Category Archives: History
The gods of the sun are more powerful than this altocumulus clutter. Helios the Titan, Apollos of Olympia, and the Roman Sol Invitus will take a half day rest as the weather forecast calls for increasingly cloudy skies with possible rain tonight. For now, I’m enjoying the pleasure and warmth of their company.
Down the hatch with boring breakfast 365. Not really, but it seems like it. Calendar Islands is one of Casco Bay’s nicknames. The title comes from the fact that early history of the Bay reports that Casco Bay was once referred to as Calendar Islands because there were so many of them. The first to advocate this name was Colonel Wolfgang William Römer in the early 1700’s. He said, “There are as many islands as there are days in the year.” The number is actually between 130 to a little over 200 depending on how many barren rocks are included in the count. So, I figure that this grapenuts, dried fruit, protein powder with water saturated milk powder has gone on long enough to count as one for each of these many islands. Yuck!
My next pleasure is a treat to washing my hair and me. Great Chebeuge with its abundance of free fresh water is only a few minutes paddle away. I brought a sliver of Irish Spring brand soap. It’s aroma makes great deodorant and rub on clothing for a more pleasant smelling body when among people in “civilization.” I also grap my tiny bottle of shampoo and a bandana for drying. We all head out the door to where I’ve hung one of the water bladders on the MITA trail post.
Oh, wow. That felt good. Whew. I think I’m now as clean as my clothing. My clothes are in better shape than me as far as cleanliness is concerned. In fact, I should get to them now before the sun gods fall into their early day slumber. I stuff everything into a dry bag and haul it down to the shore. Here they are drench in salt water to rinse off as much dirt and sweat as possible. There really isn’t much for dirt, just the residue of salt water and sweat. I lay everything out on the rocks to dry. The UV from the sun disinfects them and the rocks allow for drying.
Last year’s practice trip taught me as to why the rocks work better than hanging “stuff” on a line. The results of my fist time hanging was clothing more wet than when they were hung. Duh, the sun,wind (even just a breeze) create an atmosphere of water in the air. Quite a bit of it too. Hence, why fisherman dry their nets and other items on rocks heated by the sun enough to actually dry their stuff out. My clothing and gear dry quite well too but they need to be turned over a fiew times to expedite the process.
And then, there are my boots. It doesn’t matter how many times they are rinsed out. They are not UV clean, are always damp, and something is brewing in them. Not sure what, but its kind of scary. They’re new and I didn’t think to do what i did last year. Get a pair that my feet fit in with neoprene socks on them. The socks clean up as well as any other item and create a barrier that keeps the boots a more safe environment for my feet.
I purshased high cut ones to provide maximum support for my injured knee.
Normally, I wouldn’t wear something that tall and stiff. These were a bugger to take off. The fight to remove them is a daily ritual.
My extended stay on Jewell Island due to weather is over. First, I will head over to the group from Rippleeffect, the ones who created the post “Fearfull” as they were departing from Cocktail Cove in two trips via a boat from Cow Island, where the camp is located. I wish to say goodbye to Scott. He truly impressed me. In fact, tears welled up in my eyes during one of our conversations. The catalyst for such a depth of emotion came form how remarkable this young man is and will become. His passion and love is for young people. His capacity for growth is immense and everything that he learns will leave its mark upon the hearts of the kids he works with.
The boat now loaded with kayaks is ready to depart. The fairwell between Scott and myself comes in the form of an endearing hug. I’m proud of you, Scott. He climbs into the boat for his ride back. I think about him and the kids while exploring the lowtide exposure of the bar between Jewell Island and Little Jewell.
The pilings for a dock possibly built by was most likely built by Henry Donnell in 1945. He is the first documented resident for Jewell Island. Henry ran a Cod fishing operation which was set up in Cocktail Cove, Long Cove in Henry’s time. [A name I prefer.] This may have have been where Henry’s dingy would end the day of fishing, once the off loading was complete along a larger wharf connected to Little Jewell Island, named Harbor island as the time. This is most likely where the fish were processed as there were two fish houses located on the Island. The only other building became a fortified home at the top of the hill on Jewell Island where the two pilings are located. (These pilings havce been converted cement with iron rings. (built for the occupation during the period of the U.S. Navy’s period on the island.) I should have photographed this area as there is much more to add as to the work that went on this far up the cove. I’ll do so when I go back. However, my first trip will be a snatch and grab if I find at least one of two rocks.
I found them during my exploration of the exposed bar approximately halfway to the low tide water level. I’ve never seen anything like them and photographed these extensively.
This finding is part of my research time and was the inquiry I sent to the scientist in the U.K.. He did not reply to my questions. However, the retired geologist who just moved here from Alaska gave me some insight. I used the information provided to do further study, which was extensive and I’ll spare you the pain from the huge amount of information gathered.
This is the reply I received, “The rock in your pictures is from what is called the Casco Bay Group—metamorphic rocks that are Ordovician around 445 to 475 million years old. The rusty colored tannish rock is quartz that filled a crack formed in the gray, thinly layered metamorphic rocks. There must be some pyrite (iron sulfide) in the quartz because of the rustiness of the quartz, but the pyrite is probably only in tiny crystals and not easy to see.
I’ve never seen anything quite like the round black things. The big question is whether they are geologic or biologic. If geologic, the color suggests manganese oxide. If they are of geologic origin, the black things would be cross sections through spheres. But what mineral forms relatively large spheroids like this in small quartz veins? I can’t think of any. By default, I have to lean toward a biological origin, say the broken off holdfast of a marine organism.
If you ever go back to this place, grab a sample and we can figure out the mystery.”
My studies have brought me to the conclusion is that the manganese oxide was formed by the bacteria Leptothrix discophora, which is a filement in form and lives in aquatic environments. It is able to oxidize maganese. Whether the patterns on these rocks were from by the bacteria or some other creature is not definative.
Questions regarding the mining that went on in thise area ahsould be brought into the equation as well. One of the bi-products produced was maganese oxide. However, I have no idea as to how these patterns would form and do so on the mineral make up and size of the rocks. I chose to photograph the rocks as I like to leave nature where it is, nor did I wish to add to the weigh and space of Abbie B. So,if I do find them, they will be returned.
I gave a lot of thought to as to how I should end this portion of my journey. How do I wrap up Jewell Island? What I’ve shared barely scratches the surface of a very unique history.
There was an attack upon the Island’s inhabitants during King Philip’s War by a group of Abenaki “Indians” back in 1676. There is much truth documented as to the true story and later embelished by local storyteller so as to assign a meaning to the name, Indian Rock.
Mining took place as an aside from Cod fishing by two different owners. The second ought to have learned from the first which was a complete failure.
Samuel Butts attempted to mine the pyritic shale to abstract Alum. The operation became known as Butt’s Boondoggle. Capt. Chase leased the land to the newly formed, Portland Mining and Railroad Company. This time Copper was the chief end and Alum as a biproduct of leftovers. The available pyritic shale cost more to obtain than to process, another Boondoggle for sure.
There have been shipwrecks, one of which the men washed ashore. Capt. Chase owned the island at the time and buried them within the interior of the island, complete with headstones.
The island changed hands many times over the years. At times, it was divided on a diagonal, having two owners for awhile on separate occasions. The longest held ownership spanned about sixty years. The government take-over for the conversion to a light and observation station followed this final ownership. The Mckeen family farmed the island, clearing much of the southwest end for fields of hay and a few potatoes as as well. There was a main house, a cabin, guest house and barn. A wooden wharf was built extending to a single pilon of rock and wood (Later transformed by the military into something more formidable.) The history of this family’s attachment to Jewell is both interesting and amusing. I also find it hard to imagine the island as it was then. The forest is thick and referred to as trees that “reclaimed their land.”
Oh, there is so much to say. And, within the desire to speak, I am left with the need to head back to Jewell Island once more.
Treasured Rocks by C.R. White, “By the Sea” 1887
All Jewells of the crown I bring to place before thy feet, o muse, with countless treasures from the earth and air wirth sunbeams from the caves of abondaire: But none my Jewels can compare with jewels that the sea gods wear: All in a golden setting sun, where Jewell’s Island on the wave is hung, Like emerald jewels on the bosom fair of the sea nymph Arethusa.
[Historical information from “History of Jewell Island, Maine” by Peter Benoit. I tried to contact him for photo permissions, especially of the farm but he is away at this time.]
I’ve had a busy day today after a long trip to Boston and back yesterday. Lots to do and tired as well from the trip. I did a little reading about Casco Bay while icing a knee injury. I found myself laughing out loud.
The book is now listed on my Recommended Books Page, “The Pine-tree Coast” by Samuel Adams Drake. Published in 1891. It’s a book about the coast of Maine as observed from the sea. The following is a story told from an event on a large vessel in Casco Bay.
The open sea! Ah, that is something to which a first introduction may prove no such agreeable experience, after all! It was even so today, judging by the sudden disappearance of the greater part of the passengers from the decks, the wholly unconventional attitudes of the few who dismally hugged the benches in sight, as well as other and even more unmistakable signs of physical prostration that the boat now presented. As I was making a zig-zag course along the lower deck, from one object of support to another, a sudden lurch threw me into the arms of the mate, who was coming from the opposite direction. “Most alluz find an old sea runnin’ found the “Cape,” he said, then adding, “Most alluz makes more or less folks on well, the motion doos. We had two gents aboard of us last trip. One of ‘em was a lawyer. My grief, wasn’t he done up, though! T’other wasn’t a bit. There he sot, smoking as calm as a kitten. He was a high-up judge goin’ down to hold court. “Can I do anything for you” says he. “Yes, gasped the seasick one; ‘I wish your honor would overrule this motion.’ ”
You may not find this funny but I paddled the area where this occurred and it is a bit wild on its own. Add some wind and weather, there be some trouble.
Enjoy your evening and I’ll be back to Twenty Twenty Days At Sea and other Posts tomorrow.
Be willing to let go. Stay in the moment. Live in peace.
I am asleep and then I’m not. It is 1230 am, high tide. The immense weight of the ocean is slamming into the island with such force that the booming sounds awaken me. I remain motionless in my half slumber until the shudder like island vibrations finish the job and send me outside the tent. Whoa . . . the ocean has an attitude, vengeance! Some not so pleasant historic events have taken place on this island. Perhaps, these eternal waters are paying them a visit.
The first settlers were driven from Richmond Island by greedy owners of land grants. One being, George Jewell of whom the island is named after. The Abenaki Tribal people were displaced by early inhabitants. War ensued for nearly a decade. The Abenaki people did not appear to use Jewell Island much if at all. However, they did attack the fortified main house on the island in 1676 during King Philip’s War, causing the island to be abandoned. Later, two men fought over ownership of the island. As usual, money was at the center of their dispute. (Jewell Island had become home to a very lucrative cod fishing industry.) The military claimed the island against the will of the owners of the time via condemnation for national defense uses. The few soldiers garrisoned on the island before the government terminated its presence caused considerable damage to the previous owner’s home and to many of their personal items inside the house.
Early history reports use of the island by pirates. Legends of Captain Kid and Captain Bellamy seem to be the oldest and posses the most repeated stories of exploits and buried treasure. Ghosts have been reported like that of “a boatload of pirates, armed to the teeth, rowing into the harbor with their oars creaking.” or “a lone sailor, his throat cut from ear to ear and blood streaming down the front of his shirt.” (History of Jewell Island by Peter W. Benoit.)
I am now standing in the darkness near the area where the Abenaki landed to mount their surprise attack. The surf continues to pound the island in a manner that makes yesterday’s tide look like a child’s wading pool. The air is warm and moist with no wind leading me to believe the weather forecast has changed a bit. The approaching system must be arriving earlier than expected. A decision to change plans is quickly made. I will wake myself around four am, pack up camp and tote it over to the other side of the island. The reason being that I want Abbie B to be free of burden so she can respond quickly and efficiently to my directions while on the big water.
I woke up at three thirty instead and went to work. Camp is torn down and stuffed loosely in respective bags and carried to a sheltered area just over the ridge from the beach. I hastily toss the tent together and change into my paddling attire, hike back to Abbie B, load her day hatch with safety gear and place the one remaining water bladder strategically in the fore hold. [The water bladders work well as ballast to trim the boat.]
I slither inside the cockpit of Abbie B as soon as I can see well enough to head out. The cove is pretty quiet but once out of safety long swells are rolling in. They are not breaking but are quite high, well above my head. My guess is around five to eight feet with a ten second maximum between them. I am a little nervous as this is a first for Abbie B and me. How will she handle? Her answer, beyond my expectations.
Once I know that we are not going to be rolled a billion times and then smashed into the rocks, I begin to enjoy myself. We are running abeam to the swells. I paddle her up the wall at a slight angle and then push hard across their spines to gain headway before sliding down into the troughs. I keep a close eye on where the outer rocks are and the finger like projection of the Island’s northeast point. A finger made of high rocky cliffs.
I work for half an hour before my turn arrives and is completed. The swells come from behind, allowing Abbie B and me to do some surfing down their faces. This little outing is turning out to be much more fun than I thought. I turn my head to eyeball each swell as it approaches. I do not want to be surprised by a breaking swell against my back. That would bury us! Ten whole minutes of riding the swells is all that it take to reach Jewell Island’s Cocktail Cove.
My pace slows while walking on a level trail back to camp. There are shadows here too. A jeep and two trucks on the thoroughfare. I stand aside and watch them pass. The crunch of boots on ice dutifully cross behind me. A door opens, “Enter,” snap-click, “Your 1400 hours report, Sir.” “At ease.” Laughter from the Mess hall slips lightly through the trees . Was it a winning hand or The Burns and Allen Show on the Radio?
I must sit down. There’s so much here! I know. Today’s exploration is only a minute slice of Jewell Island’s time. But what an exceptional time it was! It’s a far cry from the historical ebb and flow of Casco Bay, except for fighting over land, fishing rights, and the bloodshed of war with the “natives.” Now, that’s a perceptual discovery – sarcasm! The norm is selfishness and unrest. Ponder that, Jude. Hmm. That’s the history of man. Really? I think not. I’ve traveled mile upon mile, sometimes hours, others months long and have yet to meet the dangerous person, not even the one who has the aura, “gotta get out of here!”
The truth of my journeys have the reward of connecting with people who share their abundance (no matter the size), who help in need, and are a pleasure to be around. I think that we all prefer to remember these types of moments. Yes, the outcries over the sensationally divisive and frightening daily news is quite loud. However, what I hear and read about the most are the sacrifices people make on behalf of others, to the point of risking life and perhaps losing it to save a stranger. Someone we do not know. Casco Bay’s is chuck full of heroic acts. Whoa Jude, slow down. Get back on track.
What did I see here, today? I saw my feet walk on steps inside cement buildings with a view, scuffling over the prints of men whose sole duty was that of securing America . They were trained in sighting via the trigonometric process of horizontal triangulation. Some men’s paint scraping boots climbed the stairs to observe or keep watch, hour after hour and day after day, scanning for threats within the visual range from any floor of either tower. Others manned the batteries, be it the 202, the AMTB’s or other weapons of defense. “Honor, Courage, and Commitment” amidst smoking, cussing and swearing. I need to learn more about this and the Island’s history in much more detail. I wish that I had taken the time (what time!) to purchase, read and study “The History of Jewell Island” by Peter W. Benoit before leaving.
Whew! Woozy from musings, I head back to camp for some afternoon relaxation. It is time to let go, to pass thought into rest as nature has with the broken derelicts of wood, tar and metal. Trees, shrub, vines, weeds and the like growing over, in and through what once was but is no more.
I take leave of the Punchbowl and the Great Blue Heron. Off to explore, the structures and relics left from WWII.
I think of the men. Did they like it here with the cool damp air and frigid winters? According to my source for Jewell Island History, barracks were hastily built and had no insulation. Water was scarce and tainted with minerals. The batteries were unfinished when the first men arrived, but the towers were built. These were constructed out of concrete (one at 50′ and the other at 80′) and were used as “base-end” stations, coordinating with the station at Trundy Point, Cape Elizabeth. Their primary use was to aid the accuracy of new 12 inch guns, 17 miles range, at Fort Levitt on Cushing Island.
Jewell was also the best choice for harbor defenses, adding observation as an additional use for the towers. It was also a light-station and had Anti mortar torpedo boat batteries. These were 90 mm guns that could fire 24 shots a minute at a range of 10,000 yards. [Info from History of Jewell Island, Maine by Peter W. Benoit, an excellent read.] Click for weapons info and photos
Footsteps o’er shadows
Blocks and Metal
Towers and Storage
China in Pieces
Roof on the ground
Something for nothing
For nothing did happen
Soft amber light gently touches my face, waking me slowly. The solace of the silent moon from the evening’s landing remained with me through the night. It was in my dreams but my sleep was so sound that I do not recall this nor any dream. But I sense the power of its presence and can’t help but lay hold of time, suspending it as a fragment from the broader scheme of reality. My mind’s eye efficiently gathering every nuance of the scene before me, a boat’s motor, a wisp of air, sand and trees, water lapping the shore, changing light and the energy of auras. I’m so glad to be here.
I visited Little Chebeague Island during last year’s practice trip and fell in love with the place. The weather was not the greatest, with the threat of rain and dismal light for taking pictures, and a second set of camera batteries dying. Oh, did I mention attacking ants? Ouch!
I walked the trails anyway as well as the west shore at low tide. Asian Bittersweet and Black Swallow-Wort were obliterating trees and shrubs in an ominous choke-hold. Trails were overgrown and old broken down or vandalized structures were difficult to see, especially the Pritchett Cottage.
CLICK ON PHOTO FOR ENLARGEMENT
[I enjoyed the rest of my exploration in spite of dead camera batteries and sprinting to the tent for refuge from the incoming deluge. The rainstorm provided a good show of lightning on the water.]
I finally crawl out of the tent. I have a unique way of doing so because of a knee injury. It doesn’t like to bend so on my knees, swivel and crawl out the door with a straight right leg. An interesting feat due to the small size of the tent door. Kayaking with the knee isn’t a problem but walking on it is another story. I brought my “big guns” brace for support but it was still a challenge walking on seaweed covered rocks.
The water is back to a blue reflecting the color of the sky. It is calm having few ripples, especially in Chandler Cove where the water is still. I walk along the sand looking for the trail to the privy where I stop to see the Navy Firefighting practice apparatus. That’s right. The US Navy took over the island during WWII to train every sailor how to fight fires aboard a Navy Ship. Approximately 1500 sailors trained here. However, the primary use of the island for the Navy was recreation. Many sailors spent time on Little Chebeague before shipping out. “the United States Navy used the island as a recreation and training site during World War II. Soldiers enjoyed ball fields, boxing rings, and a skeet range.” From a WordPress Blog, click here for more information.
Click here to see more photos and detailed description of the Navy’s Firefighting School.
CLICK ON PHOTO FOR ENLARGEMENT
After returning from a visit to the privy, I gaze at the sand inspecting it to find something of interest. Ah, little sneaky. A set of raccoon tracks lead from the water and up the beach into the grass. Buggers, is a better comment as last year I ended up at war with the creatures. I didn’t know they could swim and definitely have an opinion about it. RACOONS ARE BANNED FROM SWIMMING!
You see, my first night during last year’s practice trip was spent on the southern tip of East Gosling. I arrived just before dark, found the one spot to set up a tent, dragged what I needed up and quickly made camp as darkness descended. It was a warm night so I left extraneous gear outside the tent, including my food which was wrapped tightly inside a dry bag. Clank! Bam! Rattle, Rattle! What? (It sounded like Number 5 rifling through the mobile snack stand in the movie, Short Circuit.) I ran down quickly to find a raccoon inside my kayak and chased him off. He couldn’t pry the hatches open but he did crawl up under my bow in search of a nighttime snack. The only thing he found was a small sack that contained canned tuna and sardines. Buggers! He’d chewed several holes in it.
Now, I was worried about the food up by the tent. I grabbed a section of my spare paddle and ran back to camp. Whew, it was still there. The paddle section lay next to me as I tried to get some sleep. Not more than a few minutes went by, when I heard the raccoon again. He had my bag and was dragging it into the bushes. I yelled and smacked the ground with the paddle and he dropped the bag. How bold these critters are! The food bag spent the rest of the night inside with me.
I was able to move from East Gosling to West Gosling as the Sunday crowd had left the large and beautiful campsite. I declared war on the raccoons, threatening capture and impaling one on a stick that was stuck in the sandy beach. You know, like certain native people’s did to warn off their enemies. I prepared for the oncoming war an hour before dusk by booby-trapping the cockpit of the kayak, made ready the spare paddle shaft and collected some rocks, plus a light that is bright and will flash.
Guess what. This raccoon was stupid which is good. He came early. It was dusk but well before dark. I slapped my kayak with the paddle shaft and tossed a rock at it. Up the tree he went. I stood watching him with all the patience in the world. Each time he tried to come down the tree, I smacked my kayak with the paddle shaft and yelled at him. No go for the coon. He was going to learn who’s the boss, ME! I wouldn’t let him come down, nope and not until I say so. — He tried to hide among the shadows of the tree branches in order to sneak down once it was dark. Bright Red light time. There’s nowhere to hide. — I kept him there for about a half hour and let me tell you. When he came done from the tree, he sprinted away, never to return. I won!
Well, I never saw or heard a raccoon last night. It probably helped that my hatches are double secured and that I bungie a dive flag over the cockpit opening. I chose the dive flag as a cockpit cover because I dream of being a diver some day. Probably won’t happen as that’s expensive. However, learning to free-dive is possible.
My slow inspection for critter tracks continue as I meander back to camp. There isn’t much to see besides bird tracks. A gull lands on the shore while I tidy things up. She or a juvenile gull allows me to snap off a few shots of her/him with my camera. How nice. Hope to see more shore birds and be able to photograph them as well.
I eat a quick breakfast, Grapenuts drowned in protein powdered milk and two scoops of peanut butter, then grab my camera and head out to explore Little Chebeague once again. Wow, what a surprise! My mouth gapes open. Someone cleared the invasive vines away from the trail, nice! What’s this? Sign says, “Caretakers Cabin.” I follow the side trail and sure enough, there’s a cabin. No one is home so I head back to the main trail of. However, I meet Christine within a few minutes. She and a friend are working on the engine of a brush mower. They say they didn’t need help.
What’s up with the caretaker’s cabin? That’s where I live now. Where are you from? Near Falmouth. What’s up with the work? The MITA (Maine Island Trail Association) partnered with the Park Service to rid the island of the invasive vines and restore it (as much as possible) to what it was during the 1800’s, except for the buildings.
Little Chebeague was originally a recreational area for Native Americans who lived on Great Chebeague during the summer. According to Bill Caldwell “Chief Madockowando was top man on Chebeague Island when the first white settlers came in the 1600’s….they caught fish…killed a seal or two…” (Islands of Maine Where America Really Began). And like the residents of today, they crossed the sandbar between Great Chebeague and Little Chebeague at low tide to enjoy the expansive sand beaches, picnic, swim and so on.
Sandbar extends about 200 feet.
The 1800’s portray Little Chebeague having a few summer cottages, a farm and a hotel for visitors.
I continue to walk the paths, amazed at the progress Christine has made in just a couple of months. Fields are being opened up, vines cut away from shrubs, and trees saved from the Asian Bittersweet. Vroom, Vroom, Vroom, chainsaw now at work. Christine is a little thing but certainly has a big work ethic. I see where the vines have been cut away from trees already and also so many more to go. Small areas are cleared around large trees. One even has a board swing hanging by ropes from its branches. Dilapidated buildings clutter clearings. Vandals and age are burying them into the soft dirt.
The tide is slowly rising but there is still plenty of exposed shore on the west side of the island. I walk here as I did last year but able to use my camera more. It’s a strange feeling to visit the past. One that is only a year old. I’d love to be able to go back in time and see the real past, beginning with the Native Americans.
Camp is down and Abbie B prepped to go and me working on be ready too. A park ranger stops by to chat. A nice fella sharing his knowledge of the islands he cares for so much, expounding on their natural beauty.
It’s such a lovely day. I’m planning to head north to Bangs Island. I wasn’t able to stop there last year and really want to see it. No, you should paddle over to Jewell Island. I ponder a moment and agree that the sea is calm enough to make the crossing.
We make a little more small talk before parting company. I finish putting on paddle gear and slide Abbie B down to the water.
**See next post for a gallery Little Chebeague photos. They include ones from last year too.
Abbie B and me head north stopping by an exposed rock where I look to the east eyeing Fort Gorges. A place I’ve wanted to visit since I first saw it from Fort Williams Park. The first lighthouse of Maine is also located at the park. (Portland Head Light built 1787-1790 as ordered by President George Washington.)
Fort Gorges lies a little over a mile from Portland Harbor. Its construction began in 1857 but was not completed until after the civil war, 1865. The fort is named after Sir Ferdinando Gorges, “The Father of Maine.” Gorges poured some 30 to 40 years of his life, expending all of his resources toward the colonization of Maine. It’s sad to say that Fort Gorges is the only place that acknowledges his devotion to the great state of Maine.
Photo credit: WorldIslandInfo.com / Foter / CC BY Click to view a photo gallery of the Fort. Since access to Fort Gorges crosses Portland Harbor shipping lanes, you may want to make a security call on your vhf radio both ways. Click to find out why.
We continue our northward paddle until crossing a minor shipping lane. I chose this one because it is outside of Portland Harbor and in a lane that is mostly used by small craft. However the small craft often pose more of a danger than the big ones. Pilots of jet skis and “cigarette” boats are self-absorbed and move at high speeds. Bam! What was that? I don’t know. Maybe a piece of garbage or driftwood.
We reach the shallow water that runs along the western side of Great Diamond Island and sit for a while. A lone lobster boat is motoring to the north. A sailboat lazily passes by on its southward track. The island is quiet and I wonder what it sounded like during its early years of settlement.
Yup, a lot of grunting went on as the island was once home for hogs. In fact, it was called Hog Island. The name change was to direct focus to the attractiveness of the island. Folklore says that Great Diamond is based on the sun’s reflection off the minerals of its rocky ledges.
Abbie B and me continuing our own lazy jaunt along Great Diamond’s coast to its north end. Cow island is nearly a stone’s throw from there. We travel between the two Islands to eliminate concern for other craft and meet two men fishing from a bass boat. We exchange hello’s and chat a few minutes before making our way across Hussey Sound. The sea is rolling a bit and a light current meets us making short work of reaching Long Island.
The light is waning as the sun hits the horizon but Abbie B and me maintain our pleasant pace. Long Island is long and it takes awhile to reach the northern end where a narrow channel runs between it and Little Chebeague Island. A lobster boat heads out through it while Abbie B and me watch. The boat’s gentle wake causes us to bob up and down in the water. Water that was blue and is now a grayish-green.
We cross the channel and paddle along the southern tip of Little Chebegue until the rocky shoreline turns to sand. The designated camping areas are on the sheltered east side. However, the tide is still low and I see a rocky protrusion that extends out and along the channel. It’s silly to paddle all the way around it when there is a lovely spot that locals use is right next to me.
We land and I push myself up and out of Abbie B sending her back between my legs. Brr, the water is cold. I’m wearing my dry top from now on! Abbie B slides easily up the sandy bank.
St-r-e-e-t-ch, ah that feels good! Wow, look at that moon. It sits in silence beckoning me to do the same. I do. My eyes trace the sky above and below the small white orb. Peaceful, very peaceful.
I push the bin away from the hatch and clear of the sliding door on the driver’s side. I feel a sense of urgency as I remove the gear from the deck of Abbie B. I want to rush headlong and toss everything that was just packed inside Abbie B and get going. Slow down and pay attention. I gain control and methodically load the van. I just want to get going!
I finish off checking and re-checking the van and its contents. Yup, it’s all there, ready and willing; so am I. Abbie B slides across the grass to the side of the van for one last loading. There are no interruptions or onlookers, just me busily securing her.
A single turn of the key brings the van’s engine to life. Well, that’s better than earlier! I lean back a moment and sigh, finally. We take our leave of Cape Elizabeth, head for South Portland, and then over the long drawbridge to Portland. A city which is very important to the colonization and the building of America. A place whose islands were settled well before Jamestown or the arrival of the Pilgrims. Facts and stories I never heard of until I read Bill Caldwell’s, “Islands of Maine Where America Really Began.” [I read Bill’s book several times over the past year. It’s a good one and all that I learned from reading it will soon be a part of my own journey.]
The Portland Observatory is my navigational aid for finding the East End Beach. It was built on top of Munjoy Hill (Historically settled by Irish Americans) back in 1807. It is also the only known historic maritime signal light in America (Great Portland Landmark webpage).
“Shortly after 1800, as commerce thrived, a means was needed to notify ship owners of arriving vessels so that dock space could be arranged… the brown, eight-sided structure was erected in order to view the approaching vessels and, by means of flags, signal their owners.” (Images of America, Lighthouses and Life Saving Along the Maine and New Hampshire Coast by James Claflin.) Click here to see photos of the observatory
I enjoy driving the narrow back streets while climbing Munjoy Hill. Munjoy Hill is also the epicenter of the 68 acre Eastern Promenade Park, constructed from 1836 to 1934. The East End Beach is only a small portion of this park. There are numerous paths to enjoy, a narrow gauge railroad, grassy areas dotted with trees and some picnic tables, along with courts for recreational games, and several historical sites and monuments. (Info based on several websites, including Wickipedia). Click here to see photos of East End Promenade
Ah, there it is. The familiar route that runs along Portland’s easternmost peninsula. I stop for a few moments to enjoy the view through the trees. Lovely, indeed. A quick turn to the left brings me down to the parking area where I take advantage of Sally’s handicap tag. It’s a lovely Sunday afternoon and nearly every parking space is taken. Thankfully, the handicap one is right next to the beach.
A trip is made to the beach without Abbie B and gear. It is sparsely populated. Low tidal water gently laps at exposed stones. Eight kayaks sit in the sun. Most likely rentals returned after a paddle to Fort Georges. Satisfied with my reconnaissance, I return to the van.
Abbie B goes first drawing odd looks as I carry her over my shoulder. She’s a bit more than seventeen feet long making for an interesting time around the little bend next to a retaining wall. I settle her on the sand as close to the water as possible and head back for the gear. It takes five trips to bring everything down. I’m going to have to be a lot more organized in the days to come but I don’t care right now. I just want to go.
No sign of Sally and Ned yet so I start packing Abbie B. They arrive just before the last items go into the aft hold. It’s good to see them and they watch over Abbie B while I head up to the public bathroom to change into my paddle clothing. Whew, it’s hot! I choose to wear a paddling jacket in place of the dry top.
Back on the beach, I shove what I had on into the big black bag for Sally and Ned to take back to the van. Only one thing left to do. Slide Abbie B until her bow is pointing north and orient the compass.
A slow rising tide begins to cover the rocks. I ask Ned if he would help me put Abbie B in. My hand takes hold of the bow handle and Ned’s the stern. We walk Abbie B into the cool water where Ned steadies her for me to climb in. Actually, slide into. I pull her forward between my legs, sit on the back of the cockpit and then quickly slip in feet first, thunk.
I slice my paddle through the water pushing Abbie B away from shore turning her toward Sally and Ned. I wish they could go with me. I know they’d love to but it’s not meant to be. Sally raises her cellphone to click off a few photos, ones I won’t see until I return.
Time gives pause to balance quieting little worlds. Three sets of hands wave goodbye.