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Memories of a Perfect Anchorage

By Frank Feeley

Photo by Christine Eslao

My father’s favorite image of Maine and his favorite anchorage along the whole northeast coast was more like a Japanese print than a Rockwell Kent painting. Picture a cove just off Roque Island Thorofare. There is just enough deep water to anchor close in to a small rocky bluff where the fall of tide reveals great strands of rockweed. The boat lies out of the channel, a safe distance from the lobsterboats passing to and from Jonesport. A small pointy rock stands 20 feet off the point, capped by a spruce tree that is often wrapped in drifting fog.

Dad loved that anchorage the first time he saw it in 1969, and it remains my favorite today. Thanks to the families that own Roque Island, and the conservation organizations that have preserved some of the smaller islets offshore, the view has changed little in 50 years. That spruce tree is taller, but the air of peaceful harmony remains the same.

When we first visited Roque, we anchored in this cove and hiked across to the great beach—the anomalous curve of fine white sand that stretches over a mile along the island’s southern shore. It was a warm day in mid-June. A crew member took one look, stripped to her underwear, ran across the sand and threw herself into the water. I did not have time to warn her that the water temperature was still in the 40’s. I was reminded of the Warner Brothers cartoons where Daffy Duck or Wile E. Coyote walks off a cliff, then furiously backpedals to return to solid ground. She let out a scream, erupted out of the water, and ran shivering back up the beach.

The author and his daughter running on the beach at Roque Island almost 40 years ago. Courtesy Frank Feeley

For understandable reasons, the owners of Roque have restricted island visitors to the beach, and we no longer explore the shoreside trails through the mossy woods as we did on our first visits. But little else has changed. On August stops in recent years, there have been only a few boats anchored off the great beach, no more than we saw 50 years ago. With radar, GPS, and AIS, navigating to Roque is much easier today. Fortunately, the thrill of sailing these icy waters and reaching the nirvana of the Roque archipelago has not attracted throngs.  Private ownership of the island and limited access mean that the only visitors are cruising sailors and Jonesport lobstermen on a picnic with their families.

I treasure a photograph taken on Roque beach when my daughter, Caitlin, was three or four. We are running together, and she appears to fly, both feet fully off the sand. Behind us, you can see the edge of an open meadow that breaks the uniformity of the conifer forest.

In 2019, we returned again to Roque and took another picture at the same place. Caitlin was now 39 and no longer flying. I am barely running. But the beach, the meadows, and the forest are the same. I once again thanked the cold waters, frequent fog, and the careful stewardship of the owners for keeping Roque such a special place.  

Frank Feeley retired recently from the Boston University School of Public Health after a career in government and public health. Since 1982, he has cruised Maine and the Maritimes in the 34' Jenneau Melody sloop Antigone.


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