Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stonington to West Quoddy Head

Take me to your leader, we come in peace

I’m going to keep this brief. Todd and I just took a longer than usual trip up the coast. Visitors to the gallery sometimes find me with charts spread out over my desk, but in the weeks leading up to our departure date, I had a whole new set of charts to study, and the anticipation of the trip kept me busy as gallery traffic slowed down. Before we left, if anyone asked, we said that we had eight days to paddle up the coast and see where it took us. Our hope though, if weather and conditions cooperated, was to make it to West Quoddy Head, in Lubec, the easternmost point in the United States.

A long journey begins with one paddlestroke

We left Stonington on Wednesday, September 16th and camped that night on Big Baker Island, just off of Swans Island, a short first day to get us started. Our route then took us around the southern end of Mount Desert Island, through the Cranberries and into Frenchman Bay. Along the way, we paddled along the shore of Acadia National Park, where probably thousands of people were scattered along the shore at the popular sites. We were the only ones on the water... except for the tour boat and cruise ships.

Burnt Coat Harbor Lighthouse, Swans Island

In the early hours on Friday, we rounded Schoodic Point as the wind and waves picked up, and made it to an island just off Corea, where strong winds grounded us until Sunday morning. It was a good place to be stuck. We spent our time exploring the granite ledges, reading and listening to the weather forecast, wondering when we could continue. We ate pretty well, too.

We were on the water before sunrise on Sunday morning, which got us around Petit Manan Point in calm conditions, and gave us a long paddling day to make up for lost time. We saw a lot that day, islands that had been intriguing on the chart, but in real, 3-D life, just blew us away: the cliffs of Jordans Delight rising vertically from the ocean, the tempting rock gardening around Shipstern Island, the forlorn lighthouse out on Nash Island. The waves and wind kept us working hard. After nearly 30 miles, we made it to Halifax Island, not too far from Machias, a gem of an island with beautiful views.

The Bold Coast

We would have liked to meander a bit more slowly the next day, but the weather looked good for Monday, and was forecast to deteriorate by Tuesday. It looked like it would be our only chance to paddle the Bold Coast and get to West Quoddy Head, so we got up early again and went for it. We’d heard a lot about the Bold Coast, about the lack of bailouts and its exposure to bold ocean swells and strong currents, so this was a greatly anticipated stretch of paddling. We were lucky to catch it on a relatively calm day, but it was far less wild and wooly than I’d imagined. After a 33-mile day, we approached the striped lighthouse at West Quoddy Head just after sunset, gratefully pulled along by a powerful, river-like current.

I’ve been feeling a bit worn-out since we returned, but it’s a good kind of worn-out. I immediately became pulled back into my land-bound concerns, returning to my usual anxiety that I’m not paddling enough. Looking at the satellite images of the Maine coast with Deer Isle pretty close to the middle, it's hard not to think “why not a trip to Kittery?”


bethany cox said...

Congrats on paddling the bold coast and schoodic point sucessfully.those are the big scary maine paddling places. Last september my husband and I left lubec and paddled to portland maine. I think its interesting that although we paddled the same place along the coast, we took almost a completely different route: lubec to cutler, cutler to cross island, cross to starboard cove, starboard cove to jonesport, jonesport to stevens island, stevens to (can't remember), arond scoodic point to bar harbor, over the n side of mt desert to the hub, the hub to sellers, sellers to stonington!

Interesting eh?

We are still paddling actually. Our goal is lubec to key west. Right now we are in wilmington, nc!

Speedbumps said...

Wow Bethany, I've just spent the morning catching-up on your trip. What a huge experience!

It is interesting how you can paddle in essentially the same place, but take different routes. This trip was a teaser for some awesome spots that I hope to return to before long. It looks like you've found a few favorite spots as well.

Thanks for reading and responding. Happy paddling!

Anonymous said...

Wow - you did it! 17 miles is a long day for me and your long day was twice that. I hope maybe you'll feel like posting a few more details - but maybe it'll be on to new adventures. What fun!

Speedbumps said...

Well, 17 miles is a long day for me too. We had some help from the current (as well as some resistance). We certainly felt it at the end of the day.

I'm torn between posting a more detailed account and keeping it brief enough to read fairly quickly, which is a challenge for a longer trip. If there's any part you would like to hear more about, I'll try and post more details or photos.
Thanks, Michael

Quackey McKnuckles said...

Nice man skirts, ladies.

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