Friday, August 6, 2010

Not our Best Idea: Hampden to Bangor Maine

Trip basics: Evening: High 6:53, Launch 7, finish 8:30 From Hamlin Marina to Bangor. 6 miles. Lots of Parking, Flush Toilets and Dana's Grill on site.

Probably not our best idea; paddling out on a stormy evening into a mix of rowdy concert attendees.
We’d paddled up by the Celtic Women concert last week, and planned to do the same for the Lynyrd Skynyrd/Charlie Daniels concert. Not to steal a free listen. More just to have a destination, a reason to be out at night. But where the Celtic Women concert was attended by 3,000, 10,000 were expected for this concert.
It was a gray evening. We’d watched the weather on two stations before coming out. The first weatherman had mentioned it was not raining yet for the concert, then their on-the-spot reporter talked of possible rain and thunderstorms. But the weatherman never talked about the evening weather, instead he went on to mention several times how nice the weather would be for the Saturday Arts Festival. The second station was more helpful, that weatherman pointed to rain moving north of Bangor and a storm over Augusta which might break up or get worse as it headed this way, he didn’t know. But he didn’t think there would be any lightening.
I took my Vaag, my life jacket with marine radio for weather updates. I’d lost my rain hat earlier in the year, and forgot my regular hat. Fortunately I have an emergency hat in my gear. I had my regular flashlight and a headlamp. Mark also packed a head lamp and regular flashlight.
Hamlin Marine was as full of boat trailers as we’ve ever seen it, and multiple motor boats were lined up to launch. Coolers of beer were being carried on board, and one boat sported a huge Rebel flag.
“Stick close to shore,” Mark reminded me, unnecessarily. I already had that in mind. Plus ours was just a run up and down, by the time the concert was out and the partying boats headed home, we planned to be long gone.
The humidity was thick, thick as fog on the water, another reason to stay close to shore. But the sky looked relatively clear.
The trip was uneventful, no eagles or beavers to be seen, a steady stream of boats heading north.
We met a paddler headed south. He was in a fiberglass boat and had a short quick stroke like racers use. He wished us well at the concert.
We were up under the bridge at 7:25, and started to hear music just past the asphalt cement tanks. The boats were mostly harbored in Concert Cove, that area just south of the pier where the music flows clearly on to the river. There were a few pairs of boats, but mostly the boats sat alone. And there was one other paddled boat, a canoe parked alongside an aluminum skiff. There were perhaps 20 boats on the water, anchored boats were far outnumbered by the audience in Brewer lined up along the sidewalk and grassy banks.
A friendly woman confirmed it was the Charlie Daniel Band we were hearing. I never recognized a song, but they were pretty loud, much easier to hear than Celtic Woman. In fact the woman said when the band started up she saw groundhogs popping out of the ground in reaction to the bass vibrations.

We paddled through the cove and along the harbor, then began our trip home. Many of the boats seemed more focused on their own private parties than the music. Their conversations continued on through the songs, and were nearly as loud. They could just have easily put the band on a CD. I suspect for many, like us, it was more an excuse to be out than a real interest in the band. Or maybe they were just waiting for Lynyrd Skynyrd and the chance to yell “Freebird!”
We didn’t linger, heading back into the wind, a much pleasanter paddle than the trip up. As we went by Hollywood Slots we saw a couple standing out on the roof.
No beavers on the way down, but a bat which circled about the boat no doubt confused by its radar signals. With the twilight we’d turned our lights on, rear facing lights on the back of the boat. We figured we were leaving well ahead of the other boats, but a few boats passed us, like us just wandering by. Other boats were still heading up to Bangor, as we landed one boat was coming in, another being launched.

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