Dan and Louise Karger paddled from Belfast to the top of Somes Sound, MDI this August. Here’s Dan’s report of their trip, with a few beautiful photographs! ~MITA
The idea: When visiting friends in Belfast a few years ago, I saw mountains in the distance. Someone told me it was Mt. Desert Island. Actually it could have been Vinalhaven, but in any case I got the idea of going from Belfast to Mt. Desert Island by kayak. MITA was what made planning and doing this trip possible. Louise was skeptical at first: “I’m not going!” But in the end she loved it!
The GPS distance for the 7 days touring the area in our boats was 91 miles. We traveled 4-5 hours max each day, about 14-16 miles, which left time for camping and enjoying the islands.
Day 2. Warren Island to Butter Island.
On the way to Butter Island, a man named Sam pulled up in his motor boat to ask about our boats – because his wife’s grandfather, R Buckminster Fuller (the philosopher and inventor!), had been working on human powered boats. Sam invited us to to see their island, Little Spruce. The island was beautiful. We met their son, saw the structures they designed and built, and got to see one of Buckminster Fuller’s experimental fiberglass geodesic domes.
On Butter Island, we met two people. First a man who arrived on a sailboat. When we told him about visiting a private island, he mentioned that his father had owned thousands of acres in Maine. His father worked with the financial analyst Benjamin Graham when Warren Buffet came to work for him as an intern. Later, one of the caretakers of Butter island also stopped by to say hello. She had been a goat farmer/cheese maker for 5 years before meeting her husband. Now they caretake islands and do carpentry in the off season.
Day 3. Butter island to Hell’s Half Acre, visiting The Fort island on the way.
We stopped off at The Fort island and hiked to see the lovely views. We also enjoyed seeing stones from the granite quarries on the islands that gave Stonington it’s name. Granite for the George Washington Bridge and other famous buildings was sourced here. A lobsterman said that he was glad to see that we had the red flags on our boats since kayaks can be hard to see, and are sometimes called “speed bumps” by the fast moving lobstermen!
Day 4. Enjoying Hell’s Half Acre, then to Steves Island by way of Stonington.
When we arrived, a MITA member brought us blueberry rhubarb pie fro a MITA lobster bake picnic on the east side of the island.
While walking on Hell’s Half Acre, we met Bryan and Darla (and dog Rudder), MITA members who arrived on their motor boat and were camping on the island. Six months ago, Bryan and Darla bought a house in Brooklin near Naskeag Point that came with the Morning Moon restaurant. They invited us to stop by on our way to Mount Desert Island.
For our one restaurant meal, we stopped at the Fisherman’s Friend restaurant in Stonington. Our diet during the trip consisted mostly of nuts and dried fruit. Good food, but in comparison this meal was a feast! The air conditioning was nice too.
While looking for Steve’s Island, we arrived after sunset at the wrong island. We went around it 1 1/2 times trying to figure out where to land. It was already dark, so we had to camp there because we couldn’t see obstacles in the water.
Day 5. Transfer to Steve’s Island, which we had accidentally passed the night before.
We enjoyed staying on Steve’s Island for a day. We washed some clothing and learned that laundry doesn’t dry very well on ocean islands.
Day 6. Steves Island to Naskeag Point.
The morning started out windy with strong waves. By the time we were on the water, we had calmer wind and the sun at our backs. It was a lovely ride to Naskeag Point. Louise, who had been worried about the wind, had us slow down so that we would have more time on the water.
Our new friends Bryan and Darla picked us (and our boats) up at Naskeag Point. We drove to Brooklin to see their house and restaurant. Brian likes to cook and is attending culinary school for the fun of it. They don’t plan to open the restaurant as a business, but use it as a place to cook, entertain and for community events.
Day 6. Naskeag Point to Mt. Desert Island, stopping at Pond Island & camping at Sawyer’s Island in Bass Harbor.
Bryan and Darla joined us in their tandem kayak on part of our journey to Mount Desert Island. We all kayaked to Pond Island. What fun!
The campsite on Sawyers Island in Bass Harbor was undeveloped and hard to find. We cleared a lot of dead wood and trash. Unlike on the ocean islands, in the harbor that evening there was little wind and lots of mosquitoes. We kept our dry suits on and didn’t get bitten.
Day 7. From Bass Harbor to Mt Desert Campground at the north end of Somes Sound by way of the Atlantic side of Mt Desert Island.
Entering Somes Sound from the Atlantic, there was a spot where the ocean swells made some waves. The wind was reported as 15 to 22 knots from the north and there was a small craft warning. The island reduced the wind a lot, but because Somes Sound runs from north to south a strong wind was against us.
Our boats are 16’ Hobie kayaks with foot pedals that move flippers under the boat, much like the flippers of a sea turtle. We were grateful for being in our peddle-powered kayaks, because we can keep going without much difficulty when there is strong wind. The boats are safe because they are very stable, don’t fill up with water and we can jump off to swim and climb back on.
After we called from the water to make a reservation at Mt. Desert Campground, we were given a lovely campsite overlooking the dock and the water. The owners feel they are custodians of a very special place. They’ve reduced the number of campsites from 185 to 100 and built platforms to protect the lovely, fragile ecology. I’ve never seen a nicer campground.
Day 8. A walk on the new Lewelyn Trail, a Free LL Bean shuttle bus to Bar Harbor for a good breakfast, a short paddle on Somes Sound, then back to Belfast!