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Seeing a different side of Maine with Robertson Family Cruises

MILBRIDGE Many people have commented on the idea that there are two versions of Maine. But I've always found that notion, though somewhat true, to be overly simplistic. There are hundreds of Maines, if not thousands. This state is like an intricately carved gemstone, with many facets that make it interesting and beautiful, depending on your angle.

I've been to many parts of the state. I've been up mountains, in rivers, in the air and on the beaches. But there's a lot to see, and clearly I haven't been everywhere or done everything.

So I was interested when the Robertson Family Sea Cruises offered to show me an angle I hadn't seen. The coastal angle but from the outside looking in. I've never had the opportunity to look at Maine's intense, rocky coast ocean-side.  

Robertson Sea Tours, is one of the original tours operating in the Down East area. Captain Jamie Robertson came up with the idea when he was fishing off the coast. His in-depth knowledge of the local fauna and familiarity with the coast as both a captain and a scuba diver set him apart from some of the competition. Capt. Robertson holds a 100-ton U.S. Coast Guard license and is a registered Maine Guide and a certified advanced rescue diver with over 2,000 logged dives. He's also certified in CPR and first aid. He knows his stuff.

Opening the harbor cruises was a lifetime dream of his, and to say he put everything into it would be something of an understatement.

'I had the idea for a long time - '94 or '95 - and I tucked it back and tried different things,' he said. It was finally his wife who helped him make the leap from dream to reality. He kept his job fishing, licensed and old wooden boat for cruises, played with different pricing options and then went all-in, around 1999.

'I did everything I could to make this work I dug clams, raked blueberries,' he said. 'After the fourth year something clicked, and business doubled. Since then it's steadily increased.'

It has continued to increase to the point where he's hired on other captains to help with their varied cruise options (more on that later). But even with the help, Robertson is on the water every day of the week, unless there is bad weather.

Over the years, Capt. Robertson has had many repeat clients.

'We've had whole families come back, and I can watch the families grow. For 10 years a father and daughter have come every year [For fishing]. She just started college,' he said. 'Every time he's called I look forward to that cruise.' 

Though the bulk of his passengers are from out of state, he has been noticing an uptick in locals taking advantage of what he can offer. He credits Facebook with that recent increase.

Into the great wide open 

We took off from the public boat marina in Milbridge at 9 a.m. I was slated to enjoy one of the puffin and seabird tours, which brings us out along the peninsula, checking out eagle and osprey nests, as well as harbor seals. The weather wasn't ideal, but it also wasn't bad. Kind of overcast, which considering how hot it had been was something of a blessing. I had opted for long pants, and layered up in a T-shirt, a fleece and a waterproof coat (which proved to be wise). It's always good to keep in mind that it's going to be quite a bit cooler on the water than it is inland.

Over the course of the three-hour tour, we saw four bald eagles and two ospreys. Capt. Robertson said that was the most eagles he'd seen on any tour to date.

During the ride, which was taken with some of Capt. Robertson's friends from Ellsworth, we followed the peninsula up the coast. He knew the history of the land, who owned which homes and what they were used for. 

He would explain the nesting habits of the birds, including the eider ducks, Guillemots and terns. 

Then we scooted away from anything that looked like solid land and headed out to Petit Manan, where there are several things of note: Maine's second largest light house, a nature reserve and puffins.

Along with the Harbor Seals, Puffins are an animal I had not laid eyes on until then. It was really cool. And there weren't just a couple of puffins - there were loads, along with razorbills and an enormous number of terns. The terns, Capt. Robertson explained, were migratory, only staying on the island for a few months out of the year before continuing on their international tour of the globe.

We headed back inland, pausing to haul up a couple lobster traps. Robertson explained some of the legalities of lobstering, including how they measure the crustaceans, how they determine the sex and even the layout of the lobster trap itself. Did you know that a lobster trap comes complete with a kitchen and a bedroom? You do now. Some even have parlors (which may put them ahead of me in the real estate market).

We also caught a crab and a hermit crab.

When we got back to the marina, Capt. Robinson's family was waving us in from the pier. It was an incredibly lovely trip.

Which cruise for you?

There are various cruisers for different sights (think giant aquatic mammal vs. sea birds). Here are a few things you can choose from:

Whale watch

You can ride abord Capt. Robertson's Kandi Leigh, or Capt. Jim Parker's Elisabeth Rose. These intimate cruises max out at six people, so you won't be craning your neck around a crowd hoping that tall guy will sit down.

During this cruise, there's also a chance to run out to Petit Manan and try to catch sight of a puffin or two.

The whale watch is four to five hours and requires advance reservations. Only six people maximum. The cost is $95 per adult; children under 12 attend for $75. There is a $360 boat minimum to go out.

Island lobster bake cruise

This is a chance to enjoy steamed lobsters, corn on the cob, homemade potato salad and dessert, prepared for you and you friends and family on a Maine island. The cruise to the island and the meal is included in the ticket price: $85 for adults, $65 for children 12 and under. Cruise time is approximately three to four hours.

Puffin and seabird cruise

This is the tour I was on. It's a wonderful way of seeing wildlife and a side of Maine you just don't see every day. Unless you own a boat.

The cruise is approximately three hours and costs $70 for adults, $55 for children under 12 and a $200 minimum to go out.

The Maine cruise

Haul lobster traps, check out seals, eagles and scenic islands and learn about the history of the area and Capt. Robertson's adventures at sea.

This cruise is about 2.5 hours and costs $60 for adults and $45 for children 12 and under. The boat minimum must be met for the cruise to run.

For more information about the Robertson Sea Tours, visit www.robersonseatours.com or find them on Facebook.

Last modified on Wednesday, 03 July 2013 09:19

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