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Blue Hill Bay 8/22-8/28

Dee Hall

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On Monday, Liz, Karen, and myself paddled to an undisclosed, wilderness destination in Blue Hill Bay. We landed about an hour before sunset, picked three campsites, a "kitchen", and a place for the shittube. It was at the time that I realized how long it had been since I had been wilderness camping. My tarp and bug bivy were feeling quite primative

We had landed at low tide at the bottom of a long, steep, slippery berm. Hauling the gear and the boats up left us hungry and cranky. Eventually, we had our tents set up and Karen even made dinner, which was jai pur vegetables over couscous.

When I got into my sleeping bag and turned off my headlamp I discovered that the nearly full moon was shining directly into my sleeping quarters, framed perfectly by the gable of the tarp. Suddenly, the whole primative thing took on a whole different feel. During the night, I did wake to a little sprinkle on the tent, but nothing significant.

This trip we had planned meals and gear ahead of time. I was responsible for four breakfasts. I had planned the order carefully based upon how long ingredients would be likely to survive. I was also carrying the first aid kit, repair kit, and backup stove. I had donated a spatula and a lobster pot to the gearlist, but Liz was carrying that because it fit in her boat.

Tuesday morning dawned bright and for the second morning in a row, I was up before Liz. This was starting to freak me out a bit. I went down to my boat and started organizing my gear and provisions a bit after the previous evening's hurried take-out. Shortly, Liz appeared. Much later, Karen appeared. Blueberry pancakes followed soon after. I had planned for the pancakes to be much later in the trip, because it was all dry ingredients. However, concern over the fresh blueberries prompted a rescheduling, and a very satisfying meal of whole wheat blueberry pancakes was soon served.

Tuesday we dragged the kayaks back down the berm and crossed to another island for lunch and a walk along the rocks. Karen and I found an outhouse that we took advantage of. We returned just before sunset. Again in the dark, Karen prepared a wonderful meal of Sauteed kale, onions, garlic, refried beans, salsa, and aged sharp cheddar served over quinoa.

Wednesday morning was a bit foggier punctuated with very warm sunshine, and we decided to stay in. Karen made breakfast which was a scrambled egg dish with sauteed garlic, onions, garnet yams, cauliflower, and more of the cheddar. We relaxed, read, fixed and modified gear, and collected some flotsam and added it to a huge pile at the other end of the berm that someone had already bagged up. For dinner, Liz made a fabulous veggie-tofu masala with mango chutney over brown rice. She had dehydrated the tofu and managed to get a hamburger-like texture that worked really well.

Although the evenings were chilly for me, the mornings dawned bright. Southerly winds were chilly. Westerly or northerly winds brought warmth. Thursday morning brought us even more sunshine. Breakfast was a no-cook meal of bagels, cream cheese, smoked salmon, and a fruit salad of cantalope, kiwi, and grapefruit. Three days in my day hatch was perfect to bring what had been firm fruit to ripe fruit.

We set off in search of lobsters. On our way we explored the coast of our wilderness island and encountered a large (100+) raft of small eiders. They made a huge racket as the mothers were hearding the youngsters on the duck equivalent of a playdate. We also saw some osprey and a bald eagle.

Eventually, we found a lobster boat in a small, nearby harbor. The operator was happy to set us up with what we wanted and said he would meet us on his mooring in an hour. While we waited, we landed and visited a museum and a bathroom (ah, flush toilets, fresh water, soap, and paper towels!). When we returned to our boats, he showed up with the bugs as he had finished early. After the transaction, he turned his bucket over and sat with us while we ate our lunch. Turns out the two small kayaks tied up next to us were his, and the only ones visible in the harbor. He had bought them for his wife and son.

For the first time, we returned to camp with time to cook before sunset. We steamed the lobsters in salt water and beer, while Liz made a salad of tomatoes that she traded me salsa for, cucumbers, left over cauliflower and garnet yams which she sauteed with an onion, and croutons that she made from an extra whole wheat bagel. We ate the meal down on the rocks, which were necessary to break the hard shells open. It was messy and delicious.

Friday morning, I awoke early enough to see the devastation we had wrought. The dishes had salad dressing and congealed butter that the usual cold salt water and camp soap was not going to cut. I started heating up some water for dishes for the first time. After washing the dishes I started our last breakfast on the island, bacon for the carnivores and an omelet with sauteed onions, garlic, and lobster mushrooms, extra sharp cheddar, topped with salsa. We also ate the left over fruit salad from the morning before adding the left over blueberries.

After breakfast we broke camp, packed up, and headed to our next destination, a private MITA island. Because it was Friday, we were concerned about competition for the space, so we made a beeline for the island and arived around 5PM. It was empty.

This was is a very different island from where we came. The landing site was short, shallow, and sandy at high tide. The camping site is back in the woods and full of mosquitos. We very quickly set up our tents, bringing only our sleeping gear back there.

There was an area on the beach that was perfect for cooking. We quickly set up a cooking area and Karen made her famous puttanesca sauce with garlic, anchovies, porcini mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and smoked salmon. We cooked whole wheat penne in the reserved liquid from rehydrating the lobster mushrooms at breakfast. Another banner meal. While cooking we heard some agitated osprey on very close neighbor island. We couldn't see the osprey, but we could see what concerned them. Another bald eagle, high up on a tree on the island. After he left, they were quiet.

Saturday morning broke exceptionally early, long before sunup in fact. The lobster boats headed out for their rounds at an hour I found inconceivable. It was like having a front-end loader driving around our tents. Eventually, the sun came up and it was really gorgeous and warm. I cooked a quick breakfast of French toast (eggy bread for you Brits out there). We packed up and started back to our put-in.

On the way back, we stumbled upon three members of a BSKC trip. We talked to them for a while and found out the group of 11 paddlers were staying at another island. Soon after we left them we entered some pretty serious fog. We piloted for a while and then stopped and had lunch, but it didn't lift. The lobster boat traffic did quiet down a lot though, so we started island-hopping our way back to the put-in.

All of the crossings were less than two miles and had some pretty reasonable targets. Regardless, we found ourselves coming very close to our intended targets. The copious lobster buoys helped enormously with preventing drift which would have been significant given the current and wind. Then we got to the last crossing, from the same island that the BSKC was staying on. It was 6PM. The wind had increased to over 10 knots. The final crossing was nearly 3 miles, and the target was miniscule. Missing it in either direction would have resulted in real challenge as it grew dark quickly.

Even if we nailed our target we would be unpacking our boats on challenging terrain in the dark while we were cold and miserable.

Or we could stay. We had food, water, shelter, and company.

We decided to stay.

The BSKC group certainly seemed surprised to see us. There was plenty of room to stay. There were plenty of offers of food, but we realize quickly that we had stuff left. After setting up our tents (I wanted to bivouac on the sand, but Peter Logan couldn't resist the challenge of setting up my tarp on the sand. In the end, the fog turned to drizzle and I was glad I had it.) we pulled together another Jai Pur over couscous and the carnivores added chicken to theirs.

Soon there was a fire. And some celebratory liquids. The group was having a very good time. These were mostly very familiar faces that I had yet to camp with. It is funny how these things work. Occassionally, people would move away from the fire for one reason or another. When you would see their headlamps in the fog, it would be softened and disembodied as if it were much farther away. One person thought that they saw a flare. It did make it easy to find momentary privacy.

The next morning it was clear. I pulled things out from under the tarp to dry off a bit in the sun while I packed other things up. Liz made a breakfast of oatmeal with pecans and pear. I didn't even know that I don't dislike pecans.

As usual, packing up took longer than expected. The BSKC crowd was gone. We headed around the island and looked towards our destination. "That's it?" "It's so close!" was heard. An easy paddle when you can see it. Less than an our later we were unpacking our boats.

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Great trip report, Dee.

It was great to paddle with you both.

Our undisclosed island basecamp was as far out as one can get in Blue Hill Bay. Because of a favorable tide we were able to make it out to our destination in just enough time to make it worth it not to unpack, make camp and repack our boats.

A day trip crossing from our basecamp to Great Duck, a Nature Conservancy Island was lovely. With practically no wind we enjoyed the wide ocean swells which swept in from the open Atlantic. One of the challenges was guesstimating the amount of drift and resetting our bearings.

One of the best things on Great Duck was the outhouse, very clean and complete with the most recent Cosmopolitan magazines. I was right at home! This end of the island is a College of the Atlantic research site - I found out later from my niece who had been out there. An old boat house we explored had turned into a bunk room for four.

We lucked out with the weather in a big way. It was wonderful to be in such a primitive site; raw and severe in it's beauty. Steep berms with large, slippery stones were the nature of the game.

On our last day, once suggested, it made total sense to camp an extra night with the BSKC folks. The wine and bourbon sweetened the deal.

I kept remembering my friend, Dan's 'rule of threes'. Once you exceed the rule of three you are asking for a disaster. In our case 1)dense fog, 2) limited daylight with no real room for error, 3) a small target destination. I couldn't imagine how hard and scary it would have been to try and navigate in the fog AND the dark. Headlamps might not have worked in viewing compass headings.

Losing our $160 room in a cozy B and B paled compared to a scary night on the water.

I miss the wind blowing through my tent...

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Most Excellent! Would that undisclosed island be Marshall perhaps! Though I have not visited Marshall, I am very familiar with Blue Hill Bay. Pond, Eagle, Opechee, Swans, Tinker, Hardwood, Fly Point, and across Herrick Bay to Eggemoggin Reach. Never made it any further than Stinson Neck in that direction. Such a beautiful area and lacking the boat traffic of home. I have vacationed in that area for many summers and have found nothing to top it. We do day trips from a summer island (undisclosed!!) rental "base camp". Perhaps you girls would consider repeating this trip next year and allowing me to join you. The meals don't sound too shabby either! Dee, I'm the girl with the "pink sirius". Have yet to convince my fellow paddlers to try a camping trip.


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