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NSPN Second Annual Bar Harbor Retreat September 11-14, 2015


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NSPN Second Annual Bar Harbor Retreat

September 11-14, 2015

(Note to the reader, if you don't already know...You can click on any photo to see if full screen if you like...)

Nineteen of us arrived, in dribs and drabs, at Retreat Central, the Llangolan Inn and Cottages, outside of Bar Harbor, with most of the arrivals on Thursday afternoon. There was a contingent (Peter, Beth, Sherry S, Dave, John and Jill) that arrived either jacked up or exhausted or both from what sounded like an exhilarating and challenging day with Nate Hansen at Sullivan Falls.

We started the festivities with an outdoor potluck, with additional attendees including Mikes lovely wife, Betsy, and drop-ins Josko, Melissa and Kevin the latter three intending to do a circumnav of Mount Desert starting early the next morning.

Day One (Friday) Seal Cove to Bartlett Island

The Weather Gods decided to get things off on a lively note, with torrential (some forecast biblical) rains and strong winds from the north predicted for Friday. We decided that a launch from Seal Cove on the Quiet Side of MDI which would also be the quieter side in the weather department if the forecast held would make the most sense, with an intended destination of Bartlett Island. The latter is one of many properties on MDI owned by David Rockefeller (combined property value of $37 million according to one article I read), who generously allows visitors to land on its shores.

We convoyed to the lovely all-tide launch in fog and drizzle and prepared to paddle.

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It started to rain pretty much the instant we were all afloat.

Peter in the rain


and Shari


and Cathy


and a small flotilla in the rain


And then it rained moreenough so that more than one of us wished for goggles with windshield wipers as without them, it was pretty much eyeballs blinded by rain.

We were initially seduced into thinking that the wind wouldnt be much of an issue. We were disabused of this notion when, heading north out of the cove, the wind hit us for the first time. See the proof hat brims up!


We hugged the shore, seeking whatever protection we could get in the lee of the land, but as Bartlett loomed a little less than a mile away, the last corner provided the last protection as the wind continued to pick up.


We debated (CAM style!) whether it would be better to stay along the shore, or whether a slog into the wind to the island would be worth it. Many voted for the crossing I for one because Id been there before and knew that there was a lovely protected cove on the already wind-protected south side of the island, and that further on was another cove that had been filled with curious seals the previous time I had ventured there (on a solo circumnav of the island years ago, when I had no business being out on the ocean on my own!).

The crossing was bumpy and windy, but nothing that any of us couldnt handle, and we arrived still feeling fresh, and headed into the calm protection of Dogfish Cove for a break which turned out to be lunch.


Sherry S paused in relief before landing.


Rob wondered why his boat was leaking


While most of us pulled out an energy bar or a bag of trail mix or a sandwich, Peter constructed a lunch out of about seven ingredients as we watched him in awe


The motley crew at lunch.


Pumpkin people aka Janice, John and Shari after lunch.


And then a rock-skipping contest that Rob, with decades of experience, won in a runaway


While all this posing and competing was going on, Cathy was just loving her new pink boat


I mean, really loving it! (Get a room, Cathy!)


We were all kinda lulled into thinking that it had gotten calm. The rain had stopped, and there were even a few peeks of blue sky


Wrong! Turning north up the western side side of the island, the wind rocked us again. Arriving at Seal Cove (no, not the launch Seal Cove, but Bartletts Seal Cove where, by the way, I saw a grand total of ONE seal!), we split into two pods. The more sensible group decided that fighting the wind would be no fun, and they opted to retreat to Bartlett Narrows to explore the islands there and to await the arrival of the rest of us as we completed a circumnav of the island.

And so the rest of us continued on. Past Seal Cove, where there was minimal protection, we made one final rightish turn eastward, and with that, the full force of the however-many-knots-it-was wind hit us smack in the face, and it became clear that what lay ahead would be a considerable effortful slog for at least an hour until we would turn the corner again and sail south with the wind at our backs.

This realization caused the second most sensible group of us to surrender (No mas!)and turn back,


while a hardy pod of four younger and older pups (Rob, Beth, John and Shari) forged on.

Kate looked very happy to be heading south (echoing my feelings, for sure)


In no time (pretty easy when youre flying down wind waves in the exact direction you want to go) we were back in the protection of the south end of the island, where Janice paused


and a porpoise leapt right out of the water next to her. Pretty magical momentnot caught on film.

We continued on to the Narrows, where Peter surveyed the scene to the north, wondering where the first and Most Sensible Group might be.


We couldnt see them, so (sensibly), headed on back in the direction of our Seal Cove launch spot. The lowering tide exposed the gravel bar between MDI and Moose Island.


Rather than going around, we landed,


stretched our legs, and carried the boats the ten feet to the other side, where we re-launched.

Following seas brought us home.


To the peace of the little park at Seal Cove.


The Most Sensible Group apparently waited for over an hour for the Least Sensible (circumnav) group, then decided to head back as well. We heard later from the circumnavigators that it had taken an hour and half to reach the north end of the island, and then only an hour to fly all the way back to the launch.

I was sitting in Sharis cabin with a few other people, sipping a glass of wine, when Shari staggered in, eyes glazed with wonder at the crowd of people that had taken over her cabin while she was out battling the elements, as well as with hunger, fatigue and desire for a long hot shower having successfully (and least sensibly!) gone all the way around.

We split up into groups some (Shari and her cabin of ladies) opting to chill at home, while others of us sought out supper in a restaurant. Some with more success than others. My advice: do NOT eat pizza where some of us did that night!

Day Two (Saturday) Cranberries and Otters

And on the second day one that forecast ideal conditions (sun, wind, sea state) for just about anything one might want to do we split into pods, the Otters and the Cranberries. The latter heading straight to Seal Harbor (hard to keep all these Seal names on MDI separate) for a leisurely day of investigating the Cranberries. The Otters after endless debate about the hows, whats and wheres of managing cars for a one-way paddle from the Bar Island beach in Bar Harbor around the rocky, cliffy, exposed south side of MDI, passing Otter Cliffs among others, to Seal Cove - finally got our act together, came up with a plan, and implemented it.

The launch at Bar Island beach was crowded with five NSPNers, two Floridians who paddled up in brightly colored Cetus MVs


and a van full of tourists who would spill into a flotilla of doubles for a three hour tour of the Porcupines.

An hour and a half after we started the one-way paddle shuttle with all its attendant logistics (boats! paddlers! cars! gear!), we finally launched, paddling past downtown Bar Harbor with its wharves, buildings, ships and people.

Rob and a cruise ship.


We lined up passing Bald Porcupine as we went south and east the days navigation consisting entirely of: keep MDI to your right.


Not long after we cleared Bar Harbor, the first of the spectacular cliffs that would dominate our right hand view for most of the day.

They dwarfed John.


Peter played in refracting waves.

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The sun had even come out, as predicted! Kind of a blessing after the previous days wind and eyeball-lashing rain.


And there were more cliffs to gaze at in awe.


And because this is Maine, there was the requisite lobster boat chugging by, trailed by a stream of opportunistic gulls an iconic, otherwise known as clichéd, Maine image


On top of the cliffs, people with more money than god built this pile


We stopped for lunch

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and some of us admired (and possibly pocketed!) a few rocks from the rich peoples little pocket beach


And after lunch, onward, conditions perfect, lovely


John and Peter under the cliffs.

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And always more cliffs, and never boring!


Sand Beach wasnt too crowded, as far as we could see from a distance.


We headed closer, where no doubt the land (rock)-bound people envied us our graceful passage, our boats gently riding the mildly bumpy water.


We could see (but not hear) Thunder Hole, swarming with visitors.


Kate was happy!


Lisa, too!


Then we spied these complete lunatics (imho)


atop Otter Cliffs


preparing to rappel down and then rappelling down. (Yikes!)

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and climbing back up

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We applauded their bravery (insanity) from our safe perch below, which they acknowledged with a bow and wave of the hand. It was a good show. I was happy to be bobbing in the waves, concentrating on being swept toward the rocks rather than fearing falling a hundred feet onto them!

The day was getting on, the water was wonderfully bumpy, the sound of the waves crashing into the rocks, and the refracting waves that making for confused bits at any small headland all contributed to idyllic conditions for an Otter Cliffs one-way trip.

Onward, almost home


And then we were at the beach at Seal Harbor, low tide and a long trudge with gear and boats to reach the parked cars across the street. I was too tired to document this!

The Otters arrived back at Retreat Central before the Cranberries. We were all pretty wiped out, but a hot shower was restorative.

The Cranberries will have to fill the reader in how their day went, but I can tell you that they all came back positively glowing!

Then there were the evening festivities held in the barn/workshop back of LLangolin Cottages, which Peter, the owner (a different Peter than our Peter), had generously cleared out and in which he had installed three picnic tables on which to spread the repast (main dishes most generously supplied by the Shari and Janice and Katherine), with lots of appetizers, beer, wine and scotch, provided by the rest of us.

Katherine arrived, ready to party!


As did Katepossibly a bit more dangerously


Dave and Jill


and the rest of us...


And then musicians! Rob and John and Shari and Steve

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And a singalong Pleaseno! Anything but Sweet Caroline!

Peter embarked on a a solo version of Rickity Tickity Tin, all the words to its million verses he apparently had committed to memory.

I have video of bits of this the musicians clearly more talented than the singers! that unfortunately wont load onto this trip report

We ate and drank and sang and applauded our musicians until the large hours of the evening, and then packed up and headed to bed to get a good nights sleep for the third day, when the weather was promising to go south once again fog and rain and wind in the forecast.

Day Three Porcupines and Pears (Bartletts!)

And on the third day, two more groups one to head out into it to explore the Porcupines, the others to take advantage of shelter from east winds by paddling the coastline in and around Bartlett Sound and Narrows, launching this day from Bartlett Landing rather than Seal Cove.

The Porcupines returned to the Bar Island Beach.

Once again, quite a crowd!


We eavesdropped on a group getting instructions, hoping for some good paddling tips!


We all (two tour groups, plus our Porcupine pod of nine) launched pretty much at the same time, heading right across to Bar Island,

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arriving pretty much at the same time. But we left them in our wake as we headed along the south coast of Bar Island, and that was the last we saw of them

There was some playing in some rocks

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and rounding a point on bouncy water


before we crossed over to the first of the Porcupines (and Ill confess I didnt look closely enough at a chart all day to know which island was named what they were all just Porcupines)

Jill was happy she had decided to come along having almost bailed at the launch for fear that she didnt have warm enough paddling clothing for the conditions. (She was toasty warm all day and kept on smiling)


Another of those Maine images I can't resist...buoy and boat...


At the first of the Porcupines, Dave instantly started looking for trouble


and found it


going backwards! Pounded by a wave, he managed to stay upright - very impressive


and then debriefed with Peter.


Steve approached a slot with aplomb, and sailed on through.

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And then there was the famous Keyhole, into which all of us ventured, one or two at a time.




and out


From the inside, looking out.


After her turn, Kate sat in the momentarily sparkling sea, pretty in pink (eat your heart out, Cathy!).


And there were more cool rocks, a nice place to be a bird,


while Steve gazed longingly at rough waters near shore.


Time for lunch


at a nice spot from which you could see clouds sitting on mountains.


While most places were bouncy, there were calm spots into which one could poke ones nose.


And many places to make oneself feel small,


while you played. Heres Peter riding a refracting wave away from the rock face.


More rocks, more play...

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And finally, day drawing to a close, it was nap-time in a calm spot between two islands.


But we still had a ways to go before we were home. We passed a Maine island, which presented as so perfectlyMaine islandthat it too was almost a visual cliche (I see them everywhere and cant resist the urge to take the picture anyway)


Buoy #2 heading home.


And finally, homeor the beach, anyway.


Another splendid day on the water. Again, the Bartletts will have to report on their day, but from all accounts, they enjoyed theirs as much as we did ours.

Some people had to hit the road for parts south, while most of those of us who remained had a splendid dinner at Thurstons Lobster Pound in Bernard, overlooking Bass Harbor.

Some stayed for Day Four. I did not, so will leave that tale as well for others to tell.

This was a really terrific weekend. We managed to paddle either as one group or two, or three - many of the best venues that MDI was to offer. The conditions ranged from perfect to pleasantly challenging to a bit beastly. The weather was everything that Maine can be: foggy, windy, rainy, sunny, calm. None of it ever gets old. Im already looking forward to next year and have already reserved Cabin 7!

Special thanks to Peter for initiating and arranging this! And thanks to all of the paddling participants who made this such a fun weekend: Rob Hazard, Sherry S, Shari, Janice, Yong, John, Dave and Jill, Mike, Katherine, Beth, Lisa, Kate, Liz N, Steve and Rob and Cathy Folster.

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Another great Pru trip report, thanks so much for recording this for posterity! And many thanks to Peter for organizing it, as well as for safely dealing with the few unexpected events that occurred. I had a fantastic time with old friends and new, all four days.

A few (publicly shared) facebook pix found here.


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Awesome trip report! thanks for writing it.

Had a great time this year with familiar faces and really enjoyed meeting new ones.

already looking forward to next year.

fyi if anyone is interested in pictures from sullivan falls, there are some on Pinnipeds' Facebook.

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