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Cushing Island and Ram Ledge: Sunday Feb. 1st.


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Four of us met at Willard beach in South Portland on this gray, still winter morning. We launched from this working class, Pavilion-esque beach into calm water , and hopped across to Cushing Island , 3/4 mile directly off shore.

It was colder than forecast, maybe 25 degrees F., but a calm day, the ocean was just a murmur, and there was almost no wind. Conditions were perfect for close quarters, low-risk rock gardening, amidst very mild swells.

We threaded our way around Cushing's southeast corner and, about halfway along it's rocky eastern shore, we crossed over to Ram Island , which at high tide was just a cluster of ledges, dominated by funky old Ram Is. lighthouse. We found a nice slot near the lighthouse with mild waves to catch and shoot through , but not without a few bumps and thuds on seaweed covered rocks.

From here, Jewell Island and the Greens were visible several miles away, and, further east, the lighthouse at Halfway Rock, 7 miles distant. The sky was the color of skim milk, with an eyedrop of Paynes Gray added, but there was a thin band of dull yellow sunlit sky along the southern horizon. It was quiet.

We crossed back to Cushing where its northeast knob has jagged cliffs, maybe 40 feet high, actually no less dramatic to this eye than more exotic locations such as Great Wass, or Isle au Haut, and it's right here in our backyard.

Once around the corner on Cushing’s northern side, facing Peaks Island, some attractive houses, barns, dwellings were very tastefully set about , but Cushing looks uninhabited for the winter. Portland seen from the water was a pleasant cityscape, marred only by one brutalist condo unit, which, ironically, is used by kayakers as a landmark to locate Eastern Prom since it sticks out like a sore thumb.

In our little fleet was an Anas acuta: it's always a pleasure to watch that boat while underway. Also there was a Valley Aquila, an aircraft carrier of a boat , but pretty nimble. Its occupant, while surely missing his Pintail (in the shop for bulkhead repair), was by no means out of action as we surfed & rock gardened.

We crossed back to the mainland and paddled down to Cape Elizabeth, and messed around in the rocks underneath Portland Head light. The way southward, towards Cape Porpoise, looked alluring, but was left for another day, and we turned back northward towards our put- in, arriving close to 3PM.

We didn’t stop for any breaks all day, which was just fine, as in my experience winter paddling is comfy , it’s the on-land part where the trouble usually starts (cold fingers & feet, chills etc). We all seemed fine in the cockpit so we kept paddling.

It was a nice day on the water, some Cheshire Cat grins, pleasant company , conversation, and a successful new drysuit christening. We traveled about seven or eight nautical miles.

Once off the water, toes were chilly & bladders full, so we rapidly dispersed, surely to paddle another day.

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