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8th Annual Downeast Paddle Retreat, Bar Harbor & Mount Desert Island Sept 8-11.


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  The Bar Harbor Paddle Retreat was in its eighth year, and this year we switched our base of operations from the LLangolan Inn to The Rose Eden, a similar but different cottage resort across the street. I was apprehensive about the transition to a new base, but it turned out to work very well; the hosts were mellow about having kayakers and dogs gathering there, and there was a nice picnic area with gazebo nestled behind the front row of cottages, quite suitable for our gatherings, especially in the fine summer-like weather we enjoyed throughout the event. Temperatures were in the 70’s up to 81 deg.F, with mostly clear skies, quite a change from last year when it was a challenge to even find places suitable for everybody to paddle each day.

This year sixteen paddlers attended, plus two spouses and two dogs, further affirming this as a family friendly event: Rose Eden is a dog friendly place, so first- timer Jody came with her three handsome charges: one spouse and two dogs, and happily reported a successful recreational trifecta:  one day bicycling with spouse, one day hiking with dogs and spouse, and one day kayaking with kayakers. 


Mike and Betsy arrived earlier in the week and enjoyed doing vacation stuff along with some paddling.  I arrived a day early and stayed a day longer, and was able to fit some garden touring, trail strolling, and general relaxing into my trip.  We paddled as a group on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with two group gatherings at Rose Eden : a Thursday evening meet & greet, and our traditional Saturday evening potluck, so in all the event was a nice mix of on- and off the water activities.  




On Thursday, folks filtered into town, and we had our meet n’ greet gathering by the gazebo at Rose Eden, where we had pizza and salads and discussed the next day’s plans. This year there was a Harvest moon on Friday along with warm weather and mild conditions, so a moonlight paddle became the primary topic of conversation, and after no alternative plans materialized, the entire group coalesced around a Friday night full moon paddle plan: launch from Southeast Harbor at 4PM for a  paddle to the Cranberries and back, the trip timed to enjoy sunset, moonrise and moonglow from the Cranberries.  

So, we arrived at Northeast Harbor at 3 PM, giving us an hour to get ready for a night venture , and launched at 4 PM. There were 14 of us, way too many to manage as one group,  especially at night, so once on the water we divided into two groups of seven and slithered out of Northeast Harbor, both groups following more or less the same route as we  first crossed to Bear Island and then to the northwestern-ish  end of Sutton Island. 

From there  we followed Sutton’s rocky shoreline, with a bit of rock gardening and gap shooting along the way, and filtered into the little village of Islesford  on Little Cranberry Island, our planned stop-and-regroup-for-moonrise pit stop . Islesford turned out to be a bustling place, with some sort of upscale evening event in the town wharf building , probably scheduled for the harvest moon.  


After a pause, Group A launched again, and ambled over to Great Cranberry and a berm by “ the Pool” to watch the moonrise.  



We in P Pod lingered at Islesford and had some dinner, launched close to sunset and drifted southward past Maypole Point into the big bay looking out towards Baker Island, over which the moon  rose. Fabulolus!  




As the gloaming gave way to evening we meandered dreamily about for a while , enjoying the moon, before migrating over to Great Cranberry for our leisurely  return voyage. By now it was dark, and we crossed back to the middle of Sutton Island, rounded its western end, returning to Northeast harbor via Bear Island, and back into Northeast Harbor a bit after 9PM

Since we paddled into the evening and then scurried  off to bed, we hadn't found time to make a solid plan for the next day, so at the Friday night takeout we hastily put together a plan that involved a later start and considered Fridays conditions ; Hurricane Earl was somewhere out there, sending some long period swell towards the south end of the island, so we fixed on the Bartlett Sound area as a prudent place to paddle, on the opposite side of the island from any conditions that might be a concern to anybody.  

We met at Seal Cove at 11, launched around 11:30, followed the coastline northwards towards Bartlett Sound,  crossed to Bartlett Island near the mouth of the sound,  and funneled into familiar Dogfish cove, a fine spot  for a lunch break. 


The ride had been getting a bit choppy with southwest wind waves meeting the now ebbing tide, suggesting that we might be in for a bit of a slog on the way back , so we divided into two groups for the rest of the trip. Michael, Troad, Yong and Bill, seeking a little more adventure,  crossed over to Hardwood Island and returned to Seal Cove via Moose Island. The rest of us took a protected route back, snaked out of Dogfish cove, crossed the sound behind Folly island,  and followed the shoreline back to Seal Cove, encountering less of a slog than anticipated. By the time we reached Moose Island a bar had emerged connecting it with MDI, so we carried our boats across the bar before finishing off our paddle., and scurried off to prepare for our potluck. 


   I left my paddling gear on and drove straight to Long Pond, and walked right into the water for a quick rinse and refreshing swim, which I shared with some cavorting  family dogs and children.
   Pot luck got underway at the gazebo at 6:30, marked by the usual delicacies , pleasant conversation, and trip planning for the next day. The group would be thinning out the next day with some folks heading home, so we planned a favorite Porcupines outing that had eluded us till now. 

Sunday: Six of us fixed on a plan to tour the Porcupines from 9 AM-ish to 2 PM-ish, so that those leaving could get on the road at a reasonable time. So we set off from Rose Eden a little after 8 AM to get our cars parked in increasingly congested downtown Bar Harbor, and we set off from the Bar just as it was disappearing with the incoming tide, a little before 9 AM, for our nickel tour of the Porcupines.  








6..schooner!JPG.thumb.jpg.e93619257e296b7ef7433470da95d0d5.jpg610605523_7.Sundaykeyhole.thumb.jpg.78cdd084d958e443605c4a6842e7a021.jpgAs things played out,  we made short work of the Porcupines, paddling at a slow but steady pace from Bar to Sheep to Burnt to Long Porcupine,  pausing only to take turns paddling in and out of the “keyhole” on Burnt Porcupine,  before stopping at a now-favorite little beach between Long Porcupine and “The Hop” for an early lunch and much needed bio break.  But at close to high tide our nice tombolo connecting Long Porcupine and the Hop was underwater,  leaving us with little room to loll &  bask in the sun. 


There was a consensus that the day was too far too fair and the paddling far too pleasant to cut short, so we ditched our  earlier plan and extended our tour to Ironbound,  that one-step-beyond cliffy island that Porcupine trips often don’t quite get to. We crossed to the northern end of Ironbound, paddled down the east side, as the spectacular (“Porcupines-on steroids”) cliffs along Ironbound’s southern end rose from the forests .  This approach somehow seemed more breathtaking to me than the couterclockwise approach I’d done in the past. 




We dodged into a little cove near the southern point (yet another Seal Cove on the chart) where we found one of Ironbound's  few  really  comfy landing spots,  and had a nice rest and snack  before rounding the southern tip of Ironbound and heading homeward. 


We crossed to Bald Porcupine Island and filtered  back  into Bar Harbor,  where this this altogether pleasant outing ironically turned into something of  a comedy of errors . We  first had trouble figuring out how to  pass through the Bar Harbor waterfront, which was a beehive of boat activity: cruise ship taxis buzzing back and forth, a large catamaran tour boat galumphing into the town dock, and yet another tour boat doing…. something or other.  After some deliberation we scooted across the main waterfront channel and threaded our way through a maze of moored fishing boats back to the bar, and with the falling tide we then began to run aground approaching our takeout, and found our way to shore with a bit of  difficulty.  
Finally off the waterwe faced  yet another indignity ; Bridge Street, the single narrow road to the Bar,  was severely rutted due to a recent washout, and blocked by a car with Florida plates that was lodged in a deep rut , its unhappy owners  awaiting tow service 😳

so we had to ferry our boats up past the wreckage, just as what seemed like hundreds of tourists began to stream down the road onto the bar to walk to Bar island. A fine day capped off with a real cluster----. 

Those of us not hitting the road returned to Rose Eden, where  John, Jody, Scott, Pat and I patched together a dinner party with take-out from the nearby barbecue joint combined with various fine offerings from John’s kitchenette emporium. 

The next day we  remaining folks didn’t paddle:  some  folks  leisurely checked  out and did various on-land stuff before departing:  Garden tours,  hikes, whatever: I took a stroll to Great Head and Sand Beach, and en route I  thought I saw Jody and Scott’ s car parked at a hiking trailhead and thought “ happy dogs today…”.  

As always, it was great to paddle and hang out with old and new friends, and I enjoyed the spirit , camaraderie and paddling chops  that everyone brought to this event. Naturally, I'm already thinking ahead to next year.

( photographs in this report are mostly from Pat and Janice: thanks!)      










Edited by PeterB
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