A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Almost West Quoddy Head

August 17, 2021
Emilie Phillips

This is day 2 of our week long trip to Cobscook Bay, Maine.

We had spent Monday on a mild excursion in Cobscook getting our bearings. Now I was ready to take on Cobscook full bore. Let’s hop on the peak currents and ride them through the Lubec Channel tide race and on 9 miles until we rounded Quoddy Head to the open ocean and the stunning cliffs of the Bold Coast.

It sounded reasonable to me.

Passing Dudley Island

We caught the current at green can #5. The largest current turns east just north of Treat Island headed towards Friar Roads. The smaller current pushed us along the west side of Treat Island and the Dudley Island. My Mom had troubles finding Dudley Island in the distance. My parents mostly paddle on a river or a lake. They aren’t used to picking out islands from the mainland behind based on subtle changes in tree size, or rock size, or haziness, or relative motion.

Then we swept into the Lubec Narrows, where the guidebook had warned to take utmost caution on account of strong currents and turbulent water. My Dad wanted to stay far away from the breakwater in case it had extra turbulence. That put us out where the water funneled us into the best current, and quickly carried us under the middle of the bridge. Before packing for this vacation, all us adults had watched some Online Sea Kayaking classes about how to get in and out of eddies. Isaac had been put to bed and missed it. Behind each of the bridge abutments was a nice big eddy. My parents took one eddy, Isaac and I the other. My parents got into theirs a little bit down from the abutment. I got into ours right right to the abutment. And Isaac? Well, he got flushed out. And let me tell you, an 8 year old watching everyone else have fun, and getting swept away from the fun at 5mph is not a happy 8 year old. We caught up to him and applied various hugs, sympathies, and bribery.

As a note to my future self, I would not suggest playing in the eddies off the two central piers. They have wooden cribbing around them. The fast backward current in the eddy flows through the cribbing. I think there is some danger of getting pinned in or below the wood.

Fighting the wind in Quoddy Narrows

Next is a big open bay with mudflats on one side. The current slows down here, so we would have to paddle more. Worse, a headwind picked up. There is enough fetch across the bay for the wind to build up chop. Isaac was struggling against the headwind. My Dad was uncomfortable with the chop and was worried it would only get worse if we continued to our intended destination. I was kicking myself, because all morning while dressing Isaac and packing gear, I kept meaning to check the weather forecast. I never got to it. This wind had surprised me. And now I didn’t know what the waves would be on the outer coast. My Dad tried to get a forecast using his Garmin InReach, but it only gave the land forecast, not the marine forecast. However, given how slowly we were paddling into the wind, the outer coast forecast wasn’t going to be relevant. I was disappointed we wouldn’t get to see the outer coast. This had been our best chance out of the whole week.

Of all of us, Isaac was the one who decided it was worth continuing across the bay into the wind. He wanted to see someplace new. We aimed for the West Quoddy Head peninsula and let the quartering headwind and the currents push us east to the state park. We landed right near one of the bright red markers. There had been two red triangles on Treat Island also. Isaac led us on a rock scramble to the base of one marker. There we found a survey marker inscribed with “International Boundary […] Range Marker.” So these had something to do with the US-Canada boundary. That also explained what “BDY RGE MKR” meant on my charts. If you look at the more detailed NOAA chart 13396, you can see how the boundary markers line up with different parts of the water boundary.

Haze over the ocean

I insisted we dally on shore for 2 hours past low tide. That should give the approximate 1 hour delay for slack tide, then another hour for the current to pick up speed going in. We could see the water advancing up the beach once the tide turned. I also noticed the colder incoming tide brought fog to the Bay of Fundy. But that was out beyond Quoddy Narrows. I was last off the beach when we launched. Isaac turned to wait for me, and asked

“Mom did you see that fast moving cloud?”

I turned around and realized with horror that the fog bank had climbed up over West Quoddy Head and was about to pour into the bay. I did not want to have to deal with the boats and currents in the bay blind. We all set off at a quick paddle. Isaac had done well in the headwind, but the tailwind was a problem. He is light for his boat, so the wind caught it, and kept trying to turn him around. That’s the only time he has had an issue with Grandma’s hand me down boat. I put him on a tow, just for directional help. He still had to paddle. That mostly worked except an incident with a lobster trap buoy. I almost lost sight of shore a couple times. We gradually pulled ahead of the fog. Once back at the Lubec Channel Light, Dad to took over towing. Once we got near the bridge, we disconnected Isaac entirely.

We tried playing with the eddies on a side bridge pier. Everyone caught as much eddy as they wanted this time. The wind completely died down north of Lubec. It still took a lot of paddling, but the currents helped push us home.

See posts for the rest of the Cobscook Trip.

All Photos

GPS Track