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Saddleback Paddling Retreat : Stonington , ME July 24-27


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Ten of us had a great four-day Downeast kayak gathering, our activities based from the Maine Coast Heritage Trust cabin on Saddleback Island in the Stonington archipelago.

Over the preceding weeks, a group of ten came together, and after sharing emails covering various travel, food, money and paddling details , we fixed on a plan of nine of us paddling to Saddleback from Old Quarry Ocean Adventures near Stonington , and one paddling from Naskeag to the north, some of us crashing in the cottage, some tenting on the cabin grounds.
So, on Friday afternoon nine of us converged on Old Quarry Ocean Adventures Campground , a kayak-friendly campus that has been a great resource the kayak community for a long time. We checked in and filed a float plan at the office, loaded our boats down on the sloped granite plaza that forms Old Quarry’s kayak launch ramp, stowed our cars in the campground parking area , and around 3 PM , we set off from Webb Cove for our 2.5 mile paddle to Saddleback Island, which lies on the eastern fringes of the Stonington archipelago .


There were threatening purple clouds to the north and west, so we took a route that would keep us close to islands (an easy thing to do in this maze of islands) , as we may have needed to get off the water in a hurry. Our little trip served as an preview for the weekend ahead, as we paddled between numerous islands, with glimpses off towards Mount Desert Island to the east and Isle au Haut to the south. Despite the purple menace to our north, we arrived at Saddleback without incident , other than a runaway Pintail. Jonathan’s boat was loaded with a dromedary of water in the front hatch , and the rope skeg wouldn’t deploy ; This , combined with it being a Pintail, made the boat go completely daffy in the wind (Pintail owners will understand) and for a while needing a tow for directional control.

As we approached Saddleback Island , we saw Gary, who had arrived the night before , beckoning us from shore with a waving flag. We funneled towards our human beacon , and unloaded for several days of island living, some of us flopping on bunkbeds in the cottage and others setting up tents on the cottage grounds.

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Soon enough we were all lounging about in cottage comfort, dining on Janice’s rice and chickpea curry and Gary’s home made many- bean salad.

With a group of ten paddlers of varying aspirations, we made plans to paddle in two groups the next day: a Farther–And-Faster group of three, and a Not-So-Far-And-Not–So-Fast group of seven .
The Farther-Fasters fixed on an Isle au Haut circumnav. And the Not-So-Fars on a tour of Marshall Island to the southeast.


The Isle au Haut circumnav. required an early start , so Farther-Fasters Paul ,Gary and Dave set off at 8 am on Saturday morning . Their trip went without a hitch, paddling with the ebb down Isle au Haut’s eastern side , rounding the southeastern corner and traveling up the eastern side, catching a bit of the flood, in the lee of the afternoon’s east winds, crossing Merchants row and returning to Saddleback via McGlathery Island.

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We Not-So-Fars set off at 9AM, passed aptly named Enchanted island, turned the corner and promptly set off on a 2.5 NM crossing of lower Jericho Bay to Marshall Island . After a plodding journey across the ebb and with a front quarter 5kt. wind much of the way, we landed on Marshall's northern end for elevensies and a quick look-see, then made our way around Long Point , down Marshall’s eastern shore, around to the idyllic beach in Sandy Cove on the southern end of the island, where we landed for our official lunch and, of course, a nap. We set off again off at 2PM. The day so far had been a bit gloomy and raw, but once we rounded Lower Head for our journey home, the reflecting seas against the eastern shore were behind us, the day turned sunny , and with a fair wind and tide, our return trip to Saddleback had a buoyant mood. We paddled right across lower Jericho Bay, 1 mile to Saddleback Ledge, another mile to Southern Mark Island , then turning north for the final mile back to Saddleback.

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The next day we kept the same groups and did the nickel tour of the Stonington islands.


We launched under cloudy skies which threatened rain but never quite delivered, paddled between McGlathery and Pound Islands , then crossed Mechants row to inspect Harbor Island.

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Crossing Merchant Row back to the islands, we chatted up Paul ,Gary and Dave by vhf , and met up with them at Green Island and toured the quarry there,.

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Janice and Carolyn had to depart, so three of of us paddled back to Old Quarry with them, while the other five toured Stonington and Hells Half Acre on their way back to Saddleback . At Old Quarry , we SWAT -teamed Janice and Carolyn's boats and gear onto their cars and said our goodbyes, Yong and I made a quick dash into town for some essential provisions (summer ale and Glenlivet) and we returned to Saddleback in the fog, meeting up with Gary, Dave and Mike by Burnt Island and we six returned to Saddleback for Jane's long -awaited chili and Pauls grilled pizza quesadillas.


On Monday morning we roused, cleaned up the cottage loaded our boats and set off in the fog for Old Quarry and the trip home. We parted ways with Gary who headed north to Naskeag. Gary’s was a longer trip, 5,5 nm made longer by point to point nav. in the fog (we later confirmed by text that Gary that arrived after a “slog in the fog”,) The rest of us nav’d our way back to.Old Quarry via Millet, Devil and Burnt islands, arrived at our granite take- out around noon, loaded up, some showered at Old Quarry, and we dispersed for home.

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Thanks all for a great weekend. Everyone enjoyed the teamwork and comaraderie, it was great to share food, planning, navigaton, and paddling with each other . It was a unique experience to paddle and share camp comfort amidst this world class kayak destination I’m already thinking about next year.

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First, thanks to Pru for inveigling me to join this trip, and to Peter for originating it. Thanks to all for the good company.

A few more photos: a sea urchin floating on calm water, two little hermit crabs noshing on one hapless fish, and quite a lot of cormorants nesting on Southern Mark Island.




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This was a great trip, thanks Peter for making it happen, and to all who participated.

Thanks also to Paul & Gary - took home some new nav and paddling skills.

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Thanks Peter for organizing and helping me solve the whether-cock problem. Thanks MIke for helping me secure the loaded boat. Thanks all for sharing your stories, knowledge, food, and beer. It was a great trip and I am looking forward to the next one!

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Thanks Peter for organizing this wonderful trip. It was my first time in Stonington and the area is so beautiful with the different rock formations. I also really enjoyed paddling and camping with new and old friends. I'm on for next year! Lots of islands to explore!

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