A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Paddle around Gay Island

August 18, 2020
Emilie Phillips

First it rained, then, just as we were finishing up breakfast at the cottage, the power went out leaving us with no water. Tuesday was going to be a short paddling day. The closest MITA landing spot was to the west on Gay Island. The power came back on in time for us to eat an early lunch and then head out. This is the second day of our 2020 Port Clyde Maine Kayaking Trip.

Isaac and a lobster buoy

I find crossing a bay exciting. There is nothing around me, except the lobster buoys and the waves. And the seal that poked its nose up while I was showing Isaac our location on the chart, then suddenly dove back under with a splash. To Isaac, long crossings are impossible. The far shore never gets any closer, no matter how long he paddles. I was showing Isaac that we were most of the way across St George River to Gay Island when the seal popped up. It thought it was following stealthily behind Tyson and my parents who had continued paddling. Then we snuck up on it. Once we reached Gay Island, we stayed tight to shore so Isaac could look for critters underwater while paddling. We also stayed close to shore to avoid the unpredictable motor boat channel through through Pleasant Point Gut.

Dock construction rig

My Dad guessed we would have some current leaving the gut, but we didn’t. Tyson led the way south and found the beach at the Maine Island Lodge. The caretaker came over to greet us. The off grid lodge and guiding service just joined MITA this year. We explored the tide pools and inspected the privy and tent platforms. Past the tent platforms, Tyson made our best discovery. He found two odd birds siting on a pile of discarded boards. One was a turkey vulture. It stared at us for a while, then hopped over to a different board and spread its wings in the sun. Meanwhile the other bird barely turned its head. Tyson first took it for an owl — white head, beak tucked down toward the neck. But no owls have pitch black wing feathers. Then it turned its head a smidgen. What we had taken for the beak, then looked like a gray featherless head. The white was a ruff of feathers around its neck. Or at least that is what Tyson tells me. Without my prescription glasses, I though it looked like a country cow sculpture, mostly black with a white belly and the head gone missing. We retreated after ten minutes. They just watched us go. That evening we looked through the cottage bird books and the internet

  • Osprey. Mostly correct coloring, but missing the stripe beside the ears
  • Bald eagle. No
  • Black vulture. No white ruff
  • African condor. Wrong continent and no white on the chest
  • Juvenile turkey vulture. No white ruff
Fledgling turkey vulture?

Finally I found an image online of a fledgling turkey vulture. They apparently start as a white fluff ball with a gray head. Then get their dark flight feathers. Finally their head and chest transition to mostly adult colors. It’s rare to see turkey vultures as fluff balls because they should still be in the nest.

Emilie surfing with a menacing cloud approaching

After leaving the beach and heading south between Morse and Gay Islands, Tyson spotted some waves breaking on a rock reef. He led the way over to see if there was any fun surf. It took a motor boat going by to make a wave big enough to surf. We played for a little bit, but then an ominous looking cloud showed up on the western horizon. Time to head home. Isaac did his best to paddle around the southern point of Gay Island, even if he didn’t understand why a thunderstorm would be problem. “We’ll just get rained on. That’s not a problem.” With thunder now rumbling behind us, I hooked Isaac up for a tow. Then Tyson joined in front of me for a tandem tow. The storm kept gaining on us. Tyson assigned Trudy, the lightest of us, to raft up with Isaac if the winds kicked up waves so big that he couldn’t stay upright. Tyson and I would continue towing. The storm clouds started cutting off our path ahead, but the bulk of the storm went farther north and east. We only felt a few sprinkles. However, we kept our pace up because another cloud was forming to the south. We got home before it could.

All Photos

GPS Track