Tourist in our Backyard

It is so rare that we get to enjoy Portland, Maine on a balmy, summer day. We had a couple of days that we took advantage and went into the city. One afternoon, we went to the Old Port section. The Old Port is located near the working port of the Portland. In the days of windjammers and cargo ships, the Old Port had warehouses that stored the cargo brought in by these majestic sailing vessels.  I remember seeing a photo of these huge clipper ships docked right on Commercial Street.  I tried to find a photo on the internet to share with you but unfortunately, I didn’t have any luck.

In the 1970s, business developers purchased and revived the derelict warehouses converting them into quaint shops, restaurants, bars, office buildings, hotels and apartments. They maintained some of the cobblestone streets and splendor of the early 19th century buildings. A unique feature of the Old Port is how they have combined the working waterfront of fishing boats, cargo delivery with the retail/restaurant part of.


  Our dining view from J’s Oyster Bar.

David and I spent an afternoon walking around, exploring the various shops and finally stopped to have dinner at J’s Oyster Bar located off of Commercial Street on Pier 5. It is a small “hole in the wall” place but I love it there. I can’t remember exactly what we had…I think it was lobster rolls but what I do remember about the meal was being outside on a beautiful afternoon, overlooking part of Portland Harbor and the amazing steamed clams that we shared. I have been eating steamed clams all of my life and love them but these clams were to die for! They were so very, very sweet. I just don’t remember clams ever tasting that sweet and good.

Casco Bay Line Ferry

Casco Bay Line Ferry

Another afternoon David; his sister, Sharon and I went on the mailboat run in Casco Bay. It was perfect day to be sitting on a boat cruising around Casco Bay. The sun was shining bright, the temperature was pleasant, somewhere in the 70s and the breeze was refreshing. The mailboat, as you can imagine, is an essential part of island living, delivering mail, cargo, as well as passengers, to the various islands. I just learned from Casco Bay Line’s webpage that it is the “longest-operating service of it’s kind.”


Making delivery to the island.

We visited the islands of Little Diamond Island, Great Diamond, Long Island, Cliff Island and Chebeague. At each island wharf, people got on and off the ferry and supplies were delivered. Some appeared to be for the island’s local restaurant or stores. Pallets of supplies were lifted from the ferry by a crane and gently set down on the pier waiting to be retrieved by the person who ordered them.


Barge carrying garbage and delivery trucks.

It was fun and interesting to see life on Casco Bay. It was a different perspective than driving around the Portland area. For example, this barge which was carrying trucks used for picking up trash and making deliveries, I just never even took it under consideration what they did with their trash on the islands!

Floating "convenient store" for lobstermen.

Floating “convenient store” for lobstermen.

The whole bay is dotted with a variety of colorful lobster buoys to mark where the lobstermen have their traps. They look colorful polka dots on a sea of blue fabric as they bobbed in the ocean. We passed this “lobster smack” on our travels. It is where the lobstermen drop off their daily catch of lobsters and buy bait. A “floating convenience store” for the lobstermen.

On the way to Chebeague Island, we passed the privately owned Hope Island. The ferry captain informed us that a developer from New York City bought the island in 1993 and converted a hotel into their private home consisting of 10,000 sq ft, nine bedrooms, seven bathrooms and five fireplaces. Also on the island is a separate guest house, horse stables, a chicken cop, garage, a church and their own helicopter pad.


Privately owned Hope Island.

At Chebeague Island we were allow to disembark from the boat and had 20 minutes to stretch our legs. Not far from the dock, is Pearl’s Seaside Market and Cafe. We each got snacks for the ride back to Portland. Sitting with her master, on the porch of the store was Zoey, a St Bernard Puppy who was soaking up all the attention she was getting from the ferry passengers.


A daily ritual, waiting for treats.

I believe that it was our stop at Cliff Island we saw this intelligent black lab on the wharf. He kept looking up at the bridge of the ferry, where the captain pilots the boat. There was a young girl sitting in the wheelhouse, next to the captain, and I thought the dog might know who she was. He was looking so expectantly at this little girl. Well, I later discovered that wasn’t the case at all!!!! This smart fellow was waiting for the captain to throw him treats as he did everyday.  According to dog’s owner, this was the dog’s daily routine to run down to the pier and greet the ferry each day for his treats!  Just before we pushed off, the captain threw this handsome fellow a few treats of which he promptly caught.  He is a clever dog…as are all dogs in my opinion!

The mailboat run took about 3 hours. For many years, it has been on our “summer to do” list and so I am glad that we finally did it.

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