Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Curtis Cove to the Cape Porpoise Islands Kennebunk Maine

    A few years ago Kennebunkport Conservation Trust allowed several islands to be added to the Maine Island Trail.  Not just one, but several islands!  How could we resist?   We added these to our places to get someday;  someday on an incoming tide, because the islands dry out at low tide.
  Maine Island Trail shows state boat launch sites for the lower Saco River and Webhannet launch sites gave us a third option, Timber Point,(Curtis Cove) Kennebunk.  And Monday worked out to be a day Mark could take off, with beautiful weather and a noon:30 high.
    So with impeccable timing, we arrived at the five available parking spaces at the end of Granite Point Road only to discover several trucks and pieces of equipment from Kennebunk Water District 1 working on a water line leak.  Very kindly, they pointed to a parking space that wouldn't interfere with the ongoing work.  A few minutes later, a second car arrived, necessitating a shuffle for our car and a shift in where the kayaks were being loaded so the new arrival could also squeeze in.
    The parking places allow access to the Little River or Curtis Cove.  The Little River is a salt water estuary, no doubt best explored on an incoming tide as well.  We had planned to launch from the Cove though, which was just as well, as access to the back side was blocked by the work crew.   Curtis Cove is fairly small, positioned so it is protected from southeast swells which dominate the Maine coast.  It's surrounded by popular swimming beaches with wide sand expanses, such as Goose Rocks Beach and Fortune's Rocks.
Ready to launch
    About 9:30 AM we launched, heading southwest.  We passed Timber Island crossing straight for Stage Island, a 1.5 mile crossing enlivened by waves pushed by a west wind.  Additional excitement was added by southeastern swells, one lone porpoise, a couple of lobster boats and many colorful lobster buoys.
   Our plan was to go down and loop through the islands, staying out of the channel.
Shelter on Fort Island
    Some tidbits about the islands: Stage Island was used for drying cod, Fort Island(also called Little Stage) had a fort on it to which European settlers fled during a conflict with the Natives in April 1689.  This building is thought to be built on the site of the old Fort (and may be used as shelter in emergencies.)
  We picked our way between Trott and Cape, looking out to sea as we did.  There are reefs beyond Goat Island, and it was entertaining to watch lobster boats crash through the breakers on their way to the channel.
   So after seas which could have been used as the illustrations for Fantasia's version of Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, and picking our way among the breakers and boulders between Trott and Goat we found ourselves in a quiet mill pond out on the sea, with water just three feet deep.  To our south was Goat Island, home to one of the last manned lighthouses on the Maine coast.  Even after the lighthouse was automated, the island was used by the Secret Service to monitor President George H. W. Bush's compound.  To our west was Cape Porpoise, several lobster boats, a canoe and multiple kayaks.  Noting the casual paddling styles, and frequent lack of life jackets, it became apparent that there must be a launch nearer these islands.
Canoe approaches Goat Island
    We popped over to the pier, filled with tourists and fisherman (Kayak launching is not allowed at the pier).
 We talked to a woman who had kayaking on her bucket list, then worked our way between Redin and Trott, admiring a beautiful willet on the way.
   Lunch was on Trott Island at a lovely cobble beach, filled with an array of elegant rounded rocks.
Sitting on Trott, looking to Cape Island
    After lunch we found our way between Fort and Stage before making the long crossing back to Timber, where nun buoy 4 had gone aground.   We went to the back side of Timber so once more we found ourselves picking our way through rocky shallows before paddling into Curtis cove.
    Back in the lot, the Kennebunk Water Department was still laboring away in the 90+ degree heat and 90+% humidity.
   Southern Maine is an interesting area.  Northern Maine is the rock-bound coast, beaches are small and mostly rocky.  High cliffs overlook the water.  Huge granite drops serve as islands scattered across bays and deep inlets.  Big water waits outside the bays.  Southern Maine has a straighter coast line, wide sandy beaches, deep marshy estuaries and breaking waves just a short distance off shore. 
Looking for safe passage between Stage and Fort
More about the Islands   The Hunt for Stage Island Fort
More About Goat Island Light
Launches in Cape Porpoise
Southern Maine Launch Sites Moody-Biddeford from Kayak Excursion (SUP and Kayaks, Trips and Rentals)
More about Timber Point/Timber Island nearby Curtis Cove.  The same launch site can also be used to access the Little River, a salt water estuary which is part of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge.

Our charts don't name the islands, these are two clips from Google earth  Fort is also known as Little Stage
Summary:  Launch Curtis Cove, 5 parking spaces, no facilities.  Finish 12:30PM.  High 12:30 PM.  10 miles, one stop.  


  1. Looks like you had a great day for a paddle! I appreciate reading about the history of the islands and of course, seeing your photos! Don't you just love rocks tossed by the sea (or a river)? I look at them and wonder how long it took for them to wash up, rounded by the waves and the friction of other rocks. As for picking your way among the boulders and rocks, how difficult is that with the waves breaking around you? I can't imagine, since it's tough enough to pick your way around rocks in the current of a stream or shallow river!

    1. I too love rounded rock, stream pebbles, beach stones, even glacially rounded rocks. I wonder where they started and how long they've been on shore. As for picking our way through rocks and waves the key thing is to watch through a few wave cycles. Waves tend to break in the same places, usually by underlying ledge and rocks. We want to avoid where waves break, rocks and getting anyplace where a wave will push us into rocks. This is much easier to do in an outgoing manner, as is shown in the picture. Say hi to Brody!