Sunday, August 14, 2011

Stonington, ME

It was August already and I still hadn’t been kayak camping this year. We often pop up to Casco Bay but that did not seem remote enough. Muscongas is beautiful but it is the location of my last Maine Island trip. It was just Keri and I so I thought the familiarity of Deer Island would be a good thing. But I did not want to repeat the previous trip to Stonington. We chose to launch from Naskeag Point and see where the paddling would get us.

We left on a Wednesday. It was a rainy day but the forecast was favorable for the rest of the week. We had prepared very little and spent the morning packing. It was around lunchtime when we left, stopping for Lebanese food in Methuen, Kittery trading post for Wag Bags, a lobster roll in Wiskasett, then iced coffee and some more bread for lunches on the water. We rolled into Bucksport around 7 pm and checked into an inexpensive hotel. Our plan was an early launch on Thursday morning.

It was a bit gray on the ride to Brooklin. At the launch it was foggy. We could see the first island less than ¼ mile away. We couldn’t see the second at ½ mile. I packed the boats in a whirlwind. Keri felt a bit helpless just watching me. We need to practice this a bit but I wanted to get her boat balanced as best I could to help with the handling and stability. And I was a bit nervous about the fog…

I had map, compass, GPS, and limited visibility. We had all day to find a spot and could camp on two Islands within a ½ mile of the launch so there was no rush or urgency to push into danger. But I did want to go further than a mile. We chose to paddle from visible island to visible island and take it one island at a time. The ¾ mile crossing was the most sketchy. We waited till the fog thinned a little and went for it. We did this hopping six times. We settled in on the Lazyguts Thrumcaps. It is a new Island on the Maine Island Trail and was absolutely beautiful. It had only one tent sight set in the woods on deep, soft, (and dry), peat soil. There was very little landing opportunity on the granite at high tide but as the tide dropped a gently sloped beach made mostly of barnacle shells revealed itself.

Lazyguts Thrumcaps Islands

The fog never quite went away all day Thursday. We settled into our island exploring the amenities and harvesting our first snack of Mussels. (We had checked for shellfish closures before we left the mainland.) During the night it “rained” fog on our tent. The spruce trees were wringing the moisture out of the fog. I could not believe it wasn’t rain. I actually went out on the rocks just to prove it to myself.

Afternoon Snack

Friday morning was sunny and calm. A seal pup explored the rocks near our tent. He would expose his cute little tail flippers before diving. We loaded lunch and drinks into the kayaks and headed over to the islands in front of Stonington. We saw some seals and some beautiful islands. Coming back we made a few long crossings. None quite as far or as treacherous as the Johnstone Strait crossing we are preparing for. But good practice none the less. Back on our Island we snacked on meat we brought back from Spain, 5 year old Gouda, and some more mussels!

Looking North to Stonington

The moon was nearly full and we were treated to a sun set and a moon rise that opposed each other and lined up perfectly with the gap between our islands. As the sun set we saw a head pop up just off the island and heard a squeak. I had never heard a seal make that sound before. Minutes later we heard more squeaking and saw a pair of otters frolicking on the rock weed near the water. I tried to take a picture but brown otters on brown sea weed in low light results in a “you have to just believe me that those are otters” photo!

Sunset looking one way...

Full Moon looking the other!

On Saturday we choose to head inland a bit and we did a circumnavigation of Stinson Neck. This included a portage over the causeway to avoid backtracking. We poked into Western Cove hoping to buy a few lobsters. There was only one boat with crew aboard and he was just cleaning up the boat. As it turns out there is no “pot pulling” on Sunday. Sunday starts officially at 4pm on Saturday. We would not appreciate until the next morning the quiet of not having all the lobster boats out. As usual, we snacked on meat, cheese, and mussels.

East to Mount Desert Island

Sunday was overcast as we packed up our boats. I took the time to explain to Keri my logic with loading the boats. The new roll up crazy creek chairs we got at REI pack perfectly along the skeg box. With 5 less gallons of water and some empty food bags the loading went very easy. I still choose to pack the sleeping bags in dry bags in front of my feet in the cockpit. I’ve got a new dry bag compression sack which worked perfectly from the fitting point of view. One of these days I’m going to flip over and find out just how waterproof the dry bags really are.

While packing the fog was slowly rolling in. When it came time to launch we could not see the Island 0.2 miles away. I set a heading that I thought would skim the island and head toward Stinson Neck. On the water our boats were twisted around by the currents. We were a bit lackadaisical about holding a compass heading and finally saw land. We approached and checked the GPS. We found we had made a big arc and were on the opposite side of the island we were headed to. With new appreciation I picked a new heading and held our course tightly. We arrived at our second waypoint with much less trouble. The visibility was still poor so we hugged the shore. I was preparing Keri for what was going to be a blind crossing. Holding a course with both wind and tide skewing us inshore we were sure to reach our destination shoreline. But if we didn’t hit any of the islands along the way it was going to be two miles. Again, I had the GPS but I always consider it the back up. If I’m not comfortable with map and compass I’m not going.

Fog when we started... Fog again as we left.

Fortunately, as we headed inland we popped out of the fog. Our path was to be right along the interface between fog and clear air. We started across and as we did the fog receded even more. All was to be uneventful.

It was a very relaxing 4 days in the Jericho bay area of Maine. The Maine Island trail is an incredible resource. If you’ve ever been frustrated by lack of shore access you might consider becoming a member. They are a model that other water trail activities are emulating. And as much as I’d like to keep it personnel secret, the more people who help who use it responsibly and preserve it the better.

August 11, 12, 13, 14, generally light winds increasing out of the SW into the afternoon. Air 60-70+, water 55 degrees.