Circumnavigations get my attention, just as, oddly- routes that involve portages. I've tried this one a couple of times before and failed- always thwarted by something: ice, tidal currents, mudlfats, cold, motivation... There's no perfect way to do it without encountering one of these obstacles. Stinson Neck is an island connected to Mountainville by a causeway, while Mountainville is almost another island, connected to the east side of Deer Isle by a narrow strip of land called The Carryover. The Indians were big on carrying their canoes where possible and, as much as I prefer paddling my kayak rather than carrying it, staring at these old routes inspires me to want to follow in the Indians’ footsteps. At least for a few steps. Then I really want to be paddling my kayak again.
Aside from ice, which is gone now, there are two potential obstacles to plan for on this route. First, you need to cross the Carryover at high enough tide, since the head of Greenlaw Cove flats-out for a half-mile. Second, avoid paddling against the current, especially in Brays Narrows, where Long Cove drains-out to Southeast Harbor. Beyond that, unless you plan on spending the day waiting somewhere for favorable currents (and there are some nice spots to do that) you’ll paddle against it some, and need to carry through mud somewhere. I compromised by leaving Grays Cove at high tide, crossing the Carryover about an hour later, and riding out through Brays Narrows with a little current behind me. On my way there, I saw some gulls and dogs.
It had been windy from the north/northwest, and I chose this route partially to avoid the wind. The first stretch was pretty bumpy and wet, but once I carried over into Long Cove I paddled on fairly sheltered water. I cleaned the salt spray from my sunglasses and continued.
Island Heritage Trust is responsible for several public access areas along the way. Aside from Gray's Cove, there's also Campbell Island and Shore Acres Preserve, both in Greenlaw Cove. Polypod Island, where Southeast Harbor, Brays Narrows and Inner Harbor all come together is a good spot for a break. This time though, I hugged the shore, checking-out the coves on the Mountainville side, including the southernmost cove, which is enclosed in IHT's Tennis Preserve, occupying most of the point jutting out into Southeast Harbor. I paddled a little further and took a break at a small beach tucked out of the wind in a tiny, south-facing cove. The sand here is a brown- almost orange hue, like the granite bluffs nearby.
It really felt like a beach day, but I had to keep moving. Not only did I have an end of day commitment, but the longer I took, the more mud I would slog through back at Grays Cove. I went across to the southern end of Stinson Neck, passing the Haystack School and the Lazygut Islands, and took a detour up into Conary Cove. The current was against me, especially where the channel narrowed beyond the lobster pound. It took several tries, but I finally pushed myself upstream.
I couldn't go far- the upper reaches of the cove were quickly draining, and I rode the current back out before I could be trapped.
The current was generally against me along the east side, but I stayed close to shore and avoided most of it. As I paddled I started thinking that this route might work well by launching in Stonington or Old Quarry. That way you could hit the Carryover at high tide and never need to paddle against the current. These mental breakthroughs tend to hit me when I've been paddling against the current and wind for awhile... and again while I'm slogging through the mud back at the launch. Only a five-minute mudwalk with my boat on my shoulder, but enough to build character, I'm sure.