A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

After two days of shorter, more protected paddle trips, it was time to head out to see the open ocean. Tyson picked Gunning Rocks, an Audubon Society property, closed during nesting season but open after July 31. Paddling five miles there and back was a stretch goal for Isaac.

This is the third day of our five day vacation near Port Clyde, Maine.

Osprey caught a fish

We chose a route that had several interesting rest stops. First we went to Deep Cove to see the porpoises. Tyson swung east to visit Grinnell again. The rest of us floated, watching the porpoises while we waited for Tyson to catch up. Isaac pointed out a large seal that surfaced near him and Grandpa. We all saw it before its head sank back under. Grandpa agreed with Isaac that it was a big seal.

“How did you know it was a seal?” Isaac wanted to know.

“Because I saw its whiskers when it looked at me,” my Dad answered. I couldn’t see the whiskers from where I was, but I could just imagine a thick bristly mustache bigger than my Dad’s on the seal’s suspicious face. Then the porpoises came around and we went back to watching them. They came even closer than two days prior. I never saw their heads, only the arch of their backs after they snorted.

Port Clyde harbor

From Deep Cove, we paddled around Hupper Point into Port Clyde proper. We passed one kayak tour group headed north towards the porpoises. After that, we crossed to the south side to keep out of the boat traffic. Instead of traffic, we had to weave around docks and moored boats. There were lots of nice looking sailboats. Isaac was losing interest in paddling forward, so we slowed down to search for critters in the shallow water near shore. Tyson only had eyes for our destination ahead. Isaac stared down in one spot for a long time.

“I found seaweed”, he told me grinning, “and snails and a hermit crab.”

John and the Marshall Point Lighthouse

Our next stop was Marshall Point Light. The park is open to the public, and in non-COVID times, you can pay for a tour of the keepers house. On that Wednesday, the grounds were covered with people. I felt bad about how much space our kayaks took up on shore. We didn’t have any other option. We needed to stop for lunch. After lunch, those of us who had remembered our masks walked around the property. Nice enough, but the waves, and solitude of the now visible Gunning Rocks was calling.

Paddling out to Gunning Rocks

At low tide, a wall of rock connects the two high points of Gunning Rocks. At high tide, the water covers the wall, leaving only the high points exposed. We had stopped for lunch at high tide. By the time we got to Gunning Rocks, a few of the middle rocks were poking up, but water still covered most of them. The waves around the rocks looked like fun play. Gunning Rocks proper stank of bird poop. Playing with waves around rocks is tricky. The waves are fun, but you don’t want to get caught between a wave and a rock. I must be spending too much time in the echo-chamber of my house, because I had failed at communicating or coordinating well with the rest of the group. Luckily no one got a hole in their boat.

Trudy got caught by a wave.

First I tried to have Isaac come sit behind a rock with me. That way you can watch the surge and pull of the wave from relative safety. I couldn’t get Isaac to stay at the rock. So when Tyson was available, I dumped Isaac on him and went to find a surf ride. I found a nice one. My parents came over to see what I was doing. I tried to point out both the obvious rocks, and the flat submerged rock that only exposed when a large wave approached. You had to exit the surf ride early to avoid it. Tyson and Isaac were now watching from behind these rocks. I caught a surf on a mild wave. When I turned around, I saw that my parents had let the small waves push them in towards the submerged rock. A giant wave was steepening behind them. Tyson pulled his camera out, but I could only watch in horror as the water drained away from the submerged rock with my Mom’s bow pointing towards it. Somehow, she threaded the needle between the rocks and zoomed passed Tyson and Isaac. Meanwhile my Dad, who had back-paddled off the first wave, now side surfed the second wave away from the rocks.

Tyson wanted a surf, but somewhere with fewer teeth. The safest place was a deeper channel next to the island. I tried to bring Isaac over there too. Unfortunately, Isaac started arguing with me about whether he could cut the corner around some rocks, or must go all the way to the island. He got so frustrated at my directions that he capsized while yelling at me. Tyson grabbed Isaac and I grabbed his boat, and we paddled away from the rocks as quickly as we could.

Southern knoll of The Brothers

We retreated. My Mom led us to a protected beach she found in the middle of The Brothers. There we had second lunch and explored the island. Tyson found some places where he could analyze wave behavior for Isaac.

  • waves break and crash where the water is shallow.
  • waves in deep water next to a vertical rock just go up and down.
  • waves bend around islands and rocks. (This one was particularly puzzling to Isaac until I reminded him of a science video he had watched about light waves bending when going through a prism.)
  • what it means for a wave to break, and no that’s not the same as a rogue wave.

Both Trudy and Isaac had fun pointing out how much the tide dropped while we were exploring. There was enough water left for us to paddle out.

Isaac’s rock

To break up the paddle home, we stopped at Allen Ledges. It made a fun navigational challenge to find them because they are so low. Grinnell had describe it as a popplestone ledge. I tried explaining the term to my parents as “the type of stones that hiss and pop when the waves go over them.” That didn’t help at all. It is what the waves sound like. Popplestones are loose rocks rounded by wave action. The sound comes from water filling the gaps between the rocks, and then, as the wave recedes, the rocks rolling around and knocking into each other. The seaward side of Allen Ledges had egg sized popplestone. The western side had stew-pot sized rounded rocks. Imagine the size of waves that smoothed and deposited those! There were dark rocks and light rocks. Solid, stripped, and spotted. Black, gray, white, orange, and the occasionally piece of red brick. We left all the rocks there.

The tide should have been ebbing out of St George river, but when I looked at my GPS, it said the wind and waves were pushing us upriver at almost 1.5mph. Hupper Island went by quickly; Deep Cove more slowly. Tyson suggested sending my parents ahead to cook supper while we followed at Isaac’s pace. That worked well. Isaac made it back under his own power and was still making up jokes about Maine’s rock beaches when we landed.

All Photos

GPS Track