Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Maine: Portland overview

     We are in Portland, which with a population of 66,000 is Maine's largest city.  

     The photo below, taken in the 1940's shows the lay of the land.  It encompasses 21 square miles of land and was first settled by the Europeans in 1623.

     Jutting out into Casco Bay as an "L" shaped peninsula, the height of the land and the sheltered waters made it a great port for early settlers.  The Indians called it "Machigonne," which meant "great neck."

     Along the leg of the "L" lies the commercial district.  Fisheries and other maritime industries are located along numerous waterways that run from right to left in the following photo.  Also, at 14 and 15 stories, Maine's tallest two buildings are in the photo

     Early accounts of the area stated that the schools of fish were so numerous and dense that they impeded the progress of the ships.  Even if this was a huge exaggeration that still means there were lots of fish.
     The layout of the old coastal defenses is reminiscent of those in Charleston SC.  

     This area has a big advantage - there is some elevation to the terrain.  This was a big advantage to the old batteries of cannon that guarded the entryways to the city.

     Scores of islands dot approaches, most of them developed today.

      Sitting right in the middle of the entryway is Fort Gorges.  

     Built in 1858, its design is similar to Fort Sumter in Charleston and Ft. Pulaski in Savannah, but the building material was granite rather than brick.  But, as with all of these forts, the advent of rifled cannon barrels and more potent explosives rendered them obsolete before they were finished being built.

     A natural point creates a bit of a breakwater, and a man made stone wall gives another layer of protection from the open ocean.

    The lighthouse closest to town is technically known as the Portland Breakwater Light, but if you use that term no one knows what you are talking about.  When it was first installed everyone commented that it was "cute as a bug" - hence its common name "Bug Light."

     The lighthouse was modeled on the design of an ancient monument that stood in Athens Greece.

     Two lighthouses guard the outer entrance to the bay.  The southernmost is supposedly the most photographed spot in Maine - the Portland Head Lighthouse.

     George Washington himself ordered it built. and after several delays due to lack of funding it was completed in 1791.

     Just across the channel is Ram Island Lighthouse.  

     This was rough duty for a lighthouse keeper - the quarters were in the cramped interior of the tower itself.  

     And at six feet tall, Pocahontas Lighthouse is supposed to be the nation's shortest.

     There is a steady stream of ships coming to and from the city.  This one is a ferry that runs once a day to Nova Scotia.

     It pulls out at seven in the evening and you arrive in Yarmouth Nova Scotia at eight in the morning.  You can take your car and you can rent a room or a cot.  There is a small casino and restaurant on board, and fares run just under $200 per person.

     Several of the old schooners grace these waters.

     What a great service those folks did that found a way to save these old schooners.  They add a great dimension to the area.

     A few years back Portland build a new cruise ship terminal.

     There is space for two of these ships to dock at a time, and several came and left during the last week.  

     There is also a large petroleum facility here.  It is not refined here though - this is just a holding area that pipes it inland to be purified.  

     The large tanks occupy a big section of land across from the downtown area.  Notice the big barge in the photo below?

     That belongs to the folks we visited at Marine Oil Spill Response Company.

     Thanks to Bill and Kathy Frappier for getting us out on the water for these shots.  They own Portland Discovery Land and Sea Tours.

    The Islander is their flagship on the waters, and they run trolley tours on the land.  I found our captain, Chris Dimick to be a remarkable fellow.

     At only 29 years of age he has a 1600 ton captains license and has piloted boats all over the world.  He graduated from the Maine Maritime Academy and has operated tugboats in Columbia, a research vessel in the Arctic and sailing vessels in the Caribbean.  

     A great way to get an overview of the city itself is one one of these shuttles.

     One thing that looks a bit out of place in the old city is a watch tower - or observatory.

     But viewed with a telephoto lens from the water its vantage point is easier to see.  Built in 1807, it is the only remaining signal tower/observatory in the United States.  

     Before the 1950's there were no radios to tell you if a ship had arrived.  So you could pay an observer to keep an eye out and let you know if "your ship came in."  You could then hastily make arrangements for a space at the pier and transportation for whatever goods you were shipping.

     The customs house is very appealing to the eye.

     In fact, if you sit anywhere in Portland and look around you will notice intricate stone and brick work.

    The city was burned by the French, it was burned by the British and finally it was burned by a couple of schoolboys playing with matches.  So the city passed a building code requiring all buildings to be made of brick or stone.  The effect is rather pleasing to the eye.  Notice the fine slate work on the upper face of the first building on the right.

     And the city hall - for a town this size it is an amazing work of art.

     It boasts a 2,500 seat amphitheater that is regularly used for a wide variety of events.

     I found "Maine's Discount Marine Store" along the waterfront, anxious to see if I can afford to build a boat.  

     A little bag of wooden plugs to hide screw holes - $ 21,99.

     A gallon of exterior paint - $ 229.99.

     Pulleys to hoist sails - single pulleys mind you - well over $300.00,

     Shoot  I can't even afford a brochure.  I would hate to see what it all costs at a full price store.

     Today's faces in the crowd is a meter man dutifully collecting revenue for the city coffers.

     And for today's parting shot, a poem on a restaurant sign board.

     Tomorrow we will look around the city and the area a bit more.

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Make it a great day !!

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