Thursday, July 30, 2015

Racing low at Naskeag (Maine)

Looking from Pond Island to Blue Hill Bay Light on Green Island

  As I sit in the basement, trying to get my brain to think on this hot, sticky day, it's hard to remember how cold it was last Saturday.  61 degrees (F)  with a light but steady wind from the east and iffy skies.  So of course we headed to Naskeag, a launch site from which we regularly get caught in fog or rain.

   But we go to Naskeag for multiple reasons; you can get to islands without crossing any channels,  it's easy to get to and rarely crowded,  and most importantly, there are so many wonderful places to go if it is clear enough

  There is plenty of parking for cars at Naskeag Point in Brooklin Maine, but less for vehicles towing trailers.  Some trailers parked on the beach (a firm crushed granite beach), some along side of the road, a few placed a trailer in one spot, truck in the other and one took up four or five spaces.

  Though the skies were gray, there was no fog, so we headed across to Pond Island, passing on the way Mahoney, a active bird island.  In addition to the variety showing up in the picture (cormorant, gulls, eiders) terns, guillemots, and loons hung out by the island.

  Our crossing took us to Opechee, then it was a matter of seeing if we could beat low to cross between Opechee and Jons, and again between Opechee and Black.  The water was just passable between Opechee and Black.

   Over 100 seals were spotted on various ledges.  This shot is of a crowded ledge east of John's Island.

   Only one raccoon was scene, running free on Opechee.

   Lunch, at just about low, was on Pond Island, before riding some choppy water back to Naskeag.

Another picture from Pond Island

  Summary:  Launch 10:30AM, low just about noon, finish about 1:30.  8 miles, one break.   Naskeag offers about 20 single car spaces, trailered vehicles tend to part on the side of the road.  Port-a-pottie.   All tides crushed rock ramp, dock, also a nice picnic area and beach at the launch.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Moose Neck, South Addison, Maine

South Addison has a really nice ramp out on Moose Neck.  It's large, all tides and has plenty of parking. We were there on a Saturday in early July, and not very many spaces were taken.  The ramp leads into Eastern Harbor, a very protected area, with a few scenic lobster boats.

  In addition to moored boats and wharfs, the harbor seemed to have a goodly supply of moon jellies who'd made their way in and seemed ready to stay for the summer.  Across from the ramp, on Cape Split an artifical lighthouse peeked out from behind some trees.  Further out, to the southwest and behind scenic Ladle Island, was a more formal lighthouse on Little Nash, though checking the chart, we learned that lighthouse was abandoned.

Ladle Island, looking quite appealing.  The abandoned lighthouse is barely visible to the left.

  We weren't headed west though, but east into the smattering of islands by Tibbets Narrows.

A bell buoy and multiple islands - what could be better?
  There we encountered a Bell Buoy, always a favorite sighting,  and in the distance, ledges full of sunning seals.

Distant shiny seals decorate Hay Ledge

   We paddled by Plummer's Islands, looking to see if we might make it between the two, but it was well past time for that crossing.   Then it was on to another chain of islands, taking a break upon Stevens.  I can't help but feel our landing would have been more pleasant at a slightly higher tide, but the shoreline was mostly solid, which just a couple patches of  mud.

Two boats on Stevens Island

  And dashing about, nearly hidden by their coloring were several tiny sandpipers, which we've identified, tentatively, as least sandpipers.  Two pipers are plainly visible in this photo.

 But on the island, the birds appeared more as brown blurs against the landscape.  This photo has a seven or eight blurry birds in it.

   After Stevens we headed for Duck Ledges and then back between Tibbett Island and Moose Neck, before returning to the launch.  South Addision was a new launch for us, I'm sure we'll be back to explore the area some more.

Summary:  Launch 10:30AM, Finish 12:30PM, Low about 1:20PM.  Lots of parking, concrete ramp, no facilities that I saw.  7.5 miles with one break.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Welcoming the Hermione to Castine

Crowds fill Fort Madison, and all other access points along the harbor
"Vive la France!"  the cry came up behind me from the crowd at Fort Madison.

 When was the last time Castine harbor heard that cry?  Maybe in the mid 1600's when Baron Castin was still in residence.  Then the cry might have come from Fort Pentogoet, located near where Our Lady of Holy Hope is currently located, as soldiers saw ships coming in with new supplies.

   Certainly that cry had not  been heard from Fort Madison, a U.S. fort built in 1809 to defend against another English capture of Castine.  When Castine was again attacked in 1814 by the English the poorly staffed fort made one token shot, spiked their cannons and disbanded.

Arriving out of the mist
  But on July 14, 2015, the cry was to honor a visit from the Hermoine, a replica of the ship on which Lafayette sailed to America in 1780, bringing with him crucial military strategies used during the Revolutionary War, and more importantly,  support for an independent United States from an established European country.

  It was the perfect day for a ship to visit.  There was light fog on the water, making it easier to transport back in time to when sailing ships ruled the seas.

The side of the canoe reads:  "Water is a blessing for all life."

  We'd arrived at Wadsworth Cove at 1PM, and launched from there to the harbor, it was about three when the ships began to enter the harbor.  We'd passed our time paddling up and down, and chatting with other folks in small boats, including Reinhard Zollitsch, who along with making several long canoe journeys has also helped race sailing schooners.

  It wasn't only the Hermione that arrived, but a whole flotilla of boats, everything from schooners and yachts to dories and kayaks.
The second boat appears to be a sailing diesel yacht

   Some ships announced their arrival with cannon fire, others with honks or fog horns.   A very festive event; though it might be fair to state it was also a bit zoo-ey and many kayaks seemed to disregard any guidance about taking care near large boats.

  But to see such a grand ship sailing - what can you say but "C'est magnifique!"

More about the Hermione
More about the Hermione visit in Castine   Several streets in Castine have been set up as temporary one way streets to allow for more parking.  Even so, it seemed like every spot was filled when we left....

Monday, July 13, 2015

Friar Bay, Campobello Island N.B.

Mulholland Light to the left, Lubec to the right
  We went to Friar Bay to enjoy a low tide paddle.  Actually, we came to the Lubec/Campobello area to enjoy low tide, then decided once we were there that the best way to see low tide was from the water.  So we crossed to Campobello Island and looked for a place to paddle.  We had our passports with us, and they were checked both ways.  Campobello Island may only be connected by a bridge to Lubec, Maine (and to the rest of New Brunswick by a seasonal ferry) but don't expect customs to ignore your crossings..

  Friar Bay was recommended by the information center as the place where they paddled, and conveniently it was quite close.  It's a broad open bay, with a nice rock/sandy bottom.  Friar Head and a sea stack are located to the southwest side of the bay.  Friar Bay is where Franklin Roosevelt used to anchor his yacht when he came to visit his summer residence on Campobello Island.

  We paddled off to the sea stacks, going by several sights on the way.  A couple abandoned boats, one old, one newer.

 There's a nice dock, which I think must be associated with  Roosevelt Campobello International Park, though I don't see anything about it on their site.

Some sort of aquaculture marked by yellow buoys.

  The sea stack looks most like a friar in this photo.

  And lots of wildlife, several sightings of ctenophora,  include a ribbon-like cestid comb jelly.  There were also  more than a few jellyfish.

  Lots of sea stars, and urchins.  (They were mostly on rockier shores)

  This sea gull gets to enjoy an urchin.

  Sand dollars freckled across the floor.

  We paddled down to Mulholland Lighthouse.  The narrows under FDR bridge are marked as hazardous for navigations because of the fast currents there mid tide.

   Out along Friar Bay, though, the water was peaceful and quiet, with plenty of time to observe the ocean floor.  We arrived back nearly at dead low, with quite a bit more sandy bottom to cross to return to our cars.

Summary:  Launch  Friar Bay Beach, adequate parking, no facilities.  There is an information center about a mile away.  We launched at 10:30 EDT, finished at noon.  Low was at 12:40.   About 3.5 miles. We headed back to Lubec for lunch, where we captured one of my favorite shots of the day, looking back toward Mulholland Light.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Kennebec River, Augusta ME: Wildlife and Current

Beach beside the launch.  That tiny white dot by the bridge piling; a sturgeon jumping or an osprey diving?
  If you're in Augusta, even if you're without boats, you should stop by the boat launch under the Memorial Bridge.  There's a small park there, trees for shade, a playground, picnic tables and benches looking over the river.  And a great variety of wildlife;  we saw osprey, eagles blue heron, herring gulls, mink, and ducklings.  But we were there primarily to look for sturgeon.  Large 3-4 foot long sturgeon, which for unknown reasons jump straight up out of the river, primarily in late June and July.  And, while you can just sit on the shore and look for sturgeon, if you have a boat available, it's also fun to play on the Kennebec River.

     Augusta has about a five foot tidal range, we were there about an hour before low, with a swift moving down river current, and a moderate south wind acting against it.  Noting the eddylines, we choose to ride the current down to buoy 82, cross there and wend our way back using old boom islands to assist us.

  Just above buoy 82 are some great stone buildings, the old Kennebec Arsenal, built between 1828 and 1838.  These structures were annexed by the nearby Maine State Hospital in 1905, and abandoned in 2004.   Note the wonderful broad ship landing, and the elegant copper structures capping the ventilation shafts.  It's a beautiful property, awaiting redevelopment.   

Picking my way back upstream behind boom islands, the launch is just beyond the bridge
    Having made it back to the launch in a reasonable time and with a reasonable effort, we headed north, past Old Fort Western.   Fort Western was built in 1754, and is New England's oldest  remaining  wooden Fort.  A bateau associated with the fort was docked at the landing.

    We made it up to the railroad bridge before reaching a point of no further progress, then crossed the Kennebec and rode down to the buoy again.

Gliding by the Old Augusta Post Office and Courthouse, the mink was hiding along this shore

  Along the way we probably saw ten or twelve sturgeon jump, including a few really big ones.  We didn't get any pictures, but Linwood Riggs, a patient photographer, has captured several jumping sturgeon.  Our wildlife photography was limited to some gangly ducks hoping for a handout.

  It was a delightful evening, temps in the 70's, low humidity, incredible architecture, amazing animals and just a great time to play on the water.

Summary:  Launch:  Augusta Boat Launch, off Howard Lane.  Concrete ramp, kayak condos, several parking spaces shared with a picnic and playground area, porta-potties.  The Augusta Tide Chart is here, it's far enough up river to have a very different tide from most places.  The loop with the extra section was 2.5 miles.

Links:  Kennebec Arsenal
           Wikipedia Kennebec Arsenal:

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Moosehorn to Hot Hole Pond, a Nalu Test

 Having gone to the effort of dragging the Nalu's back up our hill, we figured we may as well take them out in their ideal test environment, a shallow stream with lots of obstacles. 

   The route we picked was a short one, on the Bucksport/Orland line.  Our trip would take us down Moosehorn Stream until it met up with Hole Hole Stream, then up Hole Hole Stream to tiny Hot Hole Pond.  The backdrop to our journey was Great Pond Mountain, whose land held by Great Pond Land Trust

  Moosehorn Streams builds up a little speed as it passes under the bridge by the launch, but for the most part it is relatively slow and shallow.  The bridge is fairly scenic, new cement over what looks to be old granite supports. 

Moosehorn Stream runs through a mature forest.  

At the confluence with Hot Hole Stream, there was a beaver dam, which the Nalu crossed easily.  At that point the two streams flow into Alamoosic Lake.

But rather than head into the lake, we turned upstream on Hot Hole Stream, heading out into a marshy landscape.

  It was June in Maine and we were paddling on clean water.  I expected hoards of black flies.  I don't know if it was the temperature ( mid 50's) the gray sky, or the gentle breeze, but few bugs were spotted.  Instead we enjoyed other marsh denizens; red winged black birds, swallows, and grackles.  A pair of geese and their goslings kept a careful eye on us, and a solitary deer wandered along the stream edge.  Unfortunately, none of those pictures came out well, so I will spare you the blurry renditions.
Circumnavigating Hot Hole Pond

    Hot Hole Pond is a smallish pond, it's a place where you can spend the entire day; fishing, hiking, paddling and more.  A group of six canoes had claimed the beach area, and seemed ready to spend a day there.
Picking a route downstream

   The Nalu's did very well on the journey.  Mostly the trip was done standing on the boards, though some tricky areas required kneeling, and I sat for awhile while circumnavigating the pond, just to rest my knees.
A short carry to finish

Summary:  Launch 9:30AM, finish 11:30AM.  Launch where Bald Mountain Rd cross Moosehorn Stream.  Side of the road parking, no facilities.  3.4 miles to and around Hot Hole Pond and back.   Map of the area and trust land

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Nalu 12.5 from Ocean Kayak

  If you have access to water, and access to paddlers of all sizes, shapes and abilities, you may want to make space for the Nalu 12.5, a plastic hybrid paddleboard/sit-on-top kayak. 
The Nalu 12.5 is not a performance boat, but it is cleverly designed to be fun and easy to use.  The board weighs 49 pounds, and is an easy one person carry balancing well from either center handhold.  Aft bungees hold gear in place, and there's a compartment up front for drier storage.  Rather than a long fin, there are three keels to help the Nalu hold direction.  You can lay it flat on the grass and there is less to worry about as you launch.  And, if you've ever caught your SUP board fin on a hidden branch, you know another advantage to the keels.
     It's an easy boat to get on, and you can stand, sit, kneel or lie down to paddle.  If you're looking for a boat for a variety of skill levels at a lake, or a craft for exploring small streams, this is a great choice.
     Newer versions include a handhold in back, as well as in front, and pads to help older joints kneel.  But the versions we purchased were close-out models bought at the twice yearly Old Town Canoe and Kayak factory seconds sale; the second cheapest way to add new boats to your fleet.*
These boards come with an optional seat.  The seats can attach at four points (Two by the center handles, two by the bungees.) When all four points are used, the seat is held open.  We generally prefer to just use the two front straps, and travel with the seat folded over itself and flat.  Sometimes we don't even bother to open the seat,  we just sit on the back of the seat, or even use it as knee pad.  
One of the nice features is how well these boards stack on a roof.   Stacking is enhanced by a drain line at the rear of the bottom board which lines up with the center keel of the top boat .
  The boards do okay in moderate wind and chop, though they are a wet ride.
  The hatch is a strap-on plastic cover.
 Here Mark is testing the hatch by rocking water over it.
 The inside is still dry!  But, I would still recommend a dry bag for anything in there, and being wise about using the board on cold or rough water.

  And you can see that they do very well with a Greenland Paddleboard Paddle.   There are also hybrid paddles available.  The Old Town factory outlet has a model with a tee grip end which can be changed out for a paddle.  The model they had on hand could not compete with Marks' cedar GP for lightness or comfort though.  Another option is to use a paddleboard paddle and store a break apart two-bladed kayak paddle in the hatch.  We had no trouble getting a 240cm Warner break-apart in or out of the hatch.

  Our sons recently came by to pick up "their" boats** to use for a day trip with friends up a beaver stream to a small pond.  But, after testing the Nalu's, that's what they left with.  The Nalu's were easy to transport and when the group was traveling up the winding stream it was easy for them to stand up and check on the other paddlers.  These boats have the most flexibility for getting on and off, which was perfect for getting over beaver dams (and positioning to help other boats over the dams) as well as landing on a steep shore.  One used the Greenland paddle, the other a SUP paddle, though he switched to a Euro-paddle to cross the pond in a strong wind. 

So what are the flaws?  There are a few.  It is rated for up to 350 pounds.  We did have a fairly large guy (close to 300 pounds) test it, he enjoyed the boat and found is quite stable.  He also liked that he could easily get himself back on the board, a feat which is not possible with some recreational sit-inside kayaks.  But I think the rated 350 pounds capacity is optimistic.
    When anyone over average weight is seated, the back of the boat tends to drag.  One option is to pull the seat pad further forward, but then foot brace positions are limited.  Also, the seat angle is better for relaxing than power paddling.
    The foot wells, while they add stability by lowering the feet, limit movement on the paddleboard.  
    Shifting from standing to sitting, and more so from sitting to standing is not as straight forward as you might imagine.  Especially when shifting from sitting to standing, it's easier to go through a kneeling stage (and drag a leg off the side to do so.)

  We bought these boats to use on the Penobscot River.  The path to our boat launch is narrow with some steep drop-offs so carrying boats, even light ones, up and down regularly is more insane than buying additional boats.   Since we plan to paddleboard regularly on the Penobscot River, we'd like to store boards down there.  The Penobscot isn't a shallow stream, so the Nalu's keel isn't the advantage it could be other places, but I like to have the option to be able to sit, should the wind pick up while we're out. 

   After borrowing the Nalu's for the weekend, one son is thinking of getting one for his own use, which says a lot for their entertainment value.  (Remember his real kayak is still stored here.)

*  The best sale is the Old Town Employee-only Sale, held just before the public sale.  Old Town employees are held in high esteem in this area.

**  Some of the kayaks regularly featured in Penobscot Paddles are not technically our boats, but boats which were gifts to prior Penobscot Paddlers.  I'm sure they appreciate us continuing to exercise their equipment...