Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Little Hen Island, Revisited

We’d just paddled across West Penobscot Bay from Stonington, our bows pointed to the tiny islet, and we were anticipating getting there: getting tents up, a snack, just absorbing the place. It was still early enough in the day that we could get out for another paddle, or perhaps just spend a few sunny hours exploring the island and its surroundings as the tide went out. We were also early enough that if someone else had beat us to the island – it was, after all, July 3rd– we’d be able to find a different spot. 

Just then, a short catamaran – a Hobie 16-footer – shot out from the north, driven by a tailwind, right for ‘our’ little island. We both paused our paddle strokes. The sailboat was moving fast and would certainly get there first. I began to mentally imagine the other campsites we could go to instead. But the boat kept going, right past the island, over the shallow sandbars that would soon be revealed. We didn’t hesitate; we hurried to our landing and quickly began unpacking gear from our boats.

It reminded me of when Rebecca and I arrived here two summers ago. We’d paddled from Ram Island around the southern end of Vinalhaven. We were tired, anticipating some relaxing time in the campsite, when another group of sea kayakers arrived in our peripheral vision, also headed for the island. In denial, I simply didn’t look toward them until I’d arrived first, and then realized they were friends, and I felt a little bad, and of course, invited them to share the island with us. There were four of them though, and they went-on to Hay Island instead. 

This time was oddly similar, since we noticed, as M put up her tent and I strung my hammock, that the catamaran had arrived on the sandbar, and the occupants were unloading gear onto Tiny Little Hen (Middle Little Hen?- both my names) another small islet a couple hundred feet to the north. We were camped in the MITA site, but I guessed that the other, unofficial site might work better for them, since they could beach the catamaran and easily access the island: our campsite stood atop steep granite bluffs over the sandbars – we’d landed on the other side. It did certainly change the nature of our stay there, looking from our cooking spot at others camped so near, but other people’s presence is simply one of the variables that makes our experiences out there unique each time.

M took her time, exploring with her camera. After a while, we took a spin in the kayaks up the bay to check out the schooner Victory Chimes,which was anchored near a tall bluff. We landed and looked in vain for a trail I’d once followed to the bluff-top. Then we paddled back to camp. There’s a story here about when high tide came – a new moon spring tide that arrived at midnight. My hammock set-up was not so ideal, and judging from the flurry of headlamp-lit activity on the other islet, their site was not quite high enough… but I’ll keep this short and save it for another time.

As Rebecca and I had done two years ago, we liked it so much on the island that we decided to use it as a base camp the next day. That gave M a lot more time to explore with her camera, and we took a day trip out to Brimstone Island. Also, since it was July 4thand a lot of people were out in boats, it took away our worry that we wouldn’t be stuck without a campsite. And we had it to ourselves the next night. All of this was part of a 4-day trip. On the 3rdday, M and I paddled north, letting some strong currents push us up the bay. As Brimstone had been, it was a day of visiting islands with hiking trails to gorgeous vistas. We spent our last night on Pond Island, off Cape Rosier, and finished our trip at Bridge End, in Eggemoggin Reach. 

This was the first multi-day trip I’ve guided for my new sea kayak guiding service, Upwest & Downeast, and it was a wonderful way to start, made possible by a client who knew just what she wanted- part of which was to relax a bit, since work had been lately stressful. 

I realize there are some significant gaps in my blog output; it’s due to too much happening, rather than not enough. Getting Upwest & Downeast off the ground has been a consuming endeavor, and I’ve continued to work for others – on-call guiding and teaching as well as the ten-day guide’s class I teach every spring in Bar Harbor. I started the guiding service simply as that- a bare-bones service for people wanting to hire a guide, but I've added day trips for people without their own gear as well, mostly available right now through Air BnB experiences. 

Over the winter I focused mostly on my book-length account of our trip two summers ago, as well as an article about it that came out last week in Small Boats MagazineIn addition to all that, we still tend to make much of our living from other work. I sometimes ask myself if I need to keep writing this blog that has followed my paddling progress almost from the start. I’m not sure who reads it or cares. But the fact that I just now enjoyed recounting a little of last week’s trip seems reason enough to keep at it. I hope you’ll check-out the article in Small Boats Magazine. And the book is getting there, at this point mostly waiting for more illustrations.

Happy Paddling!

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