Down to the sea

Barbara Dyer: The many moods of Camden Harbor

Thu, 10/30/2014 - 9:15pm

Having a bird’s eye view of Camden Harbor for 44 years, from my office window, I realized that it changed often and sometimes within the hour. There were times when the whole Penobscot Bay was frozen over, once in 1868 and again in 1875, but that does not happen very often in salt water.

The Boston-Bangor Steamship, Katahdin, was frozen in the ice at Belfast in 1875 until April 15. Another story was during the Revolutionary War times, Castine was taken over by the British and they took a man from Warren as prisoner.

The whole of Penobscot Bay was frozen over and one man walked from Camden to Castine, on the ice, to bring our man back. Then, about 1916, a relative of mine, who lived on Islesboro, said that the bay was so frozen over that he walked from Islesboro to Belfast on the ice and also to Camden. 

I saw the harbor frozen over on Feb. 4, 1971 out to Curtis Island. Some kids were even skating near the Public Landing. 

It was dangerous because fresh water flowed from the falls into the salt water.  Many of them took that chance, but when they heard the Coast Guard ice cutter roaring in from Rockland to break the ice, they quickly dispersed.

I have written before about hurricanes and the water is very rough and angry during those times. Owners of yachts, fishing boats and small sailboats all scurry to bring their boats in.  The Camden Yacht Club is busy, along with Wayfarer Marine and P. G. Willey & Co.  The large yachts are rafted, sometimes three and four abreast at the docks.

Then, we do get northeasters, nautically pronounced “nor-e’-star,” which is a storm or gale from the northeast.  We had a bad one in the fall, sometime in the 1970s.  The picture shown at right is of yachts in dry storage in front of Wayfarer’s office building, at that time located on the dock.  The water was so rough and the tide getting so high that the office building was rocking and rolling. 

When the yachts on dry land were in deep water, the office crew decided to take an early lunch hour before they were marooned.  The girls escaped through the store, loaded in a jeep and driven up the hill. That was one of the worst storms. 

And then there is winter, when the boats have their plastic covers on. The harbor is not so crowded and ice hangs from the mooring lines and everything else.

 One thing is certain, Camden Harbor is always beautiful.

Barbara F. Dyer has lived in Camden all her life, so far.

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