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Skip report; go straight to slideshow Not known as a popular paddling route, at least to me, the coastline from Head beach, Phippsburg to Fort Popham looked quite appealing, as shown by the satellite images of Cape Small, with at least seven visible large and small sandy beaches.Word on the street was that Barry was vacationing nearby, and was game for a day trip. As a Massachusetts resident, I fretted that he would be “carded“ at the campground entrance gate, likely without evidence of a previous negative COVID test, and might be fined. Turns out he was only a few miles away, seaside, and would just paddle to meet us in the morning. Cath, Kyle, and I gathered at the beach at 0845, And Barry arrived at 0920.I had kept an eye on the weather forecast, and decided this would be a fine day (light wind, favorable tides, and sunny skies).We paddled leisurely around the Cape, confirming the exquisite large, small, and tiny, pocket beaches along the shore. At length, we straight-lined to tiny Heron island, where Cath, with local knowledge, indicated we could find a beautiful, narrow slot to paddle through. Sure enough, on a second look, a tiny gap opened between the cliffy walls to reveal a slot through to the other side, which we enjoyed immensely, so much so that we would repeat the passage on the way back home. The paddle up to the Fort was non-eventful, if not a little choppy, especially over the sand-bar sections, though nothing more than ?Level 2 abilities. We paddled up to the Fort, hoping to land on the southerly beach, but near-high tide (1257) made that impossible, so we backtracked a few hundred yards and found a spot that was unoccupied by beachgoers; there were not a few on this fine day. As we were enjoying our fine standard repast of Italian sandwiches, Kyle chatted up a Portland friend walking by. Post-lunch, Barry was excused from the group, as he was charged with entertaining/feeding his in-laws, a duty that we all know cannot be buggered with. His wife would drive the <10 minutes to the Fort, where he would be picked up and driven home. Most everyone is familiar with the mighty torrent of the Kennebec, especially on the ebb. Some may find of interest that the timing when the river “turns“ (slack) is far off from posted high (~2h) and low (2h 25m) tides on this particular day. Given that the Kennebec would still be flooding at nearly 2kn at our high-tide departure, we launched, hoping to find a bit of possible eddy current away from the river current upstream. Neither eddy or opposing current did we find, and we meandered back the same route, finding a little more chop with the opposing outgoing tide and mild sea breeze. Once we turned the corner up the New Meadows, conditions quieted down, and we lazily paddled by scattered beachcombers, paddleboarders, and waders, landing on peaceful Head Beach. Wildlife for the day included herons, gulls, terns, grays, bait fish schools, and jumping sturgeon (Kennebec mouth). Link to track HERE Reflections: Pick a day with light winds from the marine point forecast, and launch from either Head Beach ($10/car) or Fort Popham (arrive early, for non-fee parking), depending on tidal flow. Most of us had not paddled this section before, but ALL remarked this had been a grand day out. Pay close attention to the tide and current stations before your trip; this area is notorious for kicking up some challenging waves. COVID is making its own waves, judging by the crowd size at Popham (?reduced), and Head (very sparse) Beaches. The beautiful, but otherwise eerie, Thomas Point Campground that I was staying at had a paucity of camping parties, 15/>100. My, and I use the pronoun accurately, western half of the campground was empty the second night, one other camper night #1.
Skip report; go straight to SLIDESHOW Because I had thoroughly enjoyed my trip around the island many years ago, with all the challenges and uncertainties of a solo trip, I invited Cath and Kyle, who had never done this trip before, to join me. We would use the tides to our advantage on this clockwise circumnavigation of Sebascodegan island in Harpswell, and hope for light winds on the downriver leg. We gathered at 0845 at Bethel point, a convenient public all-tides ramp with $6/car all-day parking at the nearby boatyard. Shockingly militarized sheriff deputies arrived at the launch, looking for a fugitive? No-only enforcing local town ordinances with the newly-arrived clammers. Our start was slightly stalled by confusion of the surrounding land forms, finally resolved by the realization that we were relying on different launch locations on the chart. Later in the day, a so–called “experienced“ navigator found themselves “at sea“ for a similar reason. How can you navigate your surroundings if you don't know where you are? We worked our way southwesterly towards Gun Point, opposing the tide and light breeze, which accounted for the ~2kn speed. Once around the corner, we bee-lined to the Orrs Island bridge, averaging 3kn. Our pace increased further at the far reaches of broad Harpswell Sound. We stopped for a short break on the eastern side of Doughty Point, as recommended, without locating an established landing zone. Post-stretch, we paddled through some riffly water as we entered the midpoint of Long Reach. On to Gurnet Strait, which was pushing very lazily westward, not long before Cundy HT(1341). Unbeknownst to me, Kyle enjoys the reputation of “a man about town“; for the second day in a row he encountered an acquaintance, a family friend, at a dock beyond the bridge. I established my own connection to the stranger, both aware of a family in the Maine town where I grew up, many years ago. Thereafter, and within sight, a scrumptious lunch of you-know-what on the rocky outcroppings of Indian Point, with a delicious panoramic view of islands, coves, rivers, and bays, under blue and bright-sunny skies. Post-repast, a time of reckoning what Mother Nature had in store for us. An outgoing tide with a 10kn southerly breeze materialized, with chop, so we agreed to try to locate any lee on our southbound leg. Not so much through the inner passage of Long Island, more tolerable as we proceeded south. We short-paused at NW Sheep island shore, where an old sailboat and adjacent gangway were nestled, evidently partners in a misadventure that had occurred some time ago. We hugged the shoreline into busy Cundy Harbor, boats unloading their catch of the day, residents gutting a striper, and various repair/construction jobs along and above the shore. Once back into the River, we met the busiest chop of the day, as expected, and we slowpoked to W. Cundy Point, before our last, leisurely ride to NE Yarmouth island, where a fantastical, peaceful, cove was encountered, then back to the launch (17.5M, 8.5h). Before departing, we discussed the next day’s trip (CW Middle Bay from Dolphin Marina; did not materialize on account of an ominous forecast). Link to track HERE Reflections: This is an easy day trip with light winds and tide assist. This route could be extended, and slowed down, camping at one or more of the many MITA islands in the area. The prospect of doing multiple, back-to-back day trips is enticing, especially if staying at a conveniently–located campground (https://www.thomaspointbeach.com)
We had hoped that Day Trip #3 would include a jaunt out to Eastern Egg Rock, to hopefully catch a glimpse of puffins. Mother nature had different plans, and predicted 10 to 15 out of the SW, gusts up to 20. That was more than enough to dissuade Dan and Cath to join us for any trip that day. The contingency plan was to paddle in Muscongus Bay with Joe and Paul, launching from New Harbor. By Wednesday morning, the forecast had diminished slightly to 5-10. Joe had Gaia-plotted a nice route in western Muscongus Bay, of approximately 11 miles. We decided to launch further north, from Round Pond, a 15-minute drive from the campground. Our late lunch at 9:30 allowed me to meet Lund-launching Chris from MITA, who was there with a volunteer who had driven up that day from Marblehead, with plans to take care of business on one or more of the MITA islands. A solo peddler launched at the same time as our trio, and I invited him to join us, but he took off on his own in a southerly direction. We paddled straight across to Louds Island, followed the western shoreline to Hog, and continued in a clockwise direction. We chatted up a woman who is the resident artist at the Audubon camp on northern Hog. This boat nearby is a preferred site of an osprey who prefers lassitude and on-board dining. We then made for Crow, around the corner, where we stopped to stretch our legs. A quick scan of the island turned up ~ 10 tents set up, without clues as to whether this was a large private group, or members of an outfitter trip. Either way, a testament to the popularity of this MITA island, given its central Bay location. We had fun with map and compass, coupled with visual cues, in identifying which of the islands, including Thief, we were seeing. We made our way up the backside of Hog over to Louds, ducking into any lee we could find. Towards the northeastern Cove of Louds, my mind started playing tricks on me. My initial impression was a shipwreck, but I convinced myself of an abandoned house sitting up on a granite pier, surrounded by a white picket fence, dense vegetation overtaking the front yard. As we got closer, this was clearly a wreck of “Columbia" ( http://lcnme.com/currentnews/columbia-aground-off-louds-island/ ). Locals in a motorboat indicated this was the second summer she had been left on the rocks; it has deteriorated significantly from its picture in the newspaper. We enjoyed lunch and leg stretch at a sandy beach and picnic table. By this time, the wind was up to 10 K, and after rounding the southern tip of Louds, we had a nice ride back to the harbor. Joe would leave soon thereafter, needing to get home for an appointment the next day. Paul and I went back to the campground and looked forward to our ferry ride out to Monhegan (Paul was able to get the very last ticket available) from New Harbor the next day, which proved to be spectacular! Gaia link of route and stats: W Muscongus Bay with Joe and Paul Parting thoughts: -Still want to see Puffinland, but my threshold of joining or leading this long voyage (5.2M one-way from New Harbor) would be a forecast of winds 5kt or less/light and variable. -Good to have a contingency plan, and Muscongus has plenty, that allows for a 11+M paddle, and enough time to scoot back to MA. -As always, I thoroughly enjoyed time on the ME coast with wonderful company. Local knowledge: -Round Pond: I don’t recall a Public Landing sign driving north on #32. Take Back Shore Road off of #32 (1st right after white church on left, N-bound), right at the Vee, then next right on to Town Landing Road. Parking is at a premium, so quickly unload boats/gear and drive far back up the road, park to the side. This frees up waterfront spaces for the locals. -New Harbor: Got a peek of the presumed public launch (Delorme) from the road at dead low-mostly concrete ramp and a possible short muddy section, but plenty of parking on this mid-week day. Refer to Google maps and locate the ramp at the southern tip of the harbor. -Sherwood Forest campsite: Reasonable rates, wi-fi, $0.25/5min showers, 5 min walk to Pemaquid Beach, potable tap water Sherwood Forest Campsite