Delivering the Catch 9"x12" oil on canvas (Stonington, ME)
Someone asked me the other day what the word "downeast" means. To many people it simply means the coast of Maine. So what's that like?
It's brightly colored buoys bouncing in the waves; the smell of bait and diesel as lobster boats make their way along the rocky shore;
the forlorn horn of a navigation buoy out in the bay, especially at night, when sound seems to travel farther;
the salt infused taste of a lobster roll or a bucket of steamed clams;
and the wonder of the land and seascape, islands dotted here and there, with maybe a schooner anchored in a quiet cove.
Detail of Buoy 5 6"x6" oil on canvas
In fact, downeast (or down east) is a term that originated in the early 1800’s. In the summer the prevailing winds on the coast of Maine come from the southwest. It’s easiest for sailing ships to move in the same direction as the wind, called heading downwind. So ships traveling from Boston to ports in Maine travel downwind, and those ports are located east of Boston, thus down east. In fact, Mainers will still say they are going up to Boston, even though it’s more than 50 miles south of the Maine border.
Gorgeous granite islands at the entrance to Seal Bay on Vinalhaven
While in general terms, people use downeast to mean any coastal place that's northeast of Boston, more rigorously, it’s the area northeast of the Penobscot River, including Hancock and Washington counties, and the Canadian Maritime provinces New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Due to the tough winter weather, it was one of the last parts of the state settled by Europeans, but has some of the most wonderful natural beauty on the coast.
Entrance to Seal Bay 5"x7" oil on gessobord
I treasure the time that we get to spend downeast each summer, usually on our boat. And looking at the paintings that it inspires take me back there every time.
Lobster boats on their moorings in Stonington, on Deer Isle