Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Great Wass / Head Harbor Island

The Great Wass Archipelago offers enough route choices that it’s tough to choose where to start. We’d decided to head down the east side of Great Wass to check-out Mud Hole while the tide was still fairly high, but first, Charlie suggested, “Let’s go tease the salmon.” 

We launched over an hour after high tide and already the current had picked-up enough to carry us quickly south toward the fish pens near Spectacle Island. It was feeding time, and swarms of frenzied gulls hovered over the pens, shrieking and competing for airspace above the attendant barges, where rumbling diesel machinery ejected clouds of tiny pellets above the net-covered pens. The gulls, presumably, caught enough of these pellets in mid-air to make the fuss worth their while. We pulled up to the floats and watched the chaos inside the netting. The water surface would now and then appear almost solid with the backs of writhing fish, who frequently leapt clear, revealing their fat, farm-fed, soon to be packaged and shipped bodies for a moment that must have felt like pure instinct, and maybe even something like joy in discovering their true nature.

Or at least that’s how it looked to me. We proceeded to Mud Hole. There were four of us: Charlie and Barb, Rebecca and me. Charlie is a wildlife biologist for the state, and I think he knows the location of every eagle’s nest. Every now and then an eagle swooped around us as if to verify that this was indeed the guy who’d been watching their nests from aircraft. He seems to have an effect on seals as well, who, rather then taking to the water in fear, remained on their ledges as we passed.

Mud Hole was not so muddy, at least when filled by the tide. We found a lone sailboat anchored in its calm water, the dinghy pulled-up nearby on shore where a pair of tall rubber boots leaned against a tree. 1540 of the the island’s 1700+ acres make up The Nature Conservancy’s Great Wass Island Preserve, some of it accessible by trails that begin near Mud Hole. I would assume the sailors had gone for a hike, since there’s not much else in the neighborhood.

We followed the steep granite bluffs along shore and headed back out, following the shore out to Little Cape Point and across to Freeman Rock, a treeless hump of rock marking the edge between Mud Hole Channel and the open ocean. We left the calm water of Eastern Bay for calm water on the ocean, which means a few swells coming in, breaking over the southern end and rolling along the steep, plunging shoreline. Earlier in the summer, razorbills frequent Freeman Rock, but there were no birds there today.

In the narrow channel between Mistake and Knight Islands the tide had slipped away, revealing a rockweed-covered sandbar. We left the boats and followed the boardwalk to the Moose Peak lighthouse, where we sat and ate lunch.

The forecast had called for scattered showers. After lunch, the northwest sky darkened, and as we passed the cliffs of Man Island, the wind suddenly increased. By the time we rounded Black Head, breaking waves dotted the sea beyond. The north wind hissed, steepening waves as it pushed against the incoming current. We bent our heads and paddled slowly into it, getting a slow, close-up look at Head Harbor Island’s wild, rocky east shore before making our way back to the launch.

1 comment:

Sandy Stott said...

Ah, more places to go in the shoulder season - pleasure to see the rising rocks of that coast. My swim in Walden Pond after a long run today was summer's reminder, but I wouldn't have minded a day out on the ocean as celebration of summer nearly past.