Monday, August 31, 2009

Banging Around for Labour Day

H, PB, and I wanted to do a camping trip in Maine before the warm weather ended. We tried to get something together last weekend, but the weather and schedules didn't corporate. Since this weekend was a three day end of summer celebration and the forecast was reasonable, we managed to get something together.
It was a small group since a number of people had other plans. It included PB, EB, H, and myself.
Since H already had Friday off from work, she decided that the plan would be to turn our three day weekend into a Friday through Sunday affair. We would miss most of the traffic and still have a day off from work to lounge about the house and clean off our camping gear.
Friday morning didn't start off with a bang. H and I had troubles getting our acts in gear. Everything just took longer than we anticipated. We also had to make an unplanned stop at West Marine to try and order a new battery for my VHF. The connectors on the current battery corroded to the point where one of them just fell off. Even the West Marine stop took forever. It seems that West Marine does not carry spare batteries, or the AA battery pack accessory, for the VHF radios they sell. They can, however, special order them. The very nice kid at the desk took the special order, but was either new or "special" orders are so special they are rarely executed....
Once on the road we made excellent time to the put in at Dolphin Marina in Harpswell, ME. PB and EB were there well ahead of us since they had gotten on the road at the planned time. We didn't hold the show up too long though. H and I made quick work of getting the kayaks loaded.
We had discussed several possible islands for camping including Whaleboat, Bangs, and possibly Jewel. Our first choice was the camp site on the NE tip of Bangs. It has views of both sunrise and sunset, a sandy (for ME) beach for the kayaks and fires, and flat tent spots. All of the options, except for Jewell, were short paddles so we figured that we would go for the first choice and if we got skunked we could easily find another decent spot before dark.
To our delight, our first choice was available. We set up camp and immediately settled into island time. PB set out to collect fire wood. The rest of us sort of wandered about gazing at the scenery and moving towards dinner. Our eventual dinner was quite nice.
Eventually, we got our acts together enough to go on a moonlight paddle. The full moon spread silvery light over the landscape. We hardly needed extra lights. The moonlit island and water was lovely. We saw a heron that sat in place as we paddled by at a very close distance. The landscape was so transformed that we paddled right by our beach the first time.
On the way back, I decided to be cute and paddle backwards. As H chastised me, and I joked about how it doesn't matter that I was paddling backwards since I could see anyway, I backed onto a rock.... Fortunately, the keel strip took the brunt of the contact.
Once back at the campsite we got a fire going. The rest of the evening was spent basking in the glow of fire and friendly conversation.
The only tension was the slow march of water towards the fire. When the water finally snuffed the fire, we headed to our tents.
Saturday broke sunny and fresh. We again spent a good part of the morning meandering around. We eventually decided on an excursion to Admiral Peary's Eagle Island. The island is a Maine Historical Site. The original house has been turned into a museum and the grounds have been preserved for public viewing. The house is well preserved and full of interesting relics. One strange thing is that they make visitors put on plastic booties before entering the house. According to the caretakers, the booties keeps the salt on people's shoes from corroding the floor planks.
After Eagle Island we started over to Whaleboat Island to check out the campsites. The current and the wind were against us on the crossing. At first we didn't really notice how strong the current was working against us. The lobster buoys were sitting straight in the water, so there were no visual clues. Eventually, however, the current took its toll on our strength. We decided to abandon our push to Whaleboat and retreat back to the comfort of camp.
We spent our second night at camp the same way we spent our first. Sitting around a fire. Instead of doing a moonlight paddle, we watched as the tide slowly lifted a grounded sailboat out of its muddy trap. Actually, the real show was the stream of boats that motored out the sailboat, circled it, and returned home.
On our final morning, we did a quick search for the campsites on the opposite side of Bangs Island from ours. We scoured the coast from our kayaks for sign of them. We even checked the shore line by foot for signs, but found very little. There was a nice beach and a number of cairns marking the spot where the camp sites should have been. However, we couldn't find anything that looked like a tent site on the shore and there were no obvious paths into the woods.
After a quick lunch and repacking our kayaks, we decided to head home via Whaleboat island. We really wanted to find the campsites on that island for future trips. This time we were successful. The first set of sites we found are in the woods of the western shore of the island. They have a nice beach and plenty of shelter. We considered, briefly, extending our trip for a day and staying the night here. Sadly, we couldn't muster the energy to unpack the kayaks and reestablish camp.
So we headed back to Dolphin Marina. On the crossing from Whaleboat to South Harpswell, the water can play little tricks on your vision. The passage between the point of South Harpswell and the islands off of it can be hard to judge. I knew roughly where it was and headed straight for it. The rest of the group decided to trust their eyes and took a wider course. We never lost sight of each other, but it was fun watching them paddle out to sea for a while before realizing that I knew what I was doing.
It was a great weekend. As PB mentioned on the paddle home, the islands in Casco Bay are treasures that need to be preserved.

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