Monday, October 19, 2009

A Borrowed Cabin

By Monday, it seemed clear that the tiny island we’d planned for Tuesday night’s campsite would get hammered by 30-knot winds out of the east, and at high tide, those waves would be coming pretty close. That’s when I remembered that a friend had graciously offered the use of his cabin on an island close to Isle au Haut. It seemed a good time to take him up on the offer.

After a 3-hour paddle in the rain, Nate, Rebecca and I arrived at the cabin. It took a little tidying up: removing the bird’s nest from the stovepipe, and relocating a few spiders. It had the feeling of a place where someone has spent a lot of time in quiet contemplation: stacks of good books among feathers and rocks gathered from walks, kerosene lamps with crumbling wicks, a bottle of Jim Beam with only drops left. A painting leaned casually against the wall, as though it had been painted from a chair at the kitchen table and put aside in the most convenient place. It featured the view from the cabin, looking down past the tall grass and granite outcrops to the cove with its tiny island and the thorofare, the steep profile of Isle au Haut rising in the background.

We carried the gear from our boats up to the cabin, then went out for a paddle around the island. The air temperature was dropping from the 40s down to the 30s, but we were comfortable as long as we kept paddling. We found some ledges with unpredictable, washing machine currents, and waves breaking in multiple directions. Nate and I goofed around there for awhile, while Rebecca took photos. Seals watched from a distance.

The wind picked-up considerably. We paddled into it as we finished circling the island, and it was hard going, but good knowing that we had a place out of the weather just a short distance away, and that we’d gathered enough fallen spruce to get a fire going in the woodstove.

After dinner, by kerosene lamp and candlelight, we found the backgammon board and played a couple of games. When we went outside for some air, we were amazed at how quiet and sheltered it was just outside the cabin, while down by the water, the wind howled. The air felt cool and clear, the sky thick with stars

In the morning, the wind still howled. Rebecca decided to stay on the island and do some painting, while Nate and I left to paddle around Isle au Haut. Again, it was hard going, paddling into the wind, but only for a couple miles before we were sheltered in the Burnt Island Thorofare, and shortly after in the Isle au Haut Thorofare.

Beam winds and seas kept us on our toes along the eastern side of the island. At Western Ear, we had a short break, seeking shelter behind a boulder from the strong, cold winds before we got back out on the water and warmed-up with some aggressive paddling.

We found a little rock gardening in the wind-driven waves before heading across the south end of the island to Eastern Head, where the gentlest swell provided us with some low-key, very enjoyable maneuvers among the rocks.

By the time we rounded Eastern Ear, I was feeling pretty spent, and could have benefitted from Nate’s practice of eating a Snickers Bar every hour or so. We’d hoped for a little push from the current, but the last few miles were a slog.

Rebecca had a small fire going in the woodstove. She’d spent a quiet day reading and painting from the hillside below the cabin. We got out of our wet gear and sat down for a cup of hot tea as it turned dark.

Rebecca Daugherty: Field, Trees, Isle au Haut, oil on panel, 7" x 5"

On the return trip, we paddled into a stiff headwind again, arriving back in Stonington around mid-day, in time for Nate to go pick his kids up at school. As is often the case, the strong northwest winds we’d paddled into were barely perceptible from Stonington, and it felt strange and oddly anticlimactic to return home and open up the gallery for a few late afternoon customers.


peter said...

Who's the funny looking guy in the red hat? How come you all are always in the rocks and how come Rebecca is the only one doing the work? Sweet painting by the way. I'm jealous of you all.

Jills said...

lovely story.lovely photos. lovely painting.