Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Around Isle au Haut, Saddleback Island

I had Monday off. High tide was sometime after four a.m., which made it a good morning to head out to Isle au Haut. Todd got a babysitter and the weather looked good. We launched at 6:20. Two hours later we were passing the Robinson Point Lighthouse (above). The "around Isle au Haut in a day" trip has become one of those things we need to do at least once every year. If we paddled as much as we really wanted, I think it would be more like once a month.

We're always keeping some of these excursions in mind, but for a 25- or so- mile day, it's a good idea to have a few recent longer paddles under the belt. I hadn't done an over 15-mile day since mid-June, but I'd paddled fairly consistently and felt in good shape, while Todd has managed to guide a few times a week. You reach a point where you just say if we don't go now, we never will. We probably weren't as prepared the first times we did this trip.

Isle au Haut is a big island, so it's easy for us to check-out something new every time we go around. This time we pulled into the Seal Trap, a long narrow inlet on the western shore surrounded by wild, ledgy outcrops and scraggy spruce forests.

We headed out to some ledges marked on the chart as "The Washers". That seemed a good name for a rocky formation where waves wrapped around and met each other in the middle. As low tide approached, we were able to ride a few waves as they funneled through the rocks. Then on to Western Ear Ledges, where we've played a couple times, but were a different animal this time, with some fairly large waves forming and meeting in the middle. As I watched Todd get tossed by the clapotis, I suddenly felt a bit timid and opted to watch from the edge. Sometimes you just don't feel it, and maybe it's an instinct to listen to. Later on, on the east side of the island, just after I'd removed my helmet and strapped it on the deck, I botched a surf landing among some rocks and ended up getting pummeled beneath my boat. Just a few scrapes to show for it- and some cracked gelcoat. I somehow must have instinctively ducked-in to protect my head. Lucky.

As we crossed Merchant's Row, we both remarked that we felt pretty good, considering. We felt the pull of town like gravity, increasing as we drew closer. Todd had to get back for the babysitter. If I'd gone closer, the gallery and a half-dozen important things would have vied for my attention. Forget that: I had my camping gear stashed in the boat. I saw a few people on Steves Island, and I preferred to be alone, so I turned-off and headed for Saddleback Island.

After I set-up the tent, I lay back on the warm granite ledge and snoozed for a bit. I did some reading, took a swim in the little cove with a sandy beach and dried-off in the sun. Then I took a walk around the island.

It's funny how often what I'm showing in the gallery seems to reflect upon what I'm experiencing outside the gallery. The forested interior of the island seemed to present me with one woodsy vignette after another, much like the ones hanging in the gallery now.

After dark, the Haystack Mountain School of Craft, a couple of miles away, lit-up like a small city. I awoke early, after more sleep than I'd had in awhile, with a lobster boat puttering not far away. I paddled home and got to work on time.

Here's a link to a kayak blogger who was attacked by a great white shark on Monday. I'll take a botched surf landing in the rocks any day.

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