With 50 mph winds whipping across Muscongus Bay on Wednesday afternoon, Terrell DeVaney spotted a sailboat that had broken free of its mooring and washed against the shore of Hog Island near the Todd Wildlife Sanctuary.
Pretty sharp vision for someone 3,000 miles away.
DeVaney, who lives in central California, spotted the 39-foot Dido on Explore.org’s live “Osprey-cam,” a webcam that shows the waters near the Hog Island Audubon Camp off Bremen.
“We’re waiting for Steve or Rachel to come back,” DeVaney said of the community of people around the world who use the webcam to follow the exploits of the named pair of mated ospreys. DeVaney said she watches the webcam even when the sea hawks aren’t there, absorbing the tranquil beauty of the Maine coast. “It’s beautiful. I love it. I want to come visit.”
Wednesday’s storm brought hurricane force winds to the Down East coast of Maine, with a gust of 119 miles per hour recorded at a weather buoy off Jonesport.
That heavy weather caused the Dido’s mooring line to part, casting it adrift and onto the sandbar at Hog Island.
DeVaney notified the Coast Guard and Maine Marine Patrol, which eventually contacted Bremen Long Island Harbormaster Melanee Gilbert.
“It’s great she saw it,” said the owner of the boat, John Heslop. Heslop has been living on the boat on and off through the winter but had returned to Vermont, he said, because he needed to get his car repaired.
The boat was in no immediate danger as it came to rest on the soft sandbar, but when the tide rose, it would have floated again, possibly out of the sheltered cove and into a rocky channel with a stiff current.
Gilbert hired a lobster boat to tow the sailboat to safety.
“It was blowing pretty hard,” Gilbert said. “I had to hire him. I don’t have a boat in the water big enough to pull a sailboat with 50 mph winds.”
While the water of the cove looked calm, the webcam was bouncing around in the wind.
“The camera almost made me seasick watching it,” DeVaney said.
The sailboat’s saga actually began earlier in the week.
“This sailboat first shows up in Greenland Cove, around the corner from Audubon. The boat’s mysteriously there and I don’t know who it belongs to, because it’s not registered in this town,” Gilbert said. The Dido was being held in place by an anchor.
That was last Friday. The next call came Sunday. The boat had dragged its anchor and was on some rocks at low tide, although it also escaped that encounter without damage. The Coast Guard was concerned that somebody on the sailboat might be in distress, so Gilbert went aboard and found the boat vacant and its cabin locked from the outside.
She hired a lobsterman to tow it to an open mooring near the Audubon sanctuary once the tide came in.
Eventually, working with the Coast Guard, Gilbert found the boat’s former owner, who checked his bill of sale and put her in touch with Heslop, who said he had been keeping the boat anchored off Shore Road in Bremen, where he would paddle out to it in his kayak.
Gilbert was waiting for Heslop to retrieve the boat when it broke free Wednesday.
Gilbert has since had it towed farther up the bay.
“It’s now at a mooring in front of my house, where I can watch it until this man comes and retrieves it,” she said.
The webcam was arranged by Audubon’s Project Puffin. It is primarily used to watch the osprey, and it is often tilted down toward their nest. There are currently no birds there, but the camera was left running through the winter, giving people a chance to remotely enjoy the coast of Maine.
DeVaney said she is eagerly awaiting the ospreys’ return. As exciting as it is to spot a boat adrift, the antics of the adults, and eventually their chicks, is better, she said.
She checks on the nesting area in the morning and evening and when there’s activity.
“I have it on my phone. I watch it on my iPad. It’s so compelling,” she said.
Despite the long and cold winter, Heslop says he’s enjoyed living aboard his sailboat, which he’s owned for about a year.
“I sailed in February. It was beautiful,” he said. “It’s just so quiet … It’s a beautiful spot,” he said of Muscongus Bay. He enjoys watching the fish jump and the birds catch them.
“It’s great we’re all watching ospreys,” he said.
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: