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Walking Abbie B

Well, here I am.  My first morning on Bangs Island.  A place I made an attempt to visit during my practice trip last year.  The attempt was ruled out rather quickly because a strong current gripped my loaded down 14.2″ recreational kayak as soon as bow turned toward the Island.  Safety first folks.  The sea was perfectly calm but currents can be as dangerous or even more so than a wild ocean.  First rule of self-rescue, “Know when not to go out.”  My golden rule for anything.

I sit on a rock looking out over the channel toward Great Chebuege Island, remembering last night’s return trip and chuckle about my creative parking of Abbie B. She looked truly undignified.  I wonder what she said about that but maybe it’s best to leave that one alone.  Sorry, Abbie B.

Here’s the video clip taken within minutes of leaving Abbie B creatively parked.  I added a bit light for better viewing.  You will here the wind and see gentle water.  Note that  I am in a protected cove which means what is beyond has a bit more flavor. The tidal current pulling at a steep angle upwind of water movement was moderately strong. It was still a challenge to walk from the safe landing point over to camp. I was in mid-thigh to waist deep water whose incoming waves were hitting me on one side, waves rebounding off the rocky shore was shoving everything beneath the water outward, my feet stumbled over underwater rocks, while pulling Abbie B behind me. At least trying to keep her behind me. The wind, push and pull of surface water kept pushing her into me. A nudge from her bow hurt enough to motivate keen awareness of Abbie B’s location and making adjustments accordingly.

For my hiking friends, This is like walking broadside to a stiff wind above tree line at the same time a stonger wind at a 90 degree angle is driving the lower half of the body outward, while navigating through a rock garden. Use your imagination by adding the work of pulling a large hardshelled empty pack which is floating on a layer between the opposing forces with an empahsis on the upper broadside wind.  Believe me when I say that, you don’t want to get hit by the backpack.  Bruises and a bit of being beat up is the least of possible injuries. The few times Abbie B was shoved against me were just love taps from here bow. These hurt enough to keep a sharp eye on her throughout the short crossing to camp. It was a constant chore to keep her behind and off of me.

Back to my morning view, the three rafts lying just off the shore are a mystery to me.

Floating Dock

Floating Dock

They don’t like like a working floating dock;
such as the one in the harbor between
Little Chebeague and Long Island.

Click on photo for full screen to see the docks better

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve learned that these docks are owned and operated by Bangs Island Muscle Co.   “BANGS ISLAND MUSSELS are hand-raised using techniques that are meticulous and labor intensive, by design. We nurture and harvest our mussels with the utmost care, relying on our worker’s knowledgeable hands instead of powerful and damaging machines to get the job done right. The extra time and effort that we put into BANGS ISLAND MUSSELS pays off in extended shelf life and premium meat quality.”  From the Company’s about page.  Click here for more info. It is also worth checking out their Harvenst page for a map of locations and a more detailed description of what they do. Click here.  They offer a photo slide show on their home page, Click here.

The following is a gallery showing the docks, my protected home (one from surf landing point showing the length of walk and the now exposed seaweed covered rocks I walked through with Abbie Band there other is from my “private beach.”)  A photo of sky from tent floor and one of the interior of the island from my outside of tent door.  More on the latter in my next post.  * You can view the photos full screen by clicking on any one of them.

 

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Paddling Routes Jewell to Bangs and Bangs to Great Chebeague and Back

This post links back to Finding Camp, Bangs Island.

Jewell to Bangs

Route from Jewell Island to Bangs Island in Red.  Butterflies at locatons viewed.
Green Dot with arrow – fisherman.  Blue dot is campsite.

Bangs to Chebeague

Red line is route from Camp to beach near Great Chebeague Island Boat Yard

Chebeague to Bangs

Red Line is back to Camp on Bangs Island.  Purple Line is Wind Direction.  Black Line is Tidal Current

Finding Camp, Bangs Island

The wind is picking up just a tad.  Abbie B and me feel it a bit as we scoot from Hope Island over open water on the way to the east side of Bangs Island.  We pass Sand Island along the eastern shore.  I had planned to cut across to the west side of Bangs Island to the campsite but choose not too.  It can’t be helped.  The weather and the water are too perfect to abandon so quickly.  So, Abbie B and me head for the east side where are able to relax our pace to savor each moment through the joy of simply floating, rather than paddling.  Exploration is in full swing.

The vegetation on the south end is mixed forest with deciduous concentration in a few places.  We find a man in a small boat fishing where the island is extremely narrow, much like an isthmus. High tide buries this ” pinched” land-bridge save a few feet that keep the island intact.  What are you fishing for?  He says something but with the “downeast” drawl at its best.  I have not idea what he said but wish him well as if I did.  We paddle on toward the Northern end of the island where it rounds off with a high sandy cliff.  There is a designated camping area here.  A nice place, high on a bluff with a grand view of the bay.  I don’t fancy camping here.  No way!  I avoid such places for an overnight unless there is an absolute certainty of gentle weather.  I will give up a lovely view for a safe haven in a heart beat.

Abbie B and me round the point finding the wind has moved from light and variable to around 8 knots flowing in from behind.  I slowly guide us down the west side of the island.  Camp should be just beyond the “isthmus” or close to it.  Hmm, I’m not seeing it and add nuzzling bow up to the island in the vicinity to scan for the familiar red lid of a tupperware container.   Each site has one.  The name of site is on the lid.  A log book, an about MITA pamphlet, kayak safety, and “leave no trace” camping practices are inside each one.  Five minutes pass before the glint of red catches my eye.  The container is mounted on a post for a site that is tucked in behind shrubs and trees.  I park and extricate myself from Abbie B as close to shore as possible leaving her behind to check out the area.

It is a short scramble through reedy grass to reach the “beach” and a thickly vegetated area beyond that.  There isn’t much space for a tent.  Scratching my head, I ponder as to the flattest space for sleeping but am hard pressed to find a suitable spot for the tent.  I don’t mind a few lumps but having a rock or hard lump poking me in the kidney or a lung is not conducive to sleeping.  I give up and head over to the read and sign the log book.  It appears that very few people seek out this place.  There only three names listed for the entire season.  Too bad.  It’s a decent site i.e. quiet, sheltered, and hidden from view.  My kind of place!  Okay, go get the gear out of Abbie B.  It’s getting late and I’m out of water.

IMG_5929 copy

Bangs Island

 

The task of placing the tent is still a challenge but one with a comfortable body sleeping zone is finally found.  Ten more minutes pass just for this chore.  The rest is easy.  Grab, carry, and toss gear according to a well established habit for the where and how stuff is organized for a pleasant stay.  Now, off for the water.

I hastily push Abbie B back into the water, climb in, secure myself and head for the Great Chebeague Island Boat Yard.  Daylight is waning and the crossing is a bit of a paddle so I put all I have into the trip.  We make pretty good time and land safely on the long sandy beach.  The tide is rising quickly causing the need to pull Abbie B as high as possible and secure her to a log.  The forehatch is opened, two water bladders are grabbed and then a jog up to the restaurant/pub.  Thankfully the bathrooms are level with the ground and the dining area is up a floor.  I’m still in full gear, sweating like a pig and feeling quite filthy compared to this high-end suit wearing vacationers.   The sink is deep enough for me to fill the bladders/4 full and top off the two liter bag strapped to my back.  It’s an old platypus bike hydration system that still works well.

I am stopped by a gentleman just who is smoking outside near the building but in view of the harbor.  He asks some questions and makes small talk.  It is truly getting dark and chatting with this man is not on my happy list at the moment.  I try to be polite but it isn’t possible to continue.  I gotta go, nice talking with you.  A wave and a sand kicked up behind me puts and end to the encounter.  My full company of water is back in the hatch.  My next move is to grab my homemade headband which has two Revere See-Me Lites.  One is a white nav. lite for visibility the other is an emergency strobe.  Both have a three miles visibility.  I put it on and turn the nav. light on.  It isn’t completely dark yet but enough to need one.  Thankfully, there isn’t much for boat traffic here, so not much to worry about.

The paddle back has its own work and will not be a fast crossing.  The wind is in my favor but the rising tide is producing a current intent on sucking Abbie B and me north of the island.  This puts me a beam to the waves.  A little finesse and some patience finally brings me to the little cove where camp is located.  The surf isn’t hard but enough of problem that the only place to land is in a little quiet space around fifty yards from camp.  We glide in nicely with and easy exit out of Abbie B plants my neoprene booted feet on land.  Land that will soon be underwater.  The best way to get Abbie B and myself over to camp is in the water.  I hitch up a tow-line and wade into the water for a “hike” to camp.  I pull Abbie B behind me while walking in waist deep water.  The incoming wave action and rebound from the rocks creates some difficulty in keeping my footing.  There are plenty of big rocks underwater that have a desire to trip me up within this push and pull and slapping of the sea against me and Abbie B.  I have to turn around and reposition Abbie B every few feet to keep the elements from smashing he into me.  That would be painful!

It takes awhile but we do make it to camp where the tidal influence hasn’t buried enough rock for an easy pull of Abbie B across them to the beach-like spit of land below camp.  The last light of dusk has created some beautiful light conditions as well.  I provide creative parking for Abbie B and run to the tent to grab my camera and snap off some pictures before securing Abbie B and settling in for the night.

Click here to View Maps of Paddle Routes

The Search for Water

The voyage out of the punchbowl from Jewell Island to what is now Cocktail Cove was certainly an exciting experience for Abbie B and me.  Those walls of water looking down on me were quite a sight and a bit worrisome.  But not too much as I am a highly skilled paddler.  The question was how would Abbie B handle.  Well, she probably had more fun than me!  She climbed and crossed the high swells with ease.  We are still getting to know each other.  This little trip brought us a few steps closer to a more comfortable relationship.

[Cocktail Cove’s original name was Long Cove and I prefer this name.  It makes more sense to me.  However, I imagine there is a good story for the Cocktail Cove name and why it stuck.  It may have to do with the military or previous history when during prohibition days some liquor smuggling was done.  More on the latter in a later post.]

Three boats are at anchor in this perfectly placid cove.  Two men are sitting on the deck of the first boat drinking coffee.  (One of the boats that headed for safety during yesterday’s blow.)   Abbie B received another compliment as to her beauty and seaworthiness.  The men are cordial and I give them directions as to were to land their dory so they can explore the island.

I need water in order to wait out the weather for a couple more days.  I only have one liter and I drink two plus a bit more a day.  Cliff Island is across a small channel so I make my way over there.  I decide to land in the first protected area which is a spit of land poking out to the east.  My landing is on the south side and then haul Abbie B up the embankment due to the low tide.  It was a bit of a walk to the three houses in view.  Not a creature is stirring.  Either everyone is a sleep or out on the sea working. I think about swiping water from the spigot of the first home and then decide that it would be rude to do so without asking.  Oh, the water may not be potable either.  Now what?

I’d seen what looked like a private docking area further in the corner where this narrow stretch of land meets a larger portion at a right angle.  A lobster boat motored out of a narrow channel.  Hmm, it must be a small working harbor.  Next stop, over there.  Abbie B is dragged back to the sea where I quickly paddle over to the area.  A lot of rocks appear during my approach.  No wonder it looked like a private anchorage.  The channel really is very narrow, the harbor is small, and both are lined with rocks.

I weave my through seaweed and rock to the only boat left.  It’s motor is running and two men are preparing to get underway.  I paddle to the stern and look up, way up. Hello, no response.  Hello much louder and longer.  No response.  Hellooooooo at the top of my lungs and the guy nearest me practically jumps out of his skin.  He looks down at puny little me and Abbie B next to his boat.  I ask, is there some place I can get some water?  His reply comes in a very thick Down East accent.  Yup, paddle up to the pier in that inlet (he points), walk straight, take a right and then a left.  The tennis courts will be on the right at the end of the road.  “And it’s good water too!”  The pump there must be the only source of fresh water for the entire island.  I thank him and head off once again.  It didn’t take long to paddle up to the inlet which was devoid of water due to tide level.

Map of Paddle from Punch Bowl to Cocktail Cove to first landing on Cliff (blue line walk on land), to lobster boat, and then “park” for water (blue line walk on land and “W” is where water is).

Jewell to Cliff for Water

Jewell to Cliff for Water

 

I haul Abbie B up on seaweed covered rocks and then find myself sinking in muck to reach dry land.  Gross!  I make it up to the road and meet a woman walking her dog. She is pleasant and her mix breed dog is equally so.  We walk together as far as the left turn as beyond that point, dogs must be on a leash.  The woman doesn’t have one with her.  I walk for about two minutes and find the pump by the tennis courts. There I fill all of my water bladders which hold six liters, providing twelve liters.  My water backpack which holds another two liters is also filled.  This should last more than a couple of days.

Now, I ask myself the question, where does the freshwater come from?  I had some idea but not the full picture at the time and did some research here at home.  I ended up turning to a friend who specializes in water “stuff.”  This is the info he provided.  It’s easy to understand with a great illustration.

“Fresh well water found on an island like Cliff Island in Casco bay comes from infiltration of precipitation directly on the island. Fresh water is less dense than sea water and in principal forms a lens-like body that floats on the saline water from intrusion of sea water. If too much fresh water is pumped from the ground, exceeding the rate of infiltration, the lens shrinks and wells start pumping brackish or saline water. Fresh water on and island is a fragile and limited resource.” (source is D. C.)

fig01

You can find more info from the site where the illustration is from. Click here to see it.

 

Move!

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.

 

Loading Abbie B, Day 3

I slept in a bit this morning and am just laying in bed watching the rays of the sun filter in through the curtains.  This is nice.  I breathe in and out slowly while letting go, to just be and nothing more.

Time floats by but without its irritating tick tock, tick tock.  In fact, I hear nothing and oh, I love silence. I consider it to be one of my most powerful allies. Silence speaks for itself and is the strongest form of communication.  At least, it is for me.  I feel the strength of its voice and sense the lofting of bodily tension.  Today is going to be better, especially when Abbie B and me float away from shore.  We will turn our backs from the expectations and worries of society and welcome what ever comes our way.

I climb out of bed and wear my land clothing for the last time.  Fred has done his juicing and there’s some great tasting flavor waiting for me. I love Fred’s concoctions and his great cooking.  I’ve enjoyed the pleasure of he and his wife cooking many a meal or snack.  They make a great pair and everyone benefits from their talents.

I’ll be launching at Portland, Maine’s East End Beach.  Sally and Ned will be meeting me there around four pm.  They’ll be reclaiming their van after watching Abbie B and me paddle from shore.  But, there’s still much to do and I head out to the beach room to prepare my maps for today’s paddle. I plan to sleep either on Cow or Little Chebeague Island.

I seal the enlarged map of Portland Harbor inside one of the three waterproof map cases.  These “cases” are more like a sandwich bags. They’re made out of a heavy duty vinyl with two deep grooves as a double-lock closure.  I have a second small scale map, covering a good portion of Casco Bay from the Map CasesHarbor to the south, Cousins Island to the North, Great Diamond and Long Island to the East along with Little Chebeague and Great Chebeague Islands to the North East as seen from from my point of departure.

I don’t need any other maps or mark the tides.  The day’s paddle is late and memory is all that is needed.  So, I slip the Casco Bay, Maine Tide Chart inside the third mapcase to have it ready for tomorrow.  All three cases are clipped to a carabiner.

Well,it looks like everything is ready. So I haul all the bags outside, lay them under a massive Maple Tree, and fetch Abbie B.  She’s parked behind the van. I drag her by the bow handle over to the shade of the tree, where I’ll figure out how to load her.

I have a pretty good idea of what I want based on last year’s little practice trip and years of backpacking. There isn’t a lot of room inside Abbie B so loading her will require the best use of available space and still be able to trim her.

Oops, there are a few things in the van that should be out here.  I walk over and open the back hatch to fetch my spare paddle (two pieces), deck compass, bilge pump, paddle float, sponge, tow-rope (in a bag), both water bladders, and two pieces of foil that came in package some time during the summer.

I shove the narrow items in both the bow and stern as possible. Everything else is goes in according to the I might need this order. The water bladders are filled to their six liter capacity and then placed on the bottom of the fore hold.  I can move these as needed to keep Abbie B trim.  Water is heavy which makes it perfect for ballast.  It also take up a lot of room.  Room I hadn’t considered, until now.

I didn’t mention food and stove for yesterday’s gear list.  Like I said, it was hard to remember everything. The food and stove weren’t difficult to miss. The full water bladders are removing the space intended for my cook stove. It goes back to the van along with any food that requires cooking. Yep, or now that I’m in Maine, Yup, my menu just got a lot smaller. But I that re-supplying food can be done along the way.  Don’t sweat it.  As it is, I have peanut butter, grape-nuts cereal, protein powder, milk powder, and plenty of dried fruit.  What a delightful menu! (I’ll be learning how pets feel as most owners feed them the same food everyday.)

I finished closing the fore and aft holds and secure them with the cinch straps mentioned before on Richmond Island.  The hatches also have tiny holes on a tab so I can tie them to a deck line.  Triple precaution for the hatches are a good thing.  Imagine losing one somewhere out on the great big ocean!

The day hold is next. I load and unload it several times before figuring out where to put what. I want the emergency bag with Epirb right under the hatch cover. I also want to be able to reach my camera, phone, or the fully loaded first aid kit that I didn’t mention on yesterday’s list either.

I get it done and then secure this hatch which is flush with Abbie B’s deck. The lid is round and has open and close written on it along with little arrows that will line up with arrows on the ring lid fits into. I don’t have to screw the lid on, just drop it in, turn it to close and it will snap shut. I open it by aligning the open arrows and pull it out. This lid has a tether integral to its design, and being flush with the deck there is no need for straps.

Just for fun, I attach and orient the deck compass, clip the maps to the line across the bow right in front of the cockpit.  I clip the paddle float, bilge pump and sponge to deck lines behind the Abbie B’s cockpit. The spare paddle blades are secured under the aft hatches straps. No other equipment will be on deck.  I don’t want to lose stuff to the ocean and I want the sea to be able to wash over Abbie B unhindered.

Where did the time go?  It’s almost two thirty and I need to leave by three to get to Portland’s East End. I also want to be ready to go before Sally and Ned arrive. They are doing a turn around trip and will be returning to New Hampshire once I’m on the water. They shouldn’t have to help me carry and ready Abbie B too.

I unload Abbie B and decide to back the van up, rather than haul everything to it.  Uh, Oh! The won’t start. I’d left the key in the “on” position for the past four hours. Thankfully, Fred is around and has a battery charger to start the van with.  Whew, that was close.

I go back to the beach room for the last time and toss all extraneous stuff into the half empty bin. I’m finally making my final trip to the van.

What Abbie B looks like when loaded

Abbie B and Me, Day 2

I awaken having not rested but that’s okay.  The crazy night is part of my vacation with the key word being vacation.  Things that rob me of sleep at home add to the pile of stress as the next day progresses with its own challenges and concerns.   The tension pile away from everyday life is much different as there is little to build on and the things that do find their way to it, have a short life span. This is nice in that the disruptions that do occur are easy to let go of.  One of the many benefits a vacation provides.

The wind is still blowing but it’s only 8 knots which is a bit over 9 mph.  Camp is efficiently taken down.  Everything is stuffed into their sacks except the tent as I have yet to change.  Last night was warm so my I wore a short sleeve shirt and shorts, which should not be worn on the cold Atlantic.  The water temperature (temp) is fifty eight degrees.  This temp may sound chilly,  but it’s not.  It is downright cold and dangerous!  [Water robs the body of heat thirty times faster than air and treading water will reduce survival by fifty percent.  I don’t remember what site I found these facts from but I highly recommend watching this video and Check out the site for tons of cold water info and instruction ]  I change into paddle clothing from inside the tent, take it down, roll and stuff it in a sack too.  The tide is two hours from top so Abbie B is not far from the water.  I decide to load and drag her to the sea from where she is.

My biggest challenge is keeping the sand out of Abbie B’s holds.  Very little gets in but  Abbie B’s hatches are a different story.  The sand is dry but is behaving as though it is wet by sticking to and within the lip to the fore and aft holds and inside the threads to the day hold.  I swipe it with my fingers with little results.  Ding! ding! ding! Use the sponge.  It’ll squish to form and do the job and it does.  But I fail at getting the majority of sand out of the clips to the straps that run over top of the holds.  I rec-clip the sponge to the deck line and try blowing the sand out of the clips and then apply significant force.  A gritty snap, snap secures each one but the salt and sand stiffened straps are difficult to tighten.  Getting ready to go is taking forever.  I definitely have to come up with a better system!  But, she is ready to go and I drag her to the edge of the water.

Although, it seems late because of how long it took to get ready to go.  The time is six am.  The water outside of my protective cove looks rough.  I know that it is even more so than it looks.  I studied a lot throughout my preparations for this trip and The book, Sea Kayaker Deep Trouble, by Matt Broze and George Gonseth shares several stories of disaster due to the misjudgment of water conditions.  I decide to add my 7 mm dive hood to my paddle wear.  I am decked out in long underwear top and bottom, a long sleeve chafe shirt with 2 mm neoprene, 5 mm farmer john suit, 7 mm boots, 3 mm gloves, a dry top and a Snapdragon spray skirt.  I bought a full dry suit that was on sale but need to lose a few more inches to fit more comfortably inside it.

I launch Abbie B between my legs as before, quickly sit on the back of her cockpit combing, slide in and secure spray skirt.  I have a lightweight graphite feather bladed paddle and put it to use by pulling Abbie B and me over the surf.  We head out through the safest exit from the protection of the island to cover the mile between Richmond Island and Crescent Beach.  Oh, boy, the tide is bringing in large swells with some that break from the east and the wind is still out of the south pushing piles of water behind me.  I’m glad that I know the area well as there are lots of rocks and some ledges dotted throughout the area.

I work at threading my way away from them but still make a landing either at Crescent or in Kettle Cove which is next to it.  This is no easy task for avoiding capsizing in which practicing rolls specifically with Abbie B was my reason for going to Richmond.  There’s weather coming and I need to get back to the mainland!

I’m very busy keeping a vigilant eye in two directions as the incoming tide is from the east bringing breaking waves with it.  A mere five feet are between them while the south wind pushes piles of water from behind.  Sweep, pry, a few small sculling and hard forward strokes are my best weapons.  I’m finding the most difficult part of this crossing to be keeping myself off seal rocks.  The sea is becoming “confused” out here in the middle and it’s all I can do just to keep myself from being hit broadside, especially from the large incoming swells.  Abbie B is responding well but we are slowly being pushed toward seal rocks and are encountering the outskirts of rebounding waves.

I turn into the tide often, stroking hard to edge us up over and turn a bit this and that way according to the breaks and the sneaky piles from behind.  I guess I’m getting some real practice with Abbie B, except for rolls and I hope not to have to do so.  We’d make it fine.  I just don’t have the confidence I’d like because of only having Abbie B a week and a half before vacation. We didn’t have much time together and only one day of practicing getting back in after a wet exit.

Two hours fly by feeling more like thirty minutes and we are almost there.  I want to get into Kettle Cove where there would be no surf to land in but the rocks which form the cove are preventing me from doing so.  I certainly am not going out again to try and make it.  I see a quiet space in a small area right where Crescent and the west side of Kettle Cove meet and head for it.

I welcome the landing but have a little bit of a time getting out.  I worked so hard in one position that my legs , especially with a problematic knee, are refusing fluid movement.  My skirt is off and I move my legs a bit inside the cockpit while doing a partial “chair” lift a couple of times.  I feel secure now and push myself into a sitting position on the back of the cockpit, splay my legs stand up and guide Abbie B back between them.  I walk her through the light surf over to the boat ramp area and drag her fully loaded part way there.

Once again, I receive some strange looks as I walk with all my paddling gear on except for my gloves and dive hood.  The van is waiting for me in the lot by Kettle Cove from where I drive her down, load it and secure Abbie B on the top.

Clear Stream Custom Watercraft

I want to make it clear that Dan C. of Clear Stream Custom Watercraft did the majority of the work building Abbie B. Click Link to learn more about Clear Stream Custom Watercraft

I spent hours studying how Greenland Style Kayaks are made, learning a slew of terms, measuring and layout systems and mathematical equations utilizing a lot of coefficients that I don’t care to figure out. I never liked math!  I did my best to sketch something that showed the lines I was looking for in a sea kayak.  The results were pathetic because I can’t draw worth beans, even with graph paper!

I finally met with Dan at his home where I had a ball working out the initial design.  In spite of my awful sketches, Dan recognized a similarity to Kenneth Taylor’s Illorsuit (1959) and the Nordkapp Anas Acuta.   We ended up going with the Illorsuit.

I’ve never experienced CAAD technology before and boy could Dan make changes quickly.  He has a quick mind and knows his stuff.  We had a rough idea of the direction to head in after that first session.  Dan did the rest of the renderings with comparisons to several other kayaks including easy to read spec charts. a sent them to me via e-mail.  We went through three stages of renders to come up with the Matinicus Rock 175 design.  I’ll add here that Dan grew tired of calling it Judy Kayak.  I beat my brains out to find a name.  I’m terrible at decorating and naming something is a lot like decorating.

A friend loaned me Bill Caldwell’s, Islands of Maine which is an excellent read.  The final decision for the design as Matinicus Rock 175 is because I liked the story of Abbie Burgess which is why my kayak is named Abbie B.  Click to see more information
There were discussions and suggestions as to the actual construction of Abbie B. My original plan was to build a Skin On Frame kayak because the cost would be low. I ended up going all out with a hybrid and even adding Kevlar to the hull. Dan’s questions encouraged me to think about future uses of my kayak. A Skin On Frame certainly wouldn’t go the distance. This is why I ended up with a hybrid, wood hull with skin on frame deck. It offered some challenges for hatch placement and rigging but these were easily dealt with. I had to do a lot of extra work and sell some things to pay the extra costs but it was well worth the sacrifice.

Designing and Building Abbie B is in now in my most remarkable experiences history “book”. She is the catalyst for finishing the fulfillment of my dream to build a boat in the future. The plan is to build a Skin On Frame kayak on my own or with a friend without power tools. I’m not certain as to when this will take place but it will be within a few years.

Building Abbie B Photos

Twenty Days At Sea

The kayak has been a stranger to me for most of my life. which is a long time. I’ve always paddled a canoe and loved it in every respect and more than any other type of boat. This changed several years ago when a friend dressed me in neoprene, sealed me in the cockpit of a small kayak and gave me a push. We paddled across a gentle sea to Richmond Island in Cape Elizabeth Maine.

I enjoyed traipsing all over the island with my friend. Its history was interesting and so was investigating the present state of a very lovely space on this fair earth. But I have to admit that I couldn’t wait to be back in the kayak out on a sliver of the sea. It was rolling into the harbor without a hint of breeze, a life unto itself. The wonder of this new world took a firm hold on my soul. The kayak followed the movement of the water as it was lifted atop a swell, where I would paddle along its spine a bit before sliding down between it and the next one. There was a oneness that intensified the mystique of the kayak and I was smitten with the need to be a part of it.

[I remember that time in every detail and kept its memory to fan the flames from mere embers into a full-fledged fire.]

December of 2013 was when I began to physically create a place for those embers to burn and fire grew until a kayak was built and then placed on the sea for a maiden voyage September 15th 2014. I was asked to write something for the town’s local paper once the kayak was built and before taking her to sea. The following is what I wrote and was printed in Randolph, New Hampshire’s Mountain View.
Building Abbie B

I’ve dreamed of restoring an old boat, or building one, since I was 16 years old. I’d spent a great deal of time on boats that year, especially sailing with my neighbors from Isle La Motte Vermont, where I learned to sail several small boats and took the helm of a much larger vessel. These experiences reinforced that desire.

My Michigan background was surrounded with many lakes and ponds besides the “Great” ones. I often ran my hands over old wooden boats, tracing the ribs of old row boats, and dreaming of getting them back in the water. Old boats are beautiful. I see them as they were and for what they can be.
I sold my Wenonah Jensen 17′ canoe a few years ago and missed being on the water. Fred B. changed this when he put me in a kayak and we paddled out to Richmond Island, Maine. It was my first time in a kayak and only my second time on the ocean. I was hooked.

Marie B. helped me buy a recreational kayak for my birthday last year. I removed pieces and added others to make it as sea worthy as possible and then took her out for almost 3 weeks, traveling among the islands closest to shore in the Casco Bay area of Maine. By the time I returned, I knew what I wanted in a kayak.
Those ideas lay dormant until chatting with Lincoln R. last January. He put me in touch with Dan who is a master designer and builder of kayaks.

And so, began the process and research for understanding and building a kayak. Scrap paper bore out much scribbling and rough drawings as I worked out the lines I was looking for. These many pages became the launching point for the design of what is now Matinicus Rock 175 and the Abbie B. The name comes from Matinicus Rock Lighthouse off the coast of Maine. I adopted this name from the history of Abbie Burgess. She is one of the most famous lighthouse keepers along the Atlantic seaboard. Hence, Abbie B is the name of my kayak.

The process of building has been most amazing. I learned so much about the minutia and art of creating a beautiful boat. I also experienced an idea born out of a childhood fantasy into today’s reality.
I looked forward to the days of early departures, riding from Randolph to West Milan on my bike. Dan lives and builds beautifully functioning kayaks in his basement there. It has been and still is a pleasure to know Dan, to have him work with me, and get to know his family.
Abbie B is a hybrid kayak. Her hull is made from okoume marine plywood, covered with Kevlar and painted white. The skin is made of 4 oz aircraft Dacron, covered with fiberglass and painted “John Deere” yellow. red Cedar makes up the bulkheads, combing for the cockpit, and other miscellaneous part of her fuselage.
I look forward with great anticipation to taking Abbie B out for a three-week vacation. I’ll be exploring the lovely coast of Maine while visiting and sleeping on the many islands that adorn her coastline. I hope to do this each year until I’ve covered the coast from Casco Bay on up to the Bay of Fundy. After that, we will have a chance to go on a long trip of a couple of months, somewhere. But, this is another dream and I must wait until such a time presents itself, just like the Matinicus Rock 175 and Abbie B.

I’ve had dreams since I was young. I’ve listened to their call.
And lived amongst and within them.
They were and are a wonderful place to visit.

Dreams inspire imagination. They call out to the soul.
Saying, I can be more, much more!

I run my hands over Abbie B.  My fingers trace her lines.
I will take to the sea and beyond.
                                                        ~ Judy Owen September 3rd 2014

Abbie B Gallery Photos in next post