Monday, August 12, 2013

Bass Harbor to Little Black Island - Eagles and Boats

Another weekend and another new paddling location for us!  This time on Mount Desert Island.  You'd expect Mount Desert Island, recently named a top 25 island (world-wide!), to have some pretty amazing views, and it does.  Several times along the route to Tremont Town Wharf, I was tempted to pull over and try to frame the view, especially as the road crossed Bass Harbor Marsh.  But sometimes you have to prioritize, and  we wanted to save our time and energy for  paddling. 
Bass Harbor at low tide.  ( Bass Harbor is a section of Tremont)
    Tremont Town Wharf isn't a huge launch site, it has about 30 parking spaces, and perhaps more at a back lot.  Compare that to the boats in the harbor, and we were a little surprised to see spaces were readily available even if it was 8 AM on Sunday.  I also didn't expect such a  friendly  Harbormaster.  I checked with him about launch fees, which is also a good opportunity for him to warn us if we've parked in a reserved area.  Not only was parking/launching free, but he asked where we were from, chatted awhile and wished us a pleasant trip.  It made for a stress free start.

   Bass Harbor Light, one of the most popular lights in Maine, is just around the corner.  Maybe you've seen a photo like this somewhere? 
    The house and grounds for Bass Harbor Light are a private residence for a Coast Guard member, but there is a nearby public viewing platform.  The lighthouse was built and renovated at various times between 1858 and 1902.  More information on its history can be found at the Bass Harbor Lighthouse article at wikipedia

   There's a bar between  the lighthouse and Great Gott island.  It was fairly calm in the morning, near low tide with a still wind.  In the afternoon, at a higher tide and more wind, the bar still wasn't a problem.  Traffic over the bar was a concern, but it tended to stick to the narrow channel marked near the bell buoys.

    I enjoyed  low-tide ocean floor viewing in the harbor and by Great Gott Island.  Mostly I saw kelp, but there was a patch of sand dollars and some bright orange sponges as well.

   More interesting was watching an active lobster boat.  Usually a working lobsterboat has a crowd of seagulls behind it, hoping to snare used bait.  This boat had usual crowd of gulls, but also two adult eagles diving for old bait, or maybe thrown-back lobsters.  This is the first time I've seen eagles tracking boats, and I'm not sure the lobsterman considered it as entertaining as we did.  We tried to get a picture, but our cameras merely recorded smaller and larger blobs against a blue sky.  You'll have to be content with this picture of the two culprits sitting on tree tops, waiting for the next lobsterboat to come by.  They may have quite a wait, since many lobsterboats take Sunday off.

We also noticed this row boat, with a dog happily serving as coxswain.

These are the salmon pens off Black Island, there are several  fish pens, owned by Cooke Aquaculture.  The netted pens have many patient seagulls on top, hoping for a net tear.   The splashes show where salmon were jumping.

We stopped on Little Black for lunch, eating under the scrutiny of four or five seals.  No fish in our lunches, but maybe they were fans of cheese puffs. Circumnavigating Little black on foot after lunch, we risked twisting our ankles, but came away with some lovely pictures.

The bar between Black and Little Black is about to disappear

Debating jumping the canyon

Looking toward Great and Little Duck
Our trip back was to the outside (eastern) side of the islands.  No surprise, the water was more active there.  We saw  quite a few ledges along the shores.  There is a second possible landing site, a public beach preserve on Great Gott Island.  It's owned by the Maine Coastal Heritage Trust, you can see more about it at the Maine Coastal Heritage Great Gott preserve website

When we were by, there were already boats on the beach.  Though there was more space, we didn't stop.  We didn't see any other paddle craft on our trip.
Bell buoy, lighthouse and cell tower

Harbor at high tide, still lovely!

Summary:  Launch Tremont Town Wharf, about 30 spaces, concrete all tides ramp, free.  Launch 8:30AM, low was about 8:30AM.  Finish 1 PM, one stop, about 13 miles.

Additional Notes:
Tremont Launch:
More on the Aquaculture:

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Machias Bay from Bucks Harbor

   Machias Bay was a new location for us, which meant  a week spent picking a route and far too many photos.  Most of our time trip planning was overruled on arrival.  Yellow Head glowed in the distance and nearby tall dark cliffs begged for exploration. 
   The top photo above, is from the end of our trip, but Yellow Head (center) glows in that shot the way I recall it. Off in the distance are an array of antennas, part of a Naval Facility in Cutler. We're standing on Pettegrew Beach in Bucks Harbor, a district in Machiasport.  (This Bucks Harbor is not Robert McCloskey's A Morning in Maine, Bucks Harbor, that harbor is in South Brooksville.)
When we started, the ledge in the harbor was much smaller, just enough space for three seagulls.  And before we started, we learned perhaps the most important thing about parking at Pettigrew Beach.
Park beside the telephone pole!!!  We were launching on Sunday, thinking we would miss disturbing commerical fisherman.  But apparently the seafood processing plant runs all weekend.  Big eighteen wheelers back into the facility, and then use the Pettigrew beach parking lot to turn around.  They like to loop around the outer edge, so park by the telephone pole or in the little half space.
The cliffs of Bucks Head face north, they are dark and moist and decorated with a wide palate of groundcover.  Unfortunately my camera didn't focus well on the detail, but the colors show through.
The outer cliffs of Bar and Yellow Head are dramatic and multi-fractured, dare we call them bold? Mark is zipping by Bar in his eagerness to get to Yellow Head.
     Here he is getting ready to poke in behind the cliffs.
Yellow Head up close
From Yellow Head it was a short jump to Chance, across active water.  Chance was a very different looking island, it has a more turn of the century look, more grass and bare rock than the average tree covered island.

   And as we looped around, we were able to verify why:  grazing sheep!  That's actually a pair of sheep, a lamb and ewe. 
This could be a painting

    Chance also had this interesting rock formation, a  stone wave.  The blue wave has a smoothly carved front, ready to roll out to sea. 
    Sprague Neck is just beyond Chance, a part of the Naval Facility on mainland Cutler.  As I was researching access points, I came upon this article, saying how Sprague Neck was part of the DoD Partners in Flight.  It's possible to get a pass to access Sprague Neck.  I'm not sure that's an option for kayaks as well, but it's something to keep in mind, so I've left the link here. 
All of Avery
   In the Middle of Machias Bay tiny quarter acre Avery Rock used to house a lighthouse.  The rock is small enough that the lighthouse was placed over the keeper's house.   Built in 1875, the structures struggled to survive storms through 1934 when it was automated.  In 1947 the deteriorated structure was torn down and replaced with a day marker.  An 1886 Book, All Among the Lighthouses, describes the island as being "redolent with the fragrance of flowers" (from the many window boxes of flowers).  The island is still redolent, but it leans a little heavier to guano.
Another angle on Avery
   Scooting between Round and Salt was our next target.   There water was active as well; the close space and outgoing tide gave us several small standing waves.  But there wasn't any particular trouble moving between the two islands.
   Round Island was the site of the first naval engagement of the Revolutionary War, where a defiant crew from Machias captured a British Warship, the Margaretta.    It may be that the Machais crew was successful in part because the Margaretta was damaged, but Machias patriots were a thorn in England's side throughout the war.  (There will be more on Round Island and Machias in the next post)
         Behind Salt Island we found mill pond seas.
An inlet on Bare
White and red rock on Bare
Just around the corner from above, white is to the far right, more red and black with dramtic overhangs
    Bare Island was perhaps the most colorful island in the bay, white, dark and red rock all striped the island.  It's cliffs were packed tightly with trees and slashed by deep inlets.  Multiple beaches filled coves.

   We were able to cross over the bar at Bar Island two and a half hours after high with three feet of water to spare.  Below is a shot taken from shore of the Bar an hour after low.
One hour after low, a line leads to Bar, Bare is to the left. 
Bucks Harbor has a definite working harbor feel to it.  There was perhaps one sailboat moored.  Throughout our trip, on a gorgeous summer Sunday, we saw one other boat, a lobster boat.  Two other lobster boats were preparing to launch as we came in.It's truly a beautiful bay and I hope many more people get out to enjoy it.
Most of these boats land at the nearby town pier
Related Links:
The History and Pictures of Avery Rock Lighthouse:
DoD Partners in Flight Sprague Neck
History of Machiasport
Battle of the Margaetta

Summary:  Launch at Pettegrew Beach (Park in the half space or by the telephone pole.  Assume a huge truck is going to want to swing around the outside to turn around.  No  facilities there, there's supposed to be a portapottie at the town pier (I didn't check)  Loop is about 9 miles.