A lake and lots of funky boats=fun

The theme of the 10th annual Polly’s Folly Fall Regatta on Megunticook Lake in Camden was cool boats. In addition to the usual Laser crowd, the race included a classic wooden moth, a sailing canoe, a Lightning, a Bluejay (sailed by the fleet’s youngest racers), a GP14, a rowing shell, and a kayak. The wind had gone elsewhere, so the second theme was cheating. Several racers were seen using paddles to move up in the fleet.


And in a first for the regatta, there was a near sinking. One of the Lasers was rigged without its plug and began to sink out in the middle of the lake. Luckily, a race organizer was able to get there in time to rescue the boat and her sailor. The deeper question here is: was JKHJr trying to sabotage his old friend Carl?

The first race course was a windward leeward around a big rock; the second involved a small artificial duck that was hard to see in the gorgeous fall light reflected off the mountains and lake.

Below are some photos:




Last Sail


Me taking Frolic for her last sail

Me taking Frolic for her last sail

Sitting in my office looking out at the harbor, deep blue with just the right amount of wind, sunny with enough clouds to make the sky interesting, I knew.  It was time for The Last Sail.

Crisp September days with their strong breezes and bright sun make for some of the best sailing of the year. But this also can be a time of strong storms and the weather can change on a dime. Deciding when to let go of summer and have your boat hauled can be tough. Pull it too early and you might miss another week of fabulous weather. Wait too long, though, and you can get stuck spending a sleepless night listening to the wind howl and worrying about what’s happening down in the harbor.

Heading out Camden Harbor

Heading out of Camden Harbor

This time I knew.

I had been spending my afternoons like the grasshopper, playing on the water, when I should have been thinking like the ant and getting ready for fall, and winter.

Putting off working in my garden in order to frolic on the boat meant a delay in digging up the sweet potatoes — some lucky field mouse had time to eat most of the crop before I got there. There were apples to pick; cucumbers to pickle, yet more tomatoes to can and the rest of the potatoes to dig.

It was time to move off the water.

The last sail is special. Time to savor the rustle of the water along the boat hull, the gentle clunk of rigging and the creak of wooden spars rubbing, turning, working. Relish the salt spray that leaves a rough crust on my cheeks and hair. Stretch my eyes out along the blue water, past where it meets the blue horizon and uncoil all those internal knotted lines. Then store it all in the memory bank.

Looking up at the mast and gaff mainsail

Looking up at the mast and gaff mainsail


Leaving the Camden Hills behind as Frolic and I sail in Penobscot Bay

Leaving the Camden Hills behind as Frolic and I sail in Penobscot Bay

Thankyou, Frolic, for all those great outings this year, for carrying me away from the mundane and into the blue. See you next spring.

Frolic is a Dark Harbor 17, built in the 1920s and restored in recent years by Artisan Boatworks.

Frolic is a Dark Harbor 17, built in the 1920s and restored in recent years by Artisan Boatworks.

Fall blooming

Some plants, like blueberries, grow faster after they have been pruned or burned. The stress forces a reaction — a frenetic, last-chance, all-out blooming. Fall has that affect on me. Each day of warm sun seems so extraordinary. Each sail out on the bay feels like the best ever.

A glorious hike up Maiden’s Cliff — do the lake and ocean sparkle brighter this time of year because they are closer to a sun that now sits lower on the horizon; Or is it the contrast to winter’s creeping shadow?

In my garden a week ago I found as many as eight large cucumbers a day and had picked so many tomatoes I’d run out of counter space in my kitchen to line them up on their way into the canner and freezer. Still, even though we’ve been eating gifts from the garden since June, a tomato warmed by the late September sun somehow tastes sweeter than one harvested in mid-August.

Winter hangs in my awareness this time of year, like the Camden hills, heavy and majestic.

Canadian geese flying south above our field screech the message that colder nights and eventually snow approach. I hear you. I hear you. I’m walking faster. I’m sailing harder. I’m soaking in the sun. I’m getting ready.



Still winter


The setting sun casts a shadow of pink and orange reflections on the shiny gray ice far larger than the fiery fading orb itself. The cold breeze pushes my body back as I skate into it, my blades grinding in rhythmic metal swooshes. It may be mid-March, however, winter still holds this lake and me in its cold, tightly clasped fist. Sure I’m sick of the cold and the snow. But spring will come. It always does — I’ll read seed catalogues tonight in front of the woodstove, and have already begun pruning my fruit trees. In the meantime, this afternoon, this lake, the setting sun, this smooth ice are winter’s finest offering.


Finding home


Many years ago I wanted to write a book called “Finding Home.” The plan was to write a series of profiles of people in the state, asking how they knew when they were home and what that meant to them. It’s a rich topic that has engaged many writers far better than me. That may be one reason why the book never got off the ground.

Still the question lurks in my consciousness each time I write a story, and especially now that I am editing a magazine celebrating life on the Maine coast.

A couple of weekends ago I asked myself again about home as my husband and I headed up to Mt. Desert Island for a friend’s 70th birthday party. I spent 10 years on MDI back in the 1990s, some of that time as editor of the local newspaper.

Our first stop was lunch in Ellsworth where the man behind the counter rang up my sandwhich while saying, “Hi Polly. How have you been?” It took some serious brain rummaging and a quick phone call to a friend to come up with his name. But then the memories started to flow.

Next stop was with Putt at the Stihl dealership in Trenton. Every year for at least 10 years I’ve stopped in to see Putt and pick up the latest Stihl calender for my husband. They feature buxom, scantily clad blonds posing with chain saws and weed whackers and other stuff like that. Putt thinks it’s hilarious that I come all the way up from Camden to see him. “I don’t know about this year’s calender,” he said, as I flipped though, a tad shocked at images a lot closer to run of the mill pornography than usual. “I’ll tell the dealer I had a complaint,” he said with a chuckle as I hurried out with my head down.

We decide to drive through Somesville past a house I once rented, and stop at Long Pond to check out the ice. It looked great. Some people were playing hockey and there seemed to be ice fishermen everywhere. Scraped out by a glacier during the ice age, Great Long Pond is 4 miles long but nowhere near as wide. When I lived on MDI we used to skate there often, down and back. I have a photo at home of me with my old terrier Calhoun on a particularly windy day. Once my brother and I skated the whole way around during an exhausting weekend effort to spend time on every lake on the island.

belovedOn this day we got halfway down and stopped to talk to two bundled up ice fishermen sitting in chairs. They told me two ATV’s went through the ice nearby earlier and to be careful. They and all the other fishermen on the lake this weekend were competing in the Tremont Ice Fishing Derby. As we chatted, one of them looked at me sharply. “Is that you Polly?” It’s a guy I used to know when I lived there. He did a bunch of housepainting and carpentry for me.

I head back up the lake, spreading my arms wide at the glory of the mountains all around reflected in the smooth ice. Some of you may know, I am a skating fanatic. Some people do drugs, I do ice.

By this time, John, nursing a sore ankle, had turned back for home. I promised not to go too far, but it was hard to force myself back. By the time I did return to John near takeout, I was high on skating and memories.

IMG_1051Next stop was tea and gossip with several island friends. Later at the birthday party, we saw still more familier faces. By then, after forgetting that first time, my memory had come back and I knew the names. Dinner was a buffet and we sat at a table of strangers. But even they felt like old friends by dessert. John and I love boats, islands and fish stories and the people at our table wanted to talk about all three.

As we drove home late in the evening, fighting back drowsiness, I was happy to my core.

IMG_1043Home is a state of mind. You can’t explain it like a dictionary definition. But you know it when you feel it. Home is skating on a favorite lake from the past with my best friend and love of my life; home is reconnecting with familiar faces. Home also is kissing my sleeping children and letting the dogs out when I get back to my own house after a day down memory lane.

Home is Maine and it warms my heart.















The owl and pussycat

Every year John and I forget our anniversary and this year was no exception. That’s ok because we celebrate our marriage all year long. This year, though, we made up for missing the exact day, by planning a short, belated celebratory overnight cruise. As we sailed out of Rockland Harbor, I felt like the owl and the pussycat in Edward Lear’s wonderful children’s book. Only instead of sailing for a year and a day to the land where the bong tree grows, we went to North Haven, picked up one of JO Brown’s moorings and rowed ashore just as the setting sun was working its magic.

3nhtrip I love cruising to a harbor where I feel so welcome!


2nhtripWe rowed around the North Haven Casino which is celebrating its 101st birthday by getting new underpinnings. It has been moved off it’s flimsy pilings onto a sort of steel teepee while Prock Marine rebuilds the piling.


5nhtripA lovely end of the season party at a friend’s house, followed by dinner at Nebo Lodge where we saw more friends, reminded us why we love this small island. We rowed back out to Wild Rumpus in the moonlight across the glassy smooth water — rowing to the light of the moon, not dancing, but it felt just as joyous.

4ntripAfter coffee on board the next morning, a shoreside inspection of work being done under the house my brothers and I own, and chats with more friends, including a cousin who was taking delivery of one of Peter Ralston’s gorgeous photos (he took the photo of the two of us above), we hauled up the sails and headed back across the bay, waters sparkling and just enough wind the keep the engine silent.

A last summer sail, bittersweet but so lovely. It will give us memories to share over the winter and fodder for dreaming about more cruises next year.


The skipper says see you on the water next year!

Sailing home

So glad John helped me sail Frolic back to Camden from North Haven. The wind was blowing hard and the seas were rough. As we emerged from the Thoroughfare and were preparing to tack to avoid some rocks, I heard a clunk on the deck.”Did you hear that?” I asked John. Just as he said no, we heard it again- a slightly metalic thud. We both looked forward and then back at each other in shock. The leeward side stay was swinging free and looping around in the wind. If we had tacked, the mast would have fallen over. I was ready to panic, but John, calm and collected crawled around the mast where, miraculously, he found not only the shackle that connects the stay to the deck, but the crucial pin that keeps it in. Both were lying loose on the deck. My hero carefully balanced on the slippery deck and dodged waves as he reattached the stay. Then he found a piece of wire down below to make it more secure. “I do not know what I would have done, if you hadn’t been with me.” “You would have been fine. You would have fixed it.” “I would have cried and tried to take the sails down and then called you for help.” “You would have been fine.” I love my husband. He is so nice to me. The rest of the trip was fast and fun. We surfed to Camden in record time. Frolic is home and summer is over, but, luckily, my adventures with John are not.


More Peas, Please


Back when I was a newspaper editor in Belfast, Maine, one of the more unusual aspects of my job was judging the newspaper’s pea contest. Each spring, the newspaper awarded a prize to the reader who grew the first “mess” of peas.

A recent college graduate from the city, I had no idea what a mess was, other than what my office looked like on a regular basis. Back in those days, you could not just turn on your computer and find instant answers. You had to do your research the more conventional way. Just what is a mess? I asked my colleagues, silently imagining gardens wildly strewn with errant peas and shells. Turns out a mess –- the word comes from a Middle English word for course of a meal — is enough peas to make a dinner. No one I asked knew just how many peas that would require.

This was serious business. Local pea growers were known to plant their peas with heat tape to accelerate the growth or to heat the soil with fresh manure – competitive gardening at its best. But no matter what they did, or when they planted, the peas seemed to be ready at the same time. There would be that day in mid-June when the newspaper phone would ring all day with people calling to let me know their peas were ripe. And I would drive out, up hills and down dirt roads to inspect, visiting each garden and interviewing each grower.


I think of those days often now that I have my own garden and rush in the early spring to plant my peas as soon as the ground has thawed enough for digging. But I’m not worried about winning contests; my goal is to have peas by July 4. Each year I tell my husband that next year I won’t plant peas; we’ll buy them instead. But each year I relent and into the ground they go.

Peas talk to me of summer, past and present. I’m entranced by the curling tendrils that seem to pull the lush green vines up the trellis, by the speed with which star like white flowers morph into succulent green pods. I love sitting outside in the light that seems to last forever this time of year and shelling the peas, eating one every now and then and feeding the husks to my dogs who greedily consume them. When I was a child I would shell peas with my grandfather who used to challenge me to find the pod with the most peas. His record was 11. That pod and its contents sat on his mantelpiece for at least a summer, faded, shriveled, but glorious in its bounty. The very first poem I learned as a child was about peas:

I eat my peas with honey.

I’ve done it all my life.

It makes them taste quite funny;

But it keeps them on the knife.

We ate our first mess of peas tonight. I’m sure the farmers in Waldo County already have harvested many meals, but I’m happy. I beat the fourth by a few days and the peas were delicious.


Gone Gardening


This time of year the sun rises behind Mt. Battie and shines through my bedroom window right into my eyes, like a teleprompter telling me to get outside.

I love this early morning time in the garden, checking on seedlings and weeding. Too early in the year for many pests and diseases, everything looks green and hopeful. The growing plants with their different shapes and shades — spiky garlic, rounded swiss chard, stubby broccoli — bring visual order to my life. A distant woodpecker’s gentle rhythmic beat, the wind in the trees, the murmur of birds going about their business soothes my brain.

It’s a momentary feeling, but the effect is long lasting. Solving problems here is as simple as pulling unwanted grass shoots from between the rows of beets. The hardest decision is whether to let the freelance dill grow among the rows of leeks, or to remove it.

Living in the moment is therapeutic. The essayist Montaigne described it well: “When I dance, I dance; when I sleep, I sleep; yes, and when I walk alone in a beautiful orchard, if my thoughts have been dwelling elsewhere, I lead them back again to the walk, the orchard, to the sweetness of this solitude, to myself.



Parading around

Everybody loves a parade. Especially me. But until now I never got to walk in one. I’ve always been a spectator. Until today, that is.


Today, I walked with my son, Sam, and his Little League team in Camden’s Memorial Day Parade.

What makes this parade so wonderful is that the spectators sitting in their canvas folding chairs and holding small American flags, know the people marching by and vice versa. They yell hi and wave their hands and their flags and we wave back. We walked by my friend Dan and his mother, Gigie; my friend Jackie who was selling raffle tickets in front of the local market; Scott sitting in front of his real estate office; and Jude who rushed out to give her son a sip of water as we passed. In front of us, the high school band played but all we heard was the staccato beat of the drums. Behind were antique cars, local clubs, the humane society and the Lincolnville Band playing in the back of their huge tractor-trailer.


Today, the sun came out after 10 days of rain. The crowds lining the street and those of us marching the two miles from start to finish felt happy just because at long last we could see blue sky.

Before moving to Camden, my experience with Memorial Day was on the island of North Haven, just off the coast from here. There a town official each year reads off all the names of local sons and daughters who died in the service of their county, going all the way back to the American Revolution. Then some one plays Taps and memorial wreaths are dropped off the ferry landing to float out to sea.

Camden is too big to read off the names of all the veterans. Instead, the parade stops at each memorial on the way through town. And when we reach the main cemetery, the high school band plays the Star Spangled Banner and the Naval Hymn and a lone trumpeter plays Taps. A minister recited a blessing; and a veteran read touching lyrics from a country western song about “our boys in blue.”

Memorial Day is when we take time to honor those who gave their lives for our country. But the Memorial Day Parade also celebrates community and the people who hold it together.