June 22, 2023 We woke up this morning to clear blue skies, but cooler temps in the 50s. We made plans to go into Portland today to walk around the Old Port area and take a cruise. We called and booked a Lighthouse Lovers Cruise on the Islander which would take us through the harbor and around the innermost islands to see 4 lighthouses and forts. We would be leaving at 12:30 from Pier 2. We left the campground at 10:00 to take the 30 minute drive to Portland. We found parking right by the docks and paid $43 for 4 hours. Yikes! We had some time to walk around Old Port–a historic district of shops and eateries along the harbor. It still has cobblestone streets and lots red brick buildings. In its long history back to the colonial times, Portland has burned down 4 times before they got smart and used bricks to rebuild.
We checked in at the tour window and picked up our tickets for the cruise.
It was still early so there weren’t that many people around.
We checked out the boat and where we would need to go for our tour at Long Wharf.
Then we walked along Commercial St. popping in and out of shops that looked interesting. I found another ornament keepsake for my Christmas tree. We passed the U. S. Customs House–a very stately looking building constructed of granite in 1867.
We checked out the commercial fishing boats at Union Wharf.
We walked up one block on Market St., which was made of cobblestones, to Fore St. that runs parallel to Commercial St.
We checked out more interesting shops there.
We read about donuts made from Maine potatoes, so we had to stop at the Holy Donut Shop and check it out.
There were a lot of donut flavors to choose from.
Bob picked the blueberry glazed one. It tasted better than it looks and big enough to share. In fact, we didn’t eat it all and will have some for breakfast tomorrow.
We went back to the Jeep to eat the snack that we brought along as lunch to have before our cruise started. About 12:10. we walked back to Pier 2 and got in line for the cruise. The solid path is where our cruise would take us today.
While we waited to board the boat, we noticed the boats across from us at the docks. Today there was a 7 ft. tide and the boats were just starting to rise with the incoming tide, but they still had a long way to go to reach the upper walkway.
This unique collection of locks, known as “Love Locks”, hanging at the Time For Peace/Berlin Wall display was interesting.
The locks symbolize love and commitment and were once part of a 30 ft. fence in Portland. The fence had to be taken down, but a part of it was saved and put on display here. At 12:20, we boarded the boat and promptly at 12:30 after our safety talk, Capt. Tom blew the whistle to leave.
He turned that boat in the narrow “alley” in Long Wharf and took us out into Fore River, past large yachts that were docked along the side.
Nicole was our tour guide and she did a fantastic job of explaining what we were seeing, shared historical and interesting facts about the area, and all with a sense of humor throughout the entire trip. She was fantastic!
Our tour began in the harbor with views of the Bug Light (because it is small as a bug) and Spring Point Light. Bug Light (top) is 30 ft. tall and was built in 1875. Spring Point Light is a sparkplug design built in 1897 that sits on the breakwater.
In Bug Light Park, sits the Liberty Ship Memorial, a testament to the 30,000 people that built the Liberty Ships in this area during WWII (1941-1945).
We passed along the area of South Portland to get a look at Fort Preble.
Moving out of the harbor into Casco Bay, the wind was more apparent when we left the protection of the Fore River. We passed boats of all kinds and lots of sailboats were taking advantage of the stronger winds for sailing.
Lucky for us, we brought out heavier fleeces and we were so glad we did! We knew it would be cooler and breezier on the water. Others on the boat were moving downstairs to be inside where it was warmer out of the wind. The braver souls stayed on the upper deck where we were.
As we motored along South Portland, we were taken in by the gorgeous homes sitting on the rocky bluffs.
We passed one of the few white sand beaches in Maine. The water temperature rarely goes above 60 so they call it Kneehigh Beach. You can never go in higher than your knees. It’s too cold!
Then we caught sight of the gorgeous Portland Head Light, one of Maine oldest and most photographed lighthouses built in 1791.
It was beautiful from every angle. Bob and I had visited this lighthouse by land a few years ago, but seeing it by water was more amazing!
This was as far out into the bay as we would go on this trip, but from here I could zoom in to see another lighthouse off in the distance. It was Halfway Rock Light Station built in 1871. The name comes from its location that is halfway between Cape Elizabeth and Cape Small. The ledge that it sits on is only 10 feet above high tide on a calm day so there was a need to build a lighthouse there because ships had run aground.
The Captain had to watch for lobster buoys floating in the water. They were scattered all over throughout the bay.
The Captain stuck our bow out into the ocean before circling around to head back into the bay and towards the harbor. We came close to the Ram Island Ledge Light Station.
There is no lighthouse keeper’s house there, so the keeper had to live in the basement. The right-hand side of the lighthouse appears white which is from the waves crashing against it and washing it clean. The tour guide told us that sometimes the waves are so high they crash over the top of the lighthouse. It is in disrepair now.
We motored past Cushing Island and House Island where Nicole gave us many interesting facts about the houses and notable people who live(d) there. On House Island, we saw Fort Scammel. Our guide called it “Portland’s Chia Pet”.
From this angle, we caught sight of this arched tunnel/walkway that passes from one side of the island to the other. It is called a rampart.
In the Star Spangled Banner, the lyrics say “Oh, the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming”. That arched walkway was where they were standing to watch “the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air”. (I learned a few new things today.) Our next view was of Fort Gorges.
We saw a few lobster boats out working today.
We got a great view of the boats, Spring Point Ledge Light on the breakwater, and the Portland Head Light all at one time!
The skyline of Portland towered above the harbor as we came back into the river.
We saw a tower on the hilltop that from a distance looked like a lighthouse, but it was the Portland Observatory.
We passed the newer cruise terminal that welcomes cruise ships, including the MSC Virvosa carrying 6,334 passengers onboard, which is about 1/2 the population of Portland.
The ferry was loaded down and leaving to go to the islands of Casco Bay.
The ferryboats were moored at the docks waiting to transport summer visitors to the islands.
As we slowly motored down Long Wharf to the dock, we got a great view of the ferryboat converted into a floating restaurant– DiMillo’s on the Water.
We got back and tied up to the dock around 1:30, then disembarked. There were so many more people swarming around the Old Port area now. It was like the cruise ship had just come into port and everyone got off the ship to shop or eat in town. It was crazy busy! We had a great time on the hour cruise! For $28 each, you can’t beat the views!!!
Walking back to the Jeep we caught sight of the vintage fire engine that gives tours of Portland. Pretty cool!
We drove the 30 minutes back to the campground to relax and warm up in the sun. Bob took care of some business while Auggie and I caught some rays. It was a beautiful day to be out on the water! Tropical Storm Cindy formed in the Atlantic Ocean today. We will have to keep an eye on it to see where it will be going.