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Third Annual Sebascodegan Camping Trip By The Dynamic Duo


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Although Warren often invites other people to go, something always comes up and he and I end up being the only two to go. This past weekend officially made it the third year in a row that we paddled the Sebascodegan area (even went twice last year), and this year proved that Mother Nature really likes to test us and then reward us for our efforts. Each time we head out, we start with one or more of high winds, rain, fog, or rough water, only to finish with gorgeous weather. This weekend was no different.

Friday morning began with some rain that ended as soon as we were done packing the boats (couldn't stop a little sooner, huh?), but remained cloudy the rest of the day and windy too! Making the start of the clockwise circumnavigation around Sebascodegan Island would be a slog heading directly into the 10-15 knots winds out of the north.


We rode the latter half of the flood tide up to our lunch spot (MITA location) which would be just after slack. The trek up to this point had been a workout, and we enjoyed the lee on the island during lunch for 45 minutes, finally pushing ourselves back onto the water and into the boats. We knew from prior experience that the s-curve around Doughty Point and into Long Reach would present a challenge, however, this day did not offer rapids but only presented a strong current flow for us to easily navigate. Once into Long Reach, we had no trouble paddling against the current, and even got to enjoy seeing a grey seal pup in two separate locations!

On the way the launch that morning, we each noticed that the water under the bridge at the northern tip of Sebascodegan Island was flowing opposite of what we would have thought - it was flowing West on the flood into Long Reach even though Long Reach floods north towards the bridge. All that I can figure out is that the water goes into Doughty and Buttermilk Coves. We determined that, although we would be paddling against the ebb to get there after lunch, we would enjoying the current with us under the bridge rather than against us. Oh boy, did we ever enjoy the current! The bulk of the flow was on the southern side of the opening, and once through we were riding a substantial tide race with rapids, whirlpools, and generally messy water, stretching all the way past Lower Coombs Island. Once again we had been surprised by unexpected conditions in this area!

As we eased out of the tide race and approached the southern end of Bombazine, we prepared ourselves for another wind-on-beam crossing of this area, only this time from the north instead of the south. We could see the half-mile long crossing filled with white caps, and set an appropriate ferry angle to compensate. Oh, did I forget to mention that we were both having skeg issues that day? Our boat control skills were about to be put to the test, except that, once we got out there, there was almost no wind! It was kind of creepy paddling across this white-capped wind chop with no wind to justify it. We ended up correcting our heading to undo our wind compensation, and figured Mother Nature was really toying with us.

We made it to our island and found my favorite island to be just the way we left it last year, including "Rob's Rock" which you can see just behind Warren.


It is called "Rob's Rock" since, when we first paddled here a couple of years ago, that tall, pointy rock looked like this:


That sharp, pointy tip hides just below the surface, waiting for a fully loaded kayak to ride right over it. That put a 2' long gouge in my boat all the way through the gel coat to the fiberglass.

We began camp setup with a tutorial from Warren on setting up his two-person tent, which he was gracious enough to let me try out, followed by the setup of his new one-person tent which I would be in the following night. After the tents were set up and the tarp was up over the kitchen area, it was getting dark during dinner prep, which was a slight challenge, but a beautiful sight.


The next day we packed camp and decided to explore a new area and headed up one of the nearby coves. It was extremely calm and quiet (Mother Natures reward for the previous day), with some lovely spots tucked away:


Once we arrived at our second island, we were able to set up camp much more efficiently and actually have dinner before dark. The camp site was quite small, and I ended up having to stick the one-person tent into quite a small spot. If we didn't have the one-person tent with us, it would have meant sleeping on a bunch of roots or on a bit of a slope. (sorry, forgot to get pictures of this camp site!)

Sunday proved to be yet another quiet and beautiful day. Our take-out spot was not far away, so we took another tour of areas we have not previously visited before landing an hour ahead of schedule. Although we have been to this area many times (Warren more than me), we find that it always offers something unique each time we come. I am already looking forward to our fourth annual trip next year.

Edited by Bearded Recluse
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.....paddling across this white-capped wind chop with no wind to justify it.

Rob, how did you reconcile this? Was this the effect of the flood N from Harpswell Sound meeting flood W from New Meadows? This is an area where local knowledge comes in handy. One of the reasons I chose to CW the island on my solo, despite going against the tide (most of the way), was to be going with the current through Gurnett Strait. At the time this coincided with near slack ebb, and easterly flow under the bridge. I presume this was due to the volume of water in Long Reach out-muscling, and perhaps being siphoned by the combined tidal ebb and natural river flow of the New Meadows? Pure conjecture, as I don't have the physics knowledge to explain scientifically.

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Gary, we did not reconcile this, and it still has me baffled. The white caps extended up the New Meadows River from where it meets the Gurnett Strait, too far to be part of the tide race. Also, they were definitely wind driven waves, not current formed. The only possibilities that I could come up with is that there was either an immediate reduction in the wind as soon as we got to that point, or that the wind was only 2" off the water surface, so we couldn't feel it. Yeah, sure, that's it!

How did you know ahead of time that the ebb flowed east through Gurnet Strait - did you look going over the bridge? I am not sure I understand why the current flows at the bridge, but it definitely flows east on the ebb and west on the flood. There is a deep pool on the west side of the bridge (90' deep with 1/2' on the northern edge) that may or may not have an effect. I would have thought that the current coming down the Middle Ground of New Meadows River, combined with the emptying of Woodward Cove, would have been enough to overcome both Doughty Cove and Buttermilk Cove on west side of the bridge. It must be that the constriction at the top of Long Reach creates enough back pressure for the two Coves to overcome all the other water on the east side. It still does not make sense to me how MUCH water was going through there though.

I think my next trip to this area may concentrate on studying this spot more. I find it fascinating!

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Rob, great report and yes we most definitely need to make this an annual event. Seems like each year we get a little better at this or maybe we have learned to accept our approach to camping as an evolving piece of work.

Next year, during the summer months, I would very much enjoy taking a couple paddlers who are new to kayak camping on this trip as a two night, two island nomadic tribe experience. I think they would enjoy this area as much as we do.

Gary, as you know, your solo trip report was the basis for my desire to explore this area several years ago. At the time I completely missed the subtlety of your plan as it applied to Gurnett Strait. I now understand how the bodies of water to the east appear to be literally pulling the water under the bridge during the ebb tide. It all makes sense now that I looked at a larger chart of those waters which included the New Meadows River to the north. I guess it took me three years to figure it out. (Well, I think I may have figured it out.) Like Rob, I would like to spend more time next year studying this area.


Edited by Warren
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Warren, I had never thought about the ebbing waters to the east "pulling" the western waters, or more accurately working as an overfall - brilliant!! Now, why didn't I think of that? Oh, so much to learn!!

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How did you know ahead of time that the ebb flowed east through Gurnet Strait

Add this link to your kayak folder's favorites: http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/nsd/coastpilot_w.php?book=1 (Coast Pilot)

p. 273:



The tidal current through Gurnet Strait is very

strong at strength–estimated at 7 to 8 knots at times–and

boats go through only at slack water. The ebb current

runs eastward. Low-water slack occurs a little before low

water at Portland.


At the strength of the current, there is a difference of

elevation of probably 3 feet in the level of the water on

either side of the bridge. The flood currents meet in the

reach between Prince Gurnet and Gurnet Strait.

A few paragraphs preceding this entry:

There is a thorofare from the north end of Harpswell

Sound through Ewin Narrows, Prince Gurnet, Long

Reach, and Gurnet Strait to New Meadows River. It is

occasionally used by local boats. The channel is narrow,

has a depth of about 6 feet, and has many dangers; the

tidal currents are strong, and the thorofare should not be

used by strangers.

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Great reference! Thank you!

We know that area has no current stations, but it has two tide stations. One at Howard Point and one at Cundy Harbor. I suspect you used the data from each to arrive at your estimate of when to encounter slack. Especially if you were seeking slack before ebb.


Edited by Warren
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Great reference! Thank you!

I suspect you used the data ..... to arrive at your estimate of when to encounter slack. Especially if you were seeking slack before ebb.


Not understanding the ways of the Western Rivers at the time of my trip, I wanted to encounter a manageable flow under the bridge @ Gurnet Strait. The tide situation for that day was such that I would be paddling against the ebb either way from Bethel Point. I guessed that I might have an easier time CW v. CCW, considering both the ebb currents (greater down the New Meadows?) and the run under the bridge. Of course everyone knows that CCW trips are generally easier, but there you have it. I timed my passing under the bridge to coincide with an hour or so from posted LT at Cundy; I didn't want any part of a potential stranding in the flats south of Bombazine (obviously not a significant detour around Bomb., if needed). As it was I had only a few inches of clearance before stopping @ Indian Point for lunch. Being a STRANGER to this region, I was happy to have the 2-3k passage v. 5 or > at peak. I suspect slack under the bridge would occur some time after posted LT at Cundy, similar to what I have witnessed when paddling other Western Rivers. Yet the Coast Pilot reads "Low-water slack occurs a little before low water at Portland."??????

Edited by gyork
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Thanks Judy. First, we put in at Bethel Point, which is listed in the MITA book. The woman who owns the property has a boat yard just up the road from the ramp (maybe 100 yards?) and offers a port-a-potty and overnight parking for a reasonable fee. I forgot to mention that she is a VERY gracious host and has been really nice to Warren and I, often worrying about us when we go out on these "interesting" camping trips. Last year she asked us to help her reunite a lost PFD with it's paddler who had forgotten it at the ramp, which we successfully did. She is really a nice person!!

As for the islands themselves, we all know that MITA prefers that we not name the private islands along the trail. However, our first stop was at Merritt Island, which is owned by Bowdoin College, and listed on their public website. Camp sites are on the northern end, and the southern end of the island is private for the College. Beware of the low tide land bridge on the northeast side near the landing area, especially the west side of the bridge which is where Rob's Rock is, so best to stay in the middle. This island is located northeast of Sebascodegan, across the river. The second island is private, so I will not name it, but instead say that it is located southwest of Belhel Point, and you can find it on page 84 of the 2014 MITA book.

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