Pond Island to Pond Island
I awoke in my tent. Outside, the salt marsh had returned to its grassy incarnation- only water here and there. The previous night felt like a dream. We had a laugh over it as we ate breakfast, but for awhile there in the night, nothing had been certain as the dry land around us disappeared.
We would spend the day heading east through Eggemoggin Reach, and if we had time and energy, across to the islands north of Swan’s Island. We crossed over to Pumpkin Island Light and paddled along the north shore of Little Deer Isle at high tide, where we discovered a stone arch just big enough to paddle through. As we paddled along the Sedgwick side of the Reach, we encountered far more sailboats than we usually see in the archipelago. The Reach is famous among sailors, who seem to favor the middle of the channel, far from the details of shore. And the details along shore? Pastoral, old salt water farms. Tangled trees in overgrown orchards dropping wormy apples onto the shore. Boatyards, fancy homes, rustic cabins... all the usual stuff we find ourselves looking at while paddling in more ‘civilized’ environments. We began to feel sleepy.
On Sellers Island we met a man in pajamas, just unloading his kayak... a process that accelerated as we approached. We assured him that we were only stopping for a break, but he seemed to want us to stay. We told him we were headed to Pond Island- a different one from our previous night’s Pond Island. “No, no,” he said, “You don’t want to go there. Mosquitoes will carry you away.” Nor did he think any of the other islands were particularly good ideas- on one he’d encountered a bear. He seemed almost disappointed that we were sticking to our plans. “I don’t snore,” he added as we pushed away from shore.
There were indeed mosquitoes on Pond Island, but we ate dinner out on the ledges where a slight breeze kept them at bay. We had only a couple hours of daylight before retreating to the tents. I stayed up for awhile, going over charts as Bass Harbor Head Light flashed red in the distance.
Pond Island to Big Baker Island
In the morning fog we made our way to Swans Island. For awhile, we avoided the southwest wind by paddling in the lee of the island, finally hopscotching southeast past the Sister Islands, where turbulent waves had formed. It seemed too soon after high tide to be merely the result of tidal currents, so we thought the waves had been formed by the strong winds funneling through against the current. As we paddled across the gap, Todd marveled at the brilliant light on Great Duck Island. As we looked, the eastern Sister quickly obscured Great Duck- were we moving backwards? At about that time we noticed the waves- big waves- getting closer to us- we shouted over the roar, realizing that the current was pulling us into a tidal race.
(...tune in next time for the conclusion of our story...)
Todd smiled. “Wanna go in?”
“No,” I paddled as hard as I could, not pausing until I was well out of the current’s grip. Maybe it would be fun to play on sometime, but it didn’t look inviting then. Todd pointed out that we’d probably just ride it backwards or capsize and get spat-out on the other end. Yeah... and your point?
We kept going. We had more challenges to face. We’d wanted to get to Frenchboro-Long Island for a long time. The 2500-acre island has a small fishing village at Lunt Harbor on the northern side, but the rest of the island is wild, mostly protected by Maine Coast Heritage Trust, and exposed to whatever the open Atlantic sends its way. Rich’s Head juts out to the southeast, connected only where two large coves pinch inward. We took a break at one of these, Eastern Cove, and took a peek at the conditions on the other side. It looked... a little rough maybe, but do-able. Once we went around the head, the shoreline would turn steep and rocky, with little opportunity to bail out for several miles.
For the moment though, we marvelled at what a wild, gorgeous place we were in: grassy, boulder and spruce-strewn meadows overlooking vast coves on either side. We would have been happy to stay there and check-out some of the island’s ten miles of trails, but unfortunately, camping isn’t allowed.
As soon as we rounded the end of Rich’s Head, it was obvious that the next few miles would keep us on our toes. Swells rolled in from the south and crashed thunderously against the pink granite shore, rebounding out to where we bobbed up and down. We moved a little further out. And the fog came in, so when we rounded the next point, the top of the island was obscured. I had little sense of scale; were those cliffs? Were we looking at trees? A lobsterboat motored past, lost from sight every time we descended into a trough.
Of course, in most of the photographs (when I had the presence of mind to take them) it appears that we’re paddling on a nearly calm sea. It feels as if you should be able to point the camera anywhere and it would somehow capture some of this, but later we could almost start wondering if it were all a dream. The weather buoys put the waves at that time in the 4-5-foot range- not exactly monstrous, but still something to contend with. Maybe it’s time to get into video.
We pulled in for a quick look at the town, but didn’t have time to disembark. The fog had come in thick and we needed to navigate through it to find our way to our campsite on Big Baker Island.
Big Baker Island to Stonington
On Thursday, our last day, we continued our survey of the Swan’s Island shoreline, checking-out the town of Minturn and Toothacher Bay, where we had lunch at Fine Sand Beach as it became submerged by the extra-high tide. On Marshall Island we visited the beach at Sand Cove, before embarking on the swelly, four-mile crossing back to Fog Island, at the edge of our own archipelago... our home.
It had been a good four days- five days for Todd. We'd explored places just beyond our usual paddling range, and even discovered something new on our own island (if Little Deer Isle counts as such). In some ways, trips like these seem to make us feel a bit more at home right where we are, knowing better what lies just "over there", demystifying those areas of our charts that we'd stared at for so long, wondering... Which is what I've been doing again the past few days. Every time you discover something new, you become aware of how much more there is to see. How will we ever find the time?