10/05/2012

Nickeled and Dimed on Your Vacation?

I had a stray thought the other day that I might look into finding a rental accommodation someplace warm this winter for a week. You know, white sands, cabanas, rum drinks, temps over 60. Someone once mentioned Destin, Florida as a good place, so I went to homeaway.com and checked it out. I looked at the map view and tried to pick a place on the beach. However, it seemed every place said “seven minute walk to the shore” (that’s a quarter mile!) even though the pictures of the property showed a beach view from what looked like a deck. The other choices were high rise condos. Right on the shore but you’re in a bee hive 5 stories up. Then there were the prices. $2-4,000+/week. Ouch! I can’t help but think there’s a SeaCat’s Rest of Florida somewhere I haven’t found. A clean, stylish, private two bedroom apartment on the Atlantic or Gulf coast (and I mean REALLY on the coast) for under $1,000/ week.

Then they have this annoying habit of adding extra charges. Cleaning fees. OK, I understand how each rental requires cleaning between guests (believe me, 5 hours), but why should this be an add-on? Is it optional? Could I rent without the cleaning fee if I were willing to wash the laundry, make the beds and scrub and vacuum all surfaces? This is absurd! Why should you lure me into this property and then start adding things which should be included in the quoted price?

Keith Richards
from imdb.com

Damage deposit. Many properties don’t even state the deposit amount in the description. You reserve and then they tell you. Ours is zero. As a renter, I have to trust that the property manager won’t invent some reason to keep some of my three or four-figure deposit. Is this really necessary? Am I Keith Richards*? I have never had a guest at SeaCat’s Rest who broke something and then didn’t offer to pay for it or even went out and bought a replacement without even troubling me with it. People who stay here are decent, maybe I’m spoiled. If Keith Richards stayed here I could sell the broken bits on ebay and recoup the damage. I’m not saying I will never be forced to ask for a damage deposit but so far so good.

Then there’s the coin laundry, detergent, parking and the charge for heating the pool. Nickels and dimes. Hey, if you’re on vacation do you really want to be constantly reminded of how much you’re spending?  No, we don’t have a pool here, just the ocean. But if we did I would figure out a way to heat it without asking for extra. The laundry is free, detergent too. So is the heat, air conditioning, broadband, firewood and cable TV. That’s what a vacation is all about, relaxing and not having to worry about many quarters are in your pocket.

Lodging Tax. Look out,  Florida’s is 11.5% compared to Maine’s 7%. So let’s see how the Florida vacation adds up:

  1. $880/week
  2. Lodging tax of 11.5%=$101.20
  3. Cleaning fee=$150 plus tax of  $17.25= $167.25
  4. shore access– “short walk”
  5. Hidden fees? Security deposit holdbacks? Unknown

Total: $1,148.45(+?)

Here’s what a week in high season will cost you at SeaCat’s Rest:

  1. $880/week
  2. Lodgings tax of 7%= $61.60
  3. Cleaning fee= $0
  4. Shore access=100 feet
  5. Hidden fees and holdbacks= $0.00

Total: $941.60.

Both rentals are the same list price on homeaway, but ours is $206.85 (+?) cheaper when you do the math, and a lot closer to the listed price. And no waiting for a week or more to find out if you get your deposit back.

Are you being nickeled and dimed by your other vacation rental choices? Do the math and read the reviews, you may be the victim of creative pricing! Now if only we could get 80° in January on the Maine coast.

*See Rolling Stone Keith Richards trash his hotel room in this video.

 

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09/22/2012

Lobster Lessons of 2012

The author struggles with banding

After reading all I could both on line and off in preparation for lobster fishing, I can say that I have learned a few valuable unwritten lessons after a summer of the real thing on the coast of Maine. As background, I got my five-trap recreational license in January of 2012. I went into this game thinking it would be a contest between me, the newcomer, and the established network of commercial fishers. Instead, it has been between me and the lobsters. I have not heard a word from any other lobstermen or marine patrol officers since I began.

One of my earliest expectations was that I would be catching an average of one keeper lobster per trap each time I hauled, which I expected to do every two to three days. I got this idea from watching youtube videos. Instead, I have been getting an average of one lobster per five traps. So much for my anticipated problem of having too many lobsters! This provides me with about three lobsters per week, about what I consider a nice amount for our household consumption.

The economics of this activity is dismal. While the cost of electric “fuel” is negligible-2¢  (readers may remember I have an electric lobster boat), the bait is not. Then there’s the time involved. Over an hour to get my one lobster, not to mention the physical effort of hauling traps by hand and cleaning the mud out of my boat.

Still, if given the choice of silently motoring over to my traps on a glassy, sun sparkled ocean or engaged at some other typical human activity, I’ll take the hauling of usually-empty traps any day. This hasn’t stopped me from musing over why my haul is so marginal in a year when there is supposed to be a “glut” of lobsters. The key to better lobster fishing I suspect, is to constantly move traps around. Just watching the trap buoys in front of SeaCat’s Rest tells me that this is exactly what the big boys do. Early summer there were many, now there are very few. Even I have moved mine halfway to Lamoine State Park in an effort to improve the catch. Then there’s the depth issue. People have told me that setting traps in very shallow water is the way to success, that commercial boats can’t get that close to shore, and they miss a bounty of shallow lobsters. I can’t recommend this. I didn’t work for me. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be much correlation between depth and catch. My traps have 35-40 feet of rope which limits them to this depth at high tide. I tend to set them in deep water, but my problem in this is that with only 5 traps there is just no scientific validity to any of my results due to small sample size. If I had 100, 300 or 500 traps I could get a much clearer picture of which traps were successful. As it is, I have to watch the commercial guys for clues about where they set traps.

As for bait, I started out with salted herring, the classic lobster bait. This would disappear in a day or two, mostly from crabs. After going for my third five gallon bucket,  my supplier could no longer sell any to me due to short supply. I switched to hide bait. This is cowhide with its hair removed in a sort of brine which is about 4X as expensive, but is easier to store (requiring no refrigeration) and longer lasting, since even though it smells like a dead animal, it is like eating shoe leather. In fact, it is. I have found that even though the hide lasts a long time, it slowly becomes less stinky and therefore less effective as a bait. I tend to change it about once per week.

Cucumaria frondosa, Maine sea cucumber, from http://www.marlin.ac.uk

I do get interesting stuff in my traps. Besides (usually undersized) lobsters, I get a lot of crabs. I keep the biggest ones for picking. I get an occasional starfish. Some disgusting worms, sea cucumbers and hermit crabs round out the menagerie. Rubber gloves and a pair of tongs come in handy. Sometimes a seal will come by for a closer look or a school of mackerel will swoop around the boat.

As the fall turns colder I will give it up for another year. Next spring I will have my solar panels installed which will enable me to range further, so I will be more aggressive about finding better trap locations. I’d also like to settle the bait questions, finding a dependable supply and figuring out what kind is best. For now I’ll keep fishing until it’s no longer fun, a luxury the commercial guys don’t have. Hat’s off to them! Buy Maine lobsters!

Filed under Acadia, Lamoine, Out on the water by on . Comment.

09/10/2012

Going Oriental in Ellsworth

I must confess, as a transplant from a bigger city I miss restaurant choices, primarily Asian. People who live in or visit Downeast Maine have the choice of a gamut of local seafood establishments; they can indulge in fish and chips to lobster rolls to elegant bisque. It’s all good but what about sushi, pad Thai or kimchi? Do we have to drive a few hours to find our Asian fix? NO! We have a pretty good choice right here in Ellsworth, Maine.

OK, right off the bat I have to complain about the lack of a Vietnamese restaurant. And the Indians are absent too except for occasional appearances at the Ellsworth farmer’s market. And there are plenty of other cuisines I have not tried: Indonesian, Filipino, Burmese and who knows what else. Still, for a year-round population of 7,764 we have two Thai restaurants, a sushi/Asian restaurant, a new Korean takeout, and a “traditional” Chinese restaurant. Not bad!

Just this summer we had the addition of Yu Takeout, the Korean entry. It is located at 674 US Route 1 in Hancock, just 2-1/2 miles east of Ellsworth, and 6.3 miles from SeaCat’s Rest.  (207) 667-0711 will get you to Sonye or one of her helpers. As of this writing there is no menu on line except the one you see below. This is the third takeout to open in this location. I’d say the third time’s the charm!

Another newly opened restaurant is Shinbashi, at 139 High St in Ellsworth. 207-667-6561. It has been around long enough to have many reviews written about it, and they’re overwhelmingly positive. At first, the beautiful interior and extensive menu brought in so many customers they had a little trouble keeping up, but now they’ve hit their stride and are doing fine. The sushi is the best in town and prices are reasonable. There are many choices for non-sushi lovers too: Chinese, Thai and Japanese dishes. The menu is on line here.

Pronsavanh Soutthivong

The Bangkok

For mainstream Thai, you can’t do better than The Bangkok at 78 Downeast Hwy (US Rt. 1), Ellsworth. Laotian Pronsavanh Soutthivong has been greeting her customers for several decades and now has a beautiful new building. Tripadvisor gives The Bangkok a 4.5 out of 5, and I would give it a 5. Our favorite dishes are the green curry and three king party. Pron knows I like my curry hot. The pad Thai is awesome. 207-667-1324.

The Bangkok’s old location is now filled with another Thai restaurant, Siam Orchid, which has a sister location on Rodick Street in Bar Harbor. I have been to the Bar Harbor restaurant and found it very good, so I am sure the Ellsworth branch is just fine. Alas, I cannot offer a first hand report, but don’t take that as a negative! The Siam Orchid is at 321 High Street, Ellsworth. 207-667-9161

Finally, there’s China Hill at 301 High Street, Ellsworth. 207-667-5308.  I referred above to a “traditional” Chinese restaurant. What I meant to say was “traditional American small town” Chinese restaurant.  This place has a loyal local following and for those who know what I mean it will not be a disappointment. Credit China Hill for being the first taste of far eastern cuisine in the Ellsworth area.  I have eaten there once or twice in the last 20 years and I don’t remember it being as bad as many on-line reviews, but since most rural Chinese restaurant went “buffet” (uncertain-aged food sitting under hot lights) I have steered toward Thai, Japanese or Korean restaurants based on a few bad meals, but not at China Hill. I guess the “all you can eat” crowd will always need their own restaurants, and Chinese buffets certainly fit the bill.

I would love to see a Pho (Vietnamese) restaurant open up in Ellsworth. And an Asian market would be nice too. Maybe the two combined! Hint hint. Still, what we have is pretty good. Remember, there’s more to Downeast dining than lobster rolls!

Filed under Acadia, Ellsworth, Good Food, Restaurants by on . Comment.

09/06/2012

How to Pick a Peekytoe Crab

Maine’s peekytoe crabs (Cancer irroratus) were until recently considered a nuisance bycatch, and a thief of lobster bait. They still steal bait but they have gained a respect of sorts (with the cute new name) as a source of delicious meat. Truth be told, it takes a lot of work to get a very small amount of meat from these guys. But with a little picking practice and by carefully choosing only the largest specimens, the sweet, sweet crabmeat is a nice seafood and is a great foundation for crab cakes or crab salad. Warning! You may never go back to the stuff in the can!

In New York City restaurants the peekytoe has achieved star status. Feel like splurging on a $125 dinner? Head over to Le Bernardin Restaurant at 155 W 51st Street and check out their menu:

from le-bernardin.com/dinner/

So if you want to create your own masterpiece with this newly famous Maine crustacean, follow these steps:

  • Pull the body open from the backside.

    Choose crabs in the 1/2 lb (or more) range. They measure close to 5″ across and are a mottled red in color. They turn this color from a more variegated green-brown as they mature, so that’s a good indicator of which ones you should bother with.  I have heard some say that you can break one claw off all crabs and throw the rest back (to grow another) but this disturbs me.

  • Boil crabs for 10 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Now the crabs are almost ready for picking. All they need is to cool off. Run them under cold water or refrigerate them for a while.
  • Use a small hammer and wood block to go after the claws and legs. The meat is as delicate as the shell is brittle, so tap lightly or you will smash the meat and send the shell fragments into it. Try to get the meat out of all the leg and claw segments. If the crab is on the small side you may skip the smaller segments.
  • Body meat after cleaning, ready to pick.

    Break out and clean the center body where the legs attach. There is a surprising amount of meat here. There’s gill, intestine and liver tissue which need to be cleaned off. The yellow stuff is liver and should be rinsed away. This was once considered great for sauces, but is now known to contain toxins, including PSP, paralytic shellfish poison, get rid of it. What you’re left with is a sort of honeycomb of muscles. The honeycomb is made of a very thin shell and can be broken apart with your hands. The hard part is separating these white shell fragments from the white meat. You may need better light!

  • Allow 20-25 minutes per crab to pick. That’s how long it took me. An hour and a half to pick four crabs and I got 6-1/2 oz. of meat. This is a good amount for two people, but you have to decide if it’s worth it. Many hands make lighter work.

A professional peekytoe picker (often the wife of a lobsterman) can pick 20 lbs per day. Assuming an eight hour day, that’s 2.5 pounds per hour. At my rate it would take me 3.7 hours to get one pound, so the pros are 9.25 times as fast as me! Remember this when you want to cook with peekytoe. It may be worth it to find a local picker and buy from her, providing she isn’t working exclusively for a fancy NY restaurant! New rules now require pickers to work in a building separate from their house, so many were driven out of business or “underground”. Don’t expect to find one easily. The “Maine crab meat” sold in our supermarkets may contain meat from other species, but it’s not too far off. Make sure it’s fresh.

My 1-1/2 lbs of crabs yielded 6.5 ounces of meat.

Now that you have a quantity of crab meat, what do you do with it? Rather than making crab cakes, I like to feature uses which allow the sweet flavor to shine, like a salad or dip. I also like to plan on using it all up as soon as possible. Crab meat should not be kept for more than 48 hours in the  refrigerator. Here’s a recipe from this site I made last night. It was a hit. I served it over a toasted flour tortilla. I split the ingredients in half due to my small amount of meat.

Serve crab salad with a slice of avocado on salad greens.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked cooled crab meat, flaked
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped green or red bell pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • mixed salad greens
  • 6 avocado wedges, optional

I also like to make a dip using cream cheese and a bit of mayo. This stuff is mucho rich, so make sure you have a big group to eat it:

  • 0ne package (8 ounces) cream cheese, whipped up with:
  • 2 tbsp Mayo or sour cream or both and
  • 6 oz peekytoe crab meat with
  • the juice from 1/2 lemon or lime and salt to taste.

Mix well and serve with your chips or veggies of choice.

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09/03/2012

North Acadia’s Lake Wood

This is what you will see from the Crooked Road

While looking at a map of Acadia National Park I noticed a small elongated lake I had never heard of, the innocuously named Lake Wood. I don’t think any park literature mentions or directs visitors to this lake, making it a secret spot for avoiding the crowds. Hopefully this post will not reverse its status. The aforementioned map does not show the access road and parking lot serving this gem. In fact there is a well marked road named (amazingly) Lake Wood Pond Road which is on the south side of the Crooked road just about a mile west from Rt 3 in Hulls Cove.

A mention of Lake Wood to locals brings on many stories and memories. It is like it is “their” part of Acadia National Park; a fishing, sunbathing and swimming spot all their own. The skinny end which presents itself as the access trail ends is a passable beach, suitable for swimming or watching little fish and tadpoles among the water lilies. The southern  exposure makes for warm picnics. According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries, the lake is about 16 acres, has a maximum depth of 11 feet and an average depth of 7 feet. That’s 36.5 million gallons. The fish species are brook trout, white sucker, rainbow smelt, banded killifish, minnows, pumpkinseed sunfish and American eel.

View from the beach

Until recently, the eastern shore of the lake belonged to the Town of Bar Harbor. Here, just around the left side of the swimming beach, there are granite cliffs which offer a drop into the water popular with “skinny dippers”. Now the entire lake is surrounded by National Park property and as such, nude bathing and other former activities are discouraged, but not eliminated. The lake has a solid ranger presence and an outhouse, but there are no lifeguards or camping. The trail to the granite outcropping branches off left of the main road just before the parking lot.  This same trail leads to three acre Fawn Pond, an even more remote body of water. Both bodies of water drain the mountains to the south and have an elevation of about 130 feet (Lake Wood) to 200 feet (Fawn Pond). Downhill, their water drains to Hamilton Pond and the Northeast Creek, which is a big wild cranberry area.

Water lilies are getting ready to bloom as of late August.

So folks who come to Acadia National Park and find to their distress that there are just too many people, are not giving the park a chance. Try Lake Wood for a little more isolation. I covered other remote places here. There will be more to come!

Fawn Pond

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08/27/2012

Mitt Romney: My Second Cousin and Second Choice

Rosetta Mary Berry
(Mitt’s great grandma)

Willard Mitt Romney’s mom Lenore LaFount was the daughter of Alma Luella Robison who was the daughter of Rosetta Mary Berry. Rosetta’s half brother was Eugene Berry (1851-1923). Eugene was my great granduncle and after his wife died and her brother, my great grandfather, also died, Eugene married my great grandmother late in life (1915). So my step-great grandfather’s (and my great granduncle’s) half sister was Mitt’s great grandmother. There’s too many steps and halves in this to qualify as a real second cousin, but it explains why I found several ancestry trees claiming my great grandmother, who died a Methodist or maybe a Baptist (she married Mitt’s granduncle in a Baptist parsonage), became a Mormon after death(!) In fact, the Mormon story in my tree, thanks to Eugene’s dad Robert Berry (1823-1905) and his first wife Elnora Lucretia Warner (1822–1865) is one of the most amazing, almost Shakespearean epic in my family tree.

Elnora Lucretia Warner
(Mitt’s great great grandma)

When their two kids were small (Rosetta and her brother Charles), the young Berry family decided, along with Elnora’s parents and siblings, to leave southern Michigan to relocate to the center of the Mormon universe at the time, Nauvoo, Illinois. This was around 1845, just after the murder of founder Joseph Smith in Nauvoo. Upon arriving they discovered little work, so Robert offered to return to Hillsdale County, MI to make some money and send it along to sustain the family. He did so for a period of time, but in Nauvoo things were becoming unraveled. The residents decided to make an orderly migration to Utah under threat from non-Mormon locals. Meanwhile, Robert was puzzled as to why he hadn’t heard from his wife. He decided to make the trip to Nauvoo and find out. When he arrived he found the city deserted and his family gone. He was told his wife married another man and joined the Great Migration.  It is claimed that so great was his grief that his hair turned white overnight. Robert Berry returned to Michigan with a broken heart. He later married my great granduncle’s mother, Nancy Bailey, in 1847.

Robert Berry
(Mitt’s great great grandpa)

Years later, Mitt’s great grandmother Rosetta showed up at Robert’s doorstep. She was on a mission for the Mormon church and took the opportunity to visit her dad. She explained that Elnora married Nauvoo’s postmaster Simon Dalton, after he intercepted Robert’s mail (and his money) and Elnora’s letters back. He convinced her that her husband had abandoned her and that she should become his (plural) wife. He even married Elnora’s sister in the bargain! My guess is that Mitt may not have a fondness for Simon Dalton or for plural marriages.

I am not about to make the case that Mitt Romney is an evil dude. In fact, I admire his dad George for telling the truth about the Viet Nam war. He said we were being brainwashed. This killed his hopes of becoming the 1968 Republican presidential candidate, in fact, it ended his political career.  That took guts and I hope that rubbed off on Mitt, although I have my doubts. Ironically, George was born in Mexico while his parents were on a mission, but he never had to face the “Birther” issue. A good question  for Mitt! (Governor Romney: Your father was born in Mexico. Do you think he should have been disqualified as a presidential candidate in 1968?) Anyway, I think Mitt is the least wacky of all the Republican contenders this time around and if he wins I will probably not hide under the bed. But I won’t be voting for him. Remember, that’s coming from a family member. Sort of.

Filed under Acadia, colorful characters, History by on . 2 Comments.

08/23/2012

Fall in Acadia and Shameless Promotion

SeaCat’s Rest, our modest but beautiful oceanside suite has some fall vacancies. For the after-labor-day reduced rate of $750/week we have available September 8-15 and September 22 to October 12. It always amazes me how we can be so chock-a-block full for July and August and then the perfectly good months of September and October are hardly booked.  I know the kids are back in school, but at least half of our guests are kidless.

Fall is the season of color. Not only from the trees, but also from the lowered sun angle bouncing light off water, rocks and trees. It’s gorgeous! Everything is still open but the crowds are reduced. Here are some of the things going on:

Bar Harbor Fashion Night Out;  September 6, 2012.  Join the fabulous Second Annual Bar Harbor’s Downtown Fashion Night Out 2012. Started in New York City in 2009, Fashion Night Out now happens in 1600 cities worldwide including Bar Harbor! Website: http://www.fashionnightoutbarharbor.com

The 14th Annual MDI Garlic Festival; September 8, 2012, 11am to 5pm at Smugglers Den Campground. More info about this fun local harvest and food fest at http://www.nostrano.com/garlic.html

The 10th Annual Medieval Tournament at Fort Knox;  September 8, 10 AM to 4 PM. Knights will have armored combat, medieval music played, arts and science displays will be on hand and an archery demonstration will take place. Regular Fort admission and a $5 event donation per vehicle requested.

Acadia Night Sky Festival;  September 13, 2012 – September 17, 2012. a community celebration to promote the protection and enjoyment of Downeast & Acadia’s stellar night sky as a valuable natural resource through education, science and the arts. Visit www.acadianightskyfestival.org for a complete list of events.

Art in the Park;  September 22, 2012 – September 23, 2012 Painters, photographers and sculptors will display and sell their original works on the Village Green at the corner of Main & Mt. Desert Streets. Rain or shine. http://www.barharborinfo.com/events/art_in_the_park_show

Hawk Watch; Acadia National Park —Visitors can join park rangers in identifying hawks that migrate south over the summit of Cadillac Mountain here beginning on Aug. 19. On average, 2,500 raptors are counted each year. Weather permitting, the hawk watch takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. near the end of the North Ridge Trail, which is about 200 yards from the summit. Hawk Watch runs through Oct. 9. For more information, call Angi Johnston at 288-8810.

Cranberry Picking; Oct 1-20. This is my own addition. We can show you where to go and lend you the kayaks (sorry, guests only) for all the wild cranberries you can pick, subject to a good crop and good timing.  Read about it here.

And finally the best for last:

The 17th Acadia’s Oktoberfest on October 6 and the 3rd Wine & Cheese Festival on October 5. The Brewfest has been noted as “one of the spots not to miss” and one of the “top ten festivals in New England” by the national RV Magazine and New England brewery magazines. One of the largest and most popular Festivals in Maine the 2009 attendance was 4000. http://www.acadiaoktoberfest.com/

Medieval Tournament

While I’m at it I might as well give a shout out to all my friends and relatives (you know who you are) to claim their free Maine fall lodgings before one of the twelve or so people who read this page makes a reservation. As for you twelve who might possibly consider a fall visit to Acadia, now you have no excuse not to.

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08/14/2012

So What Makes New England Unique?

from http://wikitravel.org

No other region of the US is so geographically and culturally contained as the six states of New England. We’re a little different here in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. We are environmentally conscious, politically independent, stoic, self-reliant, not very religious and we talk funny. We are hands-on when it comes to community decision-making and responsibility, reluctant to change our ways and suspicious of new ideas and sometimes, people “from away”. We believe in higher education, libraries, historical societies and preservation. We try to help the less fortunate by taxing ourselves or by placing a collection jar at the local general store. Our town representatives are called “Selectmen, Assessors and Overseers of the Poor” and we pass (usually with changes) the town budget once a year at a big town meeting by show of hands. We dislike cookie-cutter housing developments, urban sprawl, garish attractions and flaunted wealth.

William Brewster, Puritan Elder, Mayflower passenger and my 11th great grandfather.

Undoubtedly, much of this character comes from our Puritan origins, but so many other parts of America had Puritan origins, because they were settled by New Englanders. The difference was that our Puritans didn’t move away after the “west” (upstate NY, Ohio, Michigan) opened up in the early 1800’s. They liked it here. The finiteness, the community, the traditions, maybe even the weather.

Puritans had the problem of self-governance of their church once they made the crossing, and this they settled according to their beliefs. Harry S. Stout in The New England Soul explains it in terms of covenants (contracts) church members made to each other to govern the affairs of the church according to the laws of God, without the hated English hierarchy. This model of self-governance naturally expanded to local non-church politics with the core features of small autonomous units (the church and town) and the commitment (covenant) of the individual to the unit. Additionally, the Puritans encouraged literacy, education and reverence of history. Thus we come to modern New England, with its many universities and population mostly in small towns with an unspoken responsibility to participatory democracy. Those who left for the untamed frontier in the early 1800s had had enough of the New England Way.

Portland Head Light, commissioned by George Washington

What we have created here is both good and bad. Our crime rate is low because we take community seriously. Anonymity is hard to find. But our population is flat-lining, and aging. With the aging population comes a shrinking tax base. Schools are consolidating and closing and abandoned houses are burned for fire department practice.  Our small unit identity means we are sometimes reluctant to cooperate with neighboring towns, cities, counties or states.  Our Puritan-inspired rules, regulations and tithing (taxation) stifles new business. These, along with a lack of cheap immigrant labor, hurt our competitiveness with the Sunbelt. As former governor (and now US Senate candidate) Angus King has warned,

In today’s global economy, the historic rivalries and differences between New England states are luxuries we can’t afford. Virtually every job we do is subject to global competition: in 20 years the only jobs that can’t be outsourced will be those that touch a person or something they own. The world wants our standard of living. It will take a massive effort at education and innovation to maintain it….We’re in peril. We New Englanders must strengthen ourselves, break historic precedent, find new and innovative ways to maximize our joint strengths, work together. (from http://newenglandfutures.org)

Fine, but lets stop a minute and remember why we live here. We just had a Great Recession. Red-hot growth areas like Florida and Nevada went bust. People who played the Ponzi housing game lost everything. Our New England home values did take a hit, but most of us knew our houses were overvalued because we saw the nuttiness and greed in the rest of the country, and our reluctance to allow big developments limited the carnage. If massive, leveraged development, housing or otherwise is “innovation” we should tread carefully. If growth means more CO2 and record breaking temperatures, droughts and hurricanes, be glad you live in cold(er) New England. And maybe flat population growth is not such a bad thing, it’s one important component to curbing global warming and not a bad example to export. Besides, my gut tells me that we will see an influx of “sunbirds” soon….

Filed under Acadia, History by on . 2 Comments.

08/09/2012

Electric Boating: The Range Issue

Probably the number one question I get asked about Eleccentricity, my electric lobster boat, is, “How far will it go before you have to stop and recharge?” Until now, I only had a vague idea. It’s like driving a car with a broken gas gauge. You develop a feel for when it’s time to stop for gas, but with an electric boat, you don’t even know how many “gallons” you put in. Now all that has changed with my latest semi-expensive gizmo, the Trimetric 2025 battery meter.

from www.bogartengineering.com

Batteries are rated by amp hour capacity, and that rating depends on how quickly they are discharged. My batteries are rated at 180-220 amp hours, fast discharge to slow discharge. Since I have six batteries that’s about 200 amp hours at 36 volts, or 7200 watt hours. So that’s 100 watts for 72 hours or 1000 watts for 7.2 hours.  There is no way to poke or prod a battery to find out how many amp hours are left. True, the rest voltage drops as the batteries are depleted, but once the batteries are put to work, voltage measurements no longer work as a measure of remaining capacity unless left undisturbed for a while. Inconvenient. The Trimetric solves this by keeping track of every amp used and how long, and maintaining a running total, starting at zero after a full charge. So if I go for three days without a charge (I normally charge once a week) I can instantly read what percentage of my battery bank still remains, based on the numbers I programmed into the meter unique to my system.

Refer to the top curve for Eleccentricity’s battery bank.

This brings up an important point about batteries (and you thought the complexity was over?), that you can’t drain the battery bank 100% without it shortening the life of the battery. The life of a battery is defined by the number of discharge/charge cycles it can go through, and if you discharge it below 50% on a regular basis you will be buying a new battery bank in a few years. I like to draw down no more than 30%, which should allow me 2000 cycles or 10 years. The new gizmo will help me with this.

Now that I have completed sea trials I can accurately answer the range question. The thing about electric propulsion is that slow is better. Double the speed and you will triple or even quadruple the power required. At low speeds the range is great: 200 miles at 1 MPH. With a modest 30% battery drawdown that range is 70 miles, not bad. Even at 3 MPH the range is around 28 miles, but with electric power it’s not like you stop abruptly after 28 miles, remember, you can always slow down a little and extend your range and even increase the discharge to 40% or 50%.

Things get interesting when we add solar panels (virtually, at this point). The new roof I added has the capacity to hold about 400 watts of solar. This alone has the ability to push the boat at around 4 MPH, giving infinite range at this speed…as long as the sun shines. By the usual standards of figuring solar gain, this would happen between 4 to 5 hours per day. It also means greater range at higher speeds, and the chance to recharge when at rest. But that’s another big chunk of change, not one I’m quite willing to part with at this time.

So why go electric? You can easily put an outboard on your boat and be like everyone else. I spent a little more and got a quiet ride, a recharged battery bank for less than a buck and smoke-free boating no matter which way the wind blows. And soon, my range will be extended…as long as the sun shines.

8/10 Update: I can now report that one circuit of hauling my 5 traps took 3 amp hours of battery reserve. That’s 1.5% of my total battery capacity, 5% of my drawdown goal of 30%, and 3 amp hours X 36 volts = 108 watt hours. If we assume a charge efficiency of 93% then it will take 116 watt hours of utility power, which sells for about $0.18 per kilowatt hour.  So the fuel for this 5 trap haul (round trip) cost .116 X .18=

 

Filed under Acadia, Out on the water by on . 5 Comments.

08/05/2012

Finding Remote Acadia

My best guess based on the article. Google maps.

In the Sunday, August 5th Bangor Daily News there was an article about a couple from Florida who make it their pastime to find the remotest spot in every state. They worked out that a spot six miles north northwest from Mt. Katahdin is Maine’s most remote spot.

But what about here in Acadia? Is there any place in Acadia National Park where you can really find solitude? Based on some comments from guests and our distant view of the causeway leading onto the island, people seem to be everywhere. Guests have expressed appreciation for our remoteness at SeaCat’s Rest, but I don’t think they should give up so easily on the park.

Admittedly, you’re always going to have to fight traffic to get to the remote places, but there are quite a few. Most folks, when they come to the island hit the top ten spots: Cadillac Mountain, the Park Loop Road, Thunder Hole, Bar Harbor, The Jordan Pond House and so on.  So here are my suggestions for avoiding the madding crowd, in no particular order:

  1. Northeast Creek cranberry bog. Not actually in the park itself, but public land. You need a kayak or canoe. I wrote about it here and here.
  2. If you want a quiet ocean drive head to the Schoodic Peninsula for a 90% drop in traffic. This is the detached eastern portion of Acadia National Park, off the island and 19 miles east of Ellsworth on Rt. One and then six miles south on Rt. 186. You can also take the ferry from the pier at The Bar Harbor Inn for $29.50 and then rely on the free bus service to get around in Schoodic.
  3. With a little more planning, get to ANP’s Isle au Haut. You take the ferry from Stonington for $37 round trip. Stonington is worth a trip in itself, as it is a no-nonsense honest-to-gosh fishing village where more lobsters are brought in than anyplace else in Maine. It is also not on the island, requiring an almost two hour drive from Bar Harbor. The planning comes in if you wish to camp on Isle au Haut. Ferry schedule here.
  4. There are several trails within the park which are much less traveled. As a general rule, the further you get from Bar Harbor, Cadillac Mountain and the shore, the fewer people. Longer trails are also less popular for obvious reasons. This brings us to the west side of Echo Lake, where you can access the Beech Cliff Trail from Beech Mountain Rd. I wrote about it here.
  5. West of Echo Lake is Long Pond, and west of Long Pond is a network of trails circling Western Mountain. (Note: there are TWO Long Ponds, this is the big one). One of these, the Mansell Mountain Trail is said to be worth the ascent and, “not heavily used. In fact, during our afternoon hike we saw only one other couple on the trail, despite being at the height of the season.” More here.
  6. If you want an easier hike, and would prefer to walk on one of Acadia’s famous carriage trails, first of all, avoid the super popular Eagle Lake Carriage Trail. Save it for winter, or summer at sunrise. Try instead one of the private carriage trails, like the one near the other Long Pond. Bicycles are not allowed, and traffic is light. This trail network can be accessed off Rt. 3 just 1.8 miles east of the intersection where Rt 3 joins Rt 198 in Northeast Harbor. The day we went it was one of the few trails where there was lots of room in the parking lot. We encountered few people.

Finally, realize that by getting out of your car you are already leaving most of the throngs behind. Anyplace on foot is going to be more remote than getting there. The hiking and carriage trails were designed by people who loved this place many decades ago, so you won’t be disappointed, no matter how popular it is. Check out the map of Acadia to reference these places here.

Filed under Acadia, Acadia National Park, Carriage trails, Hikes by on . 1 Comment.