On this day, I paddle off the little sandy beach on Bailey Island, Maine, where I am accompanied by a lobster boat putt-putting its way out to pull traps off the rocky shore. The air is sultry and the paddling is easy with the sun shimmering off the water’s surface. Despite the ease of my journey out, I always have the spray skirt on the boat when I head south out of Mackerel Cove, as the change in seas can make for a wet and unpredictable ride without a moment’s notice.
On the way out of the cove, I see all manner of houses, from high-end homes perched on rocky cliffs to tiny shacks and cabins that have been here for generations. Fishermen, tourists, and summer people are all able to share this dramatic and exciting place.
The easy paddling season is from late May into October. Coves are protected, while the larger bays will get choppy quickly in the wind. For outings on the open ocean, it’s important to stay updated on weather and tides when navigating through the sea in early spring or late fall.
In my journey out, I hit some rolling swells, which speed up my paddling so I can navigate around the peninsula that forms Mackerel Cove. The current wants to push me on the rocks, so I paddle well out away from the point and head north up toward Merriconeag Sound, weaving among the numerous lobster pots operated by the local lobstermen. The buoys that mark these traps have to be seen easily from the boats, so they are normally painted bright neon green, shock white, or screaming orange.
The halfway point of my trip up the sound is Cook’s Lobster House, where I enjoy a cup of hot coffee and a haddock sandwich flopping off the plate. With a pushing tide, the journey up the sound takes approximately 30 minutes, while against the tide you can expect to add another ten minutes to your voyage.
As I leave Cook’s and cast back out into the ocean, I round the small point and head south back down the sound. As I turn the corner, I notice that the wind is up, something that was not supposed to happen until later in the afternoon. I am paddling against the tide pouring into the sound and against the wind. Everything starts off well, but as I get closer to the point of land that shelters Mackerel Cove, the going gets tough. Swells are running between three and four feet and I notice gulls perched on the rocks heading into the wind, as they do when a strong wind is coming. It is at this time that doubt flashes into my mind that I may have taken on more paddle then I can handle.
The spray skirt is running with water and I am sweating under my life-jacket, but as I watch the rocks along the coast, I see that I am making slow and steady progress. Rounding the point into the cove takes as much strength as I can muster, but after a good ten minutes, I navigate beyond the promontory and head north up the bay with the wind at my back. I stay out of the way of incoming and outgoing craft and poke among the boats on my way back to the little beach, which just hours before, served as my gateway to this open water adventure.
Orr’s and Bailey Islands, part of the larger area known as the Harpswell Island chain, is just one area to explore by kayak. Whether a paddler comes down for a day or chooses to spend a week in the area, there is a different paddling opportunity out there for every day you spend on the water.
- H2 Outfitters – www.h2outfitters.com – 207-833-5257 – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Seaspray Kayaking – www.seaspraykayaking.com – 888-349-SPRAY – email@example.com – tours and rentals, will deliver boats
- Cook’s Lobster House – www.cookslobster.com – 207-833-2818 – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Salt Cod Café – 207-833-6210 or 1-877-4CHOWDA
- Bailey Island Motel – www.baileyislandmotel.com – 207-833-2886 – email@example.com
- Orr’s Island Campground – www.orrsisland.com – 207-833-5595 – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Log Cabin Inn – www.logcabin-maine.com – 207-833-5546