Sea Kayaking and Camping on Maine’s Coast (part 1)

09 July 2014 / By travel4foodfun@gmail.com
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From previous stories, you can tell that Tom loves to introduce me to new experiences. One day after work, Tom excitedly told me his plan for our next adventure: sea kayaking in Maine! And then, with a mischievous look he added: and camping! I’m all for sports and athletic activities, but camping has never been interesting to me. I’m more of a hotel and resort type of person. However, Tom loves to camp and enjoys kayaking, so I figured I’d give it a try. How can I judge something I know nothing about?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor a few years, Tom has received newsletters from Maine Kayak.  One trip that he has been monitoring is the Sea Kayaking Two Day Island Overnight Trip. He showed me Maine Kayak’s website and I read over the trip’s description. Knowing nothing about kayaking or camping, I figured it seemed like a unique way to discover more of Maine’s mid coast. I was in for the adventure!

From our initial contact with Maine Kayak up until the start of the trip, we were very impressed with the timely responses by email and phone with Al, the owner.   When we set off for our adventure in Maine, we felt fully prepared for the trip. The tour was scheduled to begin at 8:30 on a Saturday morning in New Harbor, Maine which is approximately a 45 minute drive from Brunswick. Although there are small inns and B&Bs in the area, we wanted to have dinner in Portland. We decided to spend Friday night in Brunswick, half-way between Portland and New Harbor, at the Fairfield Inn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn Saturday morning, the drive from Brunswick to New Harbor was beautiful. We passed many breathtaking bays and inlets. The small towns dotted throughout the countryside were picturesque. Maine’s mid coast area feels pristine compared to “touristy” Bar Harbor. The area was absolutely stunning! Tom and I would love to return and explore this area of Maine on another visit.

When we arrived at Maine Kayak,we met our guide Dave and two other group participants, Liz and Laura. Dave looked at our neatly packed and organized backpacks and informed us they wouldn’t fit in the kayaks. This is where we both can claim ignorance because even though Tom has kayaked, it was never for an overnight camping trip. Dave politely handed us two dry bags and encouraged us to bring as little as possible. Tom and I proceeded to repack what we needed and returned the rest to our car.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlthough I’m skipping ahead a bit, the following are essential items: Sunscreen, bug repellant, hat/baseball cap, sunglasses, minimal toiletries (toothbrush/paste/floss, deodorant, wet wipes (as there are no showers), any essential medication, a change of warm clothes for the evening, quick drying clothes for two full days of kayaking, water shoes with good traction, a light source, water and water bottles, and any snacks that you prefer. I tend to overpack and brought an extra change of clothes. Luckily I did since I got completely soaked by waves from a speeding boat. Also, just to inform newbies like us, the camping is “carry-in/ carry-out”. Everything you take in must be taken out. There are no bathroom facilities so if nature calls for “number 2”, you will be provided a baggie that will be carried out. Also, there is no fire allowed. So this isn’t the regular camping with bonding around the camp fire, chatting and eating s’mores. For this reason, we recommend a very essential item: alcohol! Bring wine, nips, or something that doesn’t need refrigeration. Tom and I brought 2 nips and we were sad we didn’t bring more. But also, it wasn’t on the packing list. Since there is no fire allowed, the alcohol will bring people together to socialize at night.

Maine Kayak provides the major essentials: food for all meals, water replenishment, tents, sleeping bags and pads, and baggies and toilet paper. Tom and I brought our own sleeping bag and pads. Just make sure they can be squeezed into a small space. Otherwise, use Maine Kayak’s equipment. For the kayaking portion, all equipment is also provided, including life jackets, wet suit tops (although no one needed them). If you come as a pair, you can select either a single or double kayak. We chose the double, but in hindsight we will do singles next time.

After repacking and organizing, the van was loaded and we set off on a 25 minute drive to where we would launch. Once again, the drive was beautiful. Maine is truly a natural paradise. This portion of Maine has yet to be overrun by tourists, so go now before it gets exploited like Bar Harbor! During the drive, we started bonding with Liz and Laura as well as with our guide, Dave. Liz and Laura are co-workers from Connecticut. Dave, a recent college graduate with a degree in civil engineering, is spending the summer with Maine Kayak before heading west to start his career. In Maine, kayak guides undergo a licensing exam before allowed to take people on trips. This shows how serious the state takes the industry, ensuring good and knowledgeable guides. Throughout the entire trip, Dave provided a wealth of information on the surrounding area and wildlife encountered. Naturally, this was in addition to being our kayak guide and instructor, camping guru, and cook!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce we reached the launching point, we unloaded our gear, packed the kayaks, and took off for our island home for the evening. Dave informed us that numerous public islands throughout the area of Muscongus Bay are first come, first serve. For this reason, we wanted to claim his choice island before other kayakers arrived. Although I was the only virgin kayaker, Dave provided an overview and instruction to us all before we took to the water. I was actually surprised by how easy it is to kayak. After a short 30 minute paddle, we arrived at Dave’s preferred island, Crow Island.

Crow Island is a 2.6 acre wooded preserve. Dave took us on a tour and showed some sites to set up camp. We unloaded our gear and had a lunch of sandwich wraps, chips, grapes, and chocolate chip cookies. If you have any dietary restrictions, be sure to let Maine Kayak know so that they may accommodate your needs. With our kayaks lightened and our bellies full, we set off for a four hour paddle.

The day was magnificent for kayaking. With the sun shining and temperatures in the low 70’s, we could not have asked for a more perfect day. During our first day’s tour, we saw a plethora of seals, osprey, a number of other bird species, and butterflies. When we reached the third hour of paddling, a few of us (myself included) were getting sore and tired. Dave accommodated us and we finished the tour during the fourth hour of being on the water. We returned to our home for the evening, Crow Island, and settled in for the remainder of the day.

Our remaining adventures are highlighted in our second story of the trip. Stay tuned and read on!

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