Sunday, August 23, 2009

Big Swells from Hurricane Bill

My brother and his family are visiting from Vermont this weekend. They haven't been to the beach this summer so when they arrived yesterday we headed off, with a weather forecast of probable rain, to Popham Beach in Phippsburg, Maine. When we arrived we were told at the State Park that the beach was closed to swimming due a strong riptide caused by Hurricane Bill. The Hurricane was far off shore but was still causing coastal flooding, big waves and strong currents (whoo hoo).

Well, we just had to swim, so we proceeded about a mile down the road to Fort Popham where we could access the far end of the beach, just after the boundary of the state park. It was overcast but still super hot and muggy, not much of a beach day, but hot enough for a swim. This is a protected area of beach and though there was a current, the waves were not that big. The water was freezing cold - about 55 degrees (brrrr). Seriously, it is August, right? Maine waters are always cold, but I think the water was extra cold due to the hurricane. We all jumped in too cool off even though it was numbing! The kids jumped in waist deep and decided that was plenty, then busied themselves chasing waves, catching floating seafoam, popping seaweed pods and digging holes in the sand.

Today we decided to head south to Portland Head Lighthouse, a beautiful lighthouse and Maine summer destination. The place was packed with people all hoping to get a glimpse of the huge storm wells caused by Hurricane Bill. The National Weather Service had issued warnings to stay away from the coast, which of course is why we, along with hundreds of others, had flocked to the coast!

It was well worth it - there were huge swells, which even a little bit out to sea didn't look like much, but came ashore and smashed into the rocks below, with sea spray shooting up 50' in the air. There was a group of photographers with enormous camera lenses just waiting for the perfect shot. Volunteers from the South Portland Fire department were also there to warn daredevils who were watching the waves atop ledges too close to the water for their own safety. It was amazing to witness the power of the ocean. Luckily we had finished our ice cream cones just as the raindrops started to fall. Then on our way home, we drove through an incredible downpour (another effect from the Hurricane).

The waves and beach, coupled with a great dinner at the Back Street Bistro and some delicious homemade pizza, red wine and salad foraged straight from the garden, made for a great weekend.