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:  http://www.lighthouse.cc/averyrock/history.html
DoD Partners in Flight Sprague Neck   http://www.dodpif.org/downloads/articles/WingingIt_Cutler_Oct2004.pdf
History of Machiasport http://machiasport.org/points-of-interest/
Battle of the Margaetta http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Machias

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. 


  1. Just came back from first trip to Maine. This post is really well done and informative. Thanks for taking the time to share!

  2. I just found your lovely blog. Nice post. Avery Rock was also the home of Constance Small, who wrote The Lighthouse Keeper's Wife -- a quick read and very interesting. She describes some amazing storms there!

    1. Thanks for your comment. The Lighthouse Keepers Wife sounds like a great read for the winter months. I bet Bangor Public Library has it.