Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Paddlers in Residence

 It felt good to paddling away from Webb Cove, to be able to focus on a good, efficient stroke and not look back- to have no concerns for anyone else. With no real destination in mind, I pointed the bow somewhere around Grog Island; I had almost three hours.

We had been at Old Quarry Ocean Adventures for a week, living in the apartment above the office. The days started early, when we could hear guests trickle-into the office downstairs and chat with whoever was working - usually Bill. And though we’d like to spend our days guiding and teaching kayaking, we’ve also been learning the ropes in the office and on the waterfront, getting a feel for all the various jobs here that need to be done. If we walk downstairs, we get pulled-into whatever is going-on. Very little has been routine.

But in-between tasks we manage to get out on the water on our own time- sometimes poling a canoe or on a standup paddleboard. One day I paddled out to Wreck Island and did some volunteer brush clearing with the MITA crew. Another day I taught a Fundamentals class in Bar Harbor for Pinniped.

With no particular destination in mind, my route took shape as I paddled: past Grog and over to Millet. There wasn’t much wind and the sun shone brightly- the sort of brilliant stillness that descends over the archipelago on summer Sunday mornings when no one is hauling or setting traps. The only lobster boats I saw were carrying a few passengers on post-fourth of July excursions.

I stopped at Shivers Island and had a look around. After only a few years as a MITA island, the impact of visitors is obvious. Originally there had barely been room for one tent beside the boulder overlooking rock ledge sloping down to the water. Gradually, as campers came, presumably in bigger tents and in greater numbers than the recommended two people, a niche was carved from the forest, with limbs cut from the trees to make room. At one point, right after the island’s MITA designation, I pulled apart a fire ring that a camper had built directly on the ledge, scarring the rocks black. Perhaps, aside from the fire, the impact is acceptable- people can enjoy the island by walking around the interior- a choice, like the choice to keep the meadow on Wreck Island open instead of overgrown. Not my place to judge, but it can be a little distressing to see a place go from untouched to heavily-trod.

Everyone seems to think that their impact is less significant than that of others. I recently spoke to a youth group leader who wanted to camp on Steves Island with fourteen teenage boys, and he assumed that the MITA rules were for people with greater impact than themselves. I reminded him that their presence would likely be tough on anyone else who might be camped on Steves- a very popular island, and that there were several islands more appropriate for a group.

But that’s how it is in the summer here, and I’m getting a much closer look at the comings and goings of visitors. Over the weekend the campground was overflowing with campers, plenty of whom had nice kayaks and left in large flotillas. Despite my being on the water so often, I still get a little twinge of envy when I’m not, so it was good that Sunday morning I headed-out on my own. I also needed to get-in a little all-out forward stroke time: no “guide’s stroke” where you’re hardly paddling so that people can keep up with you.

I went out around Saddleback and Phoebe, took a little break on Enchanted and back around Devil: a quick, meditative jaunt around some favorite places, steering clear of other boaters so I could stay in my own mental space for awhile.

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