This is day 1 of our week long trip to Cobscook Bay, Maine.
Paddling trips in Cobscook Bay must embrace the tidal currents. On our first day, Monday, the current was ebbing (going out) in the morning and flooding (coming back in) in the afternoon. From our centrally located rental house, we would be paddling outbound.
Being our first day, we needed to figure a few things out:
- How could we get our boats on the water from the house.
- How fast are the currents in the areas around the house.
- How cold was it and what should we be wearing.
- When do the currents turn around compared to the posted tide times at Eastport.
- How far could Isaac, or any of us paddle.
The beach access turned out to be better than I feared at first glance. For one, it was a gravel beach all the way out to low tide. That is rare in Maine. Usually you get cliffs, seaweed covered rubble, or sucking mud. On the downside, the house was a 3 minute walk from shore. We kept as much gear as we could at the boat rack and only carried food and things that needed laundering up to the house. To get from the boat rack to the beach you had to descend a short cliff via wooden stairs. Carrying the boats and gear down the stairs made launches slower than they could have been. By the end of the week, we had a fairly efficient system, especially when Isaac helped.
We planned to paddle out to the main channel, marked by green buoy 5. There, the ebb current should be fastest. We would ride the current and paddle down to Treat Island, or Rodgers Island, or even Old Farm Point if we got that far. We found current before the green can. It was even more impressive at the green can. The water piled up on one side of the can and shoved it over. On the back side, the water swirled and splashed. Depending on when and where my Dad and I measured our GPS speed, we got water speeds of 3-5mph.
The cold question was a personal choice. Right at shore, the water was pleasantly cool on the finger tips. Out in the main current, it was shockingly cold on any exposed skin when we did our practice rolls. The ocean buoys had reported 55F water temperature. Isaac and my Dad switched to their drysuits for the rest of the week. I was happy in my 3mm wetsuit with an adjustable combination of neoprene and fleece shirts and a spray top. My Mom varied between her thinner wetsuit and her drysuit depending on how much we planned to be in the water each day.
We made it to Treat Island while the tide was still going out. From there we paddled to Old Farm Point in Johnson Bay. When we arrived at Old Farm Point the mud flat was fully exposed. According to the Eastport tide chart, we were at low tide. So that matched up. We carried the first two boats across the mud flat. By the third boat, water was pouring into our footprint wells. I got lazy on the fourth boat and waited 5 minutes for the tide to finish covering the mud flat. 20 feet tides move impressively fast. The agreement of the tide height with the Eastport table didn’t tell us anything about the currents in the main channel. Based on high tide arriving to the inner parts of Cobscook bay one hour later than Eastport, Tyson and I had made an educated guess that the current turned 1 hour after the Eastport tides. That assumed 1 hour delay seemed to work for the rest of the week.
On the way out from Old Farm Point, Isaac’s enthusiasm and energy flagged. We paddled between Rodgers Island and the mainland for something different to do. That was the one stretch where I had to tow Isaac. Otherwise, once we got out into the main current, we zipped along back home. The green buoy was now tipped the other way.
We saw several seals during the day. None of them posed for their photos to be taken. Below low tide, we found sea urchins. First thing in the morning, we saw three porpoises. I regret we didn’t pause to watch them longer. Last time we visited Cobscook, we saw porpoises repeatedly. So I assumed this would be the first of many sightings over the week. Unfortunately, those three would turn out to be our only porpoises this trip.
See posts for the rest of the Cobscook Trip.