A transitional season and a change of scenery

I don’t know where the time went, but this spring has been busy. Last month, as soon as weather and schedule allowed, we removed our winter cocoon and let the boat breathe some fresh air for the first time since November. Though our greenhouse-style shrink-wrap cover keeps us cozy and (mostly) dry through the long winter, we welcome the spring breeze and sunshine.

Unfortunately, this spring has been short on the sunshine. This is supposed to be the time of year that we are sanding and painting, cleaning, rigging, and finishing up projects before the sailing season begins. We’ve felt delayed, if not bummed out when the majority of our available work days are fraught with cold, dark, damp or downright wet weather.

The project I was most excited about, after months of planning, was a completely new solar setup which allows us to live off the grid, cutting the cord from the marina. After all the preparation and a week of installation, I eagerly anticipated my first test of the new system. As it turns out, I finished just in time for several days of heavy rain and fog, blocking out the sun. We still produced power, but nowhere near our full potential. Anticlimactic is an understatement.

Amongst the dismal weather and various projects, we moved the boat to a temporary home on the other side of the bay. After a few years at the marina in South Portland, we decided to look for other options. In the Portland area most marinas charge similar fees, so we knew we wouldn’t necessarily save any money by crossing the harbor. We were driven, however, by other factors. Intrigued by the community, better facilities, customer service and convenience we began to plan our move.

After the purchase of our fast and stable dinghy last summer we considered the possibility of moving to a mooring. There aren’t many good places for a private mooring in Portland Harbor, and the areas that do exist have a waiting list, particularly for larger boats. Portland Yacht Services, now located at the western end of the harbor, still maintains a small marina and mooring field on the east end of the harbor. We chose to rent a mooring from them for the summer which will save us a bunch of money, allow us to sail more often, and provide a super short dinghy commute to work for Skye. 

The dilemma that soon developed was a gap in our marina and mooring contracts, leaving us homeless for several weeks. It was too early in the season to anchor out, and that would have more or less confined us to the boat (or immediately nearby) to ensure the anchor didn’t drag. We spoke with several marinas in the area, but the only ones that were open this early in the season were the two main liveaboard marinas, Dimillo’s and South Port. Switching to the short term fee schedule at these marinas would mean a very expensive month for us.

We decided to expand our search outward, and I eventually remembered that the boat yard we had hauled out at last spring had docks in the water in April. Royal River Boat Yard is very familiar to me as my grandparents have kept a boat there for decades and I’ve also spent countless hours sanding and painting there aboard Frances, of Maine Sailing Adventures, which makes the yard an annual winter haven. Boat work in the yard feels like home this time of year.

The river has proved to be a great spot to spend the last few weeks, allowing us to work on several projects, despite the rain, in a protected and friendly facility. While we look forward to moving back to Portland and out onto a mooring, we have seriously appreciated the welcoming yard crew, the quiet mornings, and the nearby friends heartily working to prepare their boats for summer.  As long as we are in Casco Bay, we will always look to Royal River Boat Yard for haul-outs, repairs, and the camaraderie of a highly professional yard with a passionate DIY community.

To all of our fellow boat owners battling the weather to prepare for summer: we feel your pain and share your excitement. The hard work will pay off soon enough. I enjoy most of the projects I undertake on the boat; it’s a passion. For those thankless, mundane jobs that just have to be done, I always tell myself it will be worth it when I’m swinging from an anchor behind a remote island rather than upside down in the engine room, unable to leave the marina due to deferred maintenance.

With the transition from winter to summer almost complete, I am thrilled to get back out on the bay and explore.

Are you as excited about exploring the Maine coast as I am? Join the discussion in our Facebook group Maine Sailing and Cruising!

Matt Garand

About Matt Garand

Lifelong Mainer, and professional mariner, Matt Garand is the creator of A Life Aboard, a look at year-round living on a sailboat in Maine. Matt and his wife, Skye, live aboard in South Portland and use every available chance to throw off the lines and explore the coast.