But who has traversed the Fore in its entirety? Where is our Livingstone, our Lewis and Clark?  Who has conquered this mighty river, from its placid mouth to its roiling headwaters?

We have. Two weeks ago, in a borrowed canoe, Jay Sacher and I paddled the length of the Fore. This is our story.


The night before

I cannot sleep. What demons await me? Have I packed sufficiently? Will I see my family and homeland again? Why won’t the TV remote work?

The Big Day: 12:32 p.m.

Under fair skies, with a light wind, 78 degrees, we put in at the base of Munjoy Hill. Here the Fore rolls out into Casco Bay. But we are headed inland, the other direction. Toward the heart of darkness.

12:41 p.m.

So far all is well. Fishermen on the Maine State Pier wave solemnly — no, they don’t, they’re just casting their rods. Above us all, a prophetic phrase flashes upon the town:  CALL. JOE. CALL. JOE.


12:48 p.m.

A massive sailing ship docked outside of DiMillo’s. The Sea Nile, a lobster boat, putt-putting by. The lawyers at their desks inside Pierce Atwood’s hulking home. All unaware that we are leaving them, and civilization, behind.

12:56 p.m.

Seagulls scatter as we slide under the looming shadows of the Casco Bay Bridge. Cars rumble overhead, and I wonder how many brave Spanish sailors lost their lives in the ill-fated Armada. O lente lente currite noctis equi!

1:08 p.m.

To our right, rotting pilings and birch saplings along West Commercial Street. To our left, the gas tanks of South Portland, from which one hears the whir of work.


1:16 p.m.

At Merrill’s Marine Terminal, we pull alongside the TransFighter, a 1,587-foot shipping vessel out of Sweden.  Compared to it, we are a pygmy. A stunted pygmy.

1:25 p.m.

Our first disagreement, and tempers flare. Approaching the new Veterans Memorial Bridge should we pass between concrete piers 4 and 5, or 5 and 6? I finger the weapon beneath my cloak, but the moment passes, and we are soon in the basin outside of the Jetport.


1:33 p.m.

Our good humor returns and we share a cracker. The paddling is easy.  Overhead, jets roar by. To the right, Mister Sparky smiles benevolently, blessing our voyage. Thank you, Mister Sparky!

1:46 p.m.

All is silent, save the dipping of the oars. What did Thoreau say, in “The Maine Woods”: “… A small, irregular, but handsome lake, shut in on all sides by the forest”? He forgot to mention the cars traveling down Congress Street, straight ahead at Stroudwater.

1:55 p.m.

With inches to spare, we bend down and pass beneath the Congress Street bridge, entering the Fore River Sanctuary. Reeds to the left of me, reeds to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with Jay.

2:03 p.m.

We sight natives! A family of three, accompanied by what appears to be a large black quadruped. I have brought along beads and mirrors to trade with, as well as Sea Dogs tokens, good for redemption at the Hadlock Field souvenir shop. But they ignore us, and we paddle on.


2:15 p.m.

The channel reaches an obstruction:  a railroad line. Hoisting the canoe, we portage up and over the tracks, re-entering the stream on the far side. Jay is strong, reserved, industrious. I would trust my Facebook account password with this man.

2:47 p.m.

The Fore is now a creek barely 6 feet wide, meandering through marshes. We hit another snag, a fallen log blocking our way. Jay suggests carrying the canoe overland, across the reeds, past the log, where we set in again. Here is a man! We celebrate with strawberries and gin.

3 p.m.

More paddling, turn after twisty turn. The stream grows ever more narrow. Will we reach our goal? How many other unfortunates have lost their way and lives in this labyrinth of reeds, where the only sound is the maddening drone of insects and the traffic on Brighton Avenue about 100 yards away?

3:12 p.m.

Jewell Falls! The sum and object of our passions! We beach our craft on the rocks and shake hands solemnly.  This is where the Fore begins, we know it in our hearts. Above us towers heavenward a cyclone of impenetrable mist, rocks and sound — we leave it to other explorers to investigate its mysteries. After planting a message from Mayor Michael Brennan, we claim this land for the City of Portland, and point our boat home. We have done what no other has dared, and done it well. Praise the Lord!

John Spritz is a marketing and communications consultant based in Portland. He can be contacted at:

www.jspritz.com.