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I'm paddling to Cushing Island this weekend and would like to launch from South Portland. Any suggestions for a launch site and legal place to park overnight? John
On a sunny Friday, seven of us gathered at the bustling Dolphin Cove Marina in Harpswell to begin our paddle to Jewell Island, where other NSPN and SMSKN paddlers were already converging from Winslow Park and Cousins Island. The skipper of the lone sailboat we encountered called out "isn't it a little cold for that?" as we paddled across calm, 48 degree water toward Eagle Island. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch on Eagle, and admired the view from Admiral Peary's fortress-like house. Landing in a deserted Cocktail Cove on Jewell, we soon found our other pods of kayakers camping along the southwest side of the island and quickly established our camp. And then it was time to eat, and eat, and eat some more. We snacked on guacamole, cheeses, and smoked salmon while pots of lentil soup and lamb curry simmered. Cookies, cakes, and pies emerged from kayak hatches to end the evening's excesses. As the sun sank to the horizon, a lone paddler approached across the dappled water, and another round of food was prepared for Paul's arrival. It was a glorious night to linger by the fire, but eventually we all drifted off to our tents. Rising early on Saturday morning, I wandered over to the Punchbowl to watch the sun try to rise through the low clouds. Fresh deer tracks lead down to the water, and evidence of deer and raccoon was everywhere on the island. The Punchbowl was deserted, save for a few dozen gulls scavenging after low tide. I followed the western shore for a bit, climbing to the site of the 90mm anti-torpedo boat guns that were installed during the second World War. The view from the walk back along the still water of Cocktail Cove to camp was breathtaking. Our pod paddled over to join the SMSKN group for the day's adventures. The group decided to paddle to Little Chebeague, passing the south tips of Cliff and Hope Island on the way. We landed at Little Chebeague to stretch our legs and re-confirm our group plan to circumnavigate Long Island. A new brood of privy warblers will soon be gracing the island. We paddled past the lobster boats on the west side of Long, and gathered together one final time at the south tip, where an intrepid foursome split off from the main group to round Peaks Island while the rest of us headed back toward Jewell. We squeaked through the rocks between Jerry Pt and Overset Island, and then found a sandy beach for our lunch. We continued up the east coast of Long to the Stepping Stones, and then lined up for an orderly crossing of Luckse Sound back to Cliff, and onward to Jewell. The Peaks Island crew made good time and arrived a bit later. A group hiked down to the south tip of Jewell to view the campsites in Smuggler's Cove, and to take in the views from the fire control towers that directed the island's gun batteries. Saturday night featured another campfire, with even more dessert options than the night before. 2AM brought rain and lightning, and we woke to a blanket of fog surrounding the island. Our pod was the last off of the island, and hopped from island to island by compass bearings until the noon sun finally burned through and we were back at our cars. The kind owners of the marina waived our parking and launching fees when we gathered in their restaurant for one final meal together, which was a perfect ending to a thoroughly-enjoyable weekend trip.
A few weeks ago, Warren made an offer to mentor someone interested in kayak camping this season, and I took him up on his most generous offer. We discussed trip planning and gear selection, and I pored over my gear and made sure it was ready for the colder temperatures we'd been experiencing so far this spring. We settled on a one night trip to a private MITA island in mid Casco Bay, and the tides and weather lined up nicely for our trip this past weekend. We launched from Winslow Park in Freeport, alongside a troop of Boy Scouts from Marblehead, who were paddling over to newly-protected Lanes Island to perform a service project. Their camping gear was ferried over on a small power boat, whereas our gear had to be packed away hatch by hatch. Luckily, it all fit. Winds were light, but building to 10 knots out of the south, so we swapped our two daily paddling plans and worked upwind to the southern tip of Whaleboat and then rode downwind toward our destination. We stopped to check out the meadow campsite on Whaleboat, and to admire the rocky shoreline it looks out onto. With the wind at our back, we enjoyed a pleasant paddle along the varied shore. At one point, a bald eagle flew overhead, and a bit later, a mink scampered up from the waterline as we passed. Having paddled 9 nautical miles for the day, we hadn't seen a single boat or person out on the water since launching. But as we approached the group of islands where we intended to camp, we saw two kayaks hauled up the beach and a lone hammock at the treeline. We glided silently past, wondering whether another NSPN group was out enjoying the weekend. With plenty of daylight to spare, our first order of business upon landing was to decide whether a sunny bench-like nook in the rocks would provide enough wind protection to serve as our kitchen. With the sun out and and an osprey circling over a nest on the the adjacent island, we got comfortable and devoted a good 30 minutes to this task, just to make sure. With our limited space to make camp, I was happy to find that my tent lined up with its lowest profile exposed to the prevailing south wind. Even the rocks align themselves to the wind! Right around the corner we found a small cove with a wind-sheltered ledge at the perfect kitchen height, and promptly moved there for appetizers and dinner prep. Warren cooked up an Indian feast, and I opted for chili, Fritos, and guacamole. We watched the osprey come and go, and watched loons, eiders, and gulls go about their routine as the tide fell and rose, and then it was time for us, too, to turn in. Waking to a foggy "sunrise", I explored a bit of our shoreline, and then made the mistake of announcing that I'd be ready for an early departure since I was already partially packed. Not everything goes back in the dry bags as easily or as compactly as it does when packing back home. I quickly learned that although my tent and fly fit nicely into a tapered dry bag back home, I was now combining a perfectly dry tent with a soaking wet fly in a single bag. Oops. At least it was only a one-night trip. I straggled down the beach with the last of my gear and made it into the boat just a few minutes past our "early" departure time. With no wind to worry about until later in the day, we worked our way north, handrailing along the shoreline in the fog, and exchanging hellos with the first and only boat we saw on the trip. A second, immature, bald eagle greeted us from a perch high up above the water as we paddled onward. With visibility around 1/3rd of a mile, and several ~1 mile crossings to get back to the cars, we spent some time plotting our bearings. This was my first time navigating to targets enshrouded in fog, so we did things by the book, plotting courses for the centers of islands, keeping close together with a sharp watch for traffic, and staying well outside the "busy" boat channels. A highlight of the trip for me was watching a little island slowly emerge from the fog in front of us after paddling into the abyss. Warren introduced me to several NSPN landmarks in the area, including Andy's rope swing. I used the fact that it wasn't high tide to avoid any temptation to give it a swing. We passed by the octagonal HOUSE seen on the chart, and made a final foggy crossing back to the ramp at Winslow. Just as we pulled our boats up the ramp, a motley flotilla of kayaking Scouts arrived back out of the fog, and our weekend of solitude on Casco Bay drew to a close. I'd like to thank Warren for introducing me to the joys of kayak camping and for guiding me through the pre-trip planning process. Most of the hard work happened long before we got on the water, and when we finally did, things unfolded smoothly. It was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend on the water, and one I won't soon forget.
...and the telling of the tale... I had signed on with some others (Warren et al) for a winter camping trip for March 23,24. As fate would have it big winds were forecast for launch day and a small craft warning put that prospect to rest. I realized if I were patient I would get my "window of opportunity" if I waited a day and waited for the winds to modify a bit. Sunday turned out to be a beautiful day, I have a picture or two I hope to post showing the set for the trip. I made a kit of a pair of snowshoes and a hikers snow shovel and lashed the kit to the boat. In a moment of inspiration I remembered to also bring the plastic sled I use for hauling wood to the house. Snow is our friend. At the launch I unloaded the kayak put it on the snow and walked it down to the water with a leash. It worked great..next I took out the sled loaded all my gear onto it and slid that also down to the water. I loved it... wish it was always that easy !! Sundays paddle was fine the wind was picking up just as I launched but it was moderate and the seas were friendly for the most part. The water was a bit "jittery" passing Chebeague Point but nothing to traumatic. Crow Island Ever friendly, I could tell winter was rough on it, looked like I had been the 1st in a while, patches of snow but not enough for the snowshoes, which was fine I pitched the tent on a nice grassy spot under the Oak trees. Spent a leisurely day soaking up the sun and staying out of the wind. It's almost a full moon. I love moonlight in the winter. The moon rose just as the sun set fulling the evening with soft moonlight shadows and light. Gorgeous sunset and moonrise, I was a spoiled puppy indeed. Monday morn and I was awake at 4 am procrastinated till 5 am. Up and at it.. I shoved off at 6:30 am. Headed down to Little Chebeague, which I had only seen as a sand bar a few years back. Only made a brief visit saving my time and energy for the rest of the paddle. All and all an excellent outing !!