Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Paddle to the Sea Part 3: Verona to Fort Point Maine

Basics: Verona Island landing: Plenty of parking, no facilities (public toilets are available along the harbor in nearby Bucksport)

Fort Point State Park: Stockton Springs $2 per person entrance fees. Pit Toilets. Not technically a launch site and a rather long haul to the water.

High Tide: 10AM. Launch 12:20PM, finish 2:04PM, 8 miles.

What a difference a week makes! Our third leg would be on a bright day with temperatures in the 80’s. Rather than barely seeing the far side of the river, we could easily see four miles ahead. Rather than cringing as we waded in to launch, we welcomed the cooling powers of 50 degree water. This leg would take us from Verona Island to Fort Point in Stockton Springs.

This is the trip I looked forward to the most. I’ve been along Verona Island many times, but generally at peak or ebb tides. Today we’d be riding at mid tide, flying through the Penobscot Narrows. For as I taught Webelos again and again, the Bernoulli Principle states that water does not compress, so where it narrows it flows faster.

It is also one of the most scenic areas, with Fort Knox, the bridges, and Sandy Point, as well as the high banks which caused the Penobscot to once be known as the “Rhine of America.”
We started at the Verona Ramp in a confused back eddy created near the island. A pleasant whiff of crushed wood fiber from the Verso plant confirmed that the wind was from the north. Cormorants and seagulls decorated nearby rocks, but not a single buzzard was in sight.

Soon we were in the downstream current, which didn’t seem too bad by the bridges, but was easily dragging this buoy under.
New to the shore was this cross.
Old to the shore were the bright rocks and high walls. Overhead a flock of young ring bills passed by, one after another, their brownish bodies dark against the sky.

We clung close to Stockton Springs shore. I couldn’t help but look longingly to Odom Ledge and what looked to be several seals there. But pupping season is near, if it’s not already here. Seal pups nurse as few as 14 times, and cannot afford to miss a feeding. Since seals are often nervous in the presence of kayaks we wanted to stay at least a quarter of a mile away.

In place of observing seals, I watched the crowds at the beach. What a rarity, to have such a warm Memorial Day! Sandy Point is a free beach located in Stockton Springs, and a sandy beach to boot. Since it’s in a cove, it does not have the strong currents we enjoyed further off shore. There is plenty of parking, but no facilities.
Just below the beach was an abandoned set of pilings which have become a nesting colony for cormorants. My guide books describe cormorant nests as large and bulky, but they seem pretty basic compared to the more ostentatious nests of eagles and osprey.
Next were the beautiful shore houses of Sandy Point. We pulled out of the current to inspect this solidly constructed boat house, and admire the other houses.
A tall dune marks Sandy Point, atop the dune was a gazebo belonging to Hersey Retreat. That dune is a glacial esker, which has been eroding away, creating the sandy beach along the shore.

Beyond Sandy Point was a deep cove. We intended to follow along the cove shore, but we could hear a seal barking in caution. I didn’t see any ledges on the chart, and the shoreline seemed to be mostly marsh, but the sounds of distress were obvious. Rather than disturb a seal we opted to paddle straight to Fort Point. And what a great ride it was, with the wind to our backs and waves perfectly designed to aid us without requiring too much attention on our part.

At Fort Point folks were also out in abundance. Swimming is not allowed at Fort Point because of the strong currents. We rode those current out and took a few pictures of the lighthouse, before returning upstream to the dock.

It looked like it would be a challenge getting our kayaks to the top of the ramp, so instead we hauled them up the bank, which was also not an easy task.
A final picture of a sailboat at the base of Verona Island


  1. Someone has a new panoramic camera lens? ;-) Your first photo in this blog post, maybe it is your husband in the yellow kayak? would make a great banner photo for your blog! Great photos and narrative!

  2. Great minds think alike, I am thinking of that photo as a new banner too. But I need to do one more post with the old banner first.
    We don't have a panoramic cramera, but I am fond of chopping photos down to that format.

  3. I love the Ft Point location and the state wharf is a great place to tie up and fish. We go there often and let the dogs run on the sand bar point.

  4. That's a good point, I bet those currents make for some great fishing there.