Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Portland and Portsmouth: I Could Stay Here For a While (Maine and New Hampshire)

Watching the boat parade in Portland, from the deck of the Galeon

We got Wow! receptions in both of these New England cities.  Huge boat parade in Portland, both other tall ships and local boats participated. Lots of visitors to our ship, we were crazy-busy in both places.  I actually don't like that quite as much as the quieter locales.  Of course the income from ticket sales is a big benefit, the more the merrier, but when it's that crowded we don't really have time to engage with the visitors and help them understand the ship and its history.  It also wears us out.

But the towns were lovely; several of the crew commented that they'd like to come back for a longer stay maybe next summer. (No one said anything about the long snowy gray winters, though!) We enjoyed walking around the just-right-size historic downtowns.  The weather was cozy; sometimes foggy, but warm (not hot) and sunny most days, and snuggly sweatshirt weather at night. As in so many places we've visited over the years, I tried to imagine myself living there.  Sometimes I wonder if I'm really a wanderer at heart, or merely a seeker for that perfect town: just the right size, opportunities for both outdoor recreation and intellectual stimulation, good weather, restaurants, it's a long and not perfectly articulated list. A place other people pay money to visit on their vacations. We used to joke that the easiest litmus test was to compare the number of bars to the number of bookstores. (Or churches.  I once read that in Wyoming in the old west days there was some kind of rule that the town couldn't have more bars than churches ... which is why so many tiny one-room churches were built, so they could also have another bar.)

While the people of northern New England were good to us, the waters of the area were less kind.  Ten-foot tides and lots of lobster pots made for tricky docking and navigation.  I spent almost the entire 4 hours of one of my watches on the foredeck looking for floats in the fog and communicating back to the helmsman with hand signals -- outstretched arm signalled apot in this direction off the bow, number of fingers meant how many tens of meters away -- while he or she steered a zigzag course to avoid tangling the lines in our props.  We weren't always successful; twice a diver had to go down and cut away the lines.  And there was one time that I had to make up a new signal: thumbs under armpits, elbows flapping. Sorry about that, never mind, I just had you alter course to avoid a bird! This combination of tides and fog and rocks and pots is the reason we've never taken Cinderella up north.  Yes, we'd like to come back again for a longer visit someday ... but it just might be that we'll come by land.

Modern tug helps historic ship to dock in the big tides

Cute streets -- we teased our chef about this restaurant named "David's" in Portland 

And equally cute streets in Portsmouth

The ultimate bars-to-bookstores ratio -- it's a two-fer! This used book store also serves wine and beer!

Tiki the parrot!  Mascot of some visiting "pirates."

The far northern latitude gave us very early sunrises; the sky started showing the first hints of light at 4 AM. Also long beautiful sunsets.  Good night you two little port towns of New England; we'll be back!

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