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A few days out of Stonington


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It's a hard to start writing a trip report immediately after reading Kate's fabulous account of her solo adventures in Nova Scotia. But even smaller journeys have great pleasures, as well all know from journeys of only a morning or an afternoon messing about in boats.

This weekend, Warren, Barry and I joined Ed - whom we'd all met in various classes with John Carmody - for several days of paddling around the Deer Isle Archipelago. We arrived at Old Quarry on Friday afternoon. Comfortable quarters from which to launch, but a rather unnerving night for me in that immediately after heading into my tent to sleep, there was a great crashing sound: a tree that in the morning I saw was rather close by, had decided to go to ground at that precise moment in its long life. My little Marmot would have been no match for it had it been not many more feet closer... Thoughts of that tree stayed with me as I selected camp sites on subsequent nights!

After a horrible stretch of weather (remnants of tropical storm Lee and Hurricane Katia), the weather gods smiled: we had bright sparkling skies predicted for the next three days. We launched on Saturday morning into the sun and wind. We had hopes of doing an Isle au Haut circumnavigation, but it was pretty immediately clear that that wasn't going to happen given the conditions. Having tentatively decided on a first night's island destination, but having been discouraged by Captain Bill at Old Quarry's reports of a large mosquito presence there (but I guess nothing like what Kate faced!), we moved on to island choice #2 off of Isle au Haut. But on approaching, we decided that it might be too exposed with all the wind, so moved on to option #3. Our plan was to unload there, set up camp, and then head off for an afternoon of exploring. Island Option #3 turned out to be...a...really...bad...choice: poor landing conditions, a not particularly attractive "beach," and a voracious population of mosquitoes. We hastily set up camp and headed over to Isle au Haut.

We enjoyed a respite from the wind passing between Isle au Haut and Kimball Island, and then back out into it until we reached the shelter of Moore's Harbor - a really beautiful place. It was nice listening to the water against the pebble beach, and then nice to stretch our legs. I looked for a few little rocks to bring back and put on my desk. Found two beauties! We poked along the shore of the harbor and it turned out that that was as far as we got that day, and we headed back to Island Option #3 (sorry - trying to pay attention to the MITA rules about not discussing MITA islands on public forums). The tide was lower now, and our original landing spot was now hopelessly unusable, so we continued around until we found an acceptable cove and beach. The only problem being that our campsite was now some distance away. While I stayed down at the water's edge, Barry and Warren started hauling the boats above the high tide line. They returned from the first carry with swarms of mosquitoes around their heads and blood on their legs. Charming! We then did the quarter mile slog with our mosquito friends over rough terrain back to our campsite. It was only the wind that made being on the beach bearable, and when evening arrived, the wind dropped, and the mosquitoes came on down to join us. This drove Warren and me into our tents early. We didn't even bother with a cooked supper because of the bugs, while Barry - blissing out with mosquitoes forming a halo around him - cooked up his meal and sat up and watched what he later reported was a pretty spectacular red sunset. We had agreed earlier that this would be our only night on this island (although original plan had been to stay at the same place for two nights). It was a cold night, and we got up earlier than the mosquitoes and broke camp. Again, Barry sat with his coffee and orange juice, seemingly oblivious to the bugs who by then had risen out of their beds in the grass with the rising sun, while Warren and I decided breakfast would be Anywhere But Here, aka Mosquito Hell Island. We started the long trip back to where we'd left the boats, each loaded down with all our gear, determined not to have to make the trip more than once.

We headed out on Sunday morning with the plan to meet up with Ed (who was overnighting at Old Quarry) and a friend of mine who lives in Blue Hill) on Russ Island at 10 am. On the way, we stopped to check out an island that Warren - with his urge for solo voyaging in the future - had marked as a good possibility for a future trip. He reasoned that any island that was described as being shaped like an amoeba had to be a pretty good island, and was he ever right! It was a tiny beauty with several inviting white shell beaches, pretty campsites and best of all: no bugs! We immediately and independently decided that this was to be our home for the night. We hastily unloaded our boats and set up camp, and then paddled out to meet Ed and my friend.

My friend had in years passed guided out of Stonington, so armed with some ideas of our own and with her deep local knowledge, spent the day hopping from one island to another - each one more pleasing than the last. And all like little pockets of heaven after our first night's experience. We had a somewhat sporty crossing to one island, which was perhaps the prettiest of the lot, got out, took pictures, and marveled at the beauty of the day, the conditions, and our luck at being where we were.

Then we all headed back to our island campsite, where we waved goodbye to Ed and my friend, and settled in for the kind of peaceful evening that we'd all imagined when we planned the trip. We sat looking over the water back at Stonington, and reflected on the fact that it was the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and here we were, far from everything. We all recalled where we'd been that day and what it had been like, and were glad to be missing what must have been an intensive weekend of media bombardment of memories of that day. The wind blew strongly on the other side of the island, but we were protected and calm. We stayed up to see the sun set and beyond (but not much beyond). The wind blew all night, keeping some of us (me!) awake a good deal of the night, and just as the wind dropped at 4 am, the first lobster boats were out to do their work. I rather enjoyed being kept awake by both.

So Monday dawned clear and not terribly breezy. A giant cigar shaped cloud hung over the horizon, then slowly dispersed as the wind picked up again. We took our time looking at different parts of the little island, enjoying the comfortable accomodations, and appreciating that after having found and camped on what must certainly be The Worst Island in the Deer Isle Archipelago, we were now on one of the best. But the little beach where we'd landed was shrinking as the tide came in, and we had to load up and head out. It was a too-short trip (with wind and tide pushing us along) back to Old Quarry. While we'd all been thinking of how nice it would be to take a shower and what we enjoy about being at home, as we approached the ramp, none of us wanted to get out of our boats. Another beautiful day, and we'd have to spend it driving south.

I expect that reluctance to get out of one's boat at the end of a trip is the mark of a successful experience.

(I would post pictures of the trip but haven't become clever enough to upload them to this post - if I can figure it out, I'll do so later. And if any MITA member would like to know The Island to Never Go To, any of us would be glad to let you know!)


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Let me be the first to say how very much I enjoyed reading this report!

I think that the difference between 10 mosquitoes around one's head and 30 mosquitoes is not really noticeable. Sounds like you suffered much more than I did, actually.

There's definitely some knowledge to build up about how to pick a good kayak camp site - access at all tides is one I learned early on, after being stranded until the tide came back. Certain sorts of ground cover seem to breed more mosquitoes than others too. I'm so glad you got to camp on the amoeba island (I think I know which one, and it's a small gem).

All in all, a wonderful adventure, yes? Thank you for posting it, and I look forward to the photos.


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Great report Pru! A really nice read.

I took my son to (what I thought) was a more protected destination: Warren Island State park and we had a great time camping Saturday and Sunday. The paddle out was accompanied by 15 - 20 knots wind from the Northwest and an appropriate fetch to boot. Although my son could improve his forward stroke, I was nevertheless proud of him staying calm and enjoying the slow 3 mile paddle to the campsite. :-) He looked completely unfazed by the bumpy paddle.

The reason I mention Warren State Park is that we also experienced a little bit of mosquitoes during times of calm winds. We spoke to the ranger and she has said that there were no issues with bugs until this last storm (Hurricane Irene). I wonder whether it was the same situation for your (choice #3) island at Stonington?

We ended up placing a new geocache near The Gut so anyone going up there feel free to check it out.

Our paddle back was accompanied by similar wind (10-15kn) and probably eve larger fetch from the south. We were able to enjoy it without any drama.

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Wow! What an amazingly well written trip report. It is true Kate does write amazing trip reports and each one has helped shape my knowledge and approach to kayak camping. But Pru, this report is the one I will treasure for years to come. As we said to each other before heading home on Monday morning, "Boy have we come a long way with our kayaking skills and in realizing our dreams." Well done!


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But even smaller journeys have great pleasures, as well all know from journeys of only a morning or an afternoon messing about in boats.

Quite true.

trying to pay attention to the MITA rules about not discussing MITA islands on public forums).

Not that I want to encounter more people, but I think it should be made more clear that MITA requests only the non-public islands not be mentioned or discussed in public forums.

The "ameoba" island is a great spot, and it is too bad the islands closer to IAH were bug ridden so late in the year.

BTW, some kayakers view lobstermen with suspicion and vice versa. However, even around Stonington if you appropriately get their attention, you will generally discover they are friendly and more than happy to sell a few "bugs" for boat price. Before dumping them in the cockpit, just make sure they are well banded or you may find a new reason to wet exit and lose supper as well.

Ed Lawson

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I just like live animals

it's the lobster allergy in me for sure but nothing sounds less appealing to me than someone dropping a bug on my lap.

now, had they any fresh, wild salmon!

after all, it's only camping...there's no reason to live like animals.

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