July 24, 2015
It was finally happening. The final push on our trip that we started fifteen years ago. We met at Cousins Island and loaded up a car for the drive to the putin at the boat ramp in Brunswick, ME. Our goal was to paddle back to Cousins following ancient canoe routes down the coast. Our goal for the day was to paddle out to Merrymeeting Bay and camp on Bird Island.
Now part of our plan was to sail as much as possible and the wind shifted and we quickly set up sails and off we went. I had spent a fair amount of time rigging up a rudder for the Disco and it had worked in a test run but with all of the weight I had the rudder was too narrow and couldn't handle it so I had to resort back to using my paddle. Before we could set up sails though Hal had to modify his mast thwart, seemed to have shrunk or something. Leatherman's are good for something I guess.
|Grinding out the mast thwart|
Woke up to what else but rain! Both Hal and I were a little groggy from our beverages but had a nice breakfast and coffee out of the Almighty Coffee Pot, a companion for many years now. Something odd did happen though while it was perking, it wasn't. I took the lid off and the stem where the water shoots up was clogged which was very odd as this had never happened before and I always wash it completely before storing it away. I used a stick to clean it out and it wasn't long before we had a cup of hot joe.
We packed up and put in as the confluence of the Andro and the Kennebec was just around a point. Holy Crap, the Kennebec was cranking out to sea but as we rounded the point the headwind was slamming us in the face. A typical day for Scooter and Hal except this was a very strong headwind which against the out going tide made for some interesting waters.
We ran through the Chops, the Chops being a narrowing in the Kennebec where the waters can get crazy from what we've been told and read, with no problem but all of a sudden I was feeling a bit shaky. I caught up with Hal and he looks at me and says he feels like he's going to hurl! I said Puke! Yeah, you stupid shit, whatta think it means! I was starting to feel down right crappy. At one point I looked over my shoulder to see where Hal was and thought I'd fall in! Something just wasn't right. With a lot of work we made it to a boat ramp just above Bath and took a break. Hal was looking pretty bad and my legs were shaking and I felt like crap. Remember that clogged coffee maker? After some discussion we could only think something unhealthy got into it and was the culprit.
Hal relieved his stomach while I kept feeling worse and worse. We stopped in Bath and got some water and Rolaids and kept going heading for the Winnigance Portage. Below Bath Boat Works we veered river right to Winnegance and away from the Kennebec. The stream leading in was low so we waited out the tide and slowly made our way in to it where we were suppose to cross under a bridge. As we sat there twiddling our thumbs I looked over and said to Hal that it wasn't a bridge but a dam! Oh man, if I could have gotten a picture of Hal's face it would have been priceless!
|Sitting in Winnegance Stream waiting for the tide|
|The damned bridge|
|Hal looking for an opening on the Winnegance|
|Pushing out. The whole shoreline was floating bog stuff|
July 26, 2015
We started to break camp and load up and decided our alternatives were to go back to the dam and do a portage there or look for an opening in this mess. We spent a fair amount of time poking here and there following leads that were dead ends. We'd push a cattail island to make headway only to have it block right where we came from! It was amazing but frustrating.
In the end we fought through the floaters onto land where a couple of locals were watching us. They told us these things float around with the wind and often block this narrow section. Sometimes they'll hook into them with their john boats with motors and drag them out, sometimes use ice cutting saws to cut them up and move them around. It was clear we weren't going to make it which was crazy because from this gentleman's house we could see clear water not to far off.
So instead of the ancient trail we had to resort to a portage cart/road portage, about two miles worth. I will honest it was bear for me pushing my boat and gear up hill and needed help a couple of times. I'm getting old and am not in the best of shape but we made it. We found Indian Carry Rd and stopped there as across the road was the exit for the Winnegance Portage.
|Part of the Winnegance Portage|
Our next chore was to finish the portage down to New Meadows River. One more hill and then we were there but it was low tide. We opted to carry our gear to a sandy section and lowered our canoes down a set of stairs. We were now on the New Meadows River in Winnegance Cove and had to make our way out to the main course. Of course there was a headwind but once we got out into the mainstream it would be either a quartering wind or tailwind plus the tide was in our favor. We tucked into an eddie and Hal looked over his Maine Island Book and we decided to head for Merritt Island instead of Doughty Point. We needed a dry out afternoon. We ended up basically paddling as little as possible and let the wind and the current take us up to the island. The sun was up and hot, the weather gods were with us for the moment, cause ya know this is Scooter and Hal and they constantly seem to frown on us and we just enjoyed the moment.
|Hal heading out to the main channel|
|Damn, a nice day!|
|Hal making headway on the New Meadows River|
July 27, 2015
We wanted an early start to catch the tides right and get through Gurnet Straight Bridge without fighting the current. It was an absolutely beautiful morning with little or no breeze. Going through Gurnet was no problem but we did miss a turn and paddled down a dead end which was another sweet place and was kind of a bonus. No camps or houses, only solitude. It was well worth the extra time and miles spent.
We were now in Harpswell Sound and we had a portage ahead of us at Clark's Cove. To be honest it was a perfect day to paddle. We had the current with a mild headwind but that just cooled one and wasn't a chore. We passed a lot of beautiful and interesting scenery.
|Hole in the wall|
|One of the locals checking us out|
|There's more then one way to move a canoe!|
With the thunderstorm gone we finished our portage and put in for a crossing on Middle Bay to the Gosling Islands where we'd spend our last night on the trip. I think I surprised Hal when I said lets just paddle from point A to point B which was in big open water, something that scares the hell out of me.
|OK, I just liked this!|
|Hal the Portage Boy|
|Hal Paddles Away From Our Last Portage|
|Sunset On the Goslings|
|Cousins Island, the Final Destination and the End of the Trail|
July 28, 2015
Our final day on this journey found us up fairly early as we had a big crossing and wanted to beat any winds. I believe it was about five or six miles we had to do. Our day began with a sunrise that was almost inspirational.
Hal's final paddle strokes to the finale. Quite the journey for a couple of dubs who knew next to nothing when the started.
|Hal's Final Approach|
When we talked about this final push I insisted on using the boats we started in and did but I never heard the end of that for these are heavy boats. Well, Hal's ol' Hand Basket that he started with was worn down over the years but he did finish in an Explorer. I finished in my Disco, the Hogged Backed Saint and it nearly killed me. I have gotten older, weaker and she is still a hefty eighty pounds or so despite my efforts to drag as much off her as I could over the years. The Saint has been my tripping boat for more years and miles then I can count but after this trip I've decided to retire her. She was almost pristine when I bought her but now has more scars then a couple of hospitals combined. My last chore was to do the final off load and heave ho up the shore. She'll still see some waters but nothing like this ever again. I tip one to you my dear old friend!
The Adventures of Scooter and Hal. Fifteen years in the making following ancient canoe routes from the St. Lawrence Seaway to the coast of Maine by canoe.
|Hal de Gullboise|
|Scooter and Hal, photo by Robin Hopkinson|