Gilding the Downeast Lily

Blessed with gorgeous cruising grounds, great people put Maine’s riches over the top.

Last summer, I walked into the Morning Moon Café in Brooklin, Maine, for breakfast. When I walked out, I was seriously thinking of buying the place. It's across the street from the general store and the library, where an extra car or two always seem to linger in search of a free wireless piggyback. The modest price of the business included a house, and I suddenly imagined myself, living next door and serving up hearty omelets and steaming bowls of chili.

I had been in Brooklin for all of three days, and I quickly realized that I didn't really want to run a café, I just wanted to stay in Brooklin. And therein lies the great Godsent rub of Maine: It's so damn gorgeous no one ever wants to leave, but luckily, most people also can't figure out a way to stay—and that's part of what keeps it so special.

But even those of us from away know that Maine's greatest charm may be its people. They're genuinely friendly but wary of sentimentality. They're fans of the unvarnished truth and not shy about sharing it with you. They don't mind eccentricities but they won't suffer fools. A chat with a true Mainer can be as bracing as coming inside to a warm, stiff drink during a cold nor'easter. I guess you could say that coastal Mainers, at least, have an intrinsic saltiness to their characters.

And Brooklin is an epicenter of salty. It is often called The Boatbuilding Capital of the World, and while that's a bold claim to make in a state full of great boatbuilders, it has more than its fair share, as well as being home to the WoodenBoat School and WoodenBoat magazine. Brooklin sits on the Benjamin River with Blue Hill Bay to the east, Jericho Bay to the south, Eggemoggin Reach to the southwest, and even East Penobscot Bay within spitting distance, so its location is the envy of sailors, anglers, artists, nature lovers and seagulls everywhere.

Nearby Blue Hill is a lovely town, with all the services you'd expect, plus lots of galleries, chamber music, even a great radio station. But if you're in Brooklin, your best exploring is done by boat. Swan's Island, Deer Isle, and Little Cranberry Isle are all nearby, as are beautiful Southwest and Northeast Harbors and Mount Desert's Acadia National Park. I cruised this area aboard Burma, a 58-foot R.O. Davis motorsailer last August, so look for more on this beautiful part of the world in the July issue.