It's been a wet and windy start to the kayaking season up here on Deer Isle and we seem to have woken up to more than a few mornings where the fog sometimes sits like a wet blanket on the sea. Stories of mariners finding themselves fogbound on the Maine coast are rife - the coastal fog we see here at this time of the year is advective fog where, even as temperatures rise through the day, moisture continues to condense over the cold water and so doesn't burn off as it does south of here where the water is not as cold.
Kayaking in fog is a challenge which we usually avoid. That said, it's truly an experience to be on the water with the magical effect that fog has. Eerie island coastlines... islands suddenly appearing out of mist...the silence - avoid it, yes, but who would want to miss it? Navigation is made easier here by the proximity of the islands in the archipelago, each island is generally no more than one and half miles from its neighbor and usually much less. Even so, kayaking in fog takes experience and should only be done with training and with the right equipment - compasses, charts, foghorn and VHF radio. See 'Book of the Month' below for more about sea kayak navigation in fog.
Shown above is a bank of advective fog which persisted throughout the day and became thicker as the tide came in.
Also shown in the above photo is that long stretch of low tide mud which brings to mind another feature of paddling along the Maine coast - the effects of tide. I recently heard a story about out-of-town kayakers who were transported along with kayaks by motorboat to one of the Merchant Islands. The plan was for them to be picked up a few hours later after an afternoon's paddling. Apparently they were not familiar with the tides we get here, which run anywhere from 9 to 13 feet depending on moon phase and other factors. Some time after the drop-off a lobster boat picked up some kayaks floating without paddlers - apparently they had neglected to take account of the tide while exploring an island on foot. Their kayaks, which were parked on a beach at the waters edge, had floated off when the tide came in. Fortunately, the kayakers were picked up by motorboat some time later, somewhat the wiser.
But tide is also what makes it interesting out here...at low tide on islands hidden, sandy beaches are miraculously exposed - great for exploring as are intertidal rock-pools teeming with a variety plant and animal life... sponges and seaweeds ...shellfish, crabs, anemones etc etc. Between tides, water is rising or falling at its fastest rate - as much as three feet an hour. At high tide you have the advantage of being able to park the kayaks without any risk of them disappearing on the tide. Tide charts are available online - we make a point of planning the day around the tides. And we always remember to park our kayaks well above the waters edge on an incoming tide!
Special Offer in July:
The special offer for returning kayakers which we announced last time is still in place. If you've paddled with us before and book a multi-day trip for any time in July, you're eligible for a free night's stay w/ breakfast (a $95 value) before the trip. Wake up on the morning of your trip refreshed and ready to go with no traveling involved. Call us at 617-957-8802 to reserve this special deal.
Goings-on: Stonington Lobster
Historically, there have been just two industries in Stonington and Deer Isle - granite cutting and also, of course, fishing. Today, lobster fishing and related activities such as aquaculture of clams and oysters and tourism are now the dominant activities here on the island.
Evidence of granite workings can be seen out on the islands where discarded blocks of granite along shorelines show where stone was loaded onto barges for transfer to the town for shaping and then for shipping south to major cities - Boston, New York, Philadelphia. Today, just one island - Crotch Island has an active granite mining concern and 'low impact' tourism has largely replaced activities around granite mining and cutting as a source of income for residents of Stonington and Deer Isle.
'Traditional' fishing - for groundfish cod, halibut and flounder and larger offshore fish like tuna and swordfish has been replaced by fishing for crustaceans - lobster, crab, sea urchin and others. Lobster fishing is by far the dominant of these and the islands are surrounded with literally thousands of multicolored markers for lobster traps and 'going lobstering' is how many of year-round residents make a living. Year-to-year lobster populations are variable and there is some new evidence that the number of young lobsters in the area is falling.
According to the website from the University of Maine Darling Marine Center, the American Lobster Settlement Index (ALSI) tracks the number of newly settled lobsters that repopulate rocky coastal nursery grounds in New England and Atlantic Canada. Keeping track of this part of the life history is useful since it measures the strength of an individual year class. and is useful as a predictor of future trends in lobster recruitment.
A recent ALSI update from the Wahle Lab at the Darling Marine Center, reports that recoveries of growing young lobsters are the lowest they have been for twenty or more years. This is in spite of the fact that the number of egg bearing lobsters has increased. The reasons for this are not clear but could be due to increased predation of larval lobsters or a decrease in their food quality or availability. For more insight into tracking of lobster populations, visit the Wahle website.
Book of the Month: "Sea Kayak Navigation" by Franco Ferraro
Subtitled 'A Practical Manual. Essential Knowledge for Finding Your Way at Sea', this is fantastic little book written by a Level 5 BCU coach and which, as you'd expect, is packed with information about tides, maps and charts, compass and also handheld GPS. It includes strategies for crossing open stretches of water, how to use land features for positioning, how to incorporate distance estimation into trip planning and how to navigate in fog. Written primarily for expedition kayakers, it is also useful for day paddlers and explains in simple terms how you can add another level of safety and enjoyment into day trip planning.