Monday, August 1, 2011

Bangor has a new Paddle Craft Dock

Summary:  High 10:15AM;  launch 9AM, finish noon, 9.8 miles.  About a mile to paddle the lower canals of the Kenduskeag, about 2 miles to the waterworks, about 4.5 miles to fast water.  The water below the Bangor waterworks is featured in my Caution photos. Some high tides make travel under the bridges on the Kenduskeag impossible.  With the Waterfront concert series array of dozens of portapotties seems to be in place.  Dragging your boat down the ramp, or sliding it on the railing will result in scratches!

We were walking on the Bangor waterfront when we spotted this new dock.  Well, maybe not entirely new, Bangor used to put a Paddle Craft dock in below the Joshua Chamberlain bridge, right at the mouth of the Kenduskeag.  But this is in a new location at the southernmost end of the docks.  There was a fisherman using the dock. Which is a good thing, the more regularly the dock is used the less likely it is to follow in the footsteps of the Bucksport Paddle Ramp and become a seagull hangout.

So we decided to test the dock out.  With a long gangplank, and a fairly long carry over sidewalks, access to this launch is aided by a cart, or a helpful companion.  The closest parking is tucked behind the Waterfront Concert Stage, and so long as there are no events at the Waterfront, is usually empty.  (It is also one of the first parking lots to be closed if there is an event scheduled.)  Access to the sidewalk is aided by a convenient handicapped curb-break right at the end.  Getting a long kayak angled for the ramp takes some doing, I found it easiest to put the front down and lift from the back. 
The dock has a special lower dock to the side, making it easy to get into a kayak using the paddle brace.  The key is to start from a sitting position on the dock.  The boat hand anchors the paddle to the boat, one foot slides in first, then the butt makes a quick move into the seat.
It had been a beautiful day when we’d spotted the dock, but it was a gray humid morning when we took off on the river.  We were headed north, up to the waterworks.  We started out an hour before high, and I was a little surprised by the strength of the upstream current.  We paused at the Getchell Brothers Ice Factory to watch the Archimedes screws move waste ice along a rather complicated set of ramps.  Below, a ground hog watched us nervously. 
We made good time heading up to the Waterworks.  I once had a kayak advertisement which talked of being “helped along by a gentle breeze.”  It made me smile, because if you can feel the wind helping you, you should know it will have twice the deterrent when you decide to head back.  The advertisement also mentioned how happy this paddler was to have left an annoying cellphone on the kitchen table.  Let’s hope the paddler didn’t have cause to regret that oversight!
Anyway, I did turn around to check out the situation, the wind was present, but not excessive.  And we’d made such good time, we figured why not continue up to the fast water at the bend below the Veazie Dam. 
Just above the Waterworks are the remains of an older dam built in 1875 and removed in 1995. At high tide, in the summer, it’s easy to paddle over this section. 
The old waterworks building, which was once featured in Stephen King’s Graveyard Shift is now low-income housing, made available by a joint effort of the Shaw House and other private and Government agencies. 
The water that flows by their homes changes texture significantly through the tide cycle (See Caution).  I’m not entirely cognizant of how the flow changes with the tide, so I’ve usually stayed with crossing over the dam within an hour of high.  There are also seasonal changes: in the spring or after significant rain) not many people could paddle up beyond the waterworks.
It was an hour before high when we crossed over the dam remnants, so I figured we were safe paddling north until high.  Bud Simpson, in Mantawassuk: The Cove talks about growing up back when this stretch of the Penobscot was dammed.  He shares some interesting tales, about the joys of exploring wild areas in your neighborhoods.  His tales are made all the more poignant because the cove is gone permanently.  His book includes photos of this prominent rock back in his days.
Coming up on a power plant, I'm on the Brewer side, but I'll cross over soon
We hoped to get high enough to see the Veazie dam, but we had no luck doing that from the Veazie side.  Eventually the water is so shallow and fast that paddling upstream became an exercise in slamming  blades against rocks.
That's as far as I got!
So we turned around, faced the wind and began our journey downstream. We went back over the dam about an hour after high, the river was at about the same height it had been on the journey upstream.
Pretty yellow flowers on the shore; and some purple loosestrife
On our way back to the dock we decided to duck in and see Bangor’s canals. 
Warren Manning, a Boston landscaper, built the Norembega Mall after the Great Bangor Fire in 1911, removing dilapidated buildings and cribwork, and replacing them with canals reminiscent of Venice.
A pigeon, or city guillemot

Getting out onto the dock, is just like getting in, only in reverse, don’t aim to get your feet on the dock, aim to get your butt there.  And it’s best if you line up your boat in the direction you want to pull it up the ramp, since it can be hard to turn your boat around, especially if others are on the dock.  The gangplank had wooden strips across it, terrific for sure footing, but troublesome to a set of low kayak cart wheels.  Don't drag your boat up the ramp; too many screws stick up and will ruin it.
Mark's right hand hold the paddle to the boat, his left keeps the paddle in position on the dock
He psuhes up with his arms and slides out.
I looked without success for a Youtube video which clearly described launching from a dock, especially for the more common situation where a dock is 8-12” above the kayak.  This video is the technique we’ve used on higher docks, though it’s demonstrated from a low dock, but that’s why the paddle isn’t used as a part of the bracing system.  Unfortunately, it does have an ad at the beginning. And it shows a sit on top; with a sit inside kayak it may be easier to put just one foot partially in to start.
I also found this video which is far more intriguing, as it advocates stepping into your boat.  Mark thinks it might be useful for very high docks, and you must admit the guy is quite proficient. Still I suspect a high failure rate, so I think I’ll let Mark try it first. 


  1. It's good to see that Bangor may be starting to realize that their waterfront wasn't all that visiting kayak/boater friendly. Great addition. Nice post.

  2. It is nice to see the launch there, especially after Paddler magazine named Bangor one of the 13 Best cities for kayaking; an opinion I would strongly second!

  3. Cool that they did this. But at low tide, the ramp looks dangerously steep. did a blog post about it with some photos of it at low tide. You can see them at the link below. You must have gone at high tide.

  4. We did our paddle at about 90 minutes before high. I plan to try again at a mid falling tide and also low, to see what is accessible. Thanks for the link, that's a good photo to have! At low I suspect the cross bars are far more useful than we found them to be.

  5. Ok, I went back to 4PM today which was low, but not the lowest low of the month. The ramp was at a 25% angle. It was easy to get the kayaks down, and it made me really appreciate the carpet on the handrail. The wheels fell off though. We went for a short paddle, up the Kenduskeag as far as State St, but at a lower tide that might not be possible. And we made it up fairly close to the waterworks. I dragged my boat up the ramp without wheels, which resulted in a really bad scratch. Don't do that! Next time I think we'll tote them up.