12 nights of mystery and 13 days on a schooner and we are finally on our way back, or at least in that general direction.  The night before we knew it was going to be a long day with the goal to be as close to Peaks Island as possible by nightfall. But with the wind against us, we did not know it would be so difficult.  At 7 a.m. the usual wake-up alarm goes off (Dr. Erikson), then it was time to pack bags and get ready to be on our way.  A nice breakfast of cinnamon buns was made by Bobby on the Coleman stoves then came an unexpected visit by the captain, Alden, saying that he was concerned about timing and urged us to get on our way very soon. After packing our gear on the boat and getting ready to leave our island in Muscongus Bay, we headed out on a long journey on a sunny day. But what lay ahead was a bit more than we had anticipated.

Passing by Monhegan Island, which we had visited the day before, we realized how rough the seas were.  Also we learned very quickly that Dramamine, a sea sickness medication, is not very effective when taken once you are feeling sick. The boat was tilted (heeled, in nautical language) at what felt like nearly 90o but was only about 25-30o. That doesn’t mean that the waves weren’t crashing over the side of the boat any less. Often times the seas soaked those of us bracing ourselves with our feet on the edge of boat (gunwale). There was a nice moment as a school of Atlantic white-sided dolphins swam alongside and under us amongst the crashing waves.

schooner wave at gunwale

Unfortunately we weren’t making very good time toward out destination, despite traveling at a respectable 6 knots, because the wind was coming from the southwest, which is exactly where we wanted to go. According to the GPS we were not going to be able to get to a spot to camp in Casco Bay until 9 p.m. or later.

With the weather only seeming to be less favorable as the day went on Dr. Erikson and Captain Alden made the call to head towards Boothbay Harbor.  Despite the change in direction, the 4-6 foot swells weren’t any nicer; a few waves came crashing over the port side of the boat soaking many of us who had managed to stay dry up to that point.  Even our dinghy sometimes disappeared because of the height of the waves.  Around 7 p.m. we were finally able to dock in Boothbay where our fearless leaders took a minute to discuss plans as we waited on board. The decision was to unpack necessary gear for the next couple of days into Suzie (which we had left in Boothbay a few days ago).  After a quick dinner Suzie took us back to Portland where we took the ferry to Dr. Erikson’s house for the night.  Now we’re in the home stretch and it’s time to work on 2 large lab reports, a presentation and study for the final during the remaining 5 days of the ESS.

–       Matt Pfannenstiel