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Isle au Haut


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I may never return to Maine after last week’s trip, it will never be as good. The five day stretch of weather was the best of the whole summer; a high pressure system had stalled just off the coast, which brought crystal clear skies and light winds.

The week started with a short paddle out of Old Quarry to Island #1 on Monday afternoon (this was the first island that had no people) I was lucky as this is one of my favorites. Camp was set up, this was the only night I put up the tarp, then a short walk to the top of the hill on the center of the island were blueberries and cranberries were found, I picked enough for breakfast while the sun started down. Dinner that evening was prepared on the beach with the fading sun and the rising moon for light. The first nights dinner is always the best, steak tips with mushrooms and onion, summer squash sautéed with garlic and fried new potatoes. This is the one meal I can bring perishable foods.

The wind was out of the NW which made for a breeze free evening, the only problem was the mosquitoes.

Tuesday morning was clear and calm, it did rain Monday night, the 5 kt winds had shifted to the NE and high tide had been about 5:30.

After a good breakfast I packed up and launched with no real course in mind just a destination of Isle au Haut. The route took me around Stonington harbor out to the Mark Island lighthouse from that point I headed in a very round about way back past Crotch to head over to paddle around Wreck and Round islands and as I passed Bare Island I saw the sheep that are supposed to inhabit some of the islands. The crossing of Merchant Row was pretty swift as the tide was still ebbing with a slight breeze at my back. I checked out Harbor Island and found it full, paddled around the west end of Merchant and then down

the south side heading over to Wheat and Island #2 looking for a place to spend the night. Both islands were occupied, a lot of kayakers on the water. I ended up on Doliver a great little island on the east coast of Isle au Haut, it was small with one tree (about 5’), but the weather was perfect and I did not need to use the tarp. The camp site is between some large granite outcroppings which are surrounded by meadow full of wild flowers and raspberries.

Doliver is easy to land or launch at half tide or less as there are a couple of shell beaches at higher tides it is rocky.

It was still early afternoon (3:30) too early for dinner so a nap was in order, with no shade I set up the tent without the fly and read for awhile. The mosquitoes were just as bad here. I always thought a breeze would keep them away, but these were real tough, I think they could have flown through a hurricane.

That night I left the fly off the tent and fell asleep looking up at the stars (I have a new tent a Big Agnes Seedhouse, the body of the tent is all mesh, perfect for summer). In the middle of the night I awoke to a low buzzing drone, turned on my flashlight and saw that the outside of the mesh tent was covered with mosquitoes, must have been over 500 of them, no call of nature was going to get me out of that tent!!

One of my goals has been to paddle around Isle au Haut. It has never been good enough weather to paddle solo around as there is very little possibility for any bail out. Wednesday I listened to the weather forecast: AM 5 to 10 knot wind from the North shifting in the afternoon to the SW. High tide was at 6:45. Translation, slight tail wind along with an out going current down the whole east side, No ocean swells from the south and as I would head up the west side I would have the wind at my back and a favorable current. The most perfect conditions I could have hoped for, so I paddled around Isle au Haut. There are only about three places to land from York Island all the way around to Duck Harbor, and if there had been any southerly swell that would limit it to one maybe two. I did find a secluded cobbled beach to land on for lunch, or I thought was secluded, it was on the main hiking trail for Acadia NP. As I was eating I was thinking that I could have been out on the west coast miles away from civilization when a group of people with half of them kids assaulted the beach with great speed and energy, so much for solitude.

The rocks on the beach created a moral dilemma, they were beautifully polished from the constant waves, I wanted so much to take a few of the granite “eggs” but the Leave No Trace ethics always say leave what you find. No stones left the beach.

Wednesday night was spent on Island # 3 another of the private islands open to MITA members. Thursday I planned to launch early and just paddle around many of the islands, but the morning was just to perfect and I spent a little time reading and admiring the view, I launched at 12:30.

I returned to the General Store (it was closed on Wednesday, no power) for a little extra water, I had been drinking a lot more than planned; I used over 6 gallons in 5 days. By this time the tide was heading back in, I paddled out around Kimball crossed over to Merchant and Hardwood islands before crossing Merchant Row (the wind was out of the SW about 10 to 15kts, at my back again). Thursday night I had a little trouble finding a place to camp, Steve’s was full, Rock was full, Russ had a schooner party on the campsite, Hell’s was full, Buckle was occupied so I continued to Island #4 I got to Island #4 and it was occupied so headed over to Little Sheep no tent in sight, but as I rounded the island two others had just landed, I did find the little site on the NW corner of Island #4 unoccupied. This weekend must be crazy up there.

Friday broke with fog and clouds the perfect way to end the trip; it’s easier to leave when the weather is deteriorating. It was time to head home after many days of wind at my back and the tide always flowing in the right direction.

Next Month I will be heading up to a lake in Maine, it will be mid month during the week. If anyone wants to paddle with me on this trip contact me.


All private island names have been removed, they are only open to MITA members.

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