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Isles of Shoals Sept 2011


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Only one night but worth a report as I doubt many people have used the new MITA facilities yet and there are a few wrinkles worth knowing about. There are some supporting photos here.

The ride out:

We (Janaki and I) left from Rye Harbor at about 9am on Saturday. As usual the seas remained bigger than forecast and the E wind got stronger that forecast - and came in earlier - so it was a tough and bumpy ride out. There was a big post-Katia swell from the SW with a superimposed wind swell from the NW that made it pretty demanding at times. It took a tough 3hrs for 2.1kts

Smuttynose Island:

The new MITA access consists of the permitted use of Gull cottage. The booking process is new and has some complications at the moment. First the number in the printed MITA guide is wrong. The online number has been updated since our struggles. This number gets you through to Laurence who was very nice but did not know if the hut was in use or not so gave us two other numbers where we left messages that were not returned. When we called Laurence back he recommended we just go out anyway as it was unlikely to be in use and we could always bivouac if we had to. We did this and there was no-one there and no caretakers so we set up camp in the hut. The caretakers arrived later in the day and were actually surprisingly offhand, not really unpleasant but clearly not thrilled to see us. It turned out that they were on their first week as caretakers and had not been briefed on anything much less the arrangement with MITA (I will be sending MITA a separate report).

The landing needs some clarification. There is a very small 'harbor' just below the cottage which is difficult to see until you are almost in it. This is fine at low tide but an hour or two each side of high tide the water is up against a sloping and slippery rock wall that would make unloading and loading tricky to say the least. In any event the boats have to be hauled up the rocks to get above the high tide line overnight.

The hut is wonderful. In theory it sleeps six but many more would fit if friendly. There is a 'loft' sleeping platform and a pretty open hut with a few old foam mattresses, lots of chairs and a remarkable amount of 'personal' gear like fishing rods etc. that we left alone as the rules are not exactly clear. There is a propane stove but it was not hooked up this weekend so independence is recommended. Oh, the large candles on wall sconces are electronic (working). They are remarkably realistic but stumbling in in the dark and trying to light one with a match is not very productive (still working......). There is what appears to be an outhouse behind the caretakers cottage but it is marked 'private no public access' and we were unable to determine the rules for us so we played safe and used the hotel facilities over the bay.

Star Island Hotel is a strange and wonderful place. Owned by the Unitarian Universalist Church, until recently it was only available for groups and conferences, mostly having a spiritual or creative slant to them (no sign of engineers :-) ). Now it is sometimes possible to book 'personal retreats'. I would recommend trying it. It takes you back to the great lodge days of American tourism. Communal dining hall (and, apparently, showers...) interesting and very diverse guests and a slightly faded charm. The hotel deck is about 20' deep and a delight to promenade on. All in all a very pleasant place to wile away some time. Day guests can book meals. We had a nice lunch for, I think, $28. There is a bookshop, a gift shop and sometimes a cafeteria with soft drinks and tea and coffee etc.

The ride back:

The ride in on Sunday morning was a treat, either dead calm or a slight tailwind and looong lazy swells like wet sand dunes. We did the return in 1hr 40mins flat at 3.7kts which definitely made up for the flog out.

I will be talking to MITA about clarifying the booking process and the rules of engagement when on the island and will provide an update here if I learn anything new.

Please feel free to drop me a line if you need any additional information.


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Correction. The MITA guide clearly states that the toilet can be used - I need to read more carefully....


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Thanks for the report and photos. Very informative.

I spent a summer working at the Star Island Hotel when I was 17 (a long time ago), and remember the place fondly. Its very much as you described.

Gull Cottage and its sleepover option look very appealing.

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