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Mount Desert circumnav. 7/31- 8/1


PeterB

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I headed downeast with plans for a circumnav. Of Mount Desert Island, combined with some touring in the Cranberries. Things went quite well.

I arrived in Northeast Harbor on Wednesday early evening, loaded up, and paddled out to Crow Island, a MITA site located between Great and Little Cranberry, to camp for the night. I preferred to do this stretch in early evening (no boats, clear enough skies ) to the next morning (inevitable fog and lobster boats) so I launched at 7:30PM, crossed to Sutton Island, then to Little Cranberry, then a quick hop over to Crow , arriving about a half hour after dark.

Crow is a fine grassy place, with decent landing, and a good campsite on the fringes of a spruce grove. I went to sleep to the sound of surf.

I spent the next half day paddling around the Cranberries with John Huth, who was vacationing in the area. On this day the ocean was calm and fog was all about : Baker Island, less than a mile away, was completely invisible, with fog blending into the water so seamlessly as to resemble the horizon, so there was no hint that an island was even there!

I later experienced other fog-inspired optical illusions, where, for instance, a small islet close up appeared to be a larger island far away.

We had a leisurely tour around Little Cranberry, returned to the town dock for lunch , and John escorted me back to Crow Is. to pick up my camp gear, and we continued around to the southwest corner of Great Cranberry : a spooky ride in the fog, with some swell coming in, and little boomers here and there.

Once we found a good place for me to cross back over to MDI , John and I parted ways. I was to continue up along the southwest coast of MDI , and John to continue around Great Cranberry to return home.

I did a securite call right before crossing in patchy fog: less than a minute later there was a loud bull horn report, from a nearby yacht which emerged from the fog minutes later , perhaps a coincidence, perhaps a reply signaling their presence in the vicinity.

From there I made good progress up along the SW coast of MDI ,with some push from the flood, ticking off the headlands to check progress. Fog lifted, and, once past Seal Cove I felt reassured that I would reach Bartlett Narrows and John Island, my camping destination, before dark. At about 7:30 I arrived at John, a tiny, mesa-like affair right in the middle of the Narrows. There was no ideal place to land, and I had a not- easy time managing my loaded boat on carpets of seaweed and sharp rocks. Being alone, I took an extra long time unloading and getting my boat settled, minding every movement so as not to slip and fall.

John Island had very tight quarters for camping. the stone steps up to the top are poorly built, and would be a nice little MITA island improvement project , maybe for two people with a shovel and several hours . Not tonight , though: The evening was foggy, damp, & buggy, so I just crawled into the tent and conked out early,

I was back on the water by 8am , again, taking a very long time getting my boat loaded. I paddled out of Bartlett narrows, into some wind, made it up to Mt. Desert Narrows in two hours, then around to Bar Harbor in another three, the last hour and a half in pouring rain.

Paddling in the rain was mesmerizing. The water was velvety smooth, but pocked with millions of rain drops.

After many hours alone, it was nice to see the apparition of Bar Island and the fleshpots of downtown Bar Harbor through the rain & fog . Bar Harbor was my last real bail out spot: I had planned that if by then there were issues with weather, timing, or my condition, I had the option to bail on this final, exposed leg of the trip back to Northeast Harbor, leave my boat at Aquaterra and hop the bus down to NE Harbor to retrieve my car.

I changed into some dry clothes, hunkered down in a bad restaurant (raining too hard to range farther than one block from the waterfront) for a burger, some thermal recovery and risk assessment. Once I got warm and rested, I reasoned: the sea state was fairly calm, winds were not strong, still some help with tide (ebb until 5:21PM), and I had enough hours to get to NE Harbor before sunset, so my only real concern was rain: so I thickened my layers, (drytop and long hydroskin pants), and at @ 4PM , saddled up and headed down the eastern shore of MDI . paddling at a relaxed pace to enjoy this most scenic leg of the trip.

There were dramatic cliffs, and waterfalls everywhere . The steep sides of Great Head and Otter Cliffs were imposing when viewed from water level (“Oh Lord, thy sea is so great and my boat is so small") . Swells met the cliffs, sometimes booming like far off artillery salvos. A large reef, “Old Soakerâ€, I’d only seen from above, while hiking the heights of Great Head: now from my little boat, and well exposed at low tide , it towered over me , almost scary.

Once past Otter Point I knew I was home free: and the beginnings of the flood tide and mild swells from the southwest gave me a push towards Southeast Harbor , so I ambled along at senior citizen pace, arriving back at the boat ramp about a half hour before sunset. This southern stretch featured magnificent homes, most tastefully done, perched on high rocks, eliciting a sense of architectural appreciation, or envy, depending on ones disposition.

I’d paddled 51 miles in exactly 48 hours., more than I’m used to, so lobster stew and popovers at the Jordan Pond house tasted pretty good.

Paddling alone was quiet, peaceful, contemplative. With the crummy weather there were few pleasure boats around and about, just a few sailboats, some quite grand, with the odd lobster boat rumbling in the distance. I saw one pod of tandem kayaks go by in Bartlett narrows, but otherwise, I mostly felt like had the ocean to myself. Because it was more comfy in the cockpit and not so comfy on wet land, I preferred to just paddle. So this trip had a singular feel about it, perhaps unlikely to be repeated soon, but who knows? .

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Peter,

Many thanks for sharing your experiences in this magical place, among the most beautiful I've seen.

While I'm far too green for a solo paddle at this level, I look forward to the day when I have accumulated enough experience, knowledge, and judgment to follow in your wake.

Very entertaining and a pleasure to read.

Blaine

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....

we continued around to the southwest corner of Great Cranberry : a spooky ride in the fog, with some swell coming in, and little boomers here and there.

....

Paddling in the rain was mesmerizing. The water was velvety smooth, but pocked with millions of rain drops.

..........

Several times I'd wanted to do the south coast of Great Cranberry and I'd been skunked by fog both times. Thanks, Peter, for going along with me - it's a bit eerie going solo along that coast in the fog. There are a lot of rocks that take breaking waves, and you don't see them until you're fairly close.

On the heavy rain - I got that same storm coming back into NE Harbor when you got hit. It was strange how the water was so much calmed by the rain.

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went to Baker Island from Southwest Harbor via Crow last Saturday---did the outside of the Cranberries on the way over and the inside on the way back---Point of Fact Baker is two miles from Crow not one, at least according to not only my GPS but another one belonging to one of my buddies. BTW did you notice that someone had actually built a fire on the grass campsite near the trees on Crow---what idiots---Crow is one of the few islands on the trail owned by private individuals, as opposed to private foundations like MCHT, Cherwonki, Nature Conservancy etc. and continued misuse like the campfire in absolutly the wrong place will result in its being taken off the Trial. Glad you had a good time and come back soon

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