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House For Sale: Affordable Oceanfront in Maine

House For Sale: Affordable Oceanfront in Maine
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Can you imagine a county in New England more than twice the size of Rhode Island–with only two traffic lights? Well, the town of Lubec and the small city of Eastport, for instance, where we moseyed around a few months ago, have none.

The only two traffic lights in all of Maine’s Washington County are in Calais, 50 miles north.

So where exactly, you might ask, are Lubec (pronounced loo-BEK) and Eastport anyway? Our short answer would be “way Down East,” meaning even farther east than most of Maine’s “Down East” coast. In other words, head east from Bangor until you hit the Atlantic Ocean, and you’re there. Both communities claim to be the easternmost in the contiguous United States. Eastport’s downtown is actually slightly east of Lubec’s, but then again, some of Lubec’s land is even farther east. So the debate continues. Each claims that the rising sun hits it first.

Our guide in our search for “bargain” oceanfront properties was, of all people, a former dancer with Boston Ballet. Denise Plouffe (pronounced ploof) danced professionally for many years in both Boston and New York. “I can still do a split, by the way,” she told us, laughingly, as we became acquainted out on the deck of the Lubec real estate office she owns with her husband, Al Rummel. (They also have staffed offices in Eastport and Calais.) From there, the view out toward Moose Island, where Eastport is located, was stunning. We could live in Denise and Al’s office.

Of course, one of our first questions was how they ended up in Lubec. Turns out that after Denise’s dance career ended, she taught ballet in Key West, Florida, where Al was selling real estate. One year, simply as a fun vacation, they decided to drive the entire length of U.S. Route 1, from Key West to the top of Maine. They didn’t get quite that far north, however. The beauty of the Lubec area halted their journey. They bought a summer house (which they still own) on Campobello Island, accessible by bridge from Lubec, and several years later, moved permanently to Lubec, where they proceeded to acquire Due East Real Estate as well as a year-round house.

Then, believe it or not, Denise purchased the old Grange Hall in town–considered by some, perhaps, to be the proverbial “white elephant”–so that she’d have a nice open space where she could continue teaching ballet. Which she did–for a while. Today, however, she no longer teaches ballet and, in fact, would part with that old Grange Hall, together with the building next to it, which she also owns, for $149,900. Any takers? As for our planned tour of properties that day, we told her the old Grange Hall didn’t qualify. It wasn’t on the ocean. But the first property Denise showed us qualified in spades.

A former B&B (#1) with six bedrooms and four bathrooms on nearly an entire town block, this big home is right down on the Lubec waterfront. We didn’t go inside–something about the owner feeling ill that day–but we absolutely loved the location. We pictured ourselves on either the first- or third-floor deck, with possibly a glass of wine, watching the seals cavorting in the incoming tide (over 25 feet) flowing between Lubec and Campobello Island. Fabulous views, too, of Canada’s Mulholland Light, as well as various islands extending all the way up to Eastport. Denise said the place “needs a little work,” but no matter. We’d be happy there just as long as one of those two decks held up. Price: $300,000.

Then a short drive along South Lubec Road brought us to a charming little two-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage (#2), with 250 feet of water frontage, overlooking marshland, the Atlantic Ocean, and Campobello. It’s been renovated recently, with lovely pastel walls in every room and a modern kitchen. Best of all, the price, once $260,000, is down to $210,000, which, Denise hinted, might even be negotiated a bit lower.

Our next Lubec stop was a gorgeous piece of “crashing surf” property (#3) –Denise told us that “crashing surf” adds considerable value–just south of West Quoddy Head and overlooking open ocean, with Grand Manan Island on the distant horizon. The price, $295,000, includes 200 feet of “crashing surf” frontage, a well, a new 1,000-gallon concrete septic tank with leach field, on-site electricity, more than three acres, and a good-size 1990s Starcraft RV. What more would you want? Incidentally, without a doubt this is the easternmost property currently for sale in the entire United States.

From there we drove north to Eastport, quite a bit bigger than Lubec and with a deep-water port, to look at a cute gable-roofed house (#4) overlooking Johnson Cove. It sits on five acres, including 600 feet of sandy beach, a rarity in these parts. The first floor is a large open room incorporating kitchen, dining, and living room areas, while a single bedroom is upstairs. There are one and a half baths and a basement, too. The price: $299,000.

Although we’d stipulated that everything we’d see had to be $300,000 or lower, Denise had to show us another Eastport property (#5), with 250 feet of deep saltwater frontage, incredible ocean views, and five acres, within walking distance of downtown. With eight rooms on two levels, this is definitely a year-round home, so we decided this $349,000 property was okay to include. The view from the deck is to die for and takes in, when the tide is coming in, what’s known as “Old Sow,” the largest tidal whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere.

By this time we were thinking lunch. And Denise couldn’t have taken us to a better place than the Eastport Chowder House, housed in a restored sardine-canning building on the waterfront (207-853-4700; Back when Yankee Magazine was born — exactly 75 years ago this year (how ’bout that?) — a can of sardines was in every American lunch bucket, and there were dozens of sardine processing plants in both Eastport and Lubec. But the sardine industry is pretty well kaput today.

So, we asked, how do Lubecers and Eastporters manage to make a living these days? “Fishing, clamming, salmon farming, blueberrying,” she said. “And likely someone around here made the Christmas wreath on your door, too.”

After lunch (the lobster stew was delicious), still in Eastport, we looked at a nine-room house (#6) on a little more than half an acre overlooking (but not on) the harbor. It has an old part and a brand-new part that’s not quite finished. So there are two kitchens as well as two bathrooms, a fireplace, a drilled well, a partial basement, and an expansive deck. Price: $225,000.

Updated Tuesday, December 29th, 2009
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