Monday, July 17, 2017

Day 17 on Jewel Island

I don't want to give the impression that I've spent an inordinate amount of time lying in the hammock while we've somehow managed to also paddle to Casco Bay from Deer Isle, but once again, I am indeed lying in the hammock, which this time is strung between two stout birches in a meadowy campsite upon a bluff on Jewel Island, in Casco Bay. It's mid-day and the fog that drifted-in first thing this morning still comes and goes, alternating between soupy-thick and thin enough to see the houses on Cliff Island, almost a mile distant.

Earlier, we used the fog as an opportunity to take a hike on this 222-acre island and visit the concrete towers that were used to guard Casco Bay back in World War II. I'm sure the view from the top is stunning- well it was stunning, but we couldn't see beyond the edges of the island. When the fog lingered, we decided it would be more prudent to spend more time here, rather than bump around with all the bigger vessels in these waters.

Here's a quick synopsis of our travels since the last post.

From Fort Island, we headed-out the Damariscotta River, spending a couple of hours in East Boothbay to get a few supplies at a small general store and water at the kitchen sink in the fire station. We made our way out to Damariscotta Island and over to The Cuckholds, where we'd hoped to camp on the MITA island west of the lighthouse. Fortunately we arrived early enough to realize it wasn't a good choice: populated with colonies of shrieking birds and the stench of their poop, not much of a flat spot to pitch a tent, and you might feel a bit on display for the guests arriving at The Inn At Cuckholds Lighthouse, on the neighboring Island, greeted by a crew of smartly-uniformed staff. Instead, we opted to paddle another five or six nautical miles up the Sheepscot River to camp at Spectacle Island, a truly lovely and idyllic campsite on its own forested islet.

The next day we went back out the Sheepscot, around the south end of Georgetown Island and into the Kennebec River, catching some current to help us against the north wind as we paddled a few miles north to Perkins Island. We were caught by a downpour well before we arrived, and explored a bit in wet paddling gear before setting-up the tent. We were glad we had warm, dry clothing to put on and hot drinks to warm us up. Maine in the summer has fairly broad meteorological mood swings, and you need to be ready. But the rain passed by and we were able to hang-out by the lighthouse as it got dark, taking photos, watching the current build.

On Friday morning we floated out of the Kennebec, past Fort Popham and out the mouth of the river. I'd paddled there plenty of times to play in the surf and standing waves, but this was the first time we could let the current take us on past all that until we reached open water, whereupon we took a right. Cape Small beckoned a few miles off, past long stretches of sandy beach until we made our way around it and found a a pair of pristine crescents of sand, facing out to sea. Apparently this stretch of undeveloped shoreline is private, but since no one was about, we pulled-in where the waves were smallest and had a quick lunch. From there it was just a few miles to West Point in Phippsburg, where our new friend Sid lives, just a short distance from a gravel launch. Sid fed us, entertained us and put a roof over our heads for the night. We were also able to drive into Bath for a few groceries, clean our clothes and ourselves, and recharge the batteries. He was a huge help. Thanks Sid!

Sid joined us the next day as we made our way to the Cribstone Bridge between Orrs and Baileys Islands and on out to Eagle Island, where Sid turned back for home- good training for the Blackburn Challenge, which he'll be paddling in in a few days. We went on to Bangs Island- a bit late- and watched the lights come-on at Great Chebeague Island as we made our dinner.

Yesterday, determined to see Robert Peary's Eagle Island when his house was open, Rebecca and I paddled over to Eagle Island and toured the home on the island the Arctic explorer had bought in his twenties, for $200. Onward from there, we arrived late in the day here, Jewel Island.

Mid-day has turned to mid-afternoon and the fog still lingers. Rebecca has found something to paint. We may get out for a short paddle - maybe just another walk. We'd like to get over to Fort Gorges and get a glimpse of the Portland waterfront before we start heading downeast, but we do need to start heading that way soon. Maybe after another day or two here in Casco Bay. We want to have enough time to explore Downeast and to not hurry too much on our way back toward Deer Isle. But at pretty much every island we stay on, we fall in love with it, and don't mind the idea of hanging out a bit and enjoying it. We're struck every day by what a privilege this is, and I don't think an evening goes by in which I don't sit back after dinner, take a look around and say "I'm so glad we're taking this trip."

Notes: I'll just need to add a few specifics when I have less limited Internet and power, but many of the places we've been paddling through are covered in my guidebook AMC's Best Sea Kayaking in New England.

My photo-posting ability is a bit compromised now, but I've been putting some on Instagram. Look for either Seakayak Stonington or #upwestanddowneast.

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