The Fog Bank Lurks

The fog bank is out there.  You can see it on the water, lurking and looming, just beyond the little island in the middle of the harbor.  The fog bank is so thick that it totally obscures all but the highest hilltop on Isle au Haut, wiping it clean from the photo.

It’s been pretty foggy here for the last few days, and for the native Midwesterner the speed — and seeming perverseness — of the fog movement is breathtaking.  You might see fog in the distance, and the next thing you know it has barged into town and your bare skin is covered in moisture.  On other days, the fog might wait out on the horizon, keeping its own counsel and deciding if, and when, to roll in and blanket the sun.  And on other days, the fog is simply gone, and you can see for miles out into the harbor without a hint of fog to be seen anywhere.

Dr. Science would tell you that fog is a natural condition caused by a process called advection, when warm, moist air passes over a cooler surface — in this case, the bracing waters of the Penobscot Bay and the Atlantic Ocean just beyond the islands in the bay — and water vapor in the air condenses to form water droplets that make the fog opaque.  That’s a very scientific explanation, but it doesn’t quite capture the almost human, unpredictable qualities of fog.

Because we know the fog is out there . . . waiting. 

A World Very Far Away

It’s been foggy the last few days.  This morning the fog is so thick that the rising sun is about as bright as a street lamp looming over the harbor, as the picture above shows.  When it comes to fog, Maine could give Sherlock Holmes’ London a run for its money.

As this morning’s sun shows, fog is a natural shield of sorts.  It obviously blocks your view of things that, on a clear day, you could see distinctly, and narrows your universe to the small realm that you can see.  It swallows and engulfs sound, too.  Sound waves fight to get through the legions of water droplets in the air, then just give up and fade away.  The silence of a foggy day is about as silent as the busy modern world can get.  Your ears will search diligently for any scrap of noise, simply not believing that it can be so quiet.  Even the sharp barking of a neighbor’s dog become muffled and softened.

It’s odd to be encased in fog as the country slowly emerges from a global pandemic.  On a foggy Maine hilltop, the coronavirus, and the harms and divisions it has caused, seem very far away.

When The Fog Rolls In

We’re fog-bound this morning. The thick fog crept in like a living thing, blanketing the harbor, oozing up the hillside, and invading every nook and cranny to the point where even our neighbor’s house was rendered distant and indistinct through the foggy wisps.

I like the fog because it’s a tangible reminder that we’re in a seaside community. I also like the cool spritz on the skin that the fog brings. But I can understand why the lobstermen hate it. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be out on the water with this grey haze shrouding the normal landmarks, without knowing what rocky outcropping or boat might be lurking nearby. It’s one reason why lobstering is a dangerous, tough business.

Aboard The Frenchboro Ferry

I’m a fan of the Maine State Ferry Service.  That’s because the MSFS provides regular ferry runs from points along the mainland to the islands found up and down the Maine coastline.  If you’re a landlubber like me and just want to get out on the water, you don’t need to charter a boat — you can just hop on a ferry and move from point A to point B the same way the locals do.


Yesterday morning Kish and I took a ride on the Bass Harbor to Frenchboro ferry. For a mere $10 a person, the ferry takes you away from the harbor, past islands and working lobster boats, to the tiny island town of Frenchboro.  If you’re just along for the ride, like we were, it’s a pleasant two-hour trip.  And if you see a porpoise, as we did, it’s an even better deal.


When the left the dock at 8 a.m. sharp, some morning fog was still hugging the islands, wrapping them like a moist gray blanket, as shown in the photo above.  On the open water, though, it was a brilliant, blue sky day, with lots of activity from the lobster-catching contingent.  


After we cruised into the snug harbor at Frenchboro, a gaggle of locals came on board.  For them, the ferry is routine stuff, and they sat up front, chatting away without a second glance at the no doubt familiar scenery.  Kish and I, on the other hand, sat in the back, the better to get unimpeded views of everything going on around us.  How often do flatlanders from the Midwest get a dockside view of a real working harbor and fishermen who think nothing of knocking back a can of beer at 9 a.m., the better to kick start their trip to the mainland?


When we looked into taking a ferry ride, the woman behind the desk at the ferry office recommended the Frenchboro ferry as more scenic than the Swan Island ferry, which uses a much bigger boat that also carries cars and trucks.  It was good advice.

In The Midst Of The Mist

IMG_20150824_080751

We took the mailboat run out to Isle au Haut yesterday.  After we started the trip a dense fogbank rolled in, moving toward us like a living creature and then finally enveloping our small craft in its damp, blank embrace on our return journey.  It was like being in a dream, with small islands silently sliding in and out of the thick mist and bobbing lobster buoys adding the only dabs of color to the monochromatic scenes.

The Fog Rolls In, The Fog Rolls Out

IMG_4465Yesterday morning Mahone Bay was covered with a pea soup blanket of fog, so dense we couldn’t see the end of the dock in front our cottage.  By late morning it had burned off, and by afternoon it was bright and hot along the bay.

When I went for a bike ride toward the ocean at about 3 p.m., however, I noticed that the fog was still shrouding some of the barrier islands leading out to the ocean.  It was out there, looming, like some wild creature waiting for the campfire to burn out before moving back in again.  Sure enough, when I woke up this morning the fog was back.

Morning Fog

Fog is a relative rarity in Columbus.  When it appears on an otherwise clear morning — as it did this morning — it is a treat.

Everyone who, as a child, watched clouds scudding across the summer sky and wondered what it would be like to be in a cloud will inevitably be attracted to a low-lying bank of fog.  Who wouldn’t welcome the chance to disappear into the mist, like a trenchcoat-clad character in ’40s movie who just spoke a killer line?  On a day that promises to be a hot one, it is a joy to be enveloped in the mist, feeling its dampness on your skin and smelling its pleasant, slightly acrid odor.

Of course, clouds can touch the surface only briefly, until the sun rises over the treetops and shoos them away.

A Fan Of Fog

I’ve been to San Francisco quite a bit lately, and one of the things I’ve enjoyed about my visits is the fog.  Typically, it seems to be very foggy in the morning, and then as the day progresses the fog burns off and rolls back.  By afternoon, it is clear over the city, but as you look out past the Golden Gate Bridge you see the fog banks lurking out there, waiting patiently like a living thing, ready to roll back in and blanket the city once more.

We don’t have anything like this in flat, landlocked Columbus.  On the few occasions we do have fog, it usually is a few pathetic wisps that cling to the low-lying areas — nothing like the thick, plush fog banks that you see in San Francisco.

Although I imagine driving in the fog is a pain for San Francisco residents and commuters, I think the fog makes the City by the Bay a more interesting, dreamy, mysterious place.