables set up outside with vendors and manufactoring reps.

These people are all watching the dogs jumping into the pool, chasing some object. The winner seems to be the dog who can make the longest jump. Some dogs jumped as much as 17 feet before landing in the water to fetch the object and return it to their masters.

This was all happening on Saturday, the day before Hurricane Irene (Tropical Storm Irene by the time it arrived here). No one seems the least bit concerned and shopping and activities were going on as usual.

Update on Hurricane Irene

It is 6:45 am on Monday morning, Aug 29, the day after Irene, a tropical storm by the time it arrived in Maine, blew through. There was lots of rain yesterday morning and early afternoon, but the rain was gone by 4 pm. There was wind, but nothing worse than I've seen in many a thunderstorm. I saw no trees down or flooding. But the news says there is some of both in my area and there were power outages too.

I heard from Claudia, who heard this from some locals, that up here they are used to 'Noreasters, storms which come in from the Atlantic with high winds and bringing large waves. I even heard a reporter on the news last night state this wasn't as bad as many of the 'Noreasters they see around here. So I guess that is my answer to why people were out shopping and doing business as usual around here yesterday. For them, it was business as usual, nothing to fret about.

For me, I'm just glad it wasn't worse where I was at. Friends of mine in NJ had to evacuate. Other friends in NC have weeks of clean up ahead of them. But none of my family or friends were injured or killed. I thank God for that.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Irene

I am writing this on Sunday morning, Aug 28, about 10:45, while sitting in the parking lot of Cabela's in Scarborough, ME. The worst of the hurricane is due to hit here in about 2 hours and should move through by 2am tomorrow morning. Winds are expected to be sustained at 35-40 with gust of 60-70. And we should expect rain of 3-5 inches. I am about 15 miles inland from the coast, although inlets and rivers are all around. Many businesses have closed, as well as churches and events planned for today, but surprisingly Cabela's is not only open, but doing a brisk business. It has been raining pretty steady since 6am this morning with a few quiet spells and a few downpours. The winds come and go, but I have already felt my RV rock and roll a little and the worst is not here yet. Tom and Nancy just left for Walmart to stock up on a few things before the real storms hits.

I took Fancy out earlier and told her she better get all her business done now, because she won't want to go out later. Hopefully it won't be as bad as they say, although they have opened shelters all over the area. I have one of the shelter, which is only about 2 miles from here, mapped out, just in case. I'll report back tomorrow and let everyone know I fared.

Rockland, ME

Rockland was a stop for more sightseeing along the coast, more lobsters and lots of lighthouses. But I enjoyed the old, New England style homes, in Rockland, which I encountered on my morning walks with Fancy.

This home was fascinating because of the inscription on the sidewalk in front.

Notice it says, 'Cave Canem'. I first saw this inscription in Pompeii at the House of the Tragic Poet. In latin in means simply, beware of the dog. For more info about this inscription and what it means, follow the link below.

I beleive this is the Talbot House, which is now been turned into apartments. I could spend hours just walking around admiring the beautiful architecture of these old homes.

But there were so many more things to do in the area.

This is the walkway out to Breakwater Lighthouse. This breakwater was built in 1912 and has been battered with storms and yet still stands. The bottom of the breakwater is more than twice the width you see on top.

As you see, at the end is a lighthouse, almost one mile out in the harbor.

They are restoring the keepers house and it will eventually open as a museum and gift shop and you will be able to climb the lighthouse, but it was closed still when we were there.

There is a peninsula just SE of Rockland which heads through Spruce Head and down to Port Clyde. On the north end of the peninsula was Owl's Head Lighthouse. Here is some more of the beautiful, rugged shoreline of Maine.

The keepers house is not connected to this lighthouse. But it was open, and we got to climb to the top.

A view back towards Rockland and Rockport from the top of the lighthouse.

It's hard to see from this picture, but the siding on these buildings are shingle and they look as if they have never been painted, just allowed to naturally weather. That seems to be a common siding in this area of the country.

We spotted a small eating establishment along side a beach and a pier. It was lunch time so we stopped and had crab rolls and local brewed root beer.

The lobster and crabs are fresh from their own fishing boats. Each of those stacked crates hold 90 lobsters (or 90 pounds, I'm not sure I fully understood what they were telling me). That's a lot of lobster either way, if they fill at 16 of those crates.

You could get everything from a full lobster dinner to a hot dog.

I actually like the prices on this sign better, but they are from the 1940s. Notice lobster is available daily, but chicken is only available on Sundays.

On down the peninsula is Marshall Point Lighthouse. Again, it is closed to the public, so you can only view it from the outside. But there was a small, free museum in the keepers house.

Every lobsterman has his own registered and licensed bobber design. These are an example of some. It is a large fine if you are found harvesting someone else's lobster traps.

Someone had their lab out for some exercise. She would bring in as many sticks as her owner would throw. Here she is bringing in 3.

We also took a sailboat ride on a 2 masted ketch. Of course I'm not on the one in the picture, but that is the boat we sailed on, just on a different day.

Here she is at the dock with her sails down. It was the Morning of Maine with Captain Bob.

Captain Bob pointed out this herring fishing boat. It can bring in tons of herring daily. When we asked what they did with the herring we were told it is used for lobster bait.

Here we are on the water, enjoying the sail. This was not a windjammer cruise, so we were not part of the crew of helping, but just enjoying the ride.

Here is a view of Breakwater Lighthouse from out in the bay.

And this is Owl's Nest Lighthouse from the bay.

We had some wicked looking clouds pop up while we were out.

More of the clouds.

And more clouds. But Captain Bob wasn't concerned, he said they were not going to affect us and they didn't.

From a distance we could see the lighthouse at Rockport, about 10 miles up the coast. It was a good day and we could see Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park over 40 miles north.

Close in the harbor is an old bouy which is now the nest of this osprey and her 2 young chicks. The young ones have the white spots.

I don't have pictures, but I have to tell our lobster story. A member of the Elks here in Rockland is a lobsterman. Tom C. arranged for us to purchase 30 lobsters from him. No, we didn't eat all those lobsters at once, the plan was to freeze most of them using a food saver to vacuum pack the lobster tails for freezing. I now have 10 lobster tails and 2 packages of claw meat in my freezer, but I think the concensus of everyone involved was the same. From now on, we will go have our lobster dinners where someone else can prepare them. By the time we were all done none of us even wanted to see another lobster. But in Maine, you have to do lobsters and we did.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Down East Maine

My next destination was Bangor, ME, so I could visit Acadia National Park. Taking Highway 2 across NH and into ME, I saw some of the most beautiful country ever. But hey, I say that about most places while I'm there. But I did see an unusual waterfall, powerplant and dam, or so it seemed from the highway. But the town was small and there were no pullovers. So when I finally did find a pullout, I had to unhook the car and drive back to the fall.

This is Rumford Fall in the town of Rumford Fall. Right now it doesn't look too significant. Water levels are low and the water is just trinkling over the dam and down the falls.

But this is how it can look during spring thaws and when the rains are heavy.

If you hadn't guessed, Rumford, ME, is largely a logging town.

Besides Acadia National Park, I was also looking forward to visiting the Old Town Factory and hopefully finding a new kayak. Well, when we went on Monday they didn't have what I wanted. They said to call back on at the end of the week to see if they got in any new inventory. I also found out Johnson Outdoor Company, the owner of Old Town, also owns Necky, Ocean Kayaks and Carlisle Paddles.

As you can see there is another blue kayak on top of Max's jeep. Yep, it's mine. They got in one, 10.6 ft Dirigo and that is what I was looking for. Great price too. Nancy was also looking for a kayak, same kind, and since they only had the one, she had to keep on looking. Well, on the way to Rockland she stopped at an Outdoor Store on Highway 1, found her 10.6 Dirigo on sale. So wow, now we both have new kayaks.

Bangor has its own version of Paul Bunyon. Notice his blue ox is not with him. In the late 1800s, Maine was known as the 'lumber capitol of the world', with sailing vessels loaded with lumber were sailing from Maine's seaports to places around the world.

We had a nice spot at the Elks in Bangor. I even had a front yard for Fancy.

Sand Beach at Acadia National Park.

Of course Max and I had to get our feet wet. The water was cold, they say only around 55 degrees, yet people were swimming. I don't swim until the water is at least 80.

There were some beautiful coastal areas in the park.

But it was so crowded. We went to the visitor center and parked the car, deciding to take the park shuttle. I don't know which would have been worse, trying to drive the car through the heavy traffic, sometimes at a standstill, in the park, or the shuttle. Several times at the shuttle stops we had to wait for the next shuttle because it was full. Truthfully I was very disappointed. I would have liked to camp there, but they don't allow RVs longer than 35 ft or over 11 ft 8 in. I know it was beautiful, but I'm sure there are other places just as pretty.

Thunderhole. When the tide comes in, it channels through this narrow flume and blasts the wall at the end. Because there is an undercut and cave the water seems to draw an unnatural force and make a large popping sound as it rushes in. We got to see it at the best time when the tide is almost, but not quite at high tide.

After finally getting on a shuttle, we all decided we were tired of fighting the crowds and just rode the shuttle back to the visitor center. Someday I would like to come back and visit some areas of the park I didn't visit today, but I want it to be later in the fall or early in the spring, not the busy time of the season.

Leaving the park we headed into Bar Harbor. Just another touristy town with lots of shops selling overpriced good and your choice of restaurants. We did find a restaurant advertising lobster dinners for $14.99 and thought that sounded good. I mean, we are in Maine and Maine is lobster country. When in Maine, eat lobster. When we were done eating and just wandering we found a brewery and winery to visit.

Of course I had to buy some and bring it home. I mean, besides lobster, Maine is known for its blueberries (something I didn't know until I got here). The young man giving us our samples said to use the Blueberry Ale instead of water when making blueberry pancakes. He says the ale makes the pancakes light and fluffy and very tasty. No alcohol of course, it cooks out. I'll let you know when I finally make the pancakes if they are as good as he says.

Leaving Bar Harbor, we went back to Acadia and drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain. If was later in the afternoon and the traffic was much better and the crowds weren't as bad either. Cadillac Mountain is the highest coastal mountain on the Atlantic Coast at 1500 feet. Wow, isn't that just soooooo high. But they say if you are here at sunrise, you can be the first to see the sun coming up over America.

Another day had us heading 'down east'. Actually we were heading north, but they call it down east around here. The term comes from 'down the fact that if you are on the water, you are heading east and the wind is pushing you down the coast, and now people just say 'down east'. But our first stop was Schoodic Point, the mainland side of Acadia National Park. Most people just know Acadia National Park as being located on Mount Desert Island, along with Bar Harbor. But across the bay from Bar Harbor is an area called Schoodic Point, which is a peninsula, and the tip of the peninsula is also part of the national park. Above is an inlet which is at low tide. They say the tides are around 10 feet here, so it is quite evident when the tides are out. You also don't want to get caught in one of these inlets in a kayak or you will be dragging the kayak through the mud or waiting 12 hours for the tide to return.

I picked an apple and boy was it sour. Looked ripe, but very sour.

They say this is a rose hip. The wild roses were covered with these. Look at your vitamen C bottle and it will probably say something like 'from rose hips'. So now you know.

At the tip of the peninsula there was nothing to break the atlantic waves from crashing ashore. The rugged beauty was amazing.

Behind me is the same rock from the previous picture, but now the waves are completely covering the rock.

We could see lobstermen checking their traps.

On the way back to the highway we spotted this large lobsterman.

We found another place to stop and have lobster, the Seafood Shack. These lobsters were delivered earlier in the morning and while we were there, another delivery of fresh lobsters was delivered for the evening diners. Our waitress comes from a lobstering family. Her father is a lobsterman and so is her husband. I think to most of the locals eating lobster is no big deal, its just a living.

Down the road was Blueberry Land. We were up in the part of Maine where the wild blueberry bogs are located.

Unlike cultivated blueberries, wild blueberries are small, but supposed to be more tasty. I never knew the difference until I actually saw the two side by side. Needless to say, I now have fresh, wild blueberries in my freezer.

We made it to Machais, which was getting ready for the 38th Annual Blueberry Festival. The town is centered around these falls. They are called the Bad Little Falls.

In conjunction with the blueberry festival is a dance on Saturday night at the grange. Each year is a different theme. This year it is the Blackfly Ball.

The lower level of the Grange, now used as a dining area. The grange, after being abandoned for many years, was condemned, but some volunteers from the Beehive Collective organization. Some 100 volunteers gather each year for a month or so, providing there time and talents to rebuild and restore this building. It has taken 6 years to get it restored to the point it is today. The volunteers are expected to pay a donation of $3-$10 per day while there. The volunteers take the funds and buy food, preparing food for the entire group. The volunteers are allowed to sleep in the grange or they can pitch a tent. Most of the volunteers are young people in their 20s. The Beehive Design Collective is a non-profit political organization using graphic arts to educate the populace and to communicate stores of resistance to corporate globilization. (That description was taken from wikipedia online.)

This is the upper level of the Grange, which is the ballroom and stage. The building was built originally with some type of special bracing which allows this 2nd floor to flex as much as 8 inches. The building is wider at the top, allowing it to bow inward. Last year they said there were over 200 people up here dancing and you could visibly see the building flexing.

Much of the cooking is done outside using very large pots. Some literature I picked up says the food provided is all vegetarian. These kids consider themselves activists in all things concerning the earth and how it is being used and abused. I don't agree with their politics, but it was interesting talking with them. The young man who gave us a tour and seemed to be in charge, works in Boston as a waiter. He saves his money so he can come up here every summer for a month to volunteer and help rebuilt this community. I was impressed to see so many young people willing to pay their own way to come and help out. Go check out the for more info on the organization.

Down the road was Jasper Beach, so named for all the small jasper rock comprising the beach.

The mound was the location of Ft. Machais/O'Brien, first built in 1773 following the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War. Not far from here Ichobad Jones was bringing supplies with a British escort. There was a disagreement between Captain Jones and some of the local patriots. The next day a battle ensured near the mouth of the Machais River, with Jeremiah O'Brien leading the patriots, hence, Machais is considered to be one of the birthplaces of the U.S. Navy.