| Outside magazine, June 1996|
Since the day that sailing became sport instead of mere transport, the coast of Maine has been one of the pastime's most notable playing fields. But the far Northeast's bony coast is not for the unprepared: Treacherous fog and storms are common even in summer, so if you're not an experienced sailor, resist the urge to go it alone.
Crewed charters and sailing schools. For those deficient in sailing skills but not in funds, Hinckley Crewed Charters (800-504-2305) brokers more than 40 yachts, from 51 to 131 feet. Blitzen, a classic 56-foot Nevins racing sloop, costs $4,700 a week for up to six people, including all meals, a captain, and crew. If you prefer to learn to do it yourself, there are a number of Maine-based outfits that can teach you the ropes. Bay Island Yacht Charters and Sailing School (800-421-2492), in Rockland, offers a $395 Basic Keelboat course that puts beginners in a sporty 24-footer for two full weekend days. For the Intermediate course--same price, same duration--students jump up to a J-29 sloop. WoodenBoat School (207-359-4651), in Brooklin, offers 15 one-week small- and large-boat sailing clinics; tuition for most is $500.
Do it yourself. If you're an experienced sailor, you can rent a boat from Hinckley Yacht Charters (800-492-7245), in Bass Harbor, the state's largest bareboat operation. A Sabre 34, ideal for one couple or a small family, goes for $2,100 per week, while a Hinckley 41 commands $2,650. Fitz-Patrick Sailboat Charters (800-626-0769), in Rockland, will put you at the helm of a Montego 25 for as little as $850 per week. For a week's trip from Bass Harbor, sail the west coast of Mount Desert Island, around Long Island to Blue Hill Bay, and then up Eggemoggin Reach to Buck Harbor. From there, head southwest to Camden and then across to North Haven Island. Tack through Merchant Row to Swans Island and then northeast to Bass Harbor. For a long-weekend cruise, start out of Rockland and sail West Penobscot Bay to Vinalhaven Island, along Merchant Row to Swans Island, and up Eggemoggin Reach to Castine. From there it's a day's sail south back to Rockland.
How to get there. Fly into Portland on Delta, USAir, or Continental, and then drive 81 miles north on U.S. 1 to Rockland. Or, if you choose to sail out of Bass Harbor, continue up U.S. 1 another 65 miles to Ellsworth and then go south about 30 miles on Maine 3 and Maine 102.
Where to Bunk. In Rockland, stay at The LimeRock Inn (doubles, $85-$180; 800-546-3762), a Victorian bed-and-breakfast near the harbor. In Bass Harbor, try The Pointy Head Inn, a three-story farmhouse overlooking the water (doubles, $55-$85; 207-244-7261). Or head to Acadia National Park's first-come-first-served Seawall campground ($8-$13; 207-288-3338), three miles from Bass Harbor.
Guidebooks and maps. A Cruising Guide to the Maine Coast, by Hank and Jan Taft and Curtis Rindlaub, is the definitive guide, with 75 detailed harbor charts plus a complete list of charter outfits and emergency numbers ($40, from Diamond Pass Publishing, 207-766-2337). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration charts for the Maine coast sell for $14 each; call NOAA at 800-638-8972.