Thursday, June 7, 2012

Kittery/Portsmouth harbor

    It was a gray damp day when we made our fifth and final paddle on our quick road trip. Kittery: we'd be paddling at the start of Maine.  Fun fact - Kittery is just about half the distance from Mystic CT to Bangor ME.

     Kittery’s town ramp at Pepperell Cove has limited pier parking.  Dorcas Miller’s Kayaking the Maine Coast provides several alternative parking arrangements, but on a rainy day in May, we parked on the pier directly across from the ramp.  There at the ramp was a sign with manila envelopes listing the launch fees; $5/vessel emphasizing that all boaters must pay.  Reluctantly, I filled out the lines and brought the envelope to the Harbormaster’s Office.  I felt slightly better when the Harbormaster pulled up as I deposited the envelope in his door.

     The Piscataqua River and Portsmouth Harbor are known for strong currents.  We thought launching near low tide would minimize that problem.  We had planned an earlier launch, but morning fog delayed us, and as a result we launched at dead low.  It was a muddy slog to the water.   
    Portsmouth Harbor is crowded with forts and lighthouses.  We were starting off beside one, Fort McClary.  Fort McClary features a blockhouse style fort.  Forts have been manned at that location in five different wars.
Fort McClary
         Fort Foster was just a short hop away. It appeared to be a World War II era fort; more history for Fort Foster is listed here.  

        Just off shore from Fort Foster was Wood Island and the old Portsmouth Harbor Lifesaving Station.  A group has been formed to try and preserve the building.  Our cursory inspection indicated they had quite a challenge ahead of them.
        Whaleback Light was our next destination, a lovely lighthouse and home to several eiders.
        A short hop back toward Wood Island and we were off to New Hampshire and Fort Stark at the Jaffery Point tip of Castle Island.  I’d been to most of the forts in the area, but never Fort Stark, so we landed there.
          The beach was quite odoriferous, so much so that I found myself scouting the shore for an overflowing pipe.  I didn't see anything but residences and parks, so I hope these lovely seaweeds were the source.
     Fort Stark's history is here, it's served many purposes through the years, but what we saw was a WWII watch tower, now significantly deteriorated.   

       It looked like it would be a great set for filming post-apocalyptic cage matches.

    And while we were wandering over the hill (buildings are fenced off) a hawk flew by and landed, eager to pose for us. 
Juvenile Red Shouldered Hawk??
         We took no pictures of Fort Langdon  but here’s one of Fort Constitution and Portsmouth Harbor Light, located beside a Coast Guard Station.  
    That's five forts and two lighthouses.  There are two more historic forts in the area, Fort Dearborn at Odiorne State Park in NH and Fort Sullivan, ME.  Fort Sullivan is now incorporated into the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and off limits to visitors. 

Summary: Launch at Kittery Town dock at Pepperell Cove, off Rte 103.  $5 fee per boat to launch.  Limited parking.  A restroom at the Harbormaster’s Station, which was not open the day we were there.    Our paddle was about 6 miles, and took 2 hours, including wandering through Fort Stark.  Launched at low tide to avoid currents.  Harbor can be busy with vessels of all sizes.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting post, concerning the forts, etc. I love the hawk photo!