Kayak Trip: Orington to Stonington, 2004
~Kayak Trip: Orington to Stonington~
June 20th to the 24th of June, 2004

Sunday, June 20 Left boat landing at South Orington by about 2-2:30pm. Tide was high, and on it's way out. North-west winds, w/ some from south. Passed Bucksport on Fort Knox side at about 4:30. Arrived at Sears Island shortly before dusk. First time trying the kayak portage cart on a rocky beach. wheels of cart did not work as well as I'd hoped they would in the rocks (rocks ranging from fist size and smaller, up to the size of a persons head or larger). May have been easier to haul the kayak up to above the tide line by sliding it along bits of driftwood. Weather radio does not seem to be picking up anything. Not sure if it is bad reception due to location, or malfunction... it reset it's clock as well, so I'm not entirely sure what time it is now... I'd call it about dark:30. Camp is set up, I've eaten, and I'm having a minor war with the island's native population of mosquitoes and ants. So I guess the plan is to paddle over to Isleboro in the morning and head down to Ram Island, then maybe try to cross over to Deer Isle and head for Stonington. damn crazy sand flea-things! think I'm going to bed now, escape from bugs!

Monday, June 21 Left Sears Island at about 8:00 or 9:00am, maybe earlier but not really sure because the clock on the weather radio reset its self last night. Tide was low (on its way out) so I slid the kayak down on pieces of driftwood. went much easier than last night with the cart, but more chance of the kayak getting scraped up by rocks.

Used two liters of water for breakfast and refilling my in-cockpit water supply. Breakfast was Oriental flavor Ramen.

Very calm paddling for about the first half between Sears Island and Turtle Head (northern tip of Isleboro), then picked up to one to two foot waves and higher winds... rougher on the west side of Isleboro as I neared the islands.

Arrived at Ram Island at about noon (maybe). Wandered around and took some pictures of the cabins and of Ram Island Nub (they call it Solitaire Island). Waded and swam around with the camera (waterproof/submersible), took pictures of a small (2" diameter) Jellyfish, a couple crabs, and some seaweed. Not sure how any of the will turn out, never used this camera underwater before.

Ram Island Nub is a bit different than I remembered. After my visit a couple years ago I had memories of a rock, topped with a flat spot of grass large enough for a small tent, a scraggy looking pine tree off to one side, and a small table and stool/bench crudely built from driftwood...

What the Nub (ahem.. Solitaire Island) really is... a small rock island connected at low tide to the southern tip of Ram Island; it's topped by a circle of pine trees, with a clearing at the center large enough for a small tent. There is a low bench made of an wooden plank-turned-driftwood with one side propped up on a stump and a rock under the other end, there's also a small fire pit. On the shore of the Nub I found a side of one of those three foot diameter wooden spools, so I hauled it up into the clearing and left it there. Maybe someone will make a table out of it, or maybe I'll make a table out of it if it's still there next time I pass by... the nub would be an almost perfect summer home for me if it only had a nice coffee table.

The island (Ram) now has a well, which is a very good thing for an island to have. Logbook entries say it was installed last October (2003) and they were having some trouble getting good water out of it. Last log entry that mentioned the well was from June 18 (just a couple days ago). It said that the water still smelled a little but they had pumped out the stagnant water. I filled a bucket with water from the well and pumped it through my filter to fill the two liter bottle I had emptied this morning. I tried some of the water and it tasted and smelled okay, though maybe those senses have been perverted by the horrible coffee I tend to drink, or maybe it just seemed okay because I ran it through my filter. (after note: no ill effects noticed from the water) For supper tonight I had a can of Bush's Best Maple Cured Bacon Baked Beans... more loot from Laurie's move, as was my breakfast of Ramen. I wonder if the Queen Bean was the maple cured bacon, it was a very mighty Queen Bean... but what's to be expected from Bush's Best? They've been around since 1908... took a nap and am hungry again, may eat this can of peas that is staring at me... but I'm kind of scared of the old Coleman stove they have here. After I was done heating the beans it would not go out and the flame kept getting bigger until it was almost a foot tall, but it slowly died down after a while... burning down this little hundred year old cabin is the last thing I'd want to do while being an unofficial guest here.

Sun is setting now. Got a lantern going. It turned into a small ball of fire a couple times while trying to light it (oh those crazy Coleman products) but it seems to be behaving since I started to write this.

At around 2:30pm a couple showed up in a tandem lake kayak. they startled me a bit while I was unloading stuff from my kayak... I'd heard something and thought maybe it was seals on the other side of the large rock thatís on one side of the small cove beach where I had landed. So I got up and started to creep up to the top of the rock and saw an unexpected couple in a kayak round the tip of the rock a few yards away. They looked around a bit, talked to them a bit, and they left without signing the guest book... though I know they saw it in the cabin because it was moved from where I left after making an entry.. its good to at least put something in the guest/logbook to let the owners of the place know how often people come through, and to let other visitors know how often random people show up... though a couple miles from the mainland, and a privately owned island, Ram is a popular picnic spot. Wind picked up again when they were about halfway back to Saturday Cove. Hope they made it back okay, they were not at all dressed for a dip in the ocean... about the same as I was the first time I paddled the Loon 138 from Bangor down to Camden.

Weather radio is picking up again, something odd about the on/off switch for the speaker, it's decided that it only likes be turned on a certain way. I reset the clock to an approximate time based on NOAA hourly weather observations ("this is the 7pm weather observation for...") so it is at least in the correct hour now. Almost 9pm and not tired cause I took a nap earlier in the afternoon, not a lot to do other than write stuff here in my notebook.

NOAA forecasts rain and possible thunderstorm tomorrow (Tuesday) and the same thing for tuesday night. So I may stay here, warm and dry, and cross to the Castine/Deer Isle side of the bay Wednesday morning.

...decided to transcribe some information and other random stuff from the islands logbooks...

Island History, as was recorded in Ram Island Logbook #1, 1978

Was used by farmers to pasture sheep (Ram Island). Owned by Frederich Reed of Boston. Bought by his nephew, Frederich Reed Hoisington, who built the cabins for a summer camp for his family. The deed to the island he placed in his wifeís Christmas stocking in 1906. She called it "Sunset Island" Was used by the Hoisingtonís as a summer camp of the "Woodcraft Indians", a forerunner of the Boy and Girl Scouts, started by writer and naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton. Seton was a frequent guest on the island as were other artists, writers + singers during the 1912-1928 period.

"Many visitors have picnicked here from Maine, other states and other countries. Visitors have come from England, India, Holland + Germany, as well as Maine friends" -owners, c.1978

"In 1940 Bill Hoisington, one of F R Hoisington's sons, built a tower in the tallest tree (parts of the ladder still there near the top point of the island) for ham radio broadcasting. We also listened to his battery radio every night for news of the Battle of Britain, + whether Hitler had invaded England yet. Fortunately he never did! But none of the family came to the island to stay over from then until 1959 when Elizabeth Hoisington Barton + their daughter Marie came up. Fred Hatch of Isleboro reroofed the small cabin so well it's still fine."

There were some other logbook entries from various people that I wanted to copy down but could not find them again... eight logbooks, from 1978 to present day.

Tuesday, June 22? 11:30am. was going to stay here today to outwait some showers and thunderstorms that were forecast for today, but now pretty much the same forecast for wed as well. but it does not look too bad out, so I'm packing up and heading north to Turtle head. May try to cross over to Castine, depending on how the weather looks. I have an incoming tide to help speed me along to Turtle head at the northern tip of Isleboro. Once I get there, the tide may be starting to go back out, which along with the wind from the east should make for an okay trip over to Castine.

7:00pm? Left Ram Island a little after noon. Tides and wind very much in my favor. Passed around Turtle Head by about 2:30pm, made very good time. Saw about a dozen seals around Seal Rock (rock ledge a bit north of Ram Isl.) I think one snuck up on me while I was trying to get pictures of the others. I didn't see the sneak, but after getting a couple pictures I was ready to continue on and just as I moved the paddle to the water on my right I heard a rather loud splash on the same side, right beside me and a couple feet back from the cockpit of the kayak... can only guess that it was one very bold and curious seal.

From Turtle Head it was looking okay weather-wise so I set course for the northern bit of Cape Rosier, visible as a dark and slightly fog shrouded ribbon of land on the horizon just south of Castine. Was going against a very light wind at times with small waves, then a very calm sea with light rain. Drew close to mainland at about 4:30pm but stayed a ways out to save time and distance getting to the head of Cape Rosier. Closed into shore at the head of the cape by about 5pm but headed strait off the southern head of the cape. Saw a couple nice sailboats while passing Cape Rosier, and a farm that seemed to be raising deer... what an odd noise baby deer make snort snort.

LCD display on the weather radio started to dim someplace near the head of the cape. Switching to next page, easier to write at top of pages....

I think the last time I saw the time was 5:30ish at the head of Cape Rosier. Very calm waters at the head of the cape, but slightly foggy. Could make out some of the islands south of the cape (Western, Pond and Hog) so I headed for the closest one which was Western Island. Out from land a bit the rain started again, heavy downpour, islands no longer visible because of the rain and fog. Kept course with deck compass. Saw four or so porpoise in a group and tried to get a picture of them but they disappeared too soon... resurfaced quite a ways off behind and to the right of me, but not worth trying to chase them down in the weather to get a picture... more worried about getting in to an island before a thunderstorm or strong winds. Heavy rain stopped after about half an hour and the islands came back into view. Switched course to Pond and Hog Islands instead of Western, since my intent was to get as further to the east before stopping for the night. Paddled south around Pond Island and saw a big house on Hog Island, so I pulled into Pond Island and right away found a perfect place to camp near the southern tip of the island... nice beach, and a small stand of pines with very little undergrowth. Looks like other people camp here and take very good care of it. There were some tracks on the beach above the high tide line, not very crisp but could not tell how old they were.

Was very wet and cold when I got here, and feeling a lot colder once the lower half of me was out of the kayak and exposed to the wind. There was a light rain so I did not yet want to change out of my wetsuit and into dry clothing, or set up my sleeping arrangement in the rain... so I wandered around and explored the island a bit to at least warm myself up some before starting to set up camp. Walked along the beach and up to the north end of the island, which is a big hill wooded with pines. The northern side of the hill on that end of the island also has a rocky field with raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry bushes but none of those were close to being ripe. The middle part of the island looks somewhat marshy, with a pond in the middle. Did not check to see if it was freshwater or not. There was also a small stream (a yard or two wide and at most a foot deep) that snaked its way out from the pond across beach on the eastern shore of the island, only a minute or two walk from where I've made camp.

By the time I got back from exploring the island it had stopped raining and I was feeling a bit warmer from walking and running around. Camp is set, and I'm warm and dry under the pines in my bivy sack. I was slightly worried for a bit that I would have a very cold and wet night and die from hypothermia or something... but the worst thing now is continuing problems with the weather radio. It's no picking up anything again and the digital display is dead, I can see water in it behind the glass... guess just cause the thing is yellow and black like other waterproof things does not really mean it is waterproof... and a little rain was all it took to kill it.

I'm getting dripped on by trees and mosquitoes are trying to find the spots w/out repellant so I think I'll zip myself further into the bivy sack... damn it's foggy out there now. That wonderful grey where the ocean and the sky have become the same thing. Can sort of see the other side of the island across the pond, but it's just a shadow in the fog. Can hear sea birds somewhere off to the east and the ringing of a buoy somewhere to the NW. Time for bed, getting dark now too.

Wednesday, June 23. 10:00 or 11:00 am? Rained a little off and on throughout the night, but was pretty much out of it under the trees and with an umbrella propped up over part of where I was sleeping. Slept in a bit this morning, then woke up and saw sun filtering down through the trees so decided to get up and look around.

Weather radio still not working, not even static now. I think it's dead :(

Very foggy. when I first got up it was low tide and could not even see down to the water, but a clear blue sky over what little land I could see. Fog lifts once in a while and I can see the ends of the island. some groups of clouds drifting overhead now, looks like more coming in from the west. Have heard lobster boats motoring around somewhere a ways out from the beach I'm sitting on now, on the east side of the island. Can't see them cause of the fog, but a few minutes ago I could hear people talking on the one that is out there now.

Just had breakfast/lunch, a can of Progresso Classics Vegetable Soup, cold out of the can. was good, wish I had another can, but with the pop-top kind of top. This can opener I have, if thatís what it is, really sucks... works very slow as it slowly chews it's way along the top edge of the can. I spilled soup on my wool pants while trying to open it, then got a small but rather deep cut on the back of my right index finger, near the nail. It bled a lot, so the outside of the can had smears of soup and blood.

Holy expletive, a break in the fog! I think it's lifting... looked up from writing and can see small bits of Cape Rosier. Other Islands are still out of view, some larger clouds over the cape.

close to noon... thinking of heading out now. Was wondering if I'd be fogged in here all day, but the fog has really started to break up a lot more. Can make out Hog Island, Western, Spectacle (which is a ways off but looks rather close for some reason); and Cape Rosier is clearly visible through a tall, but thin bank of fog. Ocean is very calm. Still clouds moving over behind Cape Rosier, and some big clouds to the west, but I don't think it will be any worse than yesterday. Weather radio made a noise, picked up a signal for a second or two and the digital display went crazy for a second... signs of life, maybe it's drying out? I left it sitting on the deck of the kayak for a while this morning, hoping it would warm up and dry in the sun. hope it's okay... things like this are so much better if you know what to expect for weather, winds, tides, etc. and it's also the only thing I have with a clock... on overcast days like this it's hard to tell when the sun is setting until it actually starts to get dark.

oh, can even see Deer Isle now, just a thin outline on the horizon, but thatís where I'm headed for today. Tide is low, so it'll be a while before I'm down to the water with the kayak and ready to go.

About 5:00-5:30pm Wonderful crossing from Pond Island to Deer Isle. Fog had lifted, but still a bit hazy out at first. Saw many porpoise along the way. Passed between Hog and Fiddlehead Islands. Passed by Pickering Island on the west side. Looked like nice beaches and places to camp on the west side of Pickering, but I didn't really get close enough to see anything too well... Then south-east between Bradbury and Crow Islands, straight for Dunham Pt on Deer Isle. Saw Hardhead Island from a ways off, it looked further away than it was, otherwise I would have stopped there to look around... it looked like something you'd see in pictures from the British Isles... no trees, just low shrubs or field, one side rather low and the other slowly rose to a high bluff. it looked like there had once been another half of the island, but it had been scooped away, leaving only half an island with half a hill. Dunham Point to Sheephead Island was a little windy.

I rounded Sheephead Island and it became VERY windy and dangerously choppy, combination of wind from the southwest, an outgoing tide, and more open waters past the head of Sheephead I suppose. Decided to head in around the east side of Sheephead Island to where my map showed a road coming down to the ocean and a low tide causeway to Sheephead Island. It would be easier to load the kayak onto it's cart and haul it by road... more progress that way... easier to walk along and pull the kayak than to paddle into that wind and chop, safer too.

Hauled the kayak along for a little over two miles. Some kids (okay, maybe in their early 20's and one less than half a year old, but I might almost still be a kid too) stopped in their jeep and offered to tow it for me, but I know the cart would not be able to handle that... it's made of stainless steel tubing and is carrying a 70 pound kayak, with close to that amount of gear loaded into it, and the kayak is tied onto with rope... towing would be a bad idea. offered to load it onto the top of their jeep, but that would have meant unloading the kayak and they would not have had room in the jeep with them, myself, and what was taken out of the kayak. so we decided it would be best for me to just continue plodding along the side of the road. they really wanted to help though, but really nothing they could do. I hauled it on a bit further and a guy in a big pickup truck coming from way of Stonington stopped and asked where I was headed. Told him I was trying to get into Stonington. He said he passed me earlier when he was headed into Stonington and wondered where I was headed when he saw me again on his way back from Stonington. He offered me and the kayak a ride into town. We loaded it into the back of the truck, half of it sticking out the back but tied in with rope. I rode in the back with it, weighting down the front end and making sure everything stayed okay...

So now I'm sitting here at the Stonington docks, the Commercial fishing pier in fact, which is where he dropped me off since it has a boat landing. It's very windy, islands are all hiding behind banks of fog. Still in my wetsuit and rather cold, like last night but not soaking wet this time... but this time I'm not on an island with no one around, can't just strip out of my wetsuit here on the dock, towel my naked self off, and change into something dry... well I could, but I don't think it would be a good idea... so I need to head off and find a place to change, find a telephone to let some people know I'm still alive, and figure out where I'm sleeping tonight in this strange and unfamiliar town.

Thursday, June 24? Late morning/early afternoon? Last night: Changed into dry clothing in a portapotty on the docks near the other side of town. I'd been wandering around town asking random people if they knew a place where I could change out of my damp clothing and kayaking gear, because it was really cold and windy... a lady in a used bookstore told me where the portable toilets were, if I could stand changing in a place like that... no problem at all... changed and wandered around for a bit. Called some people to let them know I was still alive, then went back to the bookstore to look around. The title of a book - Memoirs of a Mercenary - caught my attention, and when I opened it up one of the first things I saw was an old woodcut of Landsknecht surgeons removing a bullet from a guy's chest... a bit disappointing to find out that the book was actually about a guy in the early 1700's... but I bought it anyways because it looked like it could be interesting. Also found a book with some pretty good pictures of stuff by Durer, though the other half of the book was later period, but I bought that too because it was only $5.

I got back to the kayak and pulled it a few feet down the boat ramp and off to the side, onto a large flat rock that was well above the high tide line. I fell asleep there, with my kayak as a windbreak, and listening to someone on a nearby wharf make very strange and slightly rhythmic noises with an electric guitar of some sort. It was an okay night, very windy, but I managed to stay comfortably warm.

Woke up in the morning, just before dawn, and it still looked very foggy... no big surprise really, so I slept in a bit more. Woke up an hour or so later and it was still very foggy, but this time with fisherfolk and lobstermen scurrying about with trucks full of traps and boats... it was the commercial fishing pier I sleeping right next to, so I guess I sort of expected that.

Ate some uncooked Rammen, trying not to get bits of crusty noodles into my sleeping bag. The weather radio was still completely dead, no more signs of life at all. No more clock to tell the time, and no info on tides, wind, or any other weather-stuff thatís important to know for kayaking... so I decided that making it to Stonington was almost good enough. I'd told my mom the night before that I might need a ride back if the weather radio had stopped working, but decided to head out into the fog and try to find Enchanted Island before calling it quits... afterall, finding Enchanted Island was sort of my excuse for paddling all the way down to Stonington from Bangor, and I was now only a few miles away.

I could make out the dark shapes of some of the nearby islands out in the fog, but visibility was less than half a mile. It was very windy too, not sure what the wind speed was, but it was enough to make forward progress a very slow and laborious ordeal; and a short stop to rest meant that I'd be blown backwards twice as fast as I'd been paddling forwards.

I navigated my way through the fog and around several islands for about two and a half to three miles before deciding it was too dangerous to go on... in around the islands it was more sheltered; still windy, but less choppy than in more open water. Enchanted Island is on the very edge of the south-eastern side of the Deer Isle Archipelago, so its fairly exposed to that were blowing from the east and south-east. Made it out to between Devil Island and Buckle Isle and decided to head back. Saw a house on Devil Isle, his summer home?

Stopped on Russ Island to look around. From along the shore it looked as though it had been used to quarry granite, which was a major sort of business in the Stonington area at one timeÖ large blocks of square/rectangular sort of granite chunks stacked and scattered along the island. I got out on a small beach and found a path going up through blueberries and other scrubby island bushes, to the top of a small hill. Wandered up the path and found an old looking, though rather small, granite foundation of some old island buildingÖ then followed another path to the top of a larger hill and found myself standing on a bluff that overlooked Stonington. It would have been interesting to explore more but I wanted to get back into Stonington before the tide go out or the wind shifted (because the wind that made progress difficult on my way out from Stonington was making for a very easy trip back).

Got back to Stonington fine and called my mother to see if she could still make it down (at least an hour drive) to pick me up. Then I sat around for a while talking to some kayak guides who were getting ready to take some people out for some classes in how to paddle and navigate in the wind and fog. On a nearly random note -which has nothing to do with kayak guides and not a whole lot to do with wind or fog but I forgot about it until now- the other day on Pond Island I opened up a package of MRE Beef Frankfurters, expecting them to be barely edible, but found four of the tastiest hotdogs Iíve ever had. The end.