Where have you been my Frosty Friend?

Where have you been my Frosty Friend?
Sasha

The lobster boat "Sasha" rides out the storm at its mooring in Tenants Harbor (Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani)

The calendar was moving towards mid-January and still winter had not blown great guns during a season it usually holds tight in a grip of frozen mire.

Missing was the shriek of the bitter northeast gale, and the fitful snows that ride fast and furious on its shoulders. Absent too were thick blankets of ice that banish the free-flowing waters of rivers and harbors from sight.

In the back of my snow-starved mind, I even questioned whether “Old Man Winter’s” frosty countenance might simply pass us by. Was it possible? The thought was unthinkable.

For though we can grow weary of winter’s long, hard stay by March, there is still a strange fondness for a season that imposes its will upon us in such an influential manner. A coastal Maine winter simply isn’t – well winter, without healthy doses of Arctic air, gales to spare and of course, snow. Some years, lots of the white stuff too!

But alas, winter lives!

Storm seas

Storm seas flex their muscle along the Maine coast during the January 12th northeaster (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

By no means did this force of the north knock in the doors during its most impressive showing to date on January 12, 2012, but “Old Man Winter,” and his pal “Jack Frost,” did deliver a solid punch over a period of four days that reminded many that Maine’s cold-blue season still has plenty of bite.

The above average temperatures squatting on winter’s turf up until now were finally sent packing by a northeast gale born of brisk air. The storm on the twelfth stirred the seas and filled the skies with dashes of white, dropping a total of two to five inches of snow along the coast before it moved out to sea.

Admittedly the snow totals were modest, but the fact that we actually received a measurable snowfall this winter season was reason enough to celebrate – at least for those who like snow or who earn their living when it piles up.

Marshall Point Light

The icy grip of winter has finally taken hold. Shown is Marshall Point Light (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

On the heels of the gale came the next chilling encounter as Arctic air swept down from Canada. The icy grip of “Jack Frost” took a firm hold of the Maine coast on January 15 and 16, sending the mercury plummeting to near zero and wind chills even lower into the minus teens.

The results were starkly bone-chilling.

The blast of cold air became more daunting to cope with thanks to northwest winds that blew without feeling – or at least a comfortable feeling that is. The sting of these gusty drafts was unforgiving on any and all exposed skin, to the point where even the hardiest of resolves was tested in the face of this relentless force.

For those who go down to the sea, there simply was no place to hide. Air temperatures in the single digits and water temps around forty degrees teamed up to ensure that the mystery of Arctic sea smoke would burn cold for two days.

But what a show it was!

The restless vapor may be in a constant state of dissipation when it manifests itself on the water, yet for brief moments, its movements are as uncontainable as they are riveting. Doused in morning sunlight, the vapor becomes soaked in pinks, oranges and yellows, all of which lends a hand to the sea assuming an unearthly appearance – even fire-like.

Sea smoke

Arctic sea smoke dances atop West Penobscot Bay at sunrise on January 15th (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Such a scene would inspire the imagination to further contemplate the fascinating choreography of this Arctic-borne vapor, if not for the bitterness that envelops the air. Instead, a front row seat by the sea is one that cannot be occupied for long without enduring ever-rising levels of discomfort. The same air that gives life to the sea smoke also wages a war of attrition on one’s ability and determination to ward off its effects.

Still, I for one would have it no other way.

Every ounce of discomfort is well worth the opportunity to admire winter’s dramatic beauty – and to ponder its bitter but regal personality. At least for a couple of months more, may the northeast gale blow strong and the fingers of ice encase both river and ledge – and of course, let it snow, let it snow!

So my frosty friend – better late than never!

Camden Harbor

All is quiet along Camden Harbor - to the point where one could almost "hear' the snow falling (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Rockland Breakwater

Storm seas break hard over the Rockland Breakwater during the height of the gale (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Spindrift

The "Spindrift" from Spruce Head rocks and rolls amidst the agitated seas (Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani)

Mallary Sky

The "Mallary Sky" from Matinicus Island and a nearby skiff hold their ground inside Tenants Harbor (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

West Penobscot Bay

Though fascinating, the frigid scene along West Penobscot Bay was anything but inviting on the morning of January 15th (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Maine State Ferry

The Maine State Ferry heads into the "unknown" enroute to Vinalhaven Island (Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani)

Rockland Breakwater and lighthouse

Arctic sea smoke swirls around the Rockland Breakwater in almost mysterious fashion (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Sea smoke atop the bay

Arctic sea smoke soaked in color at sunrise (Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani)

A fiery scene

In fire-like fashion, the bay burned cold on the morning of January 15th (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Misty Mae

Arctic sea smoke surrounds the "Misty Mae" in Port Clyde Harbor (Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani)

Sea Hag

Ice forms on the hull of the "Sea Hag" at its waterline (Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani)

Gulf of Maine

The Gulf of Maine on the morning of January 15th (Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani)