Sunday, June 24, 2012

Maine’s Historic and Beautiful Penobscot Bay

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
View of Penobscot Bay at Castine, Maine 
Since the very beginning of the colonization of what is now the United States of America, Penobscot Bay has been witness to some very important moments in the nation’s history. Walking through the streets of Castine, Searsport, or numerous other coastal Maine communities along Penobscot Bay, will point you to memories of a rich maritime past, as well as the historic charm so delicately woven into its present day beauty.

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Castine provides signage for a walking tour of historic sights. 
By land or by sea, the area is well worth nosing around in for tourists and locals alike. I strongly suggest you enjoy it from both angles to fully appreciate Penobscot Bay from all perspectives. Guildive Cruises offers you an opportunity to do just that on its Down East excursions with Ports of Call in both Castine and Searsport scheduled through the end of September. Guildive's Captains, Zander Parker and Kate Kana, have both sailed the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans extensively and are pleased to offer public sails onboard the vintage 1934, 56’ long, 46-ton, motorsail, Guildive as an added summer attraction on picturesque Penobscot Bay.

G Copyright Guildive Cruises
Guildive Under Sail
Photo Courtesy of Guildive Cruises
© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights ReservedThe Guildive is docked in Castine with excursions departing from Dennett’s Wharf at 15 Sea Street. It also offers two-hour sails departing from the Public Wharf on Steamboat Avenue in Searsport on Mondays and Saturdays with Penobscot Marine Museum admission included in the ticket price; a great way to enjoy a complete seafaring experience from start to finish as you can even take a picnic lunch along to enjoy during your cruise. Besides its regular excursions, Guildive Cruises offers customized and specialty sails for bird watchers, artists and writers, private events, and even a full moon sail for stargazers on July 14-16 and August 12-14. Reservations are suggested, as space is limited to six persons per voyage.

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights ReservedIn either Castine or Searsport, you can’t help but want to tour the town and soak in the history that’s so evident in its buildings and preserved by its dedicated historians and community members. Just walking through Castine is a history lesson as you read signage of major events that have taken place there. To view more treasures of the past, a visit to the Wilson Museum on Perkins Street is always a good place to start. Admission is free, except for guided tours of the John Perkins House. The Castine Historical Society on School Street is another great resource.

2012 Exhibit at Penobscot Marine Museum
Summer Folk, Penobscot Marine Museum 2012 Exhibit
Searsport proudly hails the Penobscot Maritime Museum. It's Maine’s oldest maritime museum, and designed as a 19th century seafaring village, providing a home for a regionally important library and archives focused on maritime history—plus the genealogy of the Penobscot Bay area. The area has been a tourist destination for more than 150 years, the theme of Penobscot Marine Museum's 2012 exhibits and events is Summer Folk, The Tourists of Penobscot Bay, spanning time from steamship to motorcar.

For more information click these links:

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Blae at Dyce Head Lighthouse
Castine, Maine
You can read more about Guildive Cruises and other coastal Maine attractions in an issue of theSCENE, an entertainment magazine published monthly by Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine.

Reminder from Blae: If you are out and about on a hot summer day, be sure your dog is not too hot in the car. Sometimes it's best if a pet stays cool at home watching the house, especially if you plan to visit places he/she can't. 

© 2012 Copyright Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Making the Best of a Rainy Day in Bar Harbor

The recent string of rainy days, right at the onset Maine’s tourist season, has brought to my mind some special places in Bar Harbor a rainy day just can’t dampen. As a local, I especially enjoy Bar Harbor in the early spring, late fall, and on rainy days when things are quieter. That doesn’t mean, however, I would ever pass up spending a hot sunny day in Bar Harbor or beautiful Acadia NationalPark. But, rainy days, give me a reason, or excuse, for doing something inside.

© Copyright 2012 gail J. VanWart  All Rights Reserved
Sherman's is Maine's Oldest Bookstore
I love history, books, and all things Maine, and Sherman's Book & Stationery Store, Maine’s oldest bookstore, has it all. When William Sherman set up his printing press in his Main Street storefront in 1886 to publish Bar Harbor’s news and sell a few books and stationery items, he probably didn’t imagine his business would last into the 21st Century. Though it changed hands, from the Sherman family to the Curtis family in the mid 1900s, and no longer sports a printing press, it has grown tremendously over the years. The winning business philosophy has been to simply please their customers, the year-round residents and seasonal tourists alike. They’ve managed that so well, in fact, the business has overflowed into the towns of Freeport, Camden, and Boothbay Harbor. But, 56 Main Street in Bar Harbor will always be my favorite location. It is, after all, where it all began. Sherman's Book & Stationery Store is open 362 days a year and often thefirst stop repeat visitors to the area will make upon their arrival. Rain orshine, if you haven’t already done so, you should check Sherman’s out.

Movies & Pizza
Another place you might not notice on a sunny day is Bar Harbor’s unique movie theater, ReelPizza Cinerama, situated on the Village Green. This business took the novel idea of a dinner theater and turned it into a pizza and a movie. All movie tickets are priced at just $6 each, for everyone. And, as one reviewer pointed out, for under $20, you and a date, can actually share a meal with your moviethere, instead of overpriced candy and popcorn. Over their past sixteen years of operation, Reel Pizza’s specialty pizzas, each named after a blockbuster film, have become fairly famous in their own right. Wine and beer are served there and the atmosphere is casual and comfy. There’s always an art display in the lobby and a wide selection of films scheduled, ranging from the latest movie hits toeducational documentaries. On your mobile phone, you can email or text message to receive a listing of the evening’s two film titles and show times. You can visit also them online.

Pet Boutique
Another favorite haunt for animal lovers, especially dog owners, is Walkin The Dog at 164 Main Street, Bar Harbor. It not only carries a variety of Maine-made products for pets and their owners, it also offers an array of breed specific products, delicious treats and pet approved gifts. Shop owner, Lisa 
De Muro, invites you to drop in when you visit beautiful Mount Desert Island or browseher online store when you aren’t in the area. Walkin The Dog donates 5% of al ltheir website sales to animal rescue efforts. So, if it’s raining and you have to walk the dog anyway, you can duck inside Walkin The Dog. Your pooch is always welcome to come in out of the rain there.

@Copyright 2012 gail J. VanWart all Rights Reserved

No matter what the weather, there is always something to enjoy in Bar Harbor. Lobster ice cream, anyone?

Want us to sniff out some particular item of interest in Maine for a Nosing Around Maine blog post? Just say so! 

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart  All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In the Heart of Brooklin, Maine

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
The Brooklin Inn - Early Spring 2012

Elwyn Brooks White, would often sit on its rocky beaches with his little dog, Minnie. The quiet man was far better known to the world as E. B. White and author of two of the most famous children’s tales ever written, Charlotte’s Webb and Stuart Little, as well as, the ever-so-handy Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. Originally from New York, the serenity of Maine became home to him, as it has for many others. His son, Joel White became a navel architect and boat builder and owned the Brooklin Boatyard. 

There is no doubt E.B., his wife, Katharine Angell White, and their family has left their imprints on Brooklin’s history. E. B. White died in North Brooklin at the age of 86. History in this town is deeply embedded into its shores. Besides White, included in its timeline are the Red Paint People and the Revolutionary War. A trip to the Friend Memorial Public Library in the middle of town will provide you with a lot of information about Brooklin’s past inhabitants and even put you face-to-face with an original Garth Williams illustration for E. B. White’s book, Stuart Little.

However, this little blog isn’t really about E. B. White, it’s about Brooklin, a quiet place in a warp-speed world. Located on Maine’s Downest coastline, it’s surrounded by beautiful Blue Hill Bay to its east, Jericho Bay to its south, and Eggemoggin Reach to its southwest—a perfect place for great sailing, fishing, and lobstering, as well as relaxing and exploring nature.

Visitors soon discover, as they drive into Brooklin from Blue Hill, time seems to have lost about sixty or so years on the way there. Visiting Brooklin, is encountering life pretty much as it was in the 1950s. The center of town features a general store, post office, church, cafe, three inns, a library, small artist’s galleries and an antique shop. 
However, this quaint little community is also large enough to house Wooden Boat Magazine, Wooden Boat School, boat builders, artists, musicians, writers, and variety of people who simply enjoy being away from it all.

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Paella, Brooklin Inn Style
The Brooklin Inn, with its fine dinning, B & B lodging and Irish Pub, operates year round and is found right in the heart of town, across from the library. Chip Angell and his wife, Gail, operate the cozy inn. Folks, both first time and frequent dinner guests, seek it out for its classic old fashion hospitality, neighborly atmosphere, fresh Maine seafood and local organic fare that’s served with an international flare by their Cordon Bleu chef. Everything on Chef Tyson’s menu is as local and fresh as possible. Their collection of wines require a more than extensive list and are personally selected by Chip, the inn’s owner, specifically to compliment the meals served.

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights ReservedYou can read more about the Brooklin Inn in the June 2012 issue of theSCENE, a monthly magazine, published by Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine. View theSCENE online. 

You can also learn more from the Brooklin Inn directly.

Painting (left), pictured on the wall at the Brooklin Inn, is a provocative piece of artwork, and certainly a conversation piece, created by local artist, Daniel Snyder, who operates his studio at 29 Reach Road in Brooklin.

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved

Friday, May 4, 2012

Winterport, Maine: A Place for All Seasons

©Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Antiques at The Old Commercial House, Winterport, Maine

Incorporated in 1860, Winterport was named for its port on the Penobscot River mariners could keep open in the dead of winter for the shipping industry, a lifeline for the Bangor region at the time. Nineteenth century charm is still visible today in the historic homes that once belonged to the sea captains who lived there back them. The town’s Main Street shares Route 1A which connects US Route 1 in Stockton Springs to Bangor. Unless you live in Winterport, you might travel through it without stopping. But, if you do have an opportunity to stop in Winterport, you will find it has quite a bit to offer, from its scenic and active waterfront to its local Maine businesses, each offering something unique and special. Blae and I have three favorite destinations in Winterport we’d like to share with you now.

The Winterport Winery

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights ReservedSample some local flavor and color at The Winterport Winery, owned by Michael and Joan Anderson. What started with a winemaking kit gifted to them one Christmas has turned into a year-round business involving their whole family. Since they opened the winery in 2001 where their award winning fruit wines are fermented and aged under the careful supervision of Michael Anderson, who claims title of head winemaker, they’ve continued to expand. Besides the tasting room, The Anderson Gallery at the winery features a tasteful variety of artistic expressions and is another reason to stop by to say hello to the Andersons. That’s not all, but we’ll let you discover the rest for yourself.

Old Winterport Commercial House

Hosts Ray and Ann Ronco operate a charming Bed and Breakfast in the town’s old commercial house. They offer hospitality and comfort at a reasonable price with the added attraction of an antique shop where a person can be kept busy nosing around for hours on end. Their reservation calendar for the 2012 summer season is filling up fast, so don’t delay if you’d like to book a stay. Remember, it’s a great place to visit during leaf peeping time in the autumn, as well. Whether you stay overnight or just drop by their shop during the day, the building alone is worth stopping to admire and makes a beautiful backdrop for taking photos

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights ReservedSilver Willow Gallery

You can’t stop in Winterport without checking out Silver Willow Gallery. You can learn to craft, as well as shop for handcrafted Maine Made gifts, at this artisan run business at 115 Main Street, cozily tucked in between the town’s pizza shop and dog grooming salon, and just across from the Old Winterport Commercial House. Silver Willow Gallery is a perfect example of what Maine’s local businesses can offer in the way of quality goods. Their wide selection of items on display come 
exclusively from the labors of Maine artists, writers, potters, jewelry makers, knitters, felters, soap makers, wood crafters and other artisans. Many fine pieces at Silver Willow Gallery are one-of-a-kind items, creating a shopping experience you will not have anywhere else.  You can follow the  Silver Willow Gallery Blog to keep abreast of Maine Arts and Crafts news and events  around the state.

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Unique Handcrafted Jewelry at Silver Willow Gallery
© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
You never know what you might find at Silver Willow Gallery

Click the links below to learn more about Winterport, Maine:

The Winterport Winery
The Old Winterport Commercial House
Silver Willow Gallery
Winterport, Maine, USA

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Craig Brook, a National Treasure

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, when Atlantic salmon return to Maine’s rivers after feeding for two to three years at sea in the cold waters off Greenland, they will always return to their own native river where they hatched four years earlier. If an Atlantic salmon can survive all its predators, it can repeat the fresh water and ocean migration cycle and spawn, several times, during its life span. In spite of this, the Gulf of Maine’s distinct population of Atlantic salmon is an endangered species and the last remaining population of its kind in the United States. My grandsons and I learned all of that in a short time through well presented educational displays and interactive learning aids at the Craig Brook Fish Hatchery and Museum situated on Alamoosook Lake in East Orland, Maine.

The facility’s hatchery was established in 1871 as the first of its kind in the United States. Its purpose then, as today, is to propagate and stock juvenile Atlantic salmon to support their population. Over time, the facility has expanded to include archives and resource center, a museum, seminar site, an Atlantic salmon living stream, boat launches, picnic area, beautiful nature trails and a volunteer group called Friends of Craig Brook. There’s so much more you can learn by visiting the link at the bottom of this blog. Right now, I’d like to give you a tour of Craig Brook through the eyes of my grandsons during their recent visits to this quiet out of the way National treasure. 

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart  2011 All Rights Reserved
"The Leaper" welcomes guests to Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights Reserved

An interactive way to measure Altantic salmon survival rates.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart  2011 All Rights Reserved 
Learning we can make a difference.
© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights Reserved

Discovering what's in a watershed.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights Reserved

Stages of growth and development of young Atlantic Salmon

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012 All Rights Reserved

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights Reserved

A healthy habitat is everything an Atlantic Salmon needs! 

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012 All Rights Reserved

Adult Atlantic Salmon are housed in pens of water from their native rivers.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2012 All Rights Reserved

Adult Atlantic Salmon 

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights Reserved

Artifacts from Ancient Fishermen at Alamoosook Lake

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights Reserved

There's lots to see and do at Craig Brook, inside and out.

© Copyright Gail J. VanWart 2011 All Rights Reserved

Fun and education for everyone!

Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery does not charge admission fees and group tours for schools and organizations can be arranged. However, donations are always welcome to assist in the operation, upkeep, and future expansion of the facilities.  Leashed pets with responsible owners are welcomed on the outside grounds. 

For more information: (207) 469-6701 x 215 or

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Place of the Rocks

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart all Rights Reserved
Penobscot means "the place of the white shining rocks".

I can't tell you how many times I have passed by this place in the course of a routine day. It's the "place of the white shining rocks" situated conveniently by the on and off ramps of  I-395 on South Main Street in Brewer, Maine. At first glance, it seems like there are simply three huge rocks strategically placed in a rest area. A second glance will bring the realization there’s artwork carved on the front of the tallest center rock. But, as with most things, you really do have to take a minute to stop in order to appreciate everything you will never see just driving by. 

©Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved©Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved©Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved

A sign by the rocks, I had never read before, told me the story of why “the place of the rocks” exists. While discovering the artwork cleverly crafted on the other sides of the rocks not visible from the road, I also walked on bricks manufactured in Brewer a long time ago and artfully laid between the rocks in a pattern representing continuity. Since my husband’s grandfather, Bruce VanWart, had worked in a Brewer brickyard, I was touching a bit of family history at “the place of the rocks” as well. An old Bangor Daily News clipping (below) of an article by Lawrence Carroll Allin, published on October 21, 1987, tells the Brewer brick story extremely well. The reason we have the article today is because my mother-in-law spied Bruce VanWart in the1939 photo that accompanied it and she passed it on to my husband with an arrow pointing out his grandfather, a man he’d never met.

All in all, I decided this little rest area is a beautiful place on the Penobscot River bank to stop, whether you're traveling though the area or a local, like me, taking a moment to embrace the local scenery. I'm sure I'll stop here again to enjoy the tranquil beauty of the river and the pictorial story sculpted in the monumental Maine bluestone rocks of it's natural resources and haunting image of Penobscot Indian Princess Molly, all created by Carole Hanson and Andreas Von Huene to commemorate Brewer's Centennial in 1989.  

Beyond all else, it's simply a nice place to walk a dog and imagine what the river was like when the bricks, that lay there now, were made.

Nosing Around Maine  © Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bass Harbor Head: My Guiding Light

Bass Harbor Head Light 

© Copyright 2012  Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Bass Harbor Head Light Tower
Last year I revised a t-shirt design I had created in the 1990s of Bass Harbor Light. Several months after, I was amazed to discover Bass Harbor Head Light is going to be featured as the quarter in the United States Mint 2012 America the Beautiful Ouarters® Program. I couldn’t have planned the timing of things any better than this accident of fate. I took it as a sign to poke around Bass Harbor a little bit more and Blae was hungry for some salt air.
Photo © Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Blae at Seawall Park
SW Harbor, Maine

© Copyright 2012  Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
© Copyright 2012  Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Around 1860, when the Bass Harbor Head Light was fairly new, more people inhabited its surrounding islands and coastline and one in five Maine residents were mariners. Maine’s lighthouses were key to survival in many instances. In modern times, our U. S. lighthouses are sort of like castles in Europe, each stands tall with its own unique history and mystique that draws visitors from near and far, year after year. Maine’s lighthouses, in many cases, are still functioning and useful, as well.

Bass Harbor, Maine is on the southwestern portion of Mount Desert Island known as the “quite side”. Its lighthouse was erected in 1858 to mark the bar across the eastern entrance of Blue Hill Bay. In 1974 the light was automated by the U. S. Coastguard and is now a private residence with outside access to the light tower and a walking path leading you to an excellent view of its front side from the ledges below. That is if you are up to a steep and somewhat challenging climb over the rocky incline tangled with weathered tree roots clinging to the cliff. It is a beautiful, but rugged, trail.
© Copyright 2012  Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved 
© Copyright 2012  Gail J. VanWart All Rights ReservedBy car, you can reach this out-of-the-way destination via Route 3 in Ellsworth, turning right onto Route 198, then turning right again on Route 102. The lighthouse can also be observed from Maine State Ferries and other vessels operating out of Bass Harbor and Frenchboro.

© Copyright 2012  Gail J. VanWart All Rights ReservedJohn Thurston was the first keeper to light the beacon at Bass Harbor Head on September 1, 1858. Until the US Coast Guard automated the lighthouse in 1974, twenty-two “wickies” in all had taken a turn at keeping the steadfast light glowing by their manual efforts for 116 years. Some stayed less than a full year, others two or more. Joseph M. Gray served as a keeper there from 1921 to 1938. When I read that on a sign at the lighthouse, I thought to myself how he must have really loved his job in spite of fog horns and clanging bells on those numerous days without enough visibility for the beacon’s light to do its job for those in the water depending on its guidance. My next thought was a curiosity wondering if I could locate him in my Gray family tree, since my mother’s maiden name is also Gray. Thanks to and my copy of Descendants of Joshua Gray compiled in 2005 by the Gray Reunion Committee and published by Downeast Graphics & Printing Inc., Ellsworth, Maine, I soon had my answer. This lighthouse keeper is my fourth cousin two times removed. Though I never had a chance to meet him, as his life ended before mine began, I did want to know more about him.  Back on the Internet through a link to Lighthouse Digest, I learned quite a bit. He was actually Captain Joseph M. Gray who spent a total of 40 years of lighthouse service at Crabtree Ledge, Mt. Desert Rock, Great Duck Island, Marshall Point, and Bass Harbor—after his six years of fishing off Grand Banks and before retiring to a small cottage in Tremont. A very nice newspaper article by Henry Buxton published in May 1938 and reprinted by Lighthouse Digest in 2005 about lighthouse keeper Capt. Joseph M. Gray tells a compelling tale and portrays a man I can certainly be proud to have among the branches of my family tree. Again, when fate leads you somewhere, its best to take advantage of the trip.  Seems my fascination with Maine’s lighthouses has not only inspired my creativity over the years, it has guided me to some family roots along the way.
© Copyright 2012  Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Side view of Bass Harbor Head Light 

A partnership between the U. S. Coast Guard, State of Maine and American Lighthouse Foundation intends to increase awareness of Maine’s maritime heritage and the rich history of its lighthouses and lighthouse keepers by offering visitors the opportunity to go inside many of Maine’s historic beacons on Open Lighthouse Day, which will take place on September 15 this year.

For more information about the 2012 Bass Harbor Quarter, my Bass Harbor QRtee™  
t-shirt, Maine’s lighthouse history and events, or the memories of Captain Joseph M. Gray, please check out the following links.