Damariscove Island, and Others (Maine)
October 2009
Scibe: Laurie Ford
This was a weekend to camp at a land based campground on Southport Island and do a day trip out to Damariscove Island, and theWhite Islands and other in that area, and the next day to circumnavigate Southport Island. The trip was organised by Gary York of the SMSKN. Not many takers for the weekend, one other apart from Elli and myself. Gary's friend Roger Turgeon camped with us Friday night, but another paddler, Barry Mullan, came just for the Saturday paddle round Southport Island.

Elli has been finalising her Mother's estate which has involved endless phone calls to tax experts, auction houses, real astate agents, stock brokers, banks - she has spent weeks and weeks on it so we thought we'd stay on a bit longer and do a bit more paddling. We had a plan that involved paddling through the upper and lower Hell's gates, down the Kennebeck River, and up the Back river - camping on Pennys Island, Goat Island, and Ram Island.. The tides weren't actually great for this trip, being low tide in the middle of the day when it would have been better to have high tide in the middle of the day.

Thursday night we were camped with Gary at Grays Homestead on the western shorefront of Southport Island. He'd brought a good load of firewood as we had, so we sat around till late. Gary also had a tent fly we erected over the table for a cooking area - rain was forecast. Roger turned up Friday morning for the 10am start, in his extremely beautiful wooden strip built 'Night Heron'. I've been thinking of building the stitch and glue version of this for a couple of years - a very nice looking Nick Schade design.

Conditions were pretty calm, basically not enough wind to make it worthwhile putting a sail up, but I did for short periods anyway. After a short paddle south along the shoreline we headed across so as to be able to go down one side of Damariscove Island and back up the other. It looked like a typical Maine island - totally rocky shoreline covered in weed at low tide. In the bottom cove there was a nicely restored coast guard station. We rounded the southern tip of the island and then halfway along the eastern shore we landed for lunch. While the others walked back to look at the old coast guard building, and separate museum, I went off for a sail across to Outer Heron Island and back. The museum has the island history of piracy, naval battles, settler/indian wars etc - well worth a visit.

After lunch it was across to the northern end of Outer Heron Island and across to the White Islands where we landed in the small cove on the northern end of the southern island. Roger assured us that there were garnets to be found on here, and sure enough Elli came back with one. Then it was across past The Hypocrites to Fisherman Island, then Squirrel Island, then our campsite. We were back approximately 4.45pm - a pleasant days paddle even if it was overcast.

It rained briefly on and off during the evening but not enough to make us seek shelter, and we sat around a good campfire till late. Gary provided soup for all and Roger brought out his bottle of favourite  wine.

Barry arrived Saturday morning as Elli and I were packing up our gear to take with us to Pennys Island. The forecast was for 25knot NW winds, or 40 knot depending on who you talked to - so instead of going clockwise round Southport Island as originally planned we went anti-clockwise. The tide was with us going through Townsend Gut. Elli and I weren't planning to go to the Five Islands Lobster Wharf for lunch as per Gary's trip plan, so Gary then decided to detour up to Ram Island to have a look at it. Elli and I had planned to have a look at it on our way back in a  couple of days time.

Ram Island was a delightful surprise. A low grassy covered island with thick stands of pines, and a million campsites all over the island. Two steel fire rings on the island, and tons and tons of sawn logs in little heaps everywhere. Even better, MITA have left a permanent log splitter on the island. In view of the fact that the NW wind was increasing and probably funnelling through Hells Gate it wasn't a hard choice for Elli and I to decide this was it for the day, and hauled our kayak way up near the campsite. Even Roger was heard to say he wished he'd brought his camping gear with him. So after lunch Gary, Roger, and Barry set off across the freshening wind to go down the coast towards Five Islands - going round the back of Macmahan Island on the way. (I understand they had a good quick passage from Five Islands across to Southport Island in the fresh NW wind that kicked in during the afternoon).

I said to Elli that this was a really great wind for sailing and she said well go! So I scrambled back into my gear and we lifted the still fully loaded kayak back in the water and I chased after the others. I easily overtook them in the mile across to the start of Goose Rock Passage and pulled across in front of them to wait for them to catch up. When Gary was within talking distance I heard "I want one!" It sure had been a fun sail, even if the wind was a bit light. I turned around shortly after this and paddled back along the shoreline till I was opposite Ram Island then sailed straight across. Now the wind was starting to pick up. On Ram Island two other kayakers had arrived and put up their tent and were just going off for a paddle round some of the nearby islands. Elli and I looked for a place out of the wind for our tent and put it up under some trees, but later found a much nicer spot right on the waters edge so moved everything. There was a little sheltered cove in front of the tent where we lay in the sun for the rest of the day, totally sheltered from even the suggestion of wind. A lot of drift wood along the rocks so we collected a bit and late in the afternoon as the tide receded we lit the fire below the high water mark. The two other kayakers (from Boston) joined us (with their wine) and we all cooked on the fire.

A local family or two came out to Ram Island for a picnic and day on the island.

Elli and I were still deciding whether to move on to Peggys Island the next day or to stay put, but Ram Island won out in the end. Peggys will still be there next year, and we thought we may do that area on a weekend when the tides are more suitable. So we lazed around all day in the sun - I didn't even bother getting my book out to read. The wind blew most of the day and it was cold when the sun went behind a cloud. We lit a very small fire to cook lunch, but then kept it going for the rest of the day - till the tide rose enough to swamp it late in the afternoon. Then we took all the food back up to the fire rings near our kayaks, hoping the wind would drop at sunset as it had more or less the day before. However it didn't, and it was fairly cold even with a big fire, so I was forced to put our spare tent fly up as a  wind break - this was great and made it quite bearable. Till about 6.50pm that is, when the fly gave way with a bang and flapped in the wind like a giant flag. Ten minutes later the wind practically died away to nothing, but it was still enough to make it cool - so as we had finished eating we shovelled some hot coals into the billy and carried them back to our little cove and relit the fire there - the tide having receded by now. This is an ideal cove under these conditions, and made the stay on this island very very enjoyable.

I had thought today we may have moved on to Peggys just for overnight, then back home on Tuesday - but Elli was now keen to get back home and check on her Australian Visa progress, and other matters so we left about 8.30am and were back at Gray's Homstead an hour and a half later. Home in Wolfeboro and finished the laundry and unpacking by 4,30 pm.
Laurie Ford

Elli & I at Gray's Homestead on Southport Island.

Then Gary arrived with a boot full of firewood as well.

The launching beach at Gray's Homestead.

Getting ready to paddle Friday morning.

The launching beach at Gray's.

It was remiss of me not to get some proper closeups of Roger's kayak - it was a beautiful sight.

Down the shoreline of Damariscove.

The restored Coast Guard Station on the southern end of Damariscove Island.

Rounding the southern end.

Lunch near the small lagoon halfway along Damariscove Island.

Lots of Piping Plovers at the lunch spot.

Going across to the White Islands.

Ashore on White Island (northern end of southern one).

Garnet found by Roger.

Approaching Fisherman Island.

Start of Saturday paddle.

Some of the many stacks of firewood on Ram Island.

And the log splitter in case you didn't bring one of your own.

Landing spot on Ram - sort of firm mud beach.

Ram Island - Gary and Elli.

Roger, Barry and Gary on their way to Macmahan Island.

Some of the locals.

Great tent site close to the water and a small shelly beach.

The very sheltered cove in front of our tent.

The wind break.

One of the two fire rings.

The fire back down below the high water mark on our beach.

Morning on Monday.

Breakfast in the sun and out of the wind.

You want waterfront? - this is for you.

The swing bridge in Townsend Gut.