photographs and text by Jennifer Steen Booher
The Maine State 420 Championships were in Castine last week (a 420 is a kind of sailboat), and my son was competing, so I spent a day on the waterfront, beachcombing and watching the races from afar. The day started out in the low 70s, cloudy and humid with a very light breeze from the southwest. Fortunately for the sailors, the wind picked up, the sun came came out, and it turned into a glorious summer day. The races were organized at Maine Maritime Academy, which is right next to the Town Dock, and there was a nice little wooden stairway to the beach from their parking lot, which you can just see at the bottom of the photo below (taken from the rooftop patio at MMA.)
See the low walls running perpendicular to the beach? You just don’t see that on Mount Desert Island. I guess people in Castine are more defensive of their turf. One cool thing you can see in this photo is the way the walls affect the motion of the water across the beach. Look at the point where the wall meets the shore – you can see a lighter triangle there. That’s the line of the current, roughly 45º to the wall, almost like a shadow. You can see the current has deposited more stones, shells, and seaweed outside of that ‘shadow.’
I did wander past the wall, but it felt uncomfortably like trespassing and I didn’t go far. I was mostly curious about the change in the beach composition. Just past that second wall the shoreline is rocky as far as I could see, and I was trying to figure out why this small portion is sand. It seemed highly unlikely that MMA would import sand onto the beach – it’s an industrial wharf, and this is docked just out of the photo to the left:
That’s MMA’s training ship, the State of Maine. Even though she was docked, her engines were running, and their deep thrum was the soundtrack to my morning.
So whence the sand? I know so little about oceanography that for me trying to read the shoreline is like trying be Sherlock Holmes without having written a monograph on 140 kinds of cigarette ash.
By the way, it’s hard to get a sense of how huge that anchor chain is until you have, say, a pair of size 9 feet for scale:
There were dense patches of shells near the water – mostly Common Periwinkle and Blue Mussel
with the occasional bit of sea glass:
Barnacle-monogram on a stone: “EH”
One reason the sand seems such an anomaly is that the flotsam was very similar to what I find back home on rocky shorelines; the only really unusual thing I found was this Northern Sea Star (Asterias vulgaris) (which was either half-dead or mostly-dead but I put it back in the water anyway because I’m an optimist.) This might be only the third or fourth I’ve found beached in 17 years of beachcombing.