Tuesday, July 24, 2018

After Work on Millet, Around Isle au Haut

On Friday, I spent my first day in Old Quarry’s new downtown shop, or as we call it, ‘The Outpost.’ It was a quiet day there, with occasional people trickling in throughout the day, buying t-shirts and browsing the odds and ends we have for sale there.

But Rebecca had a morning trip, and since her boat was already packed and she had no other work for the rest of the day, she headed out on her own and texted me that she’d ended up on Millet Island, suggesting I join her after work. I hurriedly closed the shop and back at Old Quarry, got my gear together. It was almost six by the time I was on the water, but I aimed toward Millet and focused on keeping a brisk pace that reminded me of the post-work paddles I took during our first years of having the gallery in downtown Stonington. I’d shoot out into the islands with a breathless cadence, exorcising my storekeeping frustrations, and by the time I felt myself buoyed by a mild swell, my mind felt cleansed, my anxieties momentarily set aside. As I approached Millet Island, I saw Rebecca standing with her sketchpad near the water, and I paddled up to her casually and said “hi.”

We didn’t have a lot of time before it would start getting dark, but even an hour out there is a gift. I took a swim. The sun still felt warm enough to lie on a slab of granite to dry. We sat with cold beverages and ate chips and watched the sun lower over the Hells Half Acre neighborhood. We reminded ourselves that this was always out there waiting; we merely needed the time and the motivation to get out there. As we paddled back to Webb Cove, fog drifted back in, lit brilliantly red by the sunset. I left my boat packed, since I had a full day trip the next morning. All I knew was that I had a couple who wanted to go to Isle au Haut.

It turned out that they not only wanted to get to Isle au Haut, but to the southern end of it – not a small trip by any means, but they assured me they’d been taking paddles at home, working up to it, and in a tandem they were at least powered by two paddlers. We arrived at Steves Island 30 or 40 minutes after launching – a brisk pace – and we explored for a few minutes to let some fog drift past before heading across Merchants Row.

The pace continued and I sensed that we might actually get to the southern end, which we did finally. The tides were in our favor, with low tide at around one. The weather was calm, the fog had cleared, and the seas were small, so it seemed crazy to not take advantage of it. Of course, by the time you get to Western Head, you may as well continue with a circumnavigation. We’d gone a little under twelve nautical miles, and it would take just over twelve to get back via circumnavigating.

Of course by that time my clients were pretty worn-out, but there wasn’t much choice but to dig in and get ourselves back… which we did. I had to radio the office to expect us late, promising to punch out at my usual time instead of my actual guiding time, nearly four hours beyond what I could get paid for on a full-day trip. Perhaps this isn’t sustainable as a business model, but at least I got to paddle around Isle au Haut, which is better than sitting in a shop all day.
More information about these trips may be found in Trips #14 and #15 in my guidebook AMC’s Best Sea Kayaking in New England.

Care to join me on a more epic full-day paddle like this one? Call Old Quarry (207/367-8977) and tell them Michael sent you.

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