Going Northeast on the coast of Maine is called “Downeast” because going in that direction is usually down wind. It’s nice to have favorable winds, so we decided to try a one-way trip. Of course, there is no guarantee when it comes to Maine weather. One year, we completed a circumnavigation of Vinalhaven, starting in Brooklin, and it was a great trip but the wind was against us going both ways.
This year, our 2018 Maine Island Trail trip was one way from Capital Island in Boothbay to Mt. Desert Island. Next, we circumnavigated Mt. Desert Island and ended at Naskeag Point.
We were on the Trail for 11 days and on the water for nine of those days. To judge our minimum distance, we replicated the route using Navionics’ “autoroute” feature, which gave us an idealized route of 153 miles. This doesn’t include all of our zig-zagging to see lighthouses, clipper ships, and to stop by every MITA island in our path for the 30-in-30 Challenge. We usually sailed no more than for four or five hours on a given day so that we could arrive at camp early.
Bryan Edmonds, a fellow MITA member, told us about MITA’s challenge to visit 30 islands in MITA’s 30th year, which added a fun “treasure hunt” dimension to our trip. Bryan and Darla Edmonds are MITA monitor skippers. We accompanied them on a trip to inspect 11 islands, so we had an 11 island head start for the 30-in-30 Challenge.
Darla, Bryan and Rudder, a dog who is at home on boats and most everywhere else.
The first day, to Thief Island, was awesome with very pleasant rolling seas and favorable winds.
Bryan was single-handing his Hobie Mirage Tandem Island kayak. It has the shape of a kayak with pontoons, pedal-powered flippers under the boat, and an 18-foot mast. The yellow emergency backboards are used as seats. It’s easy to tie things to them.
First night: Thief Island
An organized group of young people from Kroka Expeditions arrived on a rowing boat with sails. The boat was based on an Inuit design that some of them had built at their school. They were on a three-week MIT trip, also a downwind trip. The boat has a lashed wooden frame and canvas skin. They also had two tandem kayaks with sails.
Second and third night: We traveled to Gay Island as guests (a newly listed resource in the MITA 2019 Guidebook!) and camped there for two days due to rain.
We left Gay and went to Friendship to meet Darla who joined us on the trip.
Friendship Harbor has a lot of lobster boats. Louise liked this one.
Off to Ram Island
Bryan and Darla tow the inflatable paddleboard that they use as a tender if they anchor the boat. They also use it to play on, and it carries the inflatable yellow tubes that we use to roll the boats above the high tide line.
Fourth night: Ram Island (On the west side of Vinalhaven)
We arrived early and just let the tide lift the boats. We enjoyed paddleboarding while we were on Ram Island.
As the tide comes in the area fills with water. It was delightful to see the changes in the landscape.
Trip to Barred Island
Chasing a larger vessel.
Fifth night: We stayed on Barred Island for the night.
Bryan and Darla sailed home from Barred Island and we headed to Russ Island. First we stopped by Butter Island and Goose Cove beach for swims and went into Stonington for lunch. An enjoyable part of any trip on the Maine Island Trail is meeting people. We met interesting people at each stop.
The last bit into Stonington was hard. We had the wind and tide against us.
We tied up at the public dock at Stonington.
6th and 7th night: Russ Island
We stayed on Russ for 2 days because of fog. The island has a gradual beach, and using the yellow air rollers, we rolled the boat up high enough to be above the tide.
Russ is a good island to explore on a foggy day. The island has white moss-like plants that look like snow, and plenty of milkweed and monarch butterflies. A small amount of granite quarrying had also occurred on the island. We enjoyed observing the wild roses close up at night and open in the morning.
8th night: We arrived at Crow Island on the ocean side of Mt Desert Island.
We stopped at every convenient MITA site along the way as part of the 30 in 30 challenge. Crow is the only MITA island on the east side of Mt. Desert Island. To our surprise, the Kroka Expedition kids arrived just after we did. This exceeded the island’s capacity, so seven young people slept on the boat.
There is a guest mooring on Crow. We used our loop of red 850-lb test parachute cord to bring our boat in and out. At low tide you can walk between Crow Island and Cranberry Island.
Off to circumnavigate Mt. Desert
We stopped in Bar Harbor for lunch. The harbormaster helped us tie up on the public dock.
He asked us where we had started from, when we said Boothbay, he said “Yikes!”
Our boat is the tiny yellow thing at the end of the dock.
We arrived at Lamoine State Park and a 13.7 ft tide was predicted. We used the scupper cart wheels to roll the boat up the ramp. A young man gave us a hand.
Lamoine is a nice state campground, but it’s not conveniently set up for people arriving by boat – the campsites are far from the water. The next day, some local lobstermen showed us how to catch mackerel off a dock. Then, a nice couple who had been out fishing set us up to fish for mackerel by trolling. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to try our newfound skills. A lot of talking led to a late start and we had maybe 28 miles to go and more MITA islands to check in at along the way. We’re serious about getting that hat.
We left for the final trip back to Naskeag Point. The wind shifted and came from the north east. It was a very light wind, but still any favorable wind helps some.
Lighthouse, picturesque in the evening.
Seals resting on a rock.
We passed Naskeag Point to visit two other islands. At the end of the day, we approached Naskeag from the other side of the sand bar during a beautiful Maine sunset. Darla and Bryan, Bryan’s sister Anna, and their friend Matt were there to welcome us to Naskeag.
Darla came aboard as we went around the bar.
Bryan, Dana, and Matt doing a welcome dance.
Dealing with tides: A challenge in traveling on the Maine Island Trail is how to deal with the tides while we sleep at night on an island. The first two years we used individual pedal Hobie kayaks, which we could unload and carry above the high tide line. We now travel in the Hobie Tandem Island sail and pedal kayak. It’s fun to sail and it’s enjoyable to be on the same boat together, but the boat is heavier than the individual kayaks. It weighs 240 pounds when fully assembled.
We have many options for dealing with the tides:
1. This year, we mostly put the air filled cylinders under the boats and rolled them on and off the island. This worked remarkably well.
2. When convenient, we just let the tide lift the boats and return to retrieve them the next day.
3. A last choice is to unload the boat, remove the pontoons, and drag it above the high tide line as we would with a lighter kayak.
4. We bring a wheeled cart that fits under the boat. With the cart, you can roll the boat up a very smooth beach or a boat ramp.
5. Bryan and Darla tow an inflatable paddleboard behind the boat. If there is an anchorage or a mooring, they can anchor the boat overnight and use the paddleboard to get it in the morning.
6. We carry an “anchor out-haul” set up (it’s like having the boat on a clothesline so that you can pull it out to the anchor or to a mooring and back to the island in the morning.
7. These days the water is pretty warm in August and we go swimming. We could just swim out to get an anchored boat. We haven’t done it yet – maybe because there’s no technical challenge to figuring that out.