Change of Scenery Adds New Dimension to Boating
July 29, 2008 -
GREENVILLE -- A weekend away from your own boat -- and boating routine -- can open your eyes to new dimensions of the sport. That's what happened last weekend when we took a break from our regatta schedule for a visit to the North Woods that included its own approach to boats and boating.
We started Friday night with a "Rock and Roll Cruise" aboard the restored steamship Katahdin out of the Moosehead Marine Museum in Greenville. I freely admit this could hardly be called boating to us -- we were just a couple people among scores of revelers aboard the Kate, as steamship is known. We spent our time dancing and catching up with friends and had no hand in the boat's operation during our two-hour tour of southern Moosehead Lake.
But the Kate has an interesting history. It was one of several ships that carried passengers, livestock and supplies to large resorts like Mount Kineo and small hunting camps and villages around the lake during the early 1900s. Later, it was used as a towboat to haul booms of logs. According to the Moosehead Marine Museum, the Kate participated in the nation's last log drive in 1975, and it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
More recently, the Katahdin has been restored. In addition to being the centerpiece of the museum, each summer the steamboat gives thousands of passengers scenic and memorable tours of Maine's largest lake.
If you're ever in the area, a ride on the Kate is well worth the fare.
We hit the opposite end of the spectrum two days later when we explored another part of Moosehead on a much smaller boat -- my father-in-law's new-to-him Norwest 20-foot wood canoe. Some people might think it's crazy to go out onto a large lake known for unpredictable conditions, including gusty winds and nasty chop, in a canoe. But last Sunday's weather was pretty benign. While it was overcast, the winds were light, and the water was flat. And the Norwest 20 is no ordinary canoe.
The canoe is made of cedar planking on oak ribs, with an outer skin of high-density canvas treated with epoxy. It has beautiful lines, yet is rugged and incredibly stable, and can carry up to five passengers plus gear weighing up to 2,450 pounds.
At 325 pounds, the Norwest 20 is not something you can chuck onto a car top; you'd best use a trailer to haul it to a local ramp. We did just that and launched the canoe from the public ramp in Rockwood.
The 25-horsepower Mercury outboard on the canoe's square stern powered it effortlessly. We had no speedometer, so I can't tell you how fast we were going. But suffice it to say it would take Rita P the better part of a day to reach the distance we covered in just a couple of hours.
Equally impressive was how smoothly the Norwest 20 cut through the water. Wooden boat devotees will tell you that fiberglass or metal boats just don't compare to their wooden counterparts when it comes to a smooth, quiet, comfortable ride.
The change of scenery was also a treat, and Moosehead Lake offers an endless variety of things to see.
We first set out for the back side of Mount Kineo, where cliffs that tower more than 700 feet over our heads were nothing short of breathtaking. For those who can't bear a weekend without hitting the links, there's a nine-hole golf course on Kineo. There are also hiking trails that offer spectacular views. If you don't have your own boat, there's a shuttle that leaves from the Rockwood public landing every hour in the summer.
Moosehead also features a diverse variety of shore side development, ranging from simple A-frames and rustic cabins on islands and clustered in quaint villages to more elaborate compounds on large tracts of acreage. There are also campsites along its shores and on many of its islands -- ideal for kayakers.
And don't forget the wildlife. While we did not happen upon any moose during our lake tour (we did see one in a field off Route 15 on the way up), we saw our share of Canada geese, common loons, and a wide variety of very friendly ducks, most of whom appeared to be looking for a handout.
We returned from our inland foray refreshed and ready to take on the second half of the regatta season. But I have a feeling we may try to sneak in another trip to Moosehead. Fall foliage, anyone?
Gail Rice of Freeport and her husband, Randy, race and cruise their Pearson 30 sloop on Casco Bay.
By GAIL RICE, Maine Sunday Telegram, July 27, 2008
Lakes: Moosehead Lake
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