Monday, October 4, 2010

Porcupine Islands – Always amazing!

Basics: Launch Bar at the end of Bridge Street in Bar Harbor. No parking: parking is available on West Street and side streets. No facilities: the information booth on Thompson Island is open through another week or so; public toilets are also available at the town dock, seasonably.
High 6:55AM Launch 9:30AM Finish 12:30AM. Prior visit

It was cold this Sunday, just about 50 degrees when we arrived at the end of Bridge Street.
The bar between Bridge Street(left) and Bar Island(right) was still underwater 2.5 hours after high, high tide is marked by the line of seaweed. The ocean is still fairly warm. We packed additional dry clothes, but have not shifted to wetsuits yet (though as Paddle Plump members we retain year round internal wetsuits.) With a pfd on, I didn’t even need a coat, just gloves.
Gracing the water were two huge cruise ships; a big blue ship, the Maasdam and the even bigger Explorer of the Sea. These ships absolutely dominate the water, appearing as big as an island. Foliage season is a popular time to visit Bar Harbor, and cruise ships allow extra visitors without requiring hotels be built. But cruise ships mean tenders; the Maasdam had its own tenders, the Explorer of the Seas was using several large whale watch boats (appearing above as tiny craft.) While Mark parked the car, I checked out the harbor and saw one set of tenders was traveling between Bar and Sheep Porcupine, not normally a busy channel.

Thousands of people made the town jammed, thrilling the shopkeepers. Fortunately Acadia National Park has many different areas to explore. Particularly a short distance from the roads, anyone could find their own space. As paddlers, in no time we’d be on our own private beach, enjoying the glorious day.

We went across to Bar Island, and crept around Bar on the south side until the Explorer came into view. Making sure no tenders were headed in or out, we crossed to Sheep and began seeing some wonderful wave action.
These were just one – two foot swells, not very big at all. Swells are rolling waves, a gentle lift up or down. They usually break only in shallow water, thus seeing breakers off shore often indicates ledge. But when the swells hit the islands, the water exploded up, then poured off the rocks.
We paddled quickly from Sheep Porcupine to Burnt Porcupine, a major boating channel, and from Burnt Porcupine across to Long Porcupine. Along the west shore a lobster boat was setting traps. Lobster boats don’t often work Sundays; but they were out in force. The lobster boat below has a seagull trailing it, hoping for more cast off bait. It’s got a representative buoy posted; orange with a white stripe, so we can guess where it’s headed. Lobster boats come close to shore, and often the crew is focused more on chores than looking ahead, so look out for them, and stay out of their way.
On the corner of Long Porcupine were found a blow hole, performing just like Thunder Hole. And along the South shore cliffs spray sometime went 40 feet in the air!

Obviously we stayed well back from the cliffs and from any confused water echoing off the rocks. In this shot it looks like Mark could reach out and touch the cliffs, he’s actually 20-30 feet away.
The Hop is a tiny island at the end of Long Porcupine which allows public access. As we paddled around it, we spotted an eagle high in the tree. We landed and enjoyed sitting in the sun, though as is often the case, now that we weren’t exercising, we were a little cold. I love beach shots: this shot shows a couple of rounded red rocks. Those are sea bricks, originally used by lobstermen to weight their traps, now rounding in the waves. There are mussel shells. There is a small area of mussels on the Hop, nothing like Bartlett Island though. There are many dark rocks, reflecting the dominate cliff coloring. And there’s a sea urchin.
Usually I don’t see many sea urchins on the Hop. This time there were several collections.
Our boats arch-enemy: barnacles. Each live barnacle has a tiny crab like creature living in it, sticking out feeders to eat. The hollow ones are dead, but still surprising sharp. Mark practices some strokes while waiting for a lobster boat to go through the channel.
Then crosses
By Bald Porcupine we saw a guided kayak tour headed out, one guide two tandems. They'd picked a great day! Along the shallow water behind Bar Island I looked for seastars without luck. Meanwhile this Herring Gull on the shore had a big catch. So I looked harder, and eventually saw a few. We made good time on the trip, helped by an outgoing current. The current was still flowing out as we headed back, check lines about this buoy.
But I figure it was just two hours paddling, the rest on the beach or watching swells smash into the cliffs. The salt air, the cooling breeze, the incredible scenery, the darling urchins (did you notice the tiny heart on one?) It all just went by so quickly.

It was nearly low when we returned and the bar was far busier. We didn’t visit town this trip, but we’ll be back again for pizza at Geddy’s and to see the season end bargains.


  1. Beautiful scenery to paddle in! BTW... are you guys a husband and wife paddling team? It's always nice to have an "extra" pair of hands to take photos! :-)

  2. We are a husband and wife team; which perhaps makes us a little lazy about seeking out other paddlers, but it sure makes last minute planning a snap!

  3. Very nice job on the pictures. I feel almost there!

  4. I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures of Bar Harbor. Best wishes on recovering your binder, what a terrible blow!