A View from the Hill: Savoring September summer

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Finally, the September summer the locals had been waiting for arrived on a refreshing wave of cooler, gentler weather.

One morning, the oppressive heat was gone, along with the big, relentless winds that pumped humid air into Maine with little respite through the summer. The crowds were also gone.

Andrew MarstersSeptember is the summer we love. Usually.

I was surprised to read in my journal entry from Sept. 21 of last year that I was “feeling sad, angry, broken, and overwhelmed.” Yikes. Was that really me? Do I even know that person? Before reading that, I had thought it had been just another September summer.

Funny ( and fortunate) how we forget. Actually, if I look back at photos from a year ago, on Sept. 5 and 8 my son and I were on the boat showing off stripers we had caught; also on Sept. 5 I took a happy photo of a wedding on a ferry under the Casco Bay Bridge; on Sept. 11 I went birdwatching with friends on Merrymeeting Bay and spotted 42 eagles.

I remember those days fondly. The dark days not at all. Clever brain. Keep it up.

Anyway, much of this September summer has been and will be spent on the boat exploring my home waters of Casco Bay, as I have so many times. Each exploration only deepens my love for this wonderful place.

One day I went alone to fish, but it was one of those days when you can tell the fish aren’t about. But the sun was bright, the light wind was refreshing, and the sky was dotted with puffy clouds. A perfect September summer day.

I dropped anchor between The Brothers, two exquisite little uninhabited islands just off Falmouth. I threw some cushions on the deck of my small motorboat and stretched out in the sun.

Wavelets lapped at the hull, gently rocking the boat. A great blue heron took flight from a rock at the tip of one of the islands. Another followed. An osprey whistled. I gazed at the clouds. I was two miles from downtown Portland, and two miles from Interstate 95. 

And a million miles from anywhere. 

I dozed. I dreamed about an old friend who had been gone for years, a nice visit. I went home the long way, around the backside of Clapboard Island, and watched the ospreys soar on the thermals.

On another trip, my son and I left the marina at 7:30 a.m. – very early for us. A guide had told me that bluefish had been seen off Mackworth Island. Years ago bluefish were everywhere, then they left.

But blues are wonderful fighting fish, so we had our hopes up. 

Nothing, of course. We tried the ocean side of Clapboard, a stunning rocky shore dotted with little pebble beaches. After a fruitless drift casting along the shore, we tired of the fishing and headed toward Great Chebeague, through Chandler Cove, past Hope Island, and into the dock at Chebeague Island Boat Yard. 

The boatyard is home to a cozy shop and restaurant called the Niblic, operated by Jen Belesca, whose husband, Paul, runs the boatyard. Jen greeted us warmly just a few days before closing for the season, and we took our home-baked pastries and coffee up to the roof deck to enjoy the view of the eastern end of the bay, which stretches to Cape Small.

It’s the same Casco Bay, but different.

We pushed on to South Harpswell, threaded the needle between Haskell and Upper Flag islands, and fished the ledge-infested area around Tory Rock, again to no avail. We fueled up for the ride home at the Dolphin Marina.

At Eagle, home of the Peary museum, the dock ramp had been pulled. On to Jewell Island, where we anchored with a couple other boats in Cocktail Cove and ate lunch. From Jewell, it was a beeline through open ocean to Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth. We took a few casts. 

Nothing. But we’re used to that. Or at least I am.

Even fishless, it had been a wonderful, memorable September summer day on Casco Bay with my son. The finest kind. Unlike a year ago, I felt very lucky.

At home, I looked again at that journal entry of Sept. 21, 2021, and was relieved to see that, by the end of it, I had navigated my way out of my angst.

“For now let’s sit and breathe and think,” I wrote. “Or even not think. Just be. Just be.”

Andrew Marsters is an award-winning Maine journalist and former journalism instructor at the University of New Hampshire. He lives on Munjoy Hill.