Wed 26 Jun - Portland, ME

Today we returned to the water to catch the Casco Island Mail Boat run. It is also Hans birthday today...

The Mailboat is a true working boat carrying passengers, mail and freight to the islands of Casco Bay - Little Diamond, Great Diamond, Long, Cliff and Chebeague islands - twice a day, and claims to be the longest-operating service of its kind (it started in 1878).

We left the motel at 8.45 am to walk through Portland to catch the 10am Mailboat.

The birthday boy (no, not Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who was born here on 27 February 1807). Hans is much much younger than that! Really!

We walked a different route from yesterday and it was definitely better than the commercial waterfront. We got footpaths, nice trees and some pleasant buildings.

Down at the ferry terminal we bought tickets for our Mailboat run - cost $15.50 each for what is basically a 3 hour cruise. Bargain.

Hans was again drawn to the more "real" elements of the wharf area.

Here is the Mailboat. Freight is important and the reason for being and we had to wait for all cargo to be loaded, or unloaded (including large pallets by crane) before we could get on board. Seating is basic benches and apart from a toilet not much else is provided. Of course the enterprising people from Pepsi put a drinks machine on board, but that's it. BYO snacks and drinks. We loved it.
The larger islands of Casco Bay have year round residents, but not many. For example the furthest island we visited called Cliff Island has about 50 permanent residents. Numbers tend to quadruple in the summer peak months. These families rely on the Mailboat for all deliveries. The route we took is the longest dotted line on this map. Cliff Island is the long slim island (north east/south west oriented) on the right hand side.
Hans is enjoying the cruising through the inner island areas.
Di is watching the islands go by - we had to keep referring to a map to identify where we were. They tend to blur a bit after a while.

Great Diamond Island was very nice as we approached the dock - our first passenger drop off (where the captain yelled "welcome home" to 3 summer residents).

We motored further up the east side and a crewman spotted what we thought was a young bald eagle (but could have been an Osprey) in the trees. We did get some commentary along the way which was great.
Diamond Cove is at the north end of Great Diamond Island and is an exclusive private community. General Public are not welcome.

Here our crew unloaded vital supplies - like beer including Corona... Good move.

And a new golf cart (appeared to be a preferred method of transportation on many of the islands).

It was fun to watch the action.

At Great Chebeague (pronounced She Big) island the loading and unloading took more time and we were also a little ahead of schedule so they offered us the chance to get off for 25 minutes and wander. We jumped at it.

Looking back down the wharf to the busy activities as pick up trucks back up for their pallet loads etc. Here some lumbar and construction stuff seemed to be a key provision. Great Chebeague Island gets multiple ferry services each day so can spread their grocery and other loads.

A short walk on a gravel road gave us some sense of the Great Chebeague Island. The housing and the facilities seemed basic as you would need to be reasonably comfortable with self sufficiency and lack of people. It's a lifestyle for some but cleared not for everybody. It must be tough for school kids who have to travel to the mainland as early morning ferries would leave not long after 6am and they said that they tried to get the kids back by 4.30pm.

Most of the islands are rocky and today had this sea mist on the edge. The mist is due to hotter up rocks from the last few days of sun, and still chilly Atlantic water.

One interesting fact we learned. Of Maine's 3,000+ miles of coastline (including islands) only 29 miles (<1%) is considered to be sandy. Not the place to come for your beach holiday! No wonder the Maniacs (people of Maine we were told call themselves this) say they understand "rocky" as a descriptive term.

At one stage heading out to Cliff Island (6 miles from the mainland) we noticed a temperature drop as the effect of the cold Atlantic took off some heat of the land. Di doesn't mind - typical scout - well prepared.

We did love the effect the hot rocks and cold sea made around the islands.

We did see some seals and dolphins as we were cruising but it was not a deliberate search - the Mailboat gets on its job. Coming back through Hussey Sound after completing all our stops.

As we approached Portland we came closer to Fort Gorges, which almost appears to be sinking. The fort made us think about Fort Denison in Sydney.

A couple of pics of Portland from the water. As you can see, it is very much a working seaport.

A seaport needs at least one fishing pier.

As the mail run ended, we went back to our motel for a late light lunch and then had a lazy few hours in preparation for a night on town to celebrate Hans birthday.

Community warning - strong image to follow... Unsuitable for small children... And possibly others.

Di had a bath, so Hans decided to have one too. Here he is enjoying it with a beer...and what you can't see is that he had his iPhone playing 1970's rock music - Blue Öyster Cult and "Veterans of the psychic wars" among others - loud... Nice prep for his birthday dinner.

The predicted rain had set in by now, and it was still raining when we left for the bus. There is a bus stop a few minutes away from our hotel, where bus number 1 could take us downtown. Here is Di dressed for that occasion...

This was funny. Di could not help but stand at the bus stop in the rain to look for the bus (very keen). Hans and two other blokes were standing under the shelter from a fast food restaurant as to not get wet. When the bus finally arrived, and Di waved to Hans to come to the bus stop, all 3 of us deserted our shelters. Chivalry is dead!

The bus stop was next to this, what we called the "dude corner". The corner seemed to attract taxi drivers and others standing there smoking and chatting. We saw lots and lots of cigarette butts when we passed the corner the other day.

The bus passengers all looked like people on benefits (except us, we don't get anything for free). One dude, with tats everywhere had a dice hanging down from each ear. That was a new one. One character was very doped or drunk and just threw a handful of coins in the general direction of the coin collection slot. Of course many of the coins ended up on the floor and it took half the trip for him to scrabble around and collect them and pay his fare. We reckoned the bus driver has "seen it all".

After exiting the bus one stop too early, and some navigation around downtown in the rain, we stopped at a pub called Gritty's for a drink. Hans had a Maine's best IPA beer (think not) and Di had a gin and tonic, both served in pint glasses... Nice spot that seemed popular.

We headed for dinner just after 6pm to Street & Company, a Mediterranean seafood restaurant that Di had identified through TripAdvisor. Good karma as soon as we saw it. Very busy kitchen full of chefs, steam and fabulous grill flavours drifting out of the open window and packed with people.

They managed to find us a great table overlooking the chaos of the open kitchen. Di had to sit with her back to it otherwise Hans would have lost her attention for the night. He found it quite fascinating too.
Now what to order? The bigger menu in Di's right hand was the wine list Red wine from the Rhone Valley sounded just right.

The food menu was fantastic. We started with 2 taste plates ($4 each) which was a mouthful each of smoked salmon with dill, and a small pepper stuffed with crabmeat and Aoili.

Hans was always going to have the whole fish - Branzzini - delivered in the pan with a fabulous sauce of chorizo, Swiss chard and lots of other yummy stuff. No "after photo" as the fish got picked clean. You bet!

Di also ordered a fish special which was in her view "one of the top 5 fish dishes of all time". Soo good. Grilled Swordfish cooked perfectly served on a bed of lentils and peas strongly flavored with garlic and bacon. Fantastic. These chefs are great.

After a lovely leisurely dinner and wine at Street & Company, we wandered across to Glorious Gelato, Portland's best gelato according to TripAdvisor, for dessert. Yep, the gelato was very good (we shared hazelnut, dark chocolate and coffee). The place even had some food for thought on the wall...

As the dark settles, we wandered to a bus stop on Congress Street for the return on Bus 1 to our hotel. We ended up having the same bus driver as on the way in. Now, a one way fare is $1.50, I.e. $3 for both of us. You pay by sliding notes into a machine. As Di had earliet organized a handful of $1 notes, so she paid for both of us, both ways. The bus driver then asked Di, so "are you still paying for him...". Yep - always! Laughs all around.

Home for some "Big Bang Theory" on TV and letting our lovely meal settle. Good night.

A most pleasant birthday for Hans.

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