Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tinker, Bar, Trumpet & Ship Islands

A half-hour after setting-out, it occurred to me that I was going the wrong way. I’d launched from Naskeag Point in Brooklin, bound for the Tinker Island group. I’d passed the usual waypoints on the crossing, aiming for the pair of southwest boulders on Pond Island when I thought “wait a minute...” I paused to have a look at the chart on my deck.

Those arrows weren't drawn on it yet. Too bad; I felt a little confused. I’d planned for high tide at noon and light winds out of the north. I’d get pushed north up Blue Hill Bay, to the north end of Tinker where the tide would change and began pushing me south. Beautiful. Love it.

But then it occurred to me that I’d read the tide chart wrong. I shouldn’t even admit this. It isn’t the first time. I’m starting to think of it as “navigational dyslexia.” East is west, high tide is low tide... Usually it lasts a few moments until I figure it out. I did figure it out the night before, but instead of choosing a different destination, I decided.... I don't know- something that didn't make sense. Low tide was at noon, not high tide, and anyway I forgot all about that when I launched and just pointed out toward Smuttynose. One way or another, I was destined to paddle against the current some of the time. Maybe this had been the case all along, but it’s worse when you think you should have known better.

The Tinker Island group islands all occupy the same ridge of shallow water, dividing Blue Hill Bay roughly in half. Bar Island, my first destination, is mostly privately-owned, but the southern end, along with Trumpet and Ship Islands to the south, is part of the Coastal Maine Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the refuge islands are off-limits due to seabird nesting from April 1st through July. This was the last day of March, and just offshore, seabirds lined-up in droves, ready to stake a claim. I still had half a day before the stampede, so I got out and had a look around: broad beach, eroding bluffs with grassy meadows above, dotted with occasional spruce. My eye was easily drawn to Western Mountain on Mount Desert Island, just a few miles east.

I went around the island, barely crossing the bar at low tide, and followed Tinker’s western shore up to Sand Point, where I stopped for lunch. Tinker was occupied before the American Revolution and the population grew to over 40 inhabitants in the 1840s when a shipyard operated at Sand Point. It’s been a century since anyone lived there full-time, but there's now a summer residence on the southern end. Maine Coast Heritage Trust owns the northern half, maintaining a couple of campsites, like the one at Sand Point. It’s a nice spot, with views past the lighthouse to Isle au Haut. 

While I ate my lunch I watched the effects of the tide change as the northbound current began pushing against the southbound wind, developing a chop with whitecaps spread across the bay. I paddled around to the east side, where the going was a little easier and made a figure “8,” crossing back over the bar to the other side of Bar Island. I knew I was running out of time- I had to volunteer at the Opera House at six, but when I saw some “FOR SALE” flags, I just had to stop and imagine where I would put my cabin. I’d need to look at my financial papers when I got home (the still-unchecked lottery ticket from Friday night) but this would do.

By now, the northern wind had shifted around to the south and picked-up considerably. I made quick stops on Trumpet and Ship Islands, verifying that they were ready for the birds to inhabit, and headed back across- four or five miles against the wind and waves. I willed myself to not look at my watch, to not think about how late I would be.

This is why I don’t like to make commitments. I paddled straight toward the sun, which turned the distant islands and growing swells into dark silhouettes. I focused on my immediate surroundings, on keeping a clean forward stroke, and eventually made it back to Naskeag Harbor. An hour later I stood in the ticket booth at the Opera House, stretching-out those sore muscles.

1 comment:

Stefan Viklund said...

Great pictures, thanks for sharing.