Friday, May 21, 2010

Mail Call on the Casco Bay

Casco Bay Ferry
All aboard the mail boat out of Portland for the Casco Bay Islands! The ferry above plies the waters between Portland and Peaks Island. It berths just ahead of the mail boat at the Casco Bay Lines dock at the intersection of Franklin and Commercial Streets.

I've been wanting to head out on the mail boat for quite some time and yesterday was the day. Temps hit 81 (at 7 PM!) in downtown Portland but we were cool as cucumbers out on the bay! We headed out to catch the 2:45 PM mail boat run but had to make a quick detour to pick up some sunscreen (you definitely want this even if you plan to spend the entire 3 hours inside the ferry).

Parking is easy- right in the parking garage where the ferry terminal is housed. Mail Boat tickets are $14.50 for adults and $7.25 for children. (It's the best value for a 3 hour tour of the Casco Bay Islands that you'll find!)

First stop- Little Diamond Island! (At the ticket window you will get a map that shows the route and some history. During the trip out, the crew will let you know what islands you are passing and what islands they are stopping at and a bit of the history of the area.)

mail deliveries on Little Diamond Island
Looks like someone was getting a delivery of annuals for their garden! Potting soil and other gardening supplies were also in the mix. The crates are left on the dock, the owners come and claim their items and the empty crates are taken back on the next trip. It seems like a very efficient way to get your things delivered! (Everything is crated up by island at the pier in Portland.)

Chugging along at a nice pace we saw Fort Gorges just off the Portland coast. From the Fort, looking toward South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, you can see Bug Light, Spring Point Ledge Light and Portland Head Light in the distance. (The summer-only Bailey Island Day cruise is almost 6 hours long and gets closer to the lighthouses as well as having time to stop and dine on Bailey Island!)

Fort Gorges, Casco Bay
Lucky Catch Lobster Tours has 1 or 2 trips in the summer out to Fort Gorges for hiking and picnicking.

Because we were still on high osprey alert from our trip to see the alewives this boat really caught our attention! That's an osprey nest at the top of the mast. We did see an osprey in a tree along the shoreline, so I suggest bringing binoculars and a telephoto lens if your camera has one.

osprey nest
I won't show everything we saw so you can have a great time discovering the islands of Casco Bay on your own! We stopped at 5 islands during our trip and at 1 of them again on the return trip. Ask at the ticket counter about leaving the boat and being picked up later on the return trip.

There are no food amenities on the mail boat so be sure to bring along a picnic lunch for the 10 AM run or some snacks for the 2:45 PM run. All that fresh air and sunshine makes you hungry! There is no smoking anywhere on the ferry.

I'll leave you with this last pic of a homesick sailor headed for shore. (And dinner at Becky's Diner!)

If you didn't bring along that picnic lunch or snacks, there are literally hundreds of restaurants just a short walk from the ferry. We can give you a Portland map before you head out. The mail boat is about 20 minutes south of here. There weren't any cruise ships in the harbor when we were there, but it's always a possibility to see one- they're HUGE!

White Cedar Inn Bed and Breakfast 178 Main St Freeport, Maine 04032

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Blueberry Lemon French Toast - May Recipe of the Month

This is a sweet-tart breakfast sandwich that has a bit of a 'grown-up' flavor.


2 slices of Italian bread per sandwich
1-2 tbsp lemon curd per sandwich
1/4 c blueberries per sandwich
butter for frying
maple syrup for serving

French toast egg batter: amounts will depend on number of servings you're making

2 eggs (will make 2 servings)
1/4 c half & half or heavy cream
pinch of cinnamon
dash of sugar

Assemble sandwiches by spreading lemon curd on one slice of bread for each sandwich. Top with blueberries and second slice of bread. Beat batter ingredients together in a shallow baking dish. Dip sandwiches in batter, coating both sides. Fry up on griddle or in pan with butter. Use high heat to crisp bread on both sides, then reduce heat to warm center. Flip sandwiches over again if sides are getting too dark.

Serve with warm maple syrup and peppered bacon!

Printable recipe page.

White Cedar Inn Bed and Breakfast 178 Main St Freeport, Maine 04032

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Alewives Come Back to Damariscotta

fish ladder damariscotta
The sluice for diverting the fish

I've been hearing about the alewives running for a few years now. Never knowing exactly when this took place, I've kind of blown it off every year. This year, with grandson raring to go, off we went to Damariscotta Mills to find the fish.

A) This has to be one of the easiest places to find! B) Wow! C) I'm ready to go back for the festival (happens in May each year)!

The 'fish ladder' is comprised of many small pools climbing from Salt Bay to Damariscotta Lake. (See below for a link to the Damariscotta Mills alewives website.)

What was so amazing about the day were the birds. Basically, not knowing where to go, we followed the sounds of the gulls shrieking in the distance. There we saw this small grouping guarding one of the weirs. Every once in awhile, a gull would dip its head into the water and come up with an alewife which it promptly wiggled around until it could swallow it whole! We're talking a fish that's about 6-8" long!

osprey eagles
Waiting for lunch to swim by

Most people who have been to any beach community are pretty inured to the gulls. They're everywhere...every lobster shack & McDonald's parking lot has them. No beach blanket outing is complete without gulls swooping in to steal whatever is left unguarded.

What was amazing about this location were the osprey. There weren't that many of them, but they are precise fishers. Sitting on the branch of a dead tree, an osprey would wait, wait, wait, and then swoop in and grab an alewife from the waters and take off with it clutched in its talons. It was a beautiful sight to see.

We watched for awhile and then headed across the road to see if we could find anything in the bay. Just standing there looking at the ducks, I was suddenly ducking as a fish flew through the air and landed 5 feet away on the shore! Looking up, wondering where the fish came from, I saw a bald eagle overhead being chased by the gulls. A bald eagle. Wow! Better still, a bald eagle that threw a fish at me!

The eagle circled for a little bit and then alit on a high branch of a white pine. We watched for awhile but it started to rain pretty heavily at that point so we headed for the car.

damariscotta alewives
In one of the resting ponds on the ladder

The above is a shot of one of the pools. All of the darker coloration to the left is the school of fish we saw in that pool! Individual fish are visible if you look closely.

A definite recommendation if you are here in May-June. The Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder organization keeps the website up to date with sightings and big schools. Check out all the slideshows from previous festivals and the building of the fish ladder. Directions for how to get there are on the home page.

After checking out the fish and the birds, head over to Damariscotta for oysters at King Eiders. Or, one of our favorites The Newcastle Publick House in Newcastle.

The 'people ladder' to walk around the lower pools. (The far walkway is private property.)

damariscotta, maine
Private walkway

Damariscotta Mills is about a 45 minute drive from White Cedar Inn. Straight north on Rt 1 to Newcastle, then Rt 215 to the fish ladder.

White Cedar Inn Bed and Breakfast 178 Main St Freeport, Maine 04032