Friday, July 18, 2008
Kayaking heaven: the coastal islands of Maine
We set out early on July 4 from Carlisle for Orr’s Island, Maine, which is connected to the mainland by a bridge in Harpswell, just south of Brunswick. The trip takes about two-and-a-half hours, not including a stop for superb strawberries at the farmers market in Brunswick. We put our kayaks into the water not far from the Cribstone Bridge between Orr’s Island and Bailey’s Island. We will spend the day paddling around Bailey’s Island and the islands and ledges off Bailey’s southern tip.
My husband Marc, son Tim and I start down the eastern side of Bailey’s Island with the wind off the Atlantic in our faces. It is not a strong wind, but it causes ripples in the water, making the paddling interesting. The salty smell of the sea is enticing. Colorful lobster buoys are
everywhere. Long-necked black cormorants fly low and many are perched on rocks that are only seen during low tide. We continue to paddle as wisps of fog approach. We are concerned that our journey in Casco Bay may have to be modified, but amazingly the fog disperses, and we are left with an awesome view of the blue horizon.
The shore is dotted with homes, some close to the water; others are on the bluffs overlooking the open ocean with Pond Island and Ragged Island to the east. Some of the homes are older, but quite a few have been built in the last few decades. Some have docks and other properties seem to lack easy access to the water, but their location on the bluff provides a commanding view.
When we get to the end of Bailey’s Island, a place called Jaquish Gut, the water gets choppy. Waves crash into the rocks there and cause reflections in the water. It’s obvious that we don’t want to paddle too close to the shore in this area. We see the Giant Stairs, a rock formation along the rocky south tip of the island.
The two islands just off the tip, Jaquish and Turnip and some other rocky outcroppings are very visible now. We decide to paddle out around them and my pleasure increases with every stroke. So much sky, so much water and that endless horizon encompass me. Graceful sailboats are cruising along in the bay. One is particularly close, its cranberry hull heeling in the water, and I wonder who has the right of way.
Jaquish Island is one of those islands that epitomize Maine. Its rocky edges, low green bushes, a few pines and a single home look so inviting. What a location! The three-story home has wonderful views on every side. To respect the privacy of the island’s owners, we don’t land on it to have our lunch. We paddle past it and go around some exposed rocky ledges that are populated by sea gulls and cormorants. We are careful of incoming waves hitting the ledges and the island.
We pull our boats up on Turnip Island and many birds squawk at us and take flight. As soon as we pull our sandwiches out, the gulls are back for a closer look. The rocks on this island are gorgeous. In numerous places we spot beautiful white quartz in the layered rocks; bright silver and copper-colored mica sparkles brilliantly in many rocks. We eat our lunch on the rocks, as the greenery in the center of the island is not easily penetrated. A lobsterman checks his traps as we look on.
After lunch, we jump into our kayaks and head up the western side of Bailey’s Island to explore Mackerel Cove. Newer homes are sprouting up along the hillsides that form the cove. There are still a few old docks and fishing shacks to give us a feel how it was here in earlier decades. A number of motorboats are tied to moorings and a big, old fishing boat with a hull like a gigantic catamaran dominates the middle of the cove.
Paddling out of the cove, back in the Merriconeag Sound, we look across to South Harpswell. The whole Harpswell Neck is picturesque, with its gentle slopes of green grass, small forests and white homes. We continue paddling up the western side of Bailey’s Island, close to the shoreline, investigating the nooks and crannies. Sometimes the wind stops and the water surface becomes placid. The water is clear and we can see down into it. This is an incredibly nice day to be out on the water.
As we paddle around the finger-like peninsula, the Cribstone Bridge comes into view. This is a unique bridge, built with local granite in 1927. The 1,120-foot span is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and its openwork abutments allow the tide to sweep through it. This is an important feature, since the area has nine-to-ten-foot tides. At low tide, the channel is narrow and there is much exposed rock which we hadn’t seen when we started our journey. The current is brisk under the bridge, giving us a thrill at the end of our day on the water.
If you go . . .
If you’d like to experience this paddle yourself and you don’t have your own kayaks, H2Outfitters (www.h2outfitters.com) is conveniently located at the foot of the Cribstone Bridge on Orr’s Island. These pleasant folks run tours and have lots of good information. Make sure you’re equipped with a map of the land and islands before setting off on the water. Also, if you have your own boats, you can park your car here for a small fee. Happy kayaking!∆
© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito