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.
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.