I capture a few more images before returning to the west side of the island.
Like a child, as all adults should be, I search your face for clues. Who are you? Where did you come from?
How long will you stay?
I lie beside you, resting on one arm. Look at that!
I poke you with my finger, nothing happens.
Hmm, are you sleeping?
I stretch out on your other side as full and long as I can.
My feet want to be at one end and my head at the other, but I don’t make it. You are too big and I am too small.
I crawl on my knees from one end to the other. I gaze across your top, to see the world as you do.
The palm of my hand brushes your back.
I feel the smoothness of your ruff.
The Monarch’s cross the sea
to feed on these.
Goldenrod and Milkweed.
I wish to show you sunrise, a view to the south, the shoring of the berm a top the “itshmus”, and a little snack before I head back to camp.
Yup, I’m still eating Rose Hips. Great stuff. Now, back to camp.
Enought pondering of the workmen on boats. I want to do some exploring while the tide is out. I walk over to where my “isthmus” is located and find that the majority of the west side is mudflat. I try walking amidst the smooth cordgrass (spartina alterniflora) to keep from sinking. The plan fails, Yuck!
I discover familiar scenes at the top of “isthmus” and along its eastern side. The broken and forgotten.
I’ve returned from my wind wanderings and found that there a myriad of stories that I could share. I’m also sure that nearly all of my readers have their own stories as well. Some that are funny and others that a scary. For me tornadoes fall into the scary category. However, I’m also attracted to being near them and have been visited by a few. I grew up in what is called, “Tornado Alley” in the state of Michigan. The area has spawned many a tornado or other severe weather to support this claim. In fact, one of the most devastating tornadoes in U.S. history (listing of top 10) is the 1953 F-5 Beecher-Flint Michigan tornado that cut a 27 mile long swath. It came within 8 miles of the home I grew up in. My grandmother saved the newspapers that covered the tragedy. I read and re-read them over and over again. The stories fascinated me as well as adding growth to my quest for understanding people. A tornado leaves in its wake a war-like environment: pain, suffering, unrecognizable loved ones both dead and alive, heroism and its opposite. It takes years to get over such an event. And for some, there is no getting “over” it. Click for info and photos
The sea spawns tornadoes and worse too. These events have to do with waterspouts and hurricanes. Waterspouts are divided into two categories, fair weather and tornadic. Fair weather ones form beneath developing cumulus clouds from the surface of the sea and build upward, where it reaches maturity and peters out. Tornadic waterspouts are tornadoes on water, often developing on land before moving over the water. These are treated as dangerous and are associated with severe storms, hail, high winds, large seas, and lightning. See for source material and more information.
Hurricanes form over the equator which is the reason that they are fist labeled as a tropical storm. These form when warm moist air rises at a rate that leaves a heightened low pressure area at the surface of the ocean. High pressure above sends air down, which forms more warm moist air that rises . This scenario repeats itself over and over. Eventually, the cloud formation spins and develops an eye. The eye works as a funnel for the high pressure air flowing downward. The factors that move a hurricane are global winds, heightened high and low pressure systems, beta drift (due to the Coriolis Force), the jet stream, gulf stream, wind shear, and a few more items. Click here for source and more information.
Now, that I’m loaded with all of this information, I grab the VHF and have a listen. The forecast creates a need to adjust my schedule. It says that by early tomorrow afternoon rain and possible thunderstorms will move in. My plan is to paddle all the way to Crow Island (Harpswell), but I wouldn’t make it by noon. Bangs Island is much closer and on my list of islands to visit. I’ll head there but Abbie B and me will have to leave early for a comfortable voyage and to arrive before noon. Fine with me.
I am now ready for the great outdoors and unzip the tent door and do my little spin maneuver to exit. I have a knee injury that has healed quite well except for possible meniscus damage, making the knee impossible to close or accept downward pressure. It’s taken awhile to develop a technique for entering and exiting the tent. I have it down now. I don’t even have to think about it. Roll onto side, make fist with each hand and put weight on them, bend healthy knee and sort of fold the other a bit, spin while moving body out the door and come to stand via pushing against hands and the knee of the good leg. Stand and straighten injured leg. I should have been a gymnast!
The wind has steadied and the tide is is three hours past it’s six hours high. I walk the shore as best as possible exploring rocks and fauna, gazing at the intersection of the ocean and island at as many points as possible. Boy, I’m really glad that I didn’t try to circumnavigate this island under the conditions of the day I landed and certainly not today either.
I find a duck and sit next to him. He allows me to pet and speak to him. However, I can’t understand anything he says and he’s heard a lot. He’s made of dry wood and wood records sound. I sit and stare at the wooden figure. I imagine myself listening to his stories and enjoying a yarn or two. I bet it would be an all-nighter.
I finally let go of the sea and head to the tent. There, I change into something warmer. The VHF radio is to my right but I stop myself from reaching for it. Why do I have to know what the reported conditions are a this moment? Let it go. I lie down inside the tent and close my eyes. Thoughts of what I’ve been witnessing as to the rising tide infiltrate my mind. I see sailing vessels of all shapes and sizes hightailing it to the nearest haven of safety. They aren’t running from the tide. It’s the wind, which is offshore as usual during this time of day. My, my, it is in a hurry expanding its strength, becoming highly focused and more intense with each passing moment. What is fueling it? I reach for the radio once more and stop myself. . . Let it go.
It is easier to close my eyes this time and even more so to stop thinking, wanting to know what’s going on in detail. There ya go. Breathe. Be gentle. A few moments pass or maybe more than that. I don’t know nor do I care. It’s just how it feels to me and that’s important. I hear the waves tumble and see white foam exploding against the dark blue and greenish liquid upon which they ride.
I want to go out and play, like I’ve done so many times. Oh, how I love the water. I love everything about it. I like being in it, immersed in its reality. I have a healthy respect for all bodies of water but I am not afraid. My favorite game is to wait for the action and the bigger the better and then put on a life jacket and swim away from shore. It’s hard work reaching a special place out in such mayhem. One so far out that everything on land looks very, very, small (As a youngster, the “far” for me frightened many an adult.). I always smile when the time comes to fold my arms across my chest and lean back, allowing the force of nature to carry me back to shore.
Right now, I’m on an island surrounded by an excited sea. I paddled here inside a craft that sits so low in the water that my lower half is beneath its surface. The rest of me barely reaches above the height of buoys that mark lobster traps. I sense how small I am and how big the world is through a lens far different of that of a hiker humbled by the wind on a mountain or cycling against some pretty nifty headwind for miles and miles on very flat land, or in a canoe not far from where the wind dropped to the ground in the form of a tornado.
More tomorrow for now I must rest among memories about the wind rather than water. I’ll share where I wander upon my return.
I have no idea what time it is nor do I care. Suffice it to say that I find it a hindrance like dragging around a ball and chain. I am using time on this trip for only the prediction of tide and weather. Ah, the compromises one has to make.
I take my leave of the Punchbowl and head for camp. A thick stand of Rose rugosa, “Beach Rose” is along my route. They are considered an obnoxious weed in the United States. It grows with gusto robbing space and nutrients from native plants. According to Wikipedia, Rose rugosa was introduced to America in 1845 and the first report of Rose rugosa far from where it was introduced occurred in 1899 on Nantucket Island. Presently, the plant has overtaken the shores and islands of New England States. Wikipedia Source
I’m happy to see them at the moment because I’m hungry. Goodness, my meager diet is already becoming a nuisance. I want flavorful food and more of it. But for now, I’m happy to feast on some Rose Hips. I pick a few and eat them where I stand, careful not to consume too many at one time. I learn that the pulp and seed are filling, quieting the voice of hunger.
[There isn’t much to the rose hip as it mostly pulp and seeds. However, it is extremely healthy providing vitamins A and C, plus Calcium and other nutrients. Click for more info.]
The hunger I am starting to experience reminds me of my first hike of the Appalachian Trail, click for info. I thought I’d done a good job preparing food for this hike. A lot of research was done, including food logistics. The information turned out to be woefully lacking and hunger became an entity in itself . His character was single minded, intrusive, demanding, and the instigator of dreams. One dream focused on the value of food – I own a pick-up truck and in the dream I had taken it to a garage to be worked on. When the owner asked for payment, I opened the back, reached in and pulled out four loaves of home-made bread and gave it to him. Another dream was about eating. It contained every detail of me making a chocolate cake. Much of the time focused on spreading a heap of creamy chocolate frosting. I was very slowly laying it on in fancy swirls. Then, I cut a large piece from the cake and right when I was about to take a bite, my hiking partner woke me up. Boy, was I mad! and felt like punching her at the time.
I pass the last of the WWII remnants, two cement slabs waiting for barracks which were never built. A few strides lead me into a thicket of trees and shrubs. They provide an edge or line which divides one world from another, land and sea. I stand a moment and then proceed until finding a place to watch the incoming tide bury the treacherous rocks of the Punchbowl a.k.a. The Devil’s Punchbowl.
I certainly understand the reason behind such a name. Any vessel would meet its demise while landing here. One so covert that captains, helmsmen and crew, would be lost to the sea. Those who survive watch their ship being torn, ripped and smashed into tiny pieces. They are shocked. Shaken to the bone. Legends and lore come to life, spreading rumors of ghosts and sinister forces.
It isn’t so today. The sun is shining. Its light shimmering across the waters. A cool breeze mixes with warm air. My eyes are closed. Hands laced behind my head. Comfortably seated in an extraordinary place. I am at rest.
Later, much later, I rise and walk down to the water.
Wavelets splash the shore.
Ripples gently break.
Now standing beneath them asking,
Where is this one from?
Was it a far and distant land?
Was it an island or an atoll?
Possibly the Horn of Africa,
Or something much closer.
Did someone stand as I am?
Did she ask the same questions?
If we could see each other,
Would we say hello and wave?
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.
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.