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the Degree Confluence Project
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United States : Maine

16.0 miles (25.8 km) SSE of Great Duck Island, Hancock, ME, USA
Approx. altitude: 0 m (0 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap topo aerial world confnav)
Antipode: 44°S 112°E

Accuracy: 37 m (121 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: East View #3: South View #4: West View #5: GPS display at the confluence #6: Northeast Harbor scene from the mooring #7: The sun peeks through the thick fog while underway #8: Mount Desert Rock lies three miles from the confluence #9: The fearless crew: Charlie, Sally, and Andy #10: Captain Culver and First Mate Sally

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  44°N 68°W  

#1: North View. Note Mount Desert Island visible in the haze.

(visited by Steve Culver)

05-Jul-2005 --

NORTHEAST HARBOR, MAINE My wife Sally and I were aboard the chartered Sailing Vessel Odyssey, a beautifully maintained Bristol 35.5 from Bucks Harbor, Maine. We had rented a mooring in Northeast Harbor for two nights. We awoke to some of the thickest fog we would encounter on our Down East sailing trip. Odyssey is well equipped with radar and multiple GPS chart plotters, making navigation in zero-visibility fog less challenging for the experienced sailor.

Brothers-in-law Charlie Sobczak and Andy Bonczyk arrived via dinghy promptly at 5:20 am. Both of these men are inveterate fishermen. They never miss an opportunity to fish for an edible species, so they brought along basic gear and bait with the hopes of catching codfish somewhere along our journey to and from the N 44 W 68 confluence.

We cast off the mooring at 5:57 am and motored past ghostly views of moored boats, never catching sight of the shore only yards beyond the boats. Sally stationed herself at the bow to warn me of lobster-pot buoys in our path. The GPS chart plotter directed us to the red bell buoys marking safe water between the Cranberry Islands and Sutton Island leading to deep open water. As the sun rose, it remained completely foggy. Except for the pinpoint brightness of the sun, we could only see a little circle of water around us that dissolved into total whiteness. I once had a crewmember describe this as: “Sailing inside a ping-pong ball.”

The confluence is about 20 miles offshore. Odyssey, as with all displacement sailing craft, has a top speed of about 6 knots under power. With too little wind to sail, we pushed on under power expecting to reach our destination in about four hours.

Around 8 am, the fog started to lift and we could see Mount Desert and Mount Cadillac towering behind us. Off our starboard side we saw Great Duck and Little Duck Islands. Seals and dolphins surfaced occasionally to check us out. We served breakfast of oatmeal and fresh blueberries while observing the light wind rising. The wind was still too light and coming directly from our intended course, dictating that we continue to use the diesel engine for propulsion.

As we approached the confluence, our strategy was to find the 68th west longitude and steer slowly directly south until we crossed the 44th north latitude. This sounds easy, but with waves, wind, and a spinning, floating compass that varies from true north by about 18 degrees, it takes skill and concentration to stay on the line. Sally operated the helm while I manned the camera and the GPS chart plotter down below. According to the GPS display, we hit the confluence within 37 meters. We proceeded to take our pictures and then offered the ship’s bouquet of fresh flowers to the spiritual entities of the sea.

Meanwhile, Charlie and Andy barely noticed the confluence arrival and were instead focused on the little speck of nearby land, Mount Desert Rock. There, they were sure, was an underwater shelf teaming with hungry codfish. The rock is about three miles from the confluence, so we set our course to the rock and the fishermen rigged their gear.

We navigated to a 65-foot deep shelf south of the lighthouse-adorned rock. The water’s surface above the shelf was covered by lobster-pot floats, which are always a hazard to a spinning propeller. With a current and rising wind from the south pushing the boat toward the rock, a fouled propeller would be a big problem, indeed. I held Odyssey stationary over the shelf by slowly motoring into the wind and current, allowing the fishermen to bottom fish for cod.

Sorry. There were many bites and much lost bait, but no fish took the hook. We packed up the fishing gear and raised the sails for the long reach home. Just as we had our sails set on course and the annoying drone of the diesel engine was silenced, Charlie sighted a whale blow off our port stern. We headed up, tacked and sailed toward the whale’s path and straight toward Mount Desert Rock. Straight ahead of us, we saw the long dark back of the whale and then its tail rise high in the air as it dove into the depths.

Good winds and weather permitted Odyssey to sail most of the way back. When the wind subsided, we furled the sails and motored. We arrived back at our Northeast Harbor mooring in sunshine and clear skies at 5:17 pm., looking forward to the lobster dinner being prepared for us at the cabin onshore.


 All pictures
#1: North View. Note Mount Desert Island visible in the haze.
#2: East View
#3: South View
#4: West View
#5: GPS display at the confluence
#6: Northeast Harbor scene from the mooring
#7: The sun peeks through the thick fog while underway
#8: Mount Desert Rock lies three miles from the confluence
#9: The fearless crew: Charlie, Sally, and Andy
#10: Captain Culver and First Mate Sally
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)
  Notes
In the Gulf of Maine, but with a view of land.