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Pinniped family and freind kayak camping trip Stonington Maine


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My friend Michal, her daughter Anna and two grandchildren, Adriana age 14 and Julian age 12 and I camped on Steves Island on a three day trip led by Nate Hanson, Pinniped Kayak. Pinniped Sea Kayak Instruction and Adventures is a company which offers many kinds of classes and trips. I have taken the Journeying class in the Jonesport area and the Leadership and Guide Training in Stonington, both of which were wonderful.

Our trip was a private trip inspired by an article in AMC magazine by Michael Daugherty (March/April 2014) about family and friends camping on Steves Island. Old Quarry Ocean Adventures in Stonington was our home base. Stonington offers a great venue for a trip where one is not looking for big waves, big wind and long open water crossings. About sixty three islands are protected by Isle Au Haute from the open water of the Atlantic (within view of Cadillac Mountain on Mt. Desert Island) and many of the islands are close together making for short hops. Stonington is the biggest lobster fishing center in Maine.

In the practice pool at Old Quarry, fish had made round nests and the fish were on guard, much to the delight of our group. Old Quarry is a beautiful camp ground right on the water of Webb Cove. The night before the trip started, Michal, Anna, Ariana and Julian chose a campsite next to the practice pond and were serenated by bull frogs.

Monday, July 13 - sunny skies and 5 knot wind. We met Nate and decided to camp on Steves, a MITA island in the Stonington, ME area – Isle Au Haute archipelago. We left our float plan with Cp. Bill, owner of Old Quarry. Skills which Nate helped us work on included forward stroke, sweep and navigation / dead reckoning . Lunch on Green Island where the quarry pool offered delicious fresh water swimming . Paddle to Steves after lunch. On Steves, hermit crabs met us at our take out.

Steves is a beautiful pink granite island with several tide pools including one huge one. The granite to me looks sculpted into fantastic soft shapes. We all enjoyed investigating the tide pools. While on Steves we watched two eagles on St Helena Island. We watched lobstermen working in their boats right in front of our kitchen on the rocks. Monday dinner was haute cuisine with Quinoa and black olive patties with red pepper sauce on a bed of arugula, grilled chicken and a shivering chocolate desert.

Tuesday, July 14 we awoke to thick fog. Wind again 5 knots. Nate taught us skills for traveling in fog: choosing a route appropriate to fog - short hops, when crossing busy traffic areas using fog horn and Securite VHF calls, avoiding lobster boats. We took a break on Round Island and then headed to Buckle for lunch. The fog cleared. Nate worked with some of us on the following skills: navigation, bearings, self rescue, rolling, stern draw.

On Buckle we met a geocaching kayak group from Old Quarry Ocean Adventures led by Kristi. One of the participants was a local 11 year old who had a young person’s lobster license. He has his own 23 ft. lobster boat and sets 50 traps, selling his lobsters at the wholesaler. He told us about the business end of lobstering: he pays his taxes off the top, has expenses including fuel, bait, traps and periodic renewal of safety equipment. We asked him why lobstermen leave so early in the morning and he told us his father sets 400 traps per day so he needs to leave at 3:00 a. m. and gets back at 5:00 p. m.

After lunch Ariana and Julian decided we should paddle an extra mile to go again to Green and go swimming in the quarry pond. Two harbor seals followed us on the way to Green. A spotted sandpiper skipped from rock to rock in front of us along the shore. On Green, Julian got to dive for his shirt which somehow landed in the pond. Tuesday dinner was again superb - black bean chipotle chile with red onion, avocado and lime. Fresh baked corn bread.

Wednesday, July 15 we awoke to even thicker fog. We bid a sad farewell to Steves and stopped at the ever popular Green. We headed to Russ for lunch. The fog cleared during lunch and as we were paddling toward the Deer Island Thorofare, a cold front came through and the wind suddenly increased to 15 knots. Ariana and Julian put on the power and kept it up all across the Thorofare staying in a side by side formation for a safe crossing. Overhead as we crossed an eagle put on a show.

It was a wonderful trip. Nate offered us all the security of knowing we would be safe and added the dimension of expert instruction for developing our skills at each level of experience. Anna loved being connected to the boat and the boat to the water- being able to slip through the water and feel a part of it. She felt it was not like some other nature experiences in that we were not intrusive with the wildlife, we could observe and be connected with nature rather than being like giants stomping into their habitat. She loved the beautiful coastline and constant change of the water. Julian liked the fact we could customize our trip and decide on different options of places to explore. He liked the fact that Wednesday was not just about getting back, we could again plan adventures. I, for one, was not ready to leave, but I know I will be back.


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What a wonderful trip report Sherry! It sounds great with learning, family/friend fun, great food and beautiful nature. I look forward to hearing more about it in person. Now I'm really excited about the Saddleback trip this coming weekend!


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