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The Birthday Paddle

I was in Lubec, Maine, a town billed as the easternmost town in the United States. Standing at the public launch, I could look past a bridge over the narrows between Lubec and Carobello Island, which is part of Canada. Mister Cowgirl and I would later debate the point of Canada maintaining a customs office on the island.

I’d come up to Maine to assist with a sea leader course, arriving just after the last day of an advanced sea leader course. Some people were staying the entire two weeks; I saw familiar faces for both courses, and I met people new to me. The drive had been long, but after a good night’s sleep I was well-rested; everyone else took the day off to relax, so I went for a paddle on what happened to be my birthday.

After consulting a local atlas, I planned a trip north. For my purposes it would be a bit of a challenge on the way back, but I figured I could get up to the northern end of Cobscook Bay, to the west of Eastport, and then come back with a bit of extra effort and the beginning of the ebb tide. What I didn’t figure in was how soon I would want to be back, and when I told people I’d be back, which was important as a solo paddler, first time in these waters.

Conditions were frankly quite mild, but having discussed with several folks who’d been there the prior week, it was easy to get caught out behind the tidal currents and have, at best, a hard time returning.

Birthday Paddle
My wee boat.

I set out from the public boat launch in Lubec, bear the narrows separating the United States from Canada. The tidal height variation here is about sixteen feet, meaning it rises and drops more than a foot per hour.

I headed north, past Treat Island, and then towards Moose Island. The skies were clear and there was negligible wind; I passed a fish farm or two and practiced locating myself using chart and compass. Unlike an urban environment, there aren’t a lot of tall, very obvious landmarks by which to handrail navigation.

I wish I had interesting photos, but believe me when I tell you it was a lovely paddle, even though I didn’t come across anything spectacular. Being there alone, in waters I’ never paddled, was sublime in itself.

Birthday Paddle
Rockweed in Cobscook Bay.

At one point a flock of birds flew by, their wingtips slapping the water like the thundering of hooves. Later, another flock, a different kind of bird, crossed before my bow, their wings so loud that it sounded like a set of fans whirring.

I might have seen an eagle at one point, swooping at the water before returning to its perch in a tree.

When I returned, I noticed seagulls clambering quite loudly over one of the fish farms, hoping to get in.

Birthday Paddle
Pausing in Cobscook Bay.

Returning, I faced a conundrum of non-trivial current against me. I paddled close to shore and looked for eddies to use, there weren’t many. I had expected to have some current helping me between Eastport and Treat, but owing to my trying to get back early than my tidal plan, I had to work steadily to make progress.

Eventually I arrived at the north side of Dudley Island. I had a choice to make as the current flowed from the narrows, against the direction I wanted to go. If I went left, I’d buck tide directly in the current, but it was the more direct route. If I went right, I’d end up in more of a ferry glide back to Lubec, less direct but dealing with less current.

I went right and actually managed to charge ahead in a more or less straight line, arriving a bit west of my landing point, but in the eddy which also served as a marina. I got off the water and had a snack, then loaded up.

While I noshed, I noticed the current had changed in the direction; now it flowed in what would have been a favorable direction. It wasn’t even twenty minutes later.

Altogether this was about eleven miles roundtrip, at a leisurely pace in the beginning and a challenge pace at the end.

Published in British Canoeing Kayaking Sea

2 Comments

  1. Richard Weinberg Richard Weinberg

    Sounds amazing, and I am curious how strong the current was with a 16′ tide. Did you see a tidal bore wave?

    • kayakcowgirl kayakcowgirl

      Not per se, but inland a bit there is a reversing falls at Falls Island. I went there one day and we navigated down the eastern edge, playing features on the flood, before arriving at the reversing falls and having a bit of play. The entire area is rich with tidal currents, lending a variety of challenge levels and activities.

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