Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Upwest and Downeast: Almost Done



I nearly titled this 'almost home,' but knew that it wouldn't be quite correct. We'll be back to Deer Isle by Thursday or Friday, and it is about as close to home as we have, other than this feeling we carry with us as we paddle up and down the coast, a sense of being where you should be. We get our mail in Stonington still. We have friends there, and a rented storage space where our stuff is stored and where Rebecca keeps her studio, but no house or apartment or place to live (we've mostly house-sat the last couple of years). We rent a few spots in a kayak storage space by the town boat ramp,  and until summer kicked-in, were regulars at pickleball, twice a week at the Community Center. 

This was our fifteenth summer living in Maine, but it's the first in which I've tasted the sense of joy and freedom that I hoped I'd find when we came here. Much of that comes down to economics. We haven't worked since June. And yet we've spent very little money on this trip. Probably less than we usually do on food,  two nights at a commercial campground... a tank of gas at the beginning of the summer. And of course the usual overhead: health insurance, phone bill... a tank of gas in a car that's been parked all summer.  The storage and studio... subscriptions to unwatched Amazon and Netflix.

We haven't lived in a way that most people would find comfortable. It's been weeks since the last real shower, and pooping into a plastic bag has become surprisingly normal. We've eaten well, including a shared pint of ice-cream in most ports. We're a bit damp much of the time, with a layer of salt that seems to permeate the skin. I do look forward to a long soak in a tub of hot water. Obviously this existence- even as a temporary foray- isn't for everybody. Which is good. We've had little competition for campsites and have encountered amazingly few kayakers, especially those who seemed to be going somewhere or camping.

It's premature to recap the trip, but knowing that we're almost done brings-on a wistful sense of melancholy. All those summers we worked so much, and they went by so fast. Well, this one went by fast as well. Many people tell us this is the trip of a lifetime, and they're right, but all we can think is that we want lots of trips like this in our lifetime, or even that we want our life to be more like this.

Right now I'm sitting on a comfortable slab of rock on the south end of Stave Island, in Frenchman Bay. Rebecca is nearby, painting. I don't know what she's painting- the fog has come in pretty thick, obscuring most everything out there, but a little while ago you could see it rising over the Porcupine Islands with Cadillac Mountain in the background. There's a storm forecast for tonight and we decided yesterday that this might be a more comfortable spot than the ones ahead. I think we also just liked the idea of one more time-out on an island, without rushing back to Deer Isle.

Since my last post, we left Dickenson's Reach, up at the sheltered head of Little Kennebec Bay in Machiasport, and made our way down to Jonesport, where we once again bought a few supplies and refilled water at the Moosabec Variety (you can still rent VHS tapes there too). We continued on to Sheep Island off of Cape Split and spent 2 nights there to wait-out predicted rough seas (don't  think they got too rough, but we were glad to stay there). We identified the nearby home of modernist watercolorist John Marin (the weird-sounding seabird that turned-out to be an alarm system helps give it away) but never got over to see, up-close the bluffs of Tumble-Down Dick Head. It's good to save things for future trips.

On Sunday morning we paddled into Milbridge for groceries and headed out to Bois Bubert Island. From there, yesterday morning, we went around Petit Manan Point, on to Corea and then around Schoodic Point during the eclipse. Quite a crowd there;  it felt as if we were sauntering along the outskirts of a party, where everyone was waiting for the band to start, but had kind of forgotten what they were doing there and hey, the light is kind of funny now, isn't it? And we'll give the eclipse credit for the big eddy that took us all the way here, against the dominant current.

Just after lunch today, we spied two skiffs coming our way, and they turned out to be MITA boats, carrying the Maine Island Trail Association's Trail Committee. We're not on a MITA island, but they were checking things out, and we had a sort-of impromptu meeting right there, discussing such things as the need or feasibility for sites along the Bold Coast. They took our trash away and left us with some extra water. And provided us with more human contact than we've had in awhile, which was welcome.

Over the next couple of days, we'll meander back to Deer Isle- only two or three days and nights, and maybe a stop at Old Quarry for a shower before we pack our gear into the car an head over to a family lake home in New Hampshire, where we have a week to recover a bit while hanging-out with some of the constant people in our life. Then we're sort of transient again. Maybe a little teaching and guiding in September... a dentist's appointment... and maybe some time up in Newfoundland with Rebecca's parents. For now though, this fog has come-in thick and cool. Time for some food.



Thursday, August 17, 2017

Deer Isle to Eastport


The second part of the trip has gone quite differently from our first month paddling. If you're just tuning-in now, we've been paddling the coast of Maine since July first, a trip that began in Deer Isle with a meandering route and pace that took us to Portland and back to Deer Isle- some 330 miles in 34 days, with a few zero days for weather. Part of our aim was for Rebecca to do some painting on the islands along the way, and I of course would at least write an occasional blog to keep up with things. 

We were guests for three nights in Greenlaw Cove at the house where we house-sat last winter- time that included some resupplying and other tasks, as well as some socializing... which was great but a little weird. I felt very preoccupied, anxious to be back on the water. Unfortunately, Spider-Man, which had been scheduled to play at the Stonington Opera House, was cancelled. 

We got underway again on Sunday, August 6th, paddling over to Naskeag Point where Steve Stone from the website Off Center Harbor did a video interview with us. It probably won't be out until after the trip is done. We said some brilliant things as well as some goofy things, but I understand they can edit it to make it go in either direction. Camped that night on Little Hog Island. 

Since I'm still in the middle of this trip, and I have adventures yet ahead of me this evening, I'll be super-brief, but overall, this stretch of the journey has been a bit more rushed than the upwest (southern) portion. Leaving on the sixth, we had less than three weeks to get up the coast and back to Deer Isle before other commitments loomed. This stretch of coast has a few longer stretches between campsites, and a few areas that we'd rather paddle in not-too-huge days. Also, resupply opportunities are a bit scarcer Downeast, so it just makes sense sometimes to paddle some longer days. We've had far less time to hang-out and do any painting or writing. I'm still only half-way through the novel I started reading a month and a half ago. Internet and cell service is sketchier. We've had some early starts and late finishes and more or less pass-out after dinner. In short, it's the way life should be. 

Hopefully after I return I'll get some maps on here, but for now, this will have to do. From Little Hog Island we went across Blue Hill Bay, rounded the southwest end of Mount Desert Island and camped on a small MITA island near the Cranberry Islands. From there, we followed the southeast corner of MDI (Otter Cliffs, Thunder Hole, etc) and crossed Frenchman Bay, around Schoodic Point and on past Corea into Gouldsboro Bay, where we camped on another MITA site, this time on a ledge/island, that kept us about three feet above the full moon high tide.

On out to Petit Manan Island (puffins and a lighthouse!) and in to Bois Bubert for lunch and across to Sheep Island, a Downeast Conservancy island, newish to the trail, to camp. We refilled water bags and bought some convenience store fare the next day in Jonesport before continuing on to Ram Island in Machias Bay, and then to Cross Island before making the 34 nautical-mile hop up to Sumac Island near Eastport.

This doesn't scratch the surface, I know. In Eastport, we unsuccessfully tried to clear customs by phone and opted to stay in the US. A kind woman (kayak guide now watching-out for marine mammals at the pier construction site) leant us her car so we could get groceries. Topped off water at the Port Authority. We spent three nights in Eastport before grabbing our weather window for the return trip down the Bold Coast in total fog. There is much to be said about this experience beyond the mileage (34 nm again). I have kept copious notes. From Cross Island, we came here, to Dickenson's Reach, a remote mainland property on a millpond in the far inland reach of Little Kennebec Bay, in Machiasport. This was the home of simple living philosopher and yurt-guru William Coperthwaite. We're trying to soak-up that simple-living vibe. And sitting-out a Small Craft Advisory. We've got about a week to get back. Yesterday, our 47th day on this trip, the tripometer (don'T all kayaks have them?) passed 500 nautical miles. But that's just a number. It's been fun. Dinner time.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Monhegan to Deer Isle



After Monhegan, after  a night on Little Griffin Island, we woke to strong south winds and increasing seas that helped push us in to Port Clyde, where we did some quick shopping, topped-off a water bag from the hose at Port Clyde Kayak (thanks!) and steeled ourselves for a pretty rough stretch of paddling from Marshall Point light and around Mosquito Head, where the waves were now behind us and pushed us along toward Tenants Harbor and onward up to Lobster Buoy Campsites. 



We would have liked to linger a little more in Muscle Ridge, but we settled for a lunch stop on the sandbar at Birch Island, and made our way out to Crescent Island. As we pointed our bows to White Island, five miles across West Penobscot Bay, that seventies instrumental piece, part cheesy TV show soundtrack, part disco, part light jazz, cued itself on the turntable of my mind, and we set-off amid a chorus of soaring,  synthesized violins. Rebecca still can’t hear them, but for me, they begin in the morning, accurately reproduced by the intro the tent zipper plays. I may need to hear some other music soon.



We stayed on Ram Island that night, made our way around the south end of Vinalhaven the next day and bought some groceries at the village before continuing around to Seal Bay, where we camped on South Little Hen Island for two nights. As we approached the island, we saw several paddlers off to the right… and kind of pretended they weren’t there until we reached the island, whereupon we realized we knew a couple of them… This brought the total number of camping kayakers we’d met in nearly a month to six, and here they were, arriving at the same coveted campsite at the same time (well, about twenty seconds later than us). Not only that, but they were at least partially directed there by the Xeroxed pages of AMC’s Best Sea Kayaking in New England, in which I must have written something nice about this place. Why am I sharing this stuff? We offered to share the site, but it would have been a bit crowded, and they graciously went-on to Hay Island.  


We spent a windy day on South Little Hen, which was excellent refuge. Cruising sail and power boaters thought so too, as Seal Bay is a very popular anchorage. In the evenings we watched a parade of boats entering the bay, and in the morning a parade of boats exiting. Again and again, we observed boat occupants rowing dinghies ashore, either to the bigger Hen Island or the Little Hens, with anxious dogs standing in the bow as if watching for obstacles. We were back in the country of smooth, glacial granite, and Rebecca found plenty to paint. 


The next morning we paddled out to Brimstone Island, south of Vinalhaven, and found another pair of familiar sea kayakers parked on the beach of dark, polished stones. We’d met Jeff and Steph a few times at Old Quarry, where they were usually embarked upon excursions for a week or two, and I always felt jealous of them. I may have been paddling every day for work, but there’s something quite different about heading-off on your own trip, at your own pace. We sat and talked for a long time, then took a quick jaunt up to the hilltop for a view of our next five-mile stretch over past Saddleback light to the south end of Isle au Haut. Which we then paddled. 


We ate a late lunch on Isle au Haut’s south end an paddled down the east side. We might have stopped on Wheat, but kayakers were already camped there, so we went on to Harbor Island, and watched the familiar lights of Stonington come on as we ate dinner. 


We decided to head over to Marshall Island where Nate was guiding/teaching a Pinniped journey class, but first we needed to pick-up a few supplies in Stonington (with a dip in the Green Island quarry en route to reduce our stink. Despite the remaining stink, People in Stonington still wanted to chat with us. It seems very difficult for us to not get sucked-in to the Stonington vortex, and it took quite awhile… too long to get to Marshall that night, so we camped on Buckle Island before heading off to Marshall, crossing Jericho Bay in a dense fog, landing in Sand Cove where we met up with Nate and the crew. 



On Marshall, Rebecca borrowed an empty Scorpio and I mostly emptied the Cetus and we got a chance to don our helmets and play a bit. It’s hard to convey how good that felt. On the trip I generally paddle very conservatively, since a little mishap can have big consequences (hole in the boat, injury, etc) and our boats tend to be a bit heavy and harder to maneuver. We enjoy the ‘getting there,’ but admittedly a little less than when we get to play a bit. 


The swell was generally small- a perfect size really- for finding little challenges among the rocks on Marshall Island’s south end. A little play now and then seems almost necessary to maintain the sort of confidence we need to really make it fun.


On Thursday we crossed Jericho Bay again, this time with the group as we made our way to Deer Isle, and we parted ways as we turned into Greenlaw Cove, where we are now after two nights, enjoying the hospitality of Michael and Devra, the friends who leant us their house to sit last winter. Yesterday was our Ellsworth resupply day. Resupply is just a cooler word for shopping, and I it really kills the mood we’ve been developing over the last month. Five weeks, actually. I did get to listen to some music in the car though, and that was a bonus.

Notes:
Sorry for the ‘we did this, we did that’ nature of this post, but it’s all I can do to just catch up. I’m also sorry that, writing on this iPad, which is wonderful, I’ve not quite figured-out the technical challenges of easily uploading photos, and there are quirks with font, etc. At some point I’ll try to remedy it, but for the next three weeks, I’ll be doing well to have Internet and to get something posted.

And of course, you can find information about some of these places we’ve been paddling in my guidebook, AMC’s Best Sea Kayaking in New England.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Monhegan


Sandwiched between a couple of windy days, Wednesday (7/26) brought the gift of a calm, hot day that began with us camped on Black Island, in the middle of Muscongus Bay – within range – 10 nautical miles or so – of Monhegan. We hadn’t exactly planned on paddling to Monhegan, nor had we planned not to. It seemed a bad idea to put it on the schedule, to assume there would be a day calm enough that we’d want to paddle the five or six-mile crossing- committing ourselves to the return paddle as well. On the other hand, if we got ourselves to the right spot and had a good day for it… by all means, we wanted to paddle to Monhegan.

The island had been off in the distance when I’d paddled the area in the past, and lately it had drawn my attention whenever I glanced out to sea, even at night when its lighthouse emitted one Fresnelian explosion of light  for every three LED blips from the Franklin Island lighthouse, as if its shore were beckoning.


So we got an early (for us) start by around eight, and headed-out, first for Franklin Island for the obligatory (but fun) lighthouse snapshots, and onward to Eastern Egg Rock, where we floated just off its shores, sitting as still as the monitors in their bird blinds, and watched the puffins winging about, sometimes swimming not far away.


All the while we floated with the puffins, Monhegan, still six miles distant, seemed to be calling: “Michael,” it said, “I’m here.” Not only that, but we guessed there would be ice cream there, so we kept paddling, via a steep hump of rock called Shark Island where I nearly blew the whole thing by making an ill-advised surf landing among the boulders for a pee. The landing went fine, and the pee went fine, but the relaunch took a couple of tries. Finally, I was glad I’d brought my helmet. Rebecca watched me and wisely decided to wait.

I’m not always a big fan of these offshore forays, favoring the safety and features of following a shore. I tend to think of it as highway miles, counting-off time and distance until you get somewhere, rather then the ‘being there’ feeling I get while following a shoreline closely. But this time I loved it- the glassy, dreamy swells that kept us pleasantly in a motion other than forward; the different birds- gannets and terns and others yet-to-be-identified. And the slow, gradual fulfillment of a goal that wasn’t a goal- that I’d had in mind for a long time. The features of the island slowly grew, and behind us the mainland and the islands we’d left behind melded into a haze, low on the horizon.

As you approach Monhegan, Manana, the steep, treeless island that forms one side of the harbor separates itself from the island proper, obvious eventually as its own entity. A building that in the distance appeared small reveals itself as a fairly large hotel, backed by a warren of more modest buildings on crooked streets. The ferry from Port Clyde arrived shortly before us, disgorging a crowd of day trippers. We landed shortly after noon at a public strip of sand just below a take-out restaurant with a 2nd floor Harbormaster’s office above it. Other boaters had left their dinghies there, and a few dozen people sat around, doing nothing much but watching the ocean. A young girl collected sea glass- the beach had more than its share, still mostly jagged and sharp. It seemed very quiet, but then a woman at the take-out restaurant would shout a name, like a parent scolding a child, and someone would get up to claim their order before their name could be repeated.

A woman stood at an easel, creating a small, very realistic painting that included a house. It felt like we had walked into a drama that had started some time ago and we had no part in, and after the breadth of the ocean, it felt strange and perhaps anticlimactic to be here finally. We carried our boats up high and went looking for a restroom- after all, it had been over four hours on the water. The only public bathroom on Monhegan is behind a take-out place called The Novelty and we were directed there. A sign above a postal flap in the wall asked for donations (suggested 50 cents per visit) since it is privately-operated.

We ordered wraps and waited outside at a picnic table for our number to be called. There were other tourists, all more clean and less stinky than us, but we shared our table with a group that included a very tan gentleman wearing aviator shades who told us that he used to kayak, that they’d paddled sit-inside kayaks, unlike those sit-on-tops that we… he waved his hand dismissively- paddled. Rebecca and I shared a look, but didn’t correct him. He told us he’d done way bigger crossings than what we’d just done – ten miles probably!


We hadn’t talked to a lot of people about our trip. When people did talk to us, it was usually to ask Rebecca about her wooden kayak. When we did though, it often had the effect of inspiring them to recount experiences rather than ask about the one we were having. Even if we did get a chance to talk, I usually could do little more than say 'it's been great.' We didn’t care, of course. We just smiled and nodded and said “that’s wonderful, that’s cool, that’s great.”

It took about two hours to find a bathroom, eat lunch, eat ice cream and buy some broccoli, chips, cheese and a gallon of water from the store. We found room in the boats for the groceries, got our paddling gear on, and set-out around the southern end. You make your way out of the sheltered harbor, and even on a calm day like this you’re bound to get some swells rolling in. We’d had gently-rolling 2-4-foot swells on our way out, spaced far enough apart to move us up and down with a slow, dreamy rhythm. Those same swells, coming from the outer depths and colliding with Monhegan’s steep, seaward  side pack a bit of power and make for some dramatic paddling as you make your way along those cliffs. We didn’t get in too close, but lingered offshore taking photos while atop the cliffs, hikers pointed their cameras seaward.

At the northern end, having come all the way around the island, we pointed our bows toward Allen Island, some 5 miles distant, and started back.

Notes:
We camped that night on Little Griffin Island, a 2-acre island owned by Outward Bound and included on the Maine Island Trail: a little rough and overgrown, but a good place to spend the night after a twenty-odd nautical mile day.

The Muscongus Bay islands are included in my guidebook, AMC’s Best Sea Kayaking in New England, but Monhegan, since this was my first paddling excursion there, is not. Perhaps it will find its way into the next edition.

I wrote this shortly after our Monhegan day, but as we've progressed east, the Internet through cell service has become less reliable. We're now on Deer Isle for two nights, doing some resupplying today before heading-off on the Downeast portion of our trip.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Hog Island, Muscongus Bay




Part of the fun of a trip like this is that it is pretty tough to foresee the twists and turns wrought by weather, whims and tide and know where you'll be in a few days. We keep trying though- always a couple of different route scenarios for the next day or two that will bring you to X in a week or Y in two weeks. You may pore over charts and guidebooks all you want, consult the weather and the tide predictions and still, the place you find yourself at the end of the day may not be what you expected in the morning. In a way, that's part of the beauty of the Maine coast and the Maine Island Trail. In some areas, like here in Muscongus Bay, there are many options. You may feel inclined to try as many as you can.

This morning, we're on Hog Island, in the northwest corner of Muscongus Bay. It's been a good, fairly sheltered spot to hunker-down while a storm passed-through. We have a picnic table, over which we've hung a tarp, and the tent is up on a platform. The landing was an easy beach landing, and an easier than most spot to pull our boats well-up past the post-new moon high tide line. Late in the afternoon, after interspersing our time between rainy walks on the beach (a beach that actually has some sand) and time here at the picnic table updating notes and sipping hot beverages, we took a damp two-hour walk on a mossy trail that circles the Audubon-owned island. In some spots, we waded through shoulder-high ferns. Back in camp, Rebecca made brownies in the Outback Oven.

We came here from Thief Island, less than an hour's paddle, but worth it to find a more sheltered spot before the storm arrived. We'd landed there after sunset the previous night after paddling around 24 nautical miles from Ram Island, in the Sheepscot River. We hadn't intended to go so far - the whole idea behind this trip is to make a little time for ourselves to enjoy these places and paint and write, rather than slogging through long miles. But with the storm coming, we knew we'd get land-bound somewhere, and rather than spend another couple of days on Fort Island in the Damariscotta River as we did on our way south, it seemed prudent to just get around Pemaquid Point while the getting was good, and explore some other spots.

A good choice; it felt good to push ourselves, and Thief Island is home to the picnic table with one of the best views around, taking-in a broad swath of the bay, looking to the north, where the Camden Hills are visible above the Saint George Peninsula - a new perspective of a very familiar landmark. Last night, standing on the beach before bedtime, I gazed seaward, watching the Franklin Island light flash three times for every blinding flash from the light on Monhegan.

After leaving Crow Island in Casco Bay, we went-up Harpswell Sound and spent a night at Strawberry Creek Island, and the next morning caught the current up around Sebascodegan Island into the New Meadows River, where our friend Will picked us up and brought us back to the small house where he and his wife Sue spend their summers. We've known Will since we lived in Iowa (which we left in 1998) but reconnected through Facebook. Both Will and Sue are writers and we had a lot to talk about, late into the evening. They dropped us off at Five Islands the next day, and we paddled-off, heads full of stories, inspired.

The Sheepscot River MITA sites were busy that night, and we camped on Ram Island, sharing it with a young family who'd arrived in a powerboat. It's worth mentioning that we see very few sea kayakers, and have encountered none camped on islands. The next day, Sunday, we paddled to Muscongus Bay.

So today we're weighing our options. It's calm now, but the forecast calls for increased winds as the day progresses. We'll probably meander a bit more through Muscongus Bay, keeping in mind the series of moves that will bring us back through Penobscot Bay, and then Stonington in a week or so.

Notes: Some of these places are covered in my guidebook, AMC's Best Sea Kayaking in New England.

Our host, Susan Futrell's book Good Apples: The Story Behind Every Bite is forthcoming in
September, and promises to be a good read. Will Jennings' personal essays may be found in various publications, including  I'll Tell You Mine: Thirty Years of Essays from the Iowa Nonfiction Program. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Island Snapshot: Crow Island, Casco Bay


We wrote in the MITA logbook that we liked Crow Island so much that we came back for a second night. We'd stayed there Tuesday night after a couple of nights on Jewel. On Wednesday, we packed everything up and paddled to Fort Gorges where, in a short window of less-fog, we had a glimpse of the Portland waterfront.


You could almost feel all the activity around you there, like a hum in the air, which was occasionally split by the surprising, all-encompassing thunder of a jet, having just taken off, rising overhead. On the return trip, we paused at Cow and Little Chebeague Islands, where we also could have camped, but maybe we wanted to distance ourself just a little more from that urban buzz.


We kept going until we found ourselves, once again in the fog, drifting into the familiar little cove on Crow Island.


Our campsite lay in a grassy clearing beneath the stout, spreading limbs of a mature oak. Only steps below lay a crescent of crushed white shell beach, pocketed between grey, rocky outcrops where we did our cooking and lay clothes out to dry (when the sun poked through).


Though I'd had a positive image of the island from previous visits, I hadn't first gravitated toward it, probably  due to its proximity to the mooring field and anchorage for some 40-50 vessels. At the head of the cove, maybe a quarter-mile away, a boatyard, store and Post Office bustled. But bustle is relative.


We'd arrived in the fog and quickly found ourselves in our own world. Lying in my hammock, hung from another stately oak, I could hear the clang of rigging against an aluminum mast, and the occasional chug of a power boat off in the fog, but our island - on a clear day an easy day trip for rec boaters launching from the beach at the head of the cove on Great Chebeague - could have been miles away from anything.

There's an old cabin in the middle of the island, and you can camp inside it or on its covered porch if you want, but I liked our spot near the shore better. There are logbook entries, in childish scrawl, that describe the cabin as "wicked scary."



When the sun comes out, the true proximity to other people is more evident, and the liklihood of sharing the island more probable. The lobster boats come nearer, their rumble unending. But at high tide the water along the sandy beach looks inviting enough for a swim. And Casco Bay is a bit less cold than waters Downeast; you're more likely to stay in for a bit.

So, like a lot of islands along the Maine Island Trail, it's tough to leave. On FRiday, when we wanted to head east and have some current behind us as we made our way up Harpswell Sound to Strawberry Creek Island, it made sense to wait until after lunch to launch, so we had the sublime luxury of a few hours hanging-out, painting, reading, writing... just soaking in Crow Island's ambiance. When nineteen kayaks paddled by young teenagers and their slightly older leaders arrrived on the beach, we were ready to move-on.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Day 17 on Jewel Island




I don't want to give the impression that I've spent an inordinate amount of time lying in the hammock while we've somehow managed to also paddle to Casco Bay from Deer Isle, but once again, I am indeed lying in the hammock, which this time is strung between two stout birches in a meadowy campsite upon a bluff on Jewel Island, in Casco Bay. It's mid-day and the fog that drifted-in first thing this morning still comes and goes, alternating between soupy-thick and thin enough to see the houses on Cliff Island, almost a mile distant.

Earlier, we used the fog as an opportunity to take a hike on this 222-acre island and visit the concrete towers that were used to guard Casco Bay back in World War II. I'm sure the view from the top is stunning- well it was stunning, but we couldn't see beyond the edges of the island. When the fog lingered, we decided it would be more prudent to spend more time here, rather than bump around with all the bigger vessels in these waters.

Here's a quick synopsis of our travels since the last post.

From Fort Island, we headed-out the Damariscotta River, spending a couple of hours in East Boothbay to get a few supplies at a small general store and water at the kitchen sink in the fire station. We made our way out to Damariscotta Island and over to The Cuckholds, where we'd hoped to camp on the MITA island west of the lighthouse. Fortunately we arrived early enough to realize it wasn't a good choice: populated with colonies of shrieking birds and the stench of their poop, not much of a flat spot to pitch a tent, and you might feel a bit on display for the guests arriving at The Inn At Cuckholds Lighthouse, on the neighboring Island, greeted by a crew of smartly-uniformed staff. Instead, we opted to paddle another five or six nautical miles up the Sheepscot River to camp at Spectacle Island, a truly lovely and idyllic campsite on its own forested islet.

The next day we went back out the Sheepscot, around the south end of Georgetown Island and into the Kennebec River, catching some current to help us against the north wind as we paddled a few miles north to Perkins Island. We were caught by a downpour well before we arrived, and explored a bit in wet paddling gear before setting-up the tent. We were glad we had warm, dry clothing to put on and hot drinks to warm us up. Maine in the summer has fairly broad meteorological mood swings, and you need to be ready. But the rain passed by and we were able to hang-out by the lighthouse as it got dark, taking photos, watching the current build.

On Friday morning we floated out of the Kennebec, past Fort Popham and out the mouth of the river. I'd paddled there plenty of times to play in the surf and standing waves, but this was the first time we could let the current take us on past all that until we reached open water, whereupon we took a right. Cape Small beckoned a few miles off, past long stretches of sandy beach until we made our way around it and found a a pair of pristine crescents of sand, facing out to sea. Apparently this stretch of undeveloped shoreline is private, but since no one was about, we pulled-in where the waves were smallest and had a quick lunch. From there it was just a few miles to West Point in Phippsburg, where our new friend Sid lives, just a short distance from a gravel launch. Sid fed us, entertained us and put a roof over our heads for the night. We were also able to drive into Bath for a few groceries, clean our clothes and ourselves, and recharge the batteries. He was a huge help. Thanks Sid!

Sid joined us the next day as we made our way to the Cribstone Bridge between Orrs and Baileys Islands and on out to Eagle Island, where Sid turned back for home- good training for the Blackburn Challenge, which he'll be paddling in in a few days. We went on to Bangs Island- a bit late- and watched the lights come-on at Great Chebeague Island as we made our dinner.

Yesterday, determined to see Robert Peary's Eagle Island when his house was open, Rebecca and I paddled over to Eagle Island and toured the home on the island the Arctic explorer had bought in his twenties, for $200. Onward from there, we arrived late in the day here, Jewel Island.

Mid-day has turned to mid-afternoon and the fog still lingers. Rebecca has found something to paint. We may get out for a short paddle - maybe just another walk. We'd like to get over to Fort Gorges and get a glimpse of the Portland waterfront before we start heading downeast, but we do need to start heading that way soon. Maybe after another day or two here in Casco Bay. We want to have enough time to explore Downeast and to not hurry too much on our way back toward Deer Isle. But at pretty much every island we stay on, we fall in love with it, and don't mind the idea of hanging out a bit and enjoying it. We're struck every day by what a privilege this is, and I don't think an evening goes by in which I don't sit back after dinner, take a look around and say "I'm so glad we're taking this trip."

Notes: I'll just need to add a few specifics when I have less limited Internet and power, but many of the places we've been paddling through are covered in my guidebook AMC's Best Sea Kayaking in New England.

My photo-posting ability is a bit compromised now, but I've been putting some on Instagram. Look for either Seakayak Stonington or #upwestanddowneast.