waters here are a fertile ground for striped bass and
bluefish tailing toward colder water from their
spawning grounds in the Chesapeake.
Some cruising charter boats are available in this
area—some from individuals, some from charter
companies—notably in Portland and Yarmouth. If you
start your charter here, keep in mind that it will be a
one- to two-day run to the prime cruising grounds
farther up the coast.
• Casco Bay area: The mile-thick glacier that
formed the Maine coast also created the sprinkling of
islands and headlands that relieve the long, unbroken
stretches of northeast coastline. Casco Bay is your first
glimpse of what has been called Maine’s “drowned
coast.” With only 20 miles of water, Casco Bay is
smaller than the major bays farther east, but the
islands are numerous, and you can penetrate inland
along some of the feeder rivers (although tide-driven
currents are something to consider).
Casco Bay is home to Maine’s largest city, Portland,
and here you will find more development shoreside.
The bay’s larger islands often serve as bedroom
communities for the city. Casco Bay has a vibrant
recreational boating scene, with many marinas offering
transient slips, and you can always find a good
restaurant. The atmosphere in Portland is more
contemporary than elsewhere in Maine.
• Mid-coast Maine (Bath to Tenants Harbor):
This is the beginning of the Maine coast’s prime
cruising grounds. The harbors start to take on the
character of the areas farther east, with good facilities
and good protection. You are well within the home
cruising grounds of many of the charter companies
serving the coast, as well as individuals offering their
boats for charter. The Damariscotta River estuary and
Boothbay areas offer good cruising, with many
support facilities and towns serving the harbors.
Here, you are also within range of the prime cruising
grounds farther east.
• Penobscot and Mount Desert regions (Muscle
Ridge to Schoodic Point): This is the prime cruising
ground on the Maine coast. Although technically two
regions, for the purposes of planning a charter cruise,
you should consider this one combined cruising area.
Penobscot Bay is 40 miles long and 10 miles wide.
Its hundreds of islands break up the ocean swells
and wind-driven waves, leaving easy water for any
trawler yacht and plenty of wind for sailors. The bay’s
western shore runs up along Rockland, Rockport,
and Camden; its center is anchored by the large
islands of Vinalhaven and Northhaven. The eastern
shore runs down past Belfast, through Eggemoggin
Chartering On Maine’s Coast
Reach, and then around Blue Hill Peninsula to the
Mount Desert area.
Mount Desert Island is far from a desert. It is the
home of lush Acadia National Park and is the gateway
to Maine’s Downeast region. While Penobscot Bay
itself exudes the essential character of the Maine coast
in its fishing villages, secluded islands, and coves,
Mount Desert is more sophisticated, with large
summer homes going back generations, the thousand-boat harbor at Southwest Harbor, and the tourist
mecca of Bar Harbor (cruise ships included).
The Penobscot Bay and Mount Desert areas seem
to absorb boats. Even on the busiest summer day, you
might see a total of 20 boats, and half of them will be
fishermen. You are never more than 45 minutes from
a sheltered anchorage, and you can always find a lee
and a new cove to explore. If you are chartering in
Maine for the first time, this is the region to visit.
• Downeast Maine (Schoodic Point to the
Canadian border): When you pass the high breaking
surf at Schoodic Point beyond Mount Desert Island,
you enter a far different coastline, where Maine begins
to verge on wilderness.
This is not tourist country. It is the realm of the
lobsterman and the Maine boatbuilder. There are
few yachts and fewer marinas, but the coastline is
spectacular. There also are fewer sources of fuel. The
tidal range is greater, with a corresponding increase in
current. Downeast cruising is a wonderful experience,
with a great reward when you reach the hidden lagoon
and white sand beaches of Roque Island.
The Downeast region should probably be reserved
for your second or third charter cruise.
LOTS OF REASONS
TO SAVOR MAINE’S SHORT SEASON
There are many reasons why you might choose to
visit Maine aboard a chartered powerboat. Many of the
folks who charter in Maine are families that want to
enjoy the comfort and dependability of trawler cruising
without the expense and commitment of boat ownership
(although a great Maine charter often leads to taking that
fateful step toward ownership). Others are motoryacht
owners who don’t have the time to bring their own boat
to Maine or don’t want the expense of doing so. Some
charterers are trawler owners who are considering
trading up (or down) from their present boat and want
to experience cruising aboard a particular size or design
of boat. My wife and I run a charter business on Buck’s
Harbor, and we get a lot of referrals from major boat
dealerships whose prospective customers want to try a
boat on for size and style.