Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Around Little Deer Isle
Yesterday I cartopped over to the causeway between Deer Isle and Little Deer Isle, parked in the sand and launched just after low tide. I pointed south, toward the distant windmills on Vinalhaven, and paddled out past Carney Island. My plan was to go around Little Deer Isle- roughly an eight-mile circumnavigation- and return to the north side of the causeway when the tide was higher, carrying my kayak across the road to my launching point.
I thought I’d stay close to Little Deer Isle, but as I paddled past one closed-up summer house after another, I kept looking out toward the islands to the south. My bow wavered like a compass needle until finally it pointed me out to the little islands, un-named on my charts (listed as "Bar I." on my 1949 chart). After the first pair, attached by a sandbar (A-frame cabins on east end) I came to a small islet, more of a treeless ledge with some grassy vegetation on top. But just enough beach was exposed for me to land and have a look. I don’t know why I like these treeless, forlorn spots so much. Maybe because they’re small enough and so wild and exposed that they will always be overlooked by most, and remain wild. In warmer months, the island obviously belongs to the birds, as evidenced by the abandonned nests atop it. But in winter, hey, this place is mine; just one of a few perks to paddling in the cooler months. Actually, it wasn’t bad for the last day of November: not much wind, air and water temps in the mid-40s. Beneath my drysuit I wore three thin layers of merino wool and fleece. I was plenty warm.
I took another short break on Sheep Island, which is managed by Island Heritage Trust. The island has a dramatic rocky bluff on its southern side, and some clearings among the spruce, probably thanks to its former role as a sheep grazing island. Now though, most of those clearings and trails are overgrown with spiky, drysuit-snatching vegetation, so I kept my exploration to the shore rocks.
I kept close to the LDI shore the rest of the way: into narrow Swains Cove, and along the northwest shore. Here, a few rustic cabins still perch above the bluffy shoreline, but never far from a pocket beach where one would launch a kayak. These places don’t have docks that can be seen from outer space or any of the other amenities that so many summer “cabins” now have. The only thing wrong with them is that none of them belong to me. And they are a vanishing breed. As they get sold for the high value of their land, they get knocked-down and replaced by places with luxuries like insulation, indoor plumbing and places to land helicopters. There are some plusses to the real estate slump.
And of course at the northwestern tip of Little Deer Isle there’s the charming community of Victorian “cottages” in the village of Eggemoggin. It is always picturesque to paddle between these shingled fantasies and the Pumpkin Island Light. As I rounded the last point into Eggemoggin Reach, the bridge came into view. I followed the shore, still checking-out the houses, but there’s something about seeing the bridge... and the impending sunset at 3:57, that makes you step up your pace, and soon I was back at the causeway. At the higher end of the tide (which had not yet reached my car) it was a short carry across the road.