A Night to Stay Abed


----Maine coastal weather is as variable as the landscape. It changes daily and from place to place. This summer, a hot one, we would be roasting in Wiscasset at 95 degrees, pull anchor, and be putting on sweaters a few miles oceanward at Five Harbors. Mark Twain described it perfectly. "I reverently believe that the Maker who made us all makes everything in New England but the weather. I don't know who makes that, but I think it must be some raw apprentices in the weather-clerk's factory."


-----Summers in Maine are usually delightful, especially along the coast. Except for record-breaking warmth and a drought, we had a "normal" August in 2002. The typical day began with a crisp sunrise, gulls mewing and wheeling, and the dull-throb of the lobsterman's diesel as he chugs from harbor at first light.

The 'Snap' of Sunrise

-----The wind was usually from the sou'west, very light at dawn, and slowly increasing during the day to perhaps 25 knots in mid-afternoon.

A 'Snappy' Afternoon Breeze

-----We would generally have a hook down by then, snug in a little cove, sipping sundowners in the cockpit as the wind died with sunset. At night, Halcyon swung lazily on her hook beneath a calm, star-filled sky.

Sundowner Time

-----Occasionally a frontal system would push in from the north or west. The wind would shift against the sun - westerly, southerly, easterly - the sky would often run the usual warning signs - cirrus, alto-stratus, stratus, and finally, nimbo-stratus with rain. The wind would finally swing northwesterly and the jackets would come on against the freshening gusts. These norther days were crisp and clear - offshore islands would be etched against the horizon as though a few miles away.

-----Then, a few hours or days later, the wind would return to the southwest. Temperatures and humidity would rise and the lazy, hazy days of summer would return.

Weather Signs in the Sky

First signs of an approaching front:

Cirrus Clouds (often with airline contrails)

Ring Around the Sun or Moon

'Deep' Haze

Getting closer:


Altocumulus or Altostratus

Comes the Rain:

TomCat with Anchor Down

-----"Yah damn lucky," we kept hearing from the local residents. "Shudda bin hyah last summah - nevah saw the sun fah dayahs on end. Thought we had lost hah fahevah. Nuthin' but fog, fog, fog. Figuhed nobody wud evah return from away agin." Then, with a sly grin to each other, they would add, "Cahse, we cud live with thayat." Those are the summers the locals love to recall and relate to all and any 'from away.' We were told by harbormasters that few cruised Maine this summer because last summer was so bad and folks swore they would never return Down East.

-----There are the occasional summer gales. When NOAA weather radio talks about strong winds from the sou'west, listen up! There are usually several gales (34-47 knots) from the south every summer, and they are especially difficult for small boats since so many Maine coastal harbors are open to the south and southwest.

-----Fall can bring the odd hurricane - usually about once a hundred years. Big ones struck in 1635, 1815, and the much remembered Hurricane of 1938. Today the big ones are named, and forecast days or weeks ahead of their arrival. Hurricane Gustav passed us by this summer, crossing George's Bank and rolling big swells against the coast of Maine.

Tropical Storm Gustav Now a Hurricane - Track It !

-----The nemesis of Maine cruisers is fog. The reason why there are so many fogs on this coast is simple. A frigid stream of Arctic water, the Nova Scotia Current (an offshoot of the Labrador Current), curls southerly around the tip of Nova Scotia and twists into the Bay of Maine. It is deflected along the coast of Maine by the long arm of Cape Cod. Just offshore from the cold Nova Scotia current is the northerly-flowing warm-water Gulf Stream. When the wind is from the south or southeast, the warm moisture-laden air over the Gulf Stream travels over the cold Scotian waters of Maine, and there is instantly fog. Now, with all due respect to Carl Sandburg, in the words of a local, "this tain't no 'li'l cat-feet' fog." It is usually a cold, dense, impenetrable blanket. Unlike most fogs, these often arrive in a twenty-knot wind. Again, the locals say there are two ways to navigate in the fog: "face fohwawd, grippin' yah Bible or yah kin face aft, grippin' a bottle of gud rum."


"A Two Bottlah"

Maine Wind Gage


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