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NO GOOD DEED GOES UNPUNISHED - NSPN Annual MITA Cleanup at Bangs and Crow October 11-13, 2013


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NSPN Annual MITA Cleanup at Bangs and Crow 10/11-13/2013

Saturday was quite windy; the northeast wind was stirring up whitecaps on Potts Harbor. Shortly after pulling onto the beach – the landing spot for our planned Saturday lunch at the restaurant at Dolphin Marina – on the second day of our three day garbage cleanup trip to NSPN’s MITA stewardship islands, we had a mildly unpleasant interaction with a youngish lobsterman who was standing with two companions next to his truck at the top of the boat launch, sucking down a Twisted Lemonade. As we stripped out of our dry suits to put on more suitable – well, slightly, anyway – clothing for a restaurant meal, he initiated a “conversation” with us in a mildly slurred voice about the dangerous weather conditions out there, the wind against tide, our unpreparedness to be out in it, how he had had to rescue “a lot of you people” in the past…and so on. “I’ve made my living on the sea for 35 years,” he said, leading me to think he must have started working in utero. There was an ugly cast to his expression, and his words conveyed only hostility, not concern. Our responses to him were mild and sparse.

The restaurant on the other hand was lovely in every way. I’d seen it once before from the outside and assumed that it would be a mediocre tourist trap kind of dining spot. It exceeded all expectations – from the clean and light decor to the artwork on the walls to the specific design of the wrap around windows providing a spectacular view over the water. And the food was pretty darned good as well! We ordered up fried clam rolls, flatbread pizza, haddock plate, haddock sandwich, and fish chowder. All were delicious choices, but as I had discovered last month on the Cobscook Bay trip, I really don’t have much of an appetite in the middle of a paddling day, and the richness of my fabulous chowder was too much, and I ate only half of it, and passed on the accompanying blueberry muffin for the boys to eat. Regretfully eying the waste of my meal, I said, “I wish sometime we could have a nice meal after we’re done paddling, rather than when we’re in the middle of it.”

Be careful what you wish for.

Although Rob Hazard, Gary York, David McCaleb, Roger Turgeon and I had launched from Sandy Point Beach at Cousins Island in Yarmouth at around 10 am the day before,


the real trip didn’t begin until Saturday night at around 10 pm. This was several hours after Gary and Roger had built the warming fire at Bangs Island around which we had sat all evening,


talking about the day, the successful trash cleanup that had taken the whole morning and which had been rewarded with the restaurant meal, and the many other this’s and that’s that come up when one is relaxing at the end of long day. As it was past my bedtime, and I had worried about the ability of my rapidly failing knees to safely convey me in the dark across the rocky outcropping that had to be passed to get back to our campsite, I had just made the journey successfully. Gary - who had been on the phone with his wife and had apparently just discussed the call with the other guys, all of whom were still huddled around the fire, determined to burn up every piece of driftwood we’d gathered - called out, “Pru, I have good news and bad news.” The good news was that Bob Cornell, who had been planning to join us but had never arrived, was safely at home (as we had assumed), having set out that morning from Cousins, only to find the conditions too sporty – read: unsafe – for a solo paddle out to Bangs. And the bad news? It flashed through my head that Gary would tell me that the Red Sox had lost the first game of the ALCS against the Tigers.

No: Bob had emailed Gary, whose wife had read just him the email, that when he arrived at the parking lot at Cousin’s on Saturday morning, he discovered that the driver’s side tires on all of our cars were flat. He had made a report to the police, and been told that he was not the first one to have done so.

Two days later, safely back home, it is hard to conjure the gut punch that this news conveyed. I had been tired and looking forward to another good night’s sleep on my grassy tent site, listening to the waves of the incoming tide rushing up onto the rocky beach. First reaction: What the #@&%!! That was all the information we had at the time. Had vandals just let the air out – best-case scenario – or had they slashed the tires? (From my years working in the court system, while I wished for the former, it was hard to believe that it would be anything but the latter.) And what else might they have done? And who did it? And why? Why us?

As much as I wanted to rejoin the group – all thoughts of being lulled to sleep by the hush of the waves now vanquished – I didn’t want to have to scramble back across the rocks to join them. Instead, I stood where I was and we called back and forth about what to do.

But what was there to do? Nothing. There are people who when not in a position to take action to deal with a problem are able to put it out of their heads until such time as they can. I am not one of those people.

We knew so little. What we did know was that we would be returning – as we had originally planned – to Cousins the next morning. But how would we figure out how to get tires fixed/replaced in Yarmouth, Maine on a Sunday of a holiday weekend?

I went to my tent, got into my sleeping bag, and lay listening to the waves and the varied sounds of island raccoons chattering to each other as they made repeated efforts to breach our defenses to get at our food – which was by now safely secured in our boats. (Although tell that to Rob, who the next morning found the edge of his rear hatch thoroughly gnawed but fortunately sustaining only cosmetic damage that did not compromise the seal on the hatch.) And I listened to the sound of the helpless thoughts going round and round in my head. The afternoon’s hostile lobsterman. Tales of tensions between local fishermen and kayakers. Four cars with Massachusetts plates (“Massholes”) and one from New Hampshire. All with kayak roof racks. In the dark, when everything always seems bleakest, it seemed clear that we had been targeted. And if the damage had been done on Friday night – whatever that damage was – what might happen overnight tonight? And was it just tires or was there more damage unseen? Glue in locks? Keyed cars? Spray-painted vulgarities? And anger at the awful irony of being targeted as kayakers when the reason we had been parked where we were was that we had been performing service cleaning up junk – much of which no doubt originated on fishing boats.

And I thought of another group of friends that I knew was out paddling this weekend, and thought, “I wish I’d gone with them.”

What would we do? How would we handle the logistics? Would a tow truck take a car with a kayak on it? If not, how would we secure the kayaks when the cars were towed away as they likely would need to be? All five of us had damaged vehicles; there would be no one left to watch the boats… And so on… And dark thoughts about the perpetrator(s). And more dark thoughts about the perpetrator(s). And so on. And so on. And on…

And then all the logs must have been burned because I heard the murmured conversation of the boys returning to their tent sites. I called out to Gary, “How about calling the police in Yarmouth just so we can find out what we’re actually dealing with?” Gary responded that they had discussed that and decided not to.

And so the night passed, filled with anger and worry about what had happened and anxiety about how we’d deal with it. I mostly unsuccessfully tried to calm my mind by thinking how – in the greater scheme of things – slashed tires measured up against other misfortunes and disasters that can happen on a kayaking trip. After all, despite my worries about my knees, I hadn’t fallen, and no one else had either. There were no broken bones or split heads. No harrowing rescues or hypothermia. Our boats hadn’t floated away in the night. What we had to deal with would only be money and inconvenience, right? But in the middle of the night, when one is lying alone in the dark, the strategy of thinking of worse events is of only limited success in calming one’s mind.

And then somehow it was morning. Grey morning, but morning.


Calm (praise be!). It turned out that Gary had changed his mind and had indeed called the police and been told that the tires were indeed all slashed. We had been holding out faint hope that Roger’s car, which was not parked next to ours, might have been spared. It hadn’t been. The new plan was to launch by 8:00. Although none of us felt particularly cheerful, there were some smiles and jokes. I was very aware – not for the first time – that the main thing that was making the situation tolerable was not having to go through it alone. We were all in it – whatever it would be, and we would soon find out – together. While it was overcast, it was a pretty morning nonetheless.

Without eating breakfast, we packed up. I borrowed Rob’s phone and called AAA to alert them to the situation and to tell them that in a few hours we would be needing tow trucks to deal with five cars. The woman with whom I spoke was in Portland. Brita’s (“like the water filter”) response was so sympathetic I almost wanted to cry. She said she would start a ticket and notify her supervisor and the dispatcher. She also said she would look up tire repair places that might be open on Sunday. I said I’d call again when we got back to Sandy Point.

And so we paddled back on calm seas with the faintest hint of a following breeze. North from Bangs, we rounded the northern tip of Great Chebeague. There were flocks of birds that made whistling sounds as they lifted out en masse at our approach. Eiders? Guillemots? We talked back and forth about what had happened. Having had a restless night to work myself up, I was increasingly convinced that it had happened because we were out of state kayakers. Which would make the vandalism a kind of hate crime. And that perception – even knowing that being targeted as an out-of-state kayaker is not on a par with being targeted for the color of one’s skin, or sexual orientation, or religious beliefs – made me angry and sad and helpless in equal parts. And the irony of this happening on the one trip of the year that was not a pure pleasure trip…well, that was never far from my mind. It’s your islands, your trash we came to clean up!

The one thing I didn’t share as we paddled was all the worry I had that there would be more damage to our cars than would meet the eye, and that unpleasant surprises lay ahead. There was enough collective distress that it didn’t seem right to burden anyone else with my fears, although others may have had them too.

It was a quick trip. We made the last turn and could see in the distance the high bridge connecting Cousins Island to the mainland. Cars drove across. I fantasized that the #$%$# vandals were in one of those cars, watching us approaching the beach and laughing.

We landed. We started emptying our boats and started the first of several trips to get everything across the beach and up the long uphill path to the parking lot. I walked carrying one heavy bag and my paddle. And then I was back at the parking lot. Parked there was a Yarmouth Police cruiser. And how nice was it to see the officer standing outside his cruiser awaiting our arrival? It was really really nice.

And so the awful emotional tide that had been flooding since the night before started to ebb. Officer Lucas, fresh of face, one year on the job after serving in the army, greeted each of us with a handshake, smile, sympathetic words and report forms to fill out.

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And as we quickly discovered, there was no damage to any of our cars beyond the clearly slashed tires.

Officer Lucas told us that this was the first such vandalism event at the Sandy Point parking lot that he was aware of. He was of the opinion - although he explained that he was not the investigating officer - that it was most likely teenage boys out for mischief that had caused the damage; he did not think that it had anything to do with our license plates or kayak racks.

An older man in a red pickup truck arrived and approached us. It turned out that he had been the one who was the first of several people to report the vandalism. Walking his dog first thing on Saturday morning, he had first passed Rob’s car – whose tires were impressively squashed. He told us he thought to himself, “Oh, man, that guy is going to be upset when he comes back.” Then he saw that the tires on Gary’s car, which was parked behind Rob’s, were also flattened, and mine…and David’s across the road…and Roger’s in a little turnout beyond ours. He called the police. He had returned this morning with an air compressor to help us out in case all we needed was air to fill the tires.

Over the next hour and a half, every dog walker and bicyclist and person pushing a baby stroller who came through that lot as we fetched gear and loaded boats and filled out police forms couldn’t have been nicer.


All expressed shock and surprise; one man said that it made him feel ill.

As we soon found out, even before we had arrived, Officer Lucas had the situation totally under control. He had already been in contact with AAA himself. Two flatbed trucks were on their way from Portland. He had established that Tire Warehouse, less than ten minutes away, was open all day and he had notified them of our mass-slashing event so that they would be expecting us. There was nothing that any of us needed to do but flow with the plan! I can’t tell you – but of course I am trying to right now – how wonderfully reassuring this was. The Yarmouth police had stepped in and were taking care of our group.

The first of the sparkling white flatbed tow trucks with red and blue “AAA Northern New England, Portland, Maine” logos pulled in to the lot. Then a second.


The two drivers, both local, were young and friendly. And sympathetic. (This is not a quality I have seen in abundance in big city tow truck drivers, by the way…) They started loading our cars onto the trucks.

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We all thanked Officer Lucas profusely for his help, and each of us in turn hopped into the cab of the truck transporting our kayak. And thus began the three trip shuttle to the tire store.

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We arrived in pairs at the tire store,


then milled around the parking lot waiting until we were all there. Gary deemed us the Tire Store Kayak Meetup Group.

And the guy at the tire store: He was really nice, too! He assessed each of our cars, establishing that three of us would need to have all four tires replaced, although only two were slashed; while two of us would only need to have the two done. Some tires were in stock; some would have to come down from Lewiston. It was going to take a while for a tire place without a lift and only two guys working that day to deal with all of us.

So…about that wish to have a nice meal after rather than in the middle of a paddle? Granted.

As it turned out Pat’s Pizza, one of Gary’s favorites, was right around the corner. It was just after noon and none of us had eaten at all that day. And so we repaired to the sports bar for pizza and beer.


Where we heard another bit of bad news from the night before: the Sox had indeed lost the first game of the playoffs as I had feared. (But, oh, what a comeback they made Sunday night after we had all returned home!) We suggested a pool to predict when the last car would be ready to roll. The prize for the winning time would be the glory of being a winnah! – while the rest of us would be losahs! 4:15, I said. 3:30, said Gary. 5:15, 5:10 and 4:30 were the next three guesses. We all agreed that Gary with his sunny 3:30 optimism would be the clear loser.

He won.

Before our meal was over, we got a call that three cars were ready, and the other two were in process.


So. Final tally: Five paddlers. Five cars. Ten slashed tires. Sixteen new tires purchased. A total cost of over $2200.

Yes, it was painful to end up spending $600 for a new set of tires when my old ones had only 11,000 miles on them. And for others of us, having to replace two, let alone four, tires was a not insignificant financial burden. And it had been inconvenient for all us to a greater or lesser extent. But we were all safe. No one had been hurt. Two MITA islands were a lot cleaner for our efforts than they had been when we arrived. But the intense anger and feeling of victimization had, I think for all of us, substantially dissipated as a result of how well we were treated starting the very minute that we got back to the scene of the crime.

I believe now that it was stupid teenagers who did the damage. That it was just our unlucky day to be there when kids with beer on board decided to engage in some mischief. That we were not targeted. That it was not some spiritual brother/cousin/son of Saturday’s unpleasant lobsterman who had gotten us. Our experience with Officer Lucas, the two AAA tow drivers, the young man at the tire store, the man who originally reported the vandalism and returned on Sunday morning to help us out, and the bicyclists and walkers with their shock and sympathy – all really helped overwhelm the senseless and stupid act perpetrated by the lads who will likely never be identified.

Lessons learned:

Despite beliefs to the contrary, there are indeed things that duct tape, marine epoxy and aqua seal will not repair.


If genuine sympathy were air-filled unvandalized tires, we would have been able to roll right out of that parking lot on our return.

If you have to have your tires slashed, make sure you have it done in Yarmouth, Maine.

And most importantly, choose your group wisely. I can’t think of a group that I would rather have shared this experience with than the one I was in. Thank you Gary, Rob, Roger and David!

Memories of some kayaking trips blur into memories of others. The 2013 NSPN MITA cleanup trip will not be one of them. This was an outstanding trip. Money aside (and that is not trivial), this was a vivid and special experience. Those don’t come around all that often. In a weird way, I’m glad to have been a part of it.


And I may even get around to doing a Part I trip report, which will cover our lovely two days of paddling when we were innocent of what was to happen,

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and what did happen.





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Not because I choose to be pollyannish about the trip, but because I am wired that way (http://www.concordmonitor.com/news/nation/world/8895718-95/study-links-genes-negative-views-of-life), here are some pix that captured the splendor we enjoyed for the first 2 days. I am seeking caption submissions to the pic involving the "mismatched" duo entertaining Rob.

Link to photo album HERE

Route for Day 1 (13.7 NM): http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=6111815

Route for Day 2 (10.7 NM): http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=6111828

Edited by gyork
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Sorry Pru for the tsuris. What would concern me now is the chilling effect this may have on any of us returning in the future to this put-in. The lobster man (boy) just sounded like a Mainiac A--hole. It might have been instructive to have regaled him with stories of the training and rescue practice that many of us all do. Oh well!

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What a disappointing turn of events. Sorry you all had to deal with it. Life can really throw you a curve ball at times but the important thing was you all accomplished your main objective, were able to have a kayak camping weekend and returned safe and sound. I'm sue the looming violation/altercation however was difficult to shake while camping.

As sea kayakers, we are so fortunate to have adventurers and experiences that most people can't even imagine. There will always be people out there that could find us to be easy targets because we are different and in their wrapped sense of balance feel we deserve to be targeted.

A few years ago we had weekly skill sessions in Kingston, NH and one night we returned to out cars to find the inside of our car door handles smeared with the worst fishy goo slime that is apparently used to attract fish. This was a clear message from the bass boat fishermen to stay out of their parking lot. I never went back. I got the message.

In your case, it sounds like more of an isolated occurrence which I hope will not put a damper on next years annual trip.

I think one more kayak camping weekend is needed to erase the negative vibes. It's a long winter.


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Wow, I am just about in tears reading this report ... to read about my friends having to deal with this mindless act of vandalism. My wife had her tires slashed in Charlestown, MA and I remember the feeling of anger and frustration. Eventually having to come to the conclusion that I had to put it behind me or they would continue to victimize us. I am so glad that the people of Yarmouth rallied around and that the police handled it with such courtesy and professionalism.

Doug, I love that second paragraph ... never thought of it that way, but it makes a lot of sense.


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I am so very sorry about the experience you had. I hope that they get the person. Makes one think that the people that put video recorders in their cars are looking less and less nuts.

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What a total bummer.

It goes right on top of the list of why I seldom paddle here in the "states" anymore.

I would say you were definitely targeted, I know I worry that my friend from Quebec car might be "targeted " when joins me from time to time.

I'm not big on the teenager theory though..mostly because when a fellow I knew wanted to slash some tires, he went home and made a tool to do it. Then tested it for effectiveness. A kid might let the air out of your tires, but just doesn't have a knife or whatever strong enough to do the slashing.

but some looney local with a "hair across their arse" and is gonna do this an that to these friggin yakers with all their money etc... etc...

Empowered losers is what they are. Maybe a bit more empowered with the gov't shut down and the right wing flexing their muscle, who knows...

While your officer might not have a clue who did it chances are others have a mighty good idea who did it and what other places they may have done it before...

One method to find out who did it would be to start asking around if there is an a..hole convention nearby because surely your guy will be there....

Edited by spider
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I'm not big on the teenager theory though..mostly because when a fellow I knew wanted to slash some tires, he went home and made a tool to do it. Then tested it for effectiveness.

Really? Was he from Canada?

This could happen anywhere as far as I'm concerned.

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pru -

people suck. not all of them...just enough of them to make the rest of us need the occasional restoration of faith in the remainder...which brings us back to kayaking.

don't let the turkeys get you down...there's no shortage of jackasses but on the whole, we have them outnumbered.

and spider i think your injecting the political landscape into this is just ridiculous.

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and spider i think your injecting the political landscape into this is just ridiculous.

We really need to keep this about kayaking. I just had to nuke another thread that took a turn.

It's very sad that our friends just had to waste $2,220 on new tires, just because some j*rk was too drunk to have a brain and not hurt other peoples items.

I hope that Rob, Gary, David, Roger and Prue never experience the ever again. I would hope that the rest of the paddling community never experiences it for the first time. The $2,220 would have been better spent on paddling gear (IMO), then replacing perfectly good tires.

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This is not the way I would want to end a perfectly wonderful weekend on the water. I am so sorry that this happened to all of you. I hope this is something that never ever happens again!

May I also say thank you for the weekend too... that you did go up there and not only do good work for MITA as well. With the sourness as to how the weekend ended, I don't want your good intentions for being out there overlooked. so thank you!

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Might it help or hurt to send a nice PR piece to the local papers?

Short and to the point but also explaining that not all kayakers hog the channel or get in the way of working boats.

Would never expect to catch the kid but raising a greater awareness of the crime would be nice. I would also like to know if there were any other similar incidents in town that night?

Sorry for your loss,

Paul Sylvester

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We probably won't ever find out who did this. These things happen from time to time. It was vandalism, inexcusable, but not terribly uncommon. A friend of mine told me he had the same thing happen to him in Bremen back in '91, while he was on an overnight on Muscongus Bay. They did find the kids who did it that time, but there's no guarantee.

More to the point, I think we handled it well. We talked it over around the fire and decided NOT to try paddling back in the dark but to pack up and go in the morning. Gary and Pru made calls to the police and to AAA so they'd be there when we landed. We hung together while our cars all got new tires and we didn't split up until we were all ready to head home in good shape.

All in all, I still think of the trip as having been a success.

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Pru, I think that PaulS's idea about a short piece/letter to the editor of local rag might be a (very) good idea to raise awareness. It would also serve to praise the local police in front of their own community. Newspapers <always> like a story that highlights good will, too, which evidently arrived in abundance. I think you should do it!

As JulieC wrote above, thank you, all, for the huge and generous effort in terms of the trip objectives.

Commiseration, too, on account of the damage to your collective bank accounts!

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These things happen from time to time. It was vandalism, inexcusable, but not terribly uncommon.

Yes Rob. In fact, when I was sitting with the tow truck driver on the way to the tire shop I asked an open ended question,

"Do you see a lot of this sort of thing?" I found his reply strangely comforting.

"Not too much. Every once in awhile a whole block gets it."

(Note, he didn't say "kayakers", or "out-of-state plates", or even "beach". In his mind it was just random attack like he sees from time-to-time on a typical neighborhood block.)

Now that I've had some time to reflect, I'd do it again. It stung, yes, but it won't keep me from enjoying future paddles. I'm so glad I was with a team that stuck it out together with as good an attitude as we could muster. The warm wishes of empathy here from the larger community are also of great comfort. At least we all returned safe and healthy. Thanks team.

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Thanks to everyone for your comments and concern.

Gary, thanks for the letter to the local rag (or website!).

And I did send a letter to the Chief of the Yarmouth Police thanking him for their help and efficiency, and specifically naming Officer Lucas.

I continue to be honored to be part of the very exclusive NSPN Tire Warehouse Meetup Group!


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