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Muscongus Bay 6/15-6/18

Joseph Berkovitz

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Kyle Martin organized a truly lovely trip to the spectacular Gay Island Lodge this past weekend, which I was fortunate enough to be part of along with 10 others.

A collection of photos from the group can be viewed in this Google Photos album.

Day 1: Friday June 15

We took off from Maine Sport Outfitters' dedicated parking spot near Bradford Point in Friendship, ME. (The lodge is owned by the same folks who run Maine Sport Outfitters, for whom Kyle guides.) There were a couple of pods leaving at 9 am and 2 pm for the short, 1.5 mile trip to the lodge. Both pods benefited from the lodge host Rosie's generous offer to ferry heavy and perishable goods (food + beverages galore) by motor launch. Arriving on the beach at Gay Island after a short, peaceful paddle, we were surprised by the opulent surroundings that awaited us:


Not your average wilderness lodge, this! Besides a singularly blessed location, it has solar electrical and propane-powered hot water and refrigeration. (MSO typically rents it out as a more--than-comfortable vacation or function retreat.)

Gay Island lies in between the central and eastern island chains of Muscongus, and it's only a short distance from the tip of the Friendship peninsula between the Meduncook and Medomak Rivers, sandwiched in between Morse and Caldwell Islands. The location is reasonably protected, but it is only a short paddle away from more exposed and open reaches of water.  The tide cycle was such that we would generally have LT in the morning and afternoon, HT around midday.

The earlier of the two pods, which I was in, felt like getting out on the water in short order as the weather was great, around 65 F with a strengthening SSW breeze. We opted for a route around the unambiguously named Friendship Long Island (a naming convention that could help the dozen other Long Islands in Maine):


(Full details at https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/track/6800ba2634af3d160f037b04b7f527fd/?layer=gaianoaarnc)

The crossings to Morse and the E side of Friendship Long Island (FLI)  were lively with the breeze fighting the growing ebb, both of which were picking up as the day progressed. We caught a few good rides before settling in for a peaceful, protected leg up around the northern tip of FLI.  We knew there would be a fight with the wind ahead, and wondered if we'd be hitting the same kind of rollers we'd been surfing a moment ago. Rounding the NW point of the island, the wind did hit us, but the water conditions were very manageable and we hugged the coast, ducking into every cove to harvest little bits of lee, such as they were. The afternoon sun reflected brilliantly off the choppy water.  The island lived up to its "Long" name -- it took us about an hour to cover the 2.5 miles to the SW point! After getting around the point, we rested at MCHT's Ned's Point Preserve which has a very kayak-friendly beach just inside the channel with Cranberry. A super fun downwind run awaited us when we left, flying back to Gay Island to meet the other pod who had just arrived from Friendship. A classic NSPN hangout, happy hour and dinner ensued.

That night, I set my alarm for 1 am to check on the boats. A spring high tide was going to occur, and none of us were 100% sure how far up the beach it would come. Gary had built a sort of log rack for the boats out of some drift wood and rigged a line to which they were all tied, a nice feat of informal engineering.  As I walked down to the beach after midnight, I could hear the boats banging into each other; it didn't sound good. When I got there, all boats were secure and accounted for, but they were all floating and bobbing on the waves near the rocks; some of the log "rack" had floated away into the water. Cath woke up too and together we rearranged the boats so that they were at least isolated from each other enough not to bang around any more. I stayed up watching the night sky for a while longer, as the water level receded.

Day 2: Saturday June 16

This day's weather seemed a lot like the previous one, but with slightly less wind at the start. A number of us were interested in getting out to Eastern Egg Rock, but at this point Sunday's forecast looked like the better choice with a wind expected to shift to the E and also drop. We opted instead for a trip down the eastern Muscongus island chain (which eventually culminates in Monhegan), out to Allen and perhaps Burnt. There would be lots of opportunity here to dial in whatever degree of protection we might want. Here was our track:


That's right -- we did not make it to Allen or Burnt. We took the outside of the eastern Muscongus island chain down from Caldwell, and decided to stop at Griffin Island for lunch.  OR NOT -- the spring tide covered up the perfect little causeway-like beach that connects the two sides of Griffin! We stopped at a rather more exposed beach on a nearby island instead, with a nice view up the St Georges River to the Camden Hills (not shown here, obviously):


After a bite and a rest, the group felt more like extending the trip inwards towards Port Clyde instead of outwards to Burnt, so we paddled back into port and had some ice cream before snaking back past Hupper and Blubber Islands to Gay through a narrow, shallow gut that separates it from the mainland at high tide. It was not a very adventurous day in the end, but it was a really lovely one.

Note: Gary opted to do a solo ride-the-tide-in-and-out trip this day, on the St Georges River. You can find his track here.

Day 3: Sunday June 17

Ah, Eastern Egg was not to be. The wind had shifted, but it was no longer expected to drop.  The concensus was to save the Egg for another day when we would not have to potentially paddle our way back against the wind, and instead paddle east past Port Clyde to Mosquito Harbor, perhaps Mosquito Island, hopefully reaching MCHT's High Island Preserve for a great lunch spot. The route would take us back and forth in front of the exposed cliffs and ledges of Harts Neck south of Tenants Harbor, perhaps the spot where we could reasonably expect some nastiness from conditions as they built during the day.

Our route:


This turned out to be the long paddle of the trip, clocking in at around 18.5 nm.

After repeating the previous day's crossing to Caldwell, we proceeded south of Hupper to the beautiful Marshall Point Light made famous in the movie Forrest Gump:


Then onwards to High Island. The east wind started to get in our face as we rounded Marshall Point, and we deferred the idea of going outside Mosquito for the time being. It looked choppy out there although it was hard to see.  Instead we stayed near Mosquito Harbor and went around Mosquito Head (gosh... so many Mosquitoes!). At that point, we thought things would probably get pretty rough. Surprise! They did not. We breezed up to High Island for a beautiful sojourn, admiring the inviting campsite that MCHT had created there. The wind definitely began intensifying while we hung out on the rocks as the tide reached its maximum:


The trip back past the exposed cliffs of Hart Neck provided more of an adventure and an object lesson in how quickly things can change on this coast. What had been light 0.5-foot chop on our way in, was now 2- or 3- foot rollers hitting us in a beam sea, with both wind and tide encouraging us towards the rocks. Not dangerous, but certainly demanding of our absolute attention to get through safely. It was a relief to get behind Mosquito Head and relax again! As our reward, we got a push from wind and tide, cruising through Mosquito Harbor at almost 4.5 knots with little effort. We stopped in Deep Cove on the way back, where there's a 150-foot hole where porpoises are known to gather to feed. We didn't see any porpoises, but it was a popular local fishing spot. Back to the lodge for our final night together.

Day 4: Monday 6/18

With the weather uncertain and T-storms in the forecast, the concensus was not to fit in another paddle today,  It was time to clean the lodge, pack our things, paddle to Friendship and say goodbye. Another weekend well spent with NSPN friends, some old and some new. Thank you everyone for such a great time!


Edited by Joseph Berkovitz
reflect Kyle's role as trip organizer
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9 hours ago, Joseph Berkovitz said:

Kyle Martin and Gary York organized a truly lovely trip.......

No.  All credit is due Kyle, who had the brainchild and organizational skill to pull off THE BEST NSPN TRIP EVER 

...none of us were 100% sure how far up the beach it would come. Gary had built a sort of makeshift log rack for the boats........

Despite his (undocumented) partial (obviously not civil) engineering background, never ever trust your boat overnight to this paddler who has actually LOST his boat!  Thanks Joe for doing sentry duty!


Edited by gyork
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"Despite his (undocumented) partial (obviously not civil) engineering background, never ever trust your boat overnight to this paddler who has actually LOST his boat!"


There is something  Burmuda Triangle like about Muscongus Bay.  Sail boats have been know to get lost while at anchor when they float off their anchor at high spring tides and wander off till the anchor catches again.  I was on Black once and there was a huge, I mean huge, tree trunk washed up above the highest tide "ring" on the beach.  Next morning, it was gone.

Gary, did you recover your kayak or was it an opportunity to get a nice new one?

Hope this link will work, but speaking of kayaking in Muscongus Bay last weekend, check this exchange on the SMSKN Meetup site about a trip to Monhegan.



Ed Lawson

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Ed, I think the link you wanted may have been: https://www.meetup.com/Southern-Maine-Sea-Kayaking-Network/discussions/5223389642096640/chat/

That day Tom M. went out to Monhegan definitely got a bit windy from the SW which then began to stir some waves up against the ebb, at least in the neighborhood of Allen (where we were lunching). I would not have wanted to go out to Monhegan in any boat at all on Saturday let alone a sit-on-top, let alone solo... but as you said to him, conditions could have been a lot worse.

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"conditions could have been a lot worse. "

Yes, and they were bad enough that it seemed it was an epic.. Some folks like epics.  I am more into grand adventures done uneventfully.

People are out there all the time doing things which most of us would shutter at and they get away with it.  However, if they keep doing them, the sea will seek them out and find them.

"The sea only awaits the innocent, but it stalks the ignorant and unprepared."

Ed Lawson


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