Thursday, July 6, 2017

Day 6 on Ram Island: The Trip Begins

I’m lying in my hammock. I’ll just get that fact out of the way early, since it plays largely into my current personal mythology- which is that we’re on a somewhat leisurely kayak trip, taking time to enjoy the sublime beauty and idyllic vibe of the Maine islands in summer. This is our fifteenth summer living on the Maine coast, but we’ve worked so hard during the short summers that such an idyll has usually been merely a short blip in between work, or else we were busy guiding or teaching someone else. It’s funny, but we’ve stood in so many places we’ve paddled to in the non-summer months it got to be a joke: nice place- this would be really nice in the summer. Well, now we’ve got the rest of the summer, and it is nice.

I won’t go over every twist and turn of our journey so far, but we launched from Greenlaw Cove on Deer Isle, where we’d been house-sitting for the past eight months, on Saturday, July 1st. We’d hoped to leave sooner, but weren’t surprised that leaving turned into a difficult, drawn-out process. It’s always that way for us. Twenty-seven years ago we arrived late for our honeymoon, since it took so long to clean the house where our wedding had been, and we’ve followed a similar pattern ever since. But we both had boat repairs to make, and Rebecca even added a bulkhead and day hatch to her Pygmy Coho. And there’s something about living in a house, getting dug-in to a particular lifestyle that just seems to hold you there, to make it difficult to leave. We moved our belongings to storage and to Rebecca’s studio in Stonington until all we had left at the house were the things going into our kayaks. We made three ‘final’ trips to the dump. We projected launch times, and those times came and went. If we went into town, we ran into people who said ‘I thought you were taking a kayak trip.’ The trip began to seem like a dream that might not even happen.

We spent that first evening fogged-in on Campbell Island, and when the fog cleared and a heavy rain began, we could see the lights of the house we’d left- the owner had returned hours earlier – not much more than a mile away. It rained heavily that night, with a strong, steady wind that kept the tent’s rain fly taught with pressure. But we were on our way, and it felt good.

The next morning we paddled through fog along Stinson Neck, pausing at some favorite boulders we’d spent a lot of time looking at from our previous winter’s house-sit near Mud Cove. Since we moved-out of our above-gallery apartment in Stonington, two-and-a-half years ago, we’ve managed to live in company-provided housing or in house-sits. We’ve still paid a fair amount for heat and utilities, and we’ve provided the owners with a service by looking after the houses (and in one case, a cat) but we’ve lived in some nice spots, gotten to know the watery neighborhood in their backyards, and watched our pennies in a way that has enabled us to take this trip. We could barely see the Mud Cove house, peeking through the drifting fog.

We spent the next two nights camped on a favorite Maine Coast Heritage Trust island off Stonington where we’d never camped before. Our friends Gordo and Lisa joined us for the first night. That morning after they left we went through our gear and paddled in to Stonington with some odds and ends we thought we could live without. At this point, going into town felt almost surreal. Before we even landed we ran into my first paddling buddy Todd, who was setting off on a paddle with his wife and young son and a couple of friends. And in town we saw people who either knew nothing of our trip (and we didn't want to take time to talk about it) or people asking “when are you leaving on your trip?” We refilled our water containers at The Stonington Ice Cream Company and Ron sent us on our way, fortified with ice cream. We stopped at Green Island for a quick swim and ran into more people we knew.

So on Independence Day it felt liberating to cross East Penobscot Bay, heading for the less familiar islands of the Fox Island archipelago. We camped that night on another MCHT island, overlooking an anchorage where a couple in a white wooden sailboat had also anchored for the night. Rebecca went off to paint and I made a casserole in the Outback Oven, marveling how in the golden evening light, the anchored sailboat, trailing a perfect peapod for a tender, looked like an image from the Wooden Boat Calendar we get every year. As it grew dark, we watched Stonington’s fireworks low on the horizon, imagining what it felt like in town.

In the morning, we paddled past the sailboat and said hello. We chatted awhile with the couple before we learned that this was Benjamin Mendlowitz, the photographer responsible for the Wooden Boat Calendar, and countless stunning photographs we’ve seen elsewhere. We tied-up at the public dock in North Haven and spent a couple hours in town – bean burgers at Cooper’s Landing, some fresh Turner Farm kale from the market at Calderwood Hall… a browse through a couple shops before filling our water bags from a hose at Waterman’s Community Center. North Haven usually strikes me as a slightly sleepy, friendly town, but this was the busiest I’d seen it, in full summer plumage- plumes with a deliberately casual, but well-endowed tone. As we climbed down into our kayaks from the dock, a group of kids were launching sailboats from the yacht club.

We made it here, to Ram Island late afternoon yesterday. We’d been watching the weather, which called for a bit more wind today, and we would either get an early start this morning to head over to Muscle Ridge, or spend two nights here. So far, the packing and unpacking process, as well as hauling gear and boats, has been very time consuming- frustratingly cumbersome. It seems to be getting better, but the chance to spend a day just enjoying the place – like we’d planned- sounded good. When I got this hammock set-up, I felt pretty sure we’d be sleeping-in a bit this morning. So here we are. Through the trees I have a view of this stretch of Hurricane Sound, which has ridges of boulders granite that make up this island. I’ve been hearing a distant, churchy ring of a bell-buoy, and the coming and going grumble of lobster boats. The Vinalhaven ferry just motored past a gap between islands. The wind swishes through the spruce, and some crows and gulls taunt each other like rival gangs. We’ll probably get out for a short paddle in the neighborhood, or just hang-out here. Either way, I’m often struck with our good fortune, just to be here.

At this point we’re pretty sure that we won’t go farther south than Casco Bay. If we spend too many “zero days” like this, even that may be a stretch if we want some time Downeast as well. But we keep telling ourselves we are doing this for fun.And so Rebecca can paint and I can write. Which doesn’t lend itself well to the long stretches with no camping access along the southern coast.

For more information about these paddling locales, check-out routes #14 and… ( I think) #17 in my guidebook, AMC’s Best Sea Kayaking in New England.

I am full of amazement that I can sit here on an island and write this and put it on ther Internet, but Google (Blogger) and my iPad aren't on friendly terms yet, which is why there's only one photo here so far. I've wasted some significant island time trying to make it work, But I'm posting the occasional photo on Instaqgram and Facebook. You can look for Sea Kayak Stonington or search for the #upwestanddowneast hashtag.


grammie said...

As long as you also post to Facebook I think we can find you... and follow you with pleasure.Happy trails, friends!

Sandy Stott said...

If you do get to Casco, take a look at the cliffs and rocks n the north side of Ragged Island -- write, draw, paint, they are narrative rocks if ever there were any.

John Foster said...

One of these days I am going to come up and paddle part of the MIT with you.
Keep up the good posts.