Saturday, July 2, 2011

Kennebec River Bath, Maine – City of Ships

Basics: Bath Town Landing South. Washington St Street, Bath Outhouse, Sufficient Parking. High noon, launch 10:00AM, finish 1:30PM, including 45 minute break, 8.3 miles. Watch for current in river.
A return to Mark’s boyhood haunts along the Kennebec River; days of freedom and exploration, adventures in a 13 foot canoe including getting caught in the current near Doubling Point Light and barely making it home. He hoped to revisit many of those sites, and I hoped to avoid becoming another story of near tragedy. Not that we were aiming for any of the danger sections of the Kennebec, the mouth, Upper and Lower Hell’s Gate and the Chop below Merrymeeting Bay, but even the long stretch along the city can get significant current.

Mark planned the trip, paying careful attention to tide tables. We started by heading down to Doubling Point and then easily back, heading up along the eastern side, a scenic area not unlike many coastal islands.
We paddled north to Bath, occasionally discovering areas of chop. There was a steady breeze from the north, and an incoming tide, though we met several back eddies. But the irregular patches of chop was a reminder that Mark’s boyhood adventures in a 13 foot canoe were probably ill advised.

I loved this view of the two bridges, the old Carlton bridge, still in use for trains and the new bridge.

In preparation for Bath Heritage Days, (always over the Fourth of July weekend) a Carnival was being set up in the shade of the Carlton Bridge.

On July 4, 2011 they will be laying a new keel for a copy of the Virginia at the Bath Freight Shed. The Virginia is perhaps the first ship built by Englishmen on American shore, built by the desperate settlers of Popham eager to escape back to a warmer and safer of England. The 51 foot pinnace should be finished by fall, and I hope to visit it someday. In the meantime we were intrigued by this boat on display by the Freight Shed.

We lunched at the Bath Waterfront Park, watching as park workers decorated the trees with red, white and blue lights. Mark spent quite a bit of time comparing tales of old Bath with another returning visitor.

Our return was along the Eastern edge of the river, though we took special care to stay outside the buoys marking the secure area surrounding Bath Iron Works(BIW).

Much had changed over the years. There was a new dry dock (and the secure area) at BIW.
There was new park south of BIW, and the Maine Maritime Museum had grown tremendously. They offer 20 cruises weekly with six themes, plus behind-the-scenes look at BIW.

The Bath Town Landing South boat launch was also new. We didn’t pull into the landing yet, but used the high tide to explore Winnegance Creek, which becomes a bay at high tide. Winnegance Creek is shallower than the river , and has very limited current. It was the area Mark spent most of his time in as a boy. Despite all those advantages, it was still the site of many remembered disasters: then he and his brothers hadn’t been able to row back against the wind and had to have a neighbor rescue them; another time they were nearly being stranded in a mud flat in low tide. We crawled around the inlet and Mark was amazed at how much smaller it had become, and weedier. Sturgeon seemed to like the area. We saw several smaller sturgeon (about 18 inches long) jumping while we paddled over to what may have been an old saw mill beside a tide mill.
Overall it was an interesting paddle, moving water, winds and traffic, and lots of fascinating scenery, even if you don’t have someone along to regale you with tales of his youth.