I closed the gallery just after five. By quarter of six, I was in my sea kayak, heading west through the Deer Isle Thorofare, pointing roughly toward the trio of windmills on Vinalhaven. It was the day after Labor Day, and Stonington had turned quiet, the way it does every year about this time. For the past couple of months, town had been busy enough that I felt obliged to stay open most evenings. I’d paddled plenty, but it was mostly work, my other job- guiding at Old Quarry. But now, with daylight waning each day, the urgency to stay open and make money was giving way to an urgency to squeeze as much paddling as I could from the remains of this season.
At the end of the Thorofare, I passed the grey steel buildings of Billings Marine and followed the shore around the point. I paused. Ahead lay a considerable expanse of Penobscot Bay. The closest islands were already dark shapes against a moody swirl of grey clouds towering over the Camden Hills. A rosy strip of sunset peeked from behind the ridge. I would need to hurry. I hoped to get to the head of Crockett Cove, still three miles distant. I pointed toward Fifield Point and began paddling.
I hadn’t been on this side of the island for awhile, but was lured by the prospect of a sunset and Crockett Cove at high tide. Much of the mile-long cove flats-out at lower tides- one of those light green areas on the chart you need to hit at the right time. The south side is distinguished by a series of 1960s summer homes designed by artist Emily Muir. The houses feature plenty of glass and few right angles, perched atop pink granite cliffs that drop straight down to the water. Paddling beside the cliffs, catching glimpses of the houses atop them, I had to appreciate how rugged the shoreline still felt.
Further in, past Rabbit Island, past the tiny cottage on Sams Island, the cove opens to a shallow pond-like basin. The water here felt almost warm.. Towels were hung to dry on a dock railing. Mosquitoes hovered in the air. Just beyond the marshy head of the cove, a few cars went past, briefly visible through a break in the trees, their lights on.
I had driven past there countless times, sometimes glancing over for a peek at the cove. Long before that though- before there were roads on the island, the Wabanaki would have reached this spot, hoisted their bark canoes to their shoulders, and started walking. They followed the creek to Georges Pond, and another creek to Holt Pond, where they emerged on the east side of Deer Isle... not something I was ready to do, but it made me think of the layers of human habitation here over the years. In the 1800s, when porpoise oil became sought to fuel lighthouses, the Wabanaki made Crockett Cove a base camp for hunting porpoises. They hunted from canoes, bringing the porpoises back to the cove to be cut-up for the meat and oil. Maybe that’s why the porpoises around here don’t stick around to see if we’re friendly.
Back out at the mouth of the cove, present day inhabitants of a cliff-top house tended a grill, watching the color drain from the sky. I stopped and ate a Snickers bar before turning-on my lights. Across the bay, Vinalhaven made a thin line on the horizon- thinner than usual because of the tide. The moon- less than a week before full- gave off just enough light to navigate by as I made my way home.
PS: A few weeks ago as I stood on the shore of Hells Half Acre with a group I was guiding and a guy paddled up and said "Are you the blogger?"
"Why yes," I said. "Yes I am." It turned out that he recognized me- and my boat- from the blog. Amazing. My anonymity was shattered, and suddenly the group I was guiding took a new interest. Was it possible they might end up in somebody's blog?
It's always a possibility, it seems. The guy in the kayak was Lawrence Pepper, and he would soon document his paddling experience on his blog: Each and Everyone. Check-out his website- it's beautiful. And, not long after running into us, he came across Baffin Paddler and Penobscot Paddles whose blogs I had already been following with keen interest. The archipelago was chock-full of paddle bloggers, all blogging about each other. Where is this all going?