Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pemaquid and the Thread of Life

Colonial Pemaquid
     The Thread of Life, not a mystical connection, but a series of ledges off Rutherfod Island in South Bristol, Maine. (Chart section below)

   Despite the heat and humidity,  we were determined to paddle somewhere we’d never paddled before; Pemaquid.  Pemaquid is an native word, meaning “long point” or “long finger,” an accurate description of the land.

  The launch is conveniently located beside Colonial Pemaquid.  Colonial Pemaquid is a State Park with two primary attractions: a reconstructed Fort William Henry and a museum displaying archeological findings from European Settlements in the area.  Like many places in Maine, Pemaquid was settled first by native tribes, then used as a seasonal settlement/trading post by Europeans.    Permanent villages of European settlers date from 1625.  

    The boat launch is beside the state park.  It has one long row for vehicles with trailers, another for cars.  It seems popular with kayaks of all types.  The launch is into the Pemaquid River; several recreational kayaks were taking advantage of the quiet estuary.
The landing when we returned
   Our goal for the day was the Thread of Life.  These ledges create a challenge for sailors to navigate; not so much for kayaks.  A search for the “Thread of Life, Maine” on Google brings  up many lobster research links because the University of Maine’s Darling Marine Center, does a lot of lobster research in the area.  In fact, we saw one of their boats out there while we were paddling.

Things we noticed along the way:

   Very calm seals.  Usually by the time we spot seals, they are unhappy.  Not this set, we didn’t get any closer, but they seemed content to stay on Knowles Ledges.  More were hanging out as we returned.
    Paddling into wind and waves is definitely refreshing.  Between the salt spray and wind, we were comfortably cool.  But it is also tiring, so we ducked behind the many mini islands along South Bristol.  That took care of the waves, but the wind was still around.

   As in the days of old, South Bristol still seems to be mainly a seasonal  settlement, but what wonderful and charming residences!

   The clever folks of South Bristol enjoy their cliffs.  Some have build fences by the sitting areas, others keep cliffs practically at their back door.
    There are not many places to land along the South Bristol shore.   One possible landing is Witch Island,  an occasional destination of the Pemaquid Water Association Paddlers. (which hosts paddles every Saturday) There’s also another small beach, listed in a book, Kayaking the Maine Coast (2nd ed.) by Dorcas Miller.  When we arrived, the beach was occupied by a very pleasant young family.  They seemed set for the day with two big coolers and assorted bags of stuff.  We did the typical dance of the second party to arrive: crashing the beach, thanking them for allowing us to join them, eating quickly and scurrying on our way.

    The Thread of Life has some pretty rocks on its shoreline; but with the wave action, most appeared as a blurs on our cameras. 

   But we did manage to capture this osprey family.

   The water was a bit rough out there.  Ledges make for tricky water, and the further out you get, the bigger the water gets.  I sometimes think kayakers famous last words are, “Let’s just circle ‘round this island and head back.”

   We came back the way we came in, but much faster with wind and waves behind. 
   Wind definitely trumped tide that day.  Johns Bay seemed wide enough that I didn’t think there would be a lot of out-flowing current, but I was surprised not to see any.  All the buoys and other current indicators were following the wind.
Crossing to Johns
     We stayed on the South Bristol side on the way back because the coastline seemed more interesting.  But after the paddle we drove to Pemaquid Point, to join the many others photographing this beautiful site.  This was my first visit to this lighthouse.  I include this photo so you can see why so many visit here.

  Summary:  Boat Launch beside Colonial Pemaquid/Fort William Henry.  Currently free, though they seem to be building a fee collection point further up the road.  Toilets are available at Colonial Pemaquid.  No fee to get to toilets, $2/person to enter fort/museum.  We launched at 10AM (just about high) and finished at 2PM.  One short stop.  Just over  11 miles across Johns Bay and around the Thread of Life.  It’s also $2/person to get into the park by Pemaquid Point Lighthouse; where there are also bathrooms, an art gallery, a fisherman’s museum, a very friendly staff  and sometimes tours of the lighthouse.


  1. Great photos. Especially enjoyed the ospreys and striated rocks leading to Pemaquid Lighthouse.
    Also, couldn't agree more regarding "kayaker's famous last words!

    1. Thanks Al! There were a lot of osprey along that shore - but most of them kept their distance. The Pemaquid Lighthouse is well worth a visit - the rocks there are fantastic. Probably after labor day, it would be even better, with less people scrambling over them. As for the "famous last words": we were surprised at how rough conditions were, at times. It was hairy enough that it made us happy to have invested the money and time into good equipment and boat handling skills.