A Family Adventure


Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Biddeford Pool

August 1, 2020
Emilie Phillips

We returned to Saco Maine for a second kayaking trip. I thought we might paddle to East Point, and maybe poke our noses around the tip to see the seals on Beach Island. Tyson suggested we check out Biddeford Pool. It was just past high tide, so we should find critters. The Pool was on the way to East Point, so we decided to stop there first.

Isaac wet exiting with a spray skirt

Before we could go anywhere, we needed to safety check Isaac in his new spray skirt. (A spray skirt, for those who don’t know, is a skirt that seals the paddler to the boat, keeping the water out.) I had sewn the skirt from spare ripstop nylon fabric and some bungee cord. I didn’t have a pattern, so I shaped it like a tube with some flare at the bottom. It mostly works. It pops off readily because there isn’t quite enough flare front to back. I also wish I knew how to attach a bungee to itself without a giant knot. If I find time, I’ll make a better one.

With the spray skirt on, Isaac was again worried before doing a wet exit. What if he couldn’t hold his breath long enough to pull the spray skirt off? Eventually, Tyson convinced him to try. It went fine. Then Tyson flipped Isaac over as a surprise. Isaac kept his head to his front deck and did his best wet exit yet.

Leaving Saco

The tide had dropped several feet when we left the beach. We cut across the submerged southern breakwater and then pointed straight for Biddeford Pool, cutting across the bay in front of Hills Beach. We just barely made it across the sand bar that connects Hills Beach to Basket Island at low tide. We saw the waves were breaking on the bar as we paddled towards it. Isaac and I needed a snack, and Tyson’s sciatica was acting up, but we kept paddling. I hit bottom as we crossed the sand bar. On the far side, we stopped for a bit. We only rested a few minutes before I urged us on again, fearing we would be stranded as the tide exposed more beach.

From the sand bar to Biddeford Pool, we expected a mellow paddle. The harbor behind the islands is well protected, and seas were calm that day. Perfect for Isaac’s first trip with his spray skirt. We found one shallow spot that occasionally caught waves from boat wakes, but it was too inconsistent to play on. At the entrance to Biddeford Pool, the channel was in full ebb with standing waves. I could probably have fought my way up against the current, but there was no way Isaac could. Instead, we worked the river.

Eddy line and a floating dock to avoid

We pulled into an eddy on the right side. There we taught Isaac how to see the flat water in the eddy, the swirls at the eddy line, and the rough water out in the current. Then we had him paddle out of the eddy and feel the current turn his bow downstream. The current was slow enough you could forget to edge and yet not get flipped. Then Tyson led the way up the side of the channel, guiding Isaac from one eddy to the next. One time, Isaac let his bow get pushed downstream, but he recovered and powered up to the next eddy. That was fun teaching him and watching him succeed.

Once in Biddeford Pool, we paddled to a high clump of grass that showed on my chart. We found snails. Tyson found crabs which neither Isaac nor I spotted. Isaac jumped in the water for a swim. But after not too long, we all agreed that what we really wanted to do was go back out to the channel and ride the current back out through the waves. So we did.

Isaac’s little boat went slap, bam over the choppy waves, and his spray skirt kept out the water. I couldn’t resist the standing waves. So when it looked like Isaac was in control, and Tyson could retrieve him if he wasn’t, I turned around and slowly backed into a standing wave.

Playing in the Biddeford Pool tide race

They weren’t quite standing waves. I played in one for bit, then it dissipated, so I found another. Isaac saw me having fun and wanted to join in. Tyson and Isaac paddled back up the eddy and then transitioned out into the waves. We learned the tidal flow on couldn’t make waves large enough to surf. It took the flow plus a boat’s wake. Luckily there were plenty of obliging motor boats. We would play in the waves for a bit, then pull into the eddy when we saw a boat coming. Once it passed, we would paddle back out behind it and catch some nice fresh waves.

Stage Island monument

After playing in the waves, we paddled across the harbor to Stage Island. Last weekend we had meant to explore the monument by foot, but ran out of time. This time we brought our lunch and hiked around the rocky shore to the monument. We found a tiny tunnel of a path from shore to the monument. Even Isaac had to duck. The monument looks the same close up as from the water. The colony of pigeons living in it get more annoyed, though. We retreated back to the open rock shore for lunch. There we watched three sailboats in a class learning to sail.

Emilie and Isaac resting behind the red channel marker

Despite the forecast for an afternoon sea breeze, we paddled back against a quartering headwind and the flood tide. Next trip I need to teach Isaac more about navigation. It’s hard to explain to a tired kid that when he stops to rest, we are going backwards. We broke the return crossing into two hops, first to a red channel marker, then to the red day marker at the end of the northern breakwater. The quartering wind kept turning Isaac to the left. I tried to teach him how to rudder efficiently. He listened intently, but he couldn’t figure out the mechanics. Next time for that one too. I finished the day by towing Isaac back along the breakwater.

For more information about the put in and paddling destinations, see the trip report from last weekend.

All Photos

Apologies for the limited, and lower quality photos. Tyson forgot his camera at home, so we only had the old waterproof camera with us.

GPS Track