We’re getting a glimpse of a most incredible cruise ship

We were anticipating the expedition cruise ship Roald Amundsen’s arrival at the Breakwater today after it had circled Alaska, crossed the Arctic Ocean, and visited Greenland and Baffin Bay on an intrepid voyage from Vancouver, British Columbia, across the Northwest Passage – albeit from the west.  But when that itinerary was halved, and the second leg shortened, we were crossed off the ports of call. At least we were then added to a shorter round of New England stopovers that followed.

So now the Amundsen is expected to show up today and you can bet that the locals will be lined up for a personal look. This is not any floating resort.

With global warming, Northwest Passage trips are being offered each year for bold, well-healed, bucket-list travelers desiring to go where few have ventured before. This opportunity requires ice-breakers, not just any cruise ship. The Norwegian-flagged Amundsen is one with style and luxury.

The visit should heighten our anticipation of its return next September as part of a remarkable 94-day Pole-to-Pole adventure that will continue to Antarctica.

Sounds like a historic journey to me.

Here are ten more facts.

  1. In 2019, the new, 530-passenger, 459-foot, stylish state-of-the-art vessel joined Hurtigruten Expeditions’ fleet.
  2. It is propelled by environmentally sustainable, innovative hybrid technology that reduces fuel consumption and CO2-emissions by 20 percent.
  3. The ship is specially constructed for voyages in polar waters, where it serves as a comfortable base camp at sea.
  4. Unlike a typical vacation cruise, an expedition is for curious minds and explorers, focusing on the geography, biology, cultures, and histories along the way. To serve that aim, the Roald Amundsen has a science center packed with banks of stereoscope microscopes and related laboratory gear, as well as touch screens, lecture spaces, a small library, and areas for workshops in photography, biology, and similar interests as guests, staff, and crew mingle and generate a heightened understanding of the landscapes being explored.
  5. It’s not your utilitarian research vessel but posh, with all cabins having outside views. Half even have private balconies. Aft suites include private outdoor hot tubs for enjoying spectacular views.
  6. Its three restaurants are inspired by Nordic and Norwegian heritage.
  7. The ship is named after the first explorer to reach both the North and South Poles.
  8. Passage through the Panama Canal takes roughly 12 hours.
  9. Arrival in Antarctica will be late spring there, when the Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins will be at the start of their courting season, while the Adélie penguins may have already laid their eggs and be nesting.
  10. Fares for this expedition started at $57,000 – or $600 a day. I doubt that any of those are left.

If you had the money, is this something you’d love to do?

Our fisherman gets an upgrade

I thought the guy was kidding when he pulled up in town and confided that he was going to repaint Eastport’s iconic waterfront fisherman statue, changing the blue coat to a yellow slicker. I was sworn to secrecy at the time, but the next day, there he was, in full light, doing the deed.

The somewhat surreal, but shall we say fiberglass de facto emblem of the city, really got a fashion update. Or upgrade, in my opinion. Seems I’m not alone. Yes, that yellow slicker fits much better.

Just look.

My kudos to Patrick Keough of Seward, Nebraska, for something that even included an imaginative eyepatch.

Some folks, however, are seeing a similarity with the Gorton’s guy down in Gloucester on Cape Ann, Massachusetts.

I think they have that backwards.

Well, here’s how he looked before. The figure was a leftover from a television series set in the town.

Has our drinking water quality really improved?

Eastport’s tap water last summer took on a greenish color and a definite off-taste. It got to the point that we started running everything we’d be drinking or using for cooking through an activated charcoal filter.

The explanation was that the supply came from a large but shallow lake a dozen miles away and that every summer the algae bloomed. The private company that provides water to the city then had to heighten its use of chemicals for treatment, resulting in the offensive character.

Water to the Sipayik reservation also came from the same source but was delivered via a different pipeline and was, by reports, much more troubling.

In its attempts to redress the issue, the company announced it would be using an alternative to treat the water, and I have to say we haven’t noticed the off-taste or discoloration this year. We haven’t yet seen a chemical analysis yet, however, or heard about the current situation on the reservation.

Still, public water quality is something most Americans take for granted.

Funny how often we overlook a problem, even when it has, as I hope, been clearing up.


When the fog rolls in

We can watch it roll in over the neighboring town of Lubec and move up the channel. Treat Island is about to be engulfed. 


It often rides in on the tide, this time from the Canadian islands.


I’m getting used to hearing the foghorn, too.

“Another crappy day in Paradise,” as one wit has been heard to say on a gray, chilly, wet morning here.

Quoddy Village is almost an island of its own

Most of Eastport’s small population resides in a semicircle around the Breakwater downtown. Quoddy Village stands apart, separated by a narrow neck around Carrying Place Cove. It also fronts Half Moon Cove, with a dead-end road to the former toll-bridge to the mainland. The place feels like an island of its own and is easily overlooked when you drive into town. The highway skirts it, and what you see is mostly former industrial, rusty, and all that.

A former factory looking for new uses gives no clue to passers-by of the residential neighborhood behind it.
Chimneys are all that remain of the administrative headquarters and even a school that supported a federal project in the 1930s.

Until 1935, this was farmland, but then an ambitious but ecologically disastrous public works project took off, one to dam up most of Passamaquoddy and Cobscook bays to transform their vast tidal energy into electricity. A large but confusing working model of the engineering proposal can be viewed at the historical society’s gift shop in downtown Eastport. (The room-size three-dimensional map is water in and water out, mostly. If you don’t already know the area, it’s baffling – and the presentation is aimed at today’s tourists. I still think it would make for a really interesting model railroad layout.) The short-lived boondoggle’s most lasting contribution, apparently, was the causeway connecting Eastport to the mainland by filling in a former railroad line. No more toll bridge and longer loop. Oh, yes, and it also had a noticeable negative impact on the Old Sow, the world’s second-largest whirlpool, perhaps even pushing it more into Canada.

Significantly, the project needed housing for its estimated 5,000 workers, and that led to the construction of Quoddy Village.

Even though the plug was pulled a year later on what would have been the world’s largest tidal dam – it did require Canadian cooperation, among other things – 128 single-family, two-family, and four-family houses had been constructed, along with three large dormitories with dining rooms for single workers, plus a fire station, a hospital, a heating plant, a school, a large mess hall, and a large administration building that included a theatre, library, and sub post office. In other words, a small city unto itself. Even though the homes had been designed as temporary, many of them are still occupied today. Still, for a brief time, the village was home to a thousand people.

More evidence of abandoned projects, also seen from the state highway.

From 1938 to 1943 the National Youth Administration used Quoddy to train 800 city youth a year in vocational trades. It was also a Navy Sea Bee base named Camp Lee-Stephenson during World War II.

And then? It morphed into a residential neighborhood.

Its best-known attraction today is David Oja’s colorful and eccentric Bazaar, a gift shop that includes what’s arguably the best gourmet wine and cheese selection in Washington County. Think of it as a blast of Puerto Rico, Brooklyn, and Provincetown rolled into one. Who knows what the original function of the building was, we can be sure it was not nearly anything like this.

The one-of-a-kind Bazaar, seemingly out in the middle of nowhere.
Today it’s mostly residential. I think of it as a small suburb.
Anyone else see potential here?
Yes, there’s a mix of housing, some of it from the ’30s.
Much of it is also a working neighborhood. I’m all in favor of working from home, when you can.

Is this funky? Or what?