Posted Saturday, August, 6, 2011 by Levi Bridges
On a clear day in early July, I set off to fulfill a lifelong dream. The coast of Maine, with its labyrinth of archipelagos and long coastal inlets, had always intoxicated me with a thirst to explore. Coincidentally, this was also the place where I had grown up. Yet my forays into Maine’s unique coastal waters had always been brief. The isolation of growing up in the rural, northeastern corner of the United States had instilled me with an extreme wanderlust. During my early twenties, I had walked across Spain, cycled the entirety of Asia and Europe, and hiked on four continents. Yet despite these more distant journeys, I had still never taken the time to properly explore my own home.
As the year’s passed, I would occasionally return to the place where I grew up to visit family and friends. Each time, I felt a dramatic sense of rediscovery. The distant islands peeking up from the cold seas enticed me with that familiar desire to travel. I had—and still do—many adventure trips, all over the world, that I yearned to do. But kayaking the coast of Maine increasingly edged its way to the top of the list.
A career change starting in the upcoming fall, along with a generous sponsorship of a Necky Chatham 17 touring kayak from Necky Kayaks, afforded me with the time and opportunity to embark on my first proper tour along the coast of my childhood home. My previous kayaking experience had mainly been on day trips in smaller kayak models. And most of my deep sea, rough water paddling skills had been learned in tinier boats. So I was amazed by the Chatham’s efficiency in cutting through ocean currents and choppy seas, even when loaded down with camping equipment and nearly a week’s worth of supplies.
I began my tour of the Maine coast on Naskeag Point, a long arm of land that reaches out from Midcoast Maine into the cold Atlantic, just off the small town of Brooklin. From this point on, for miles in either direction, a seemingly inexhaustible number of islands, mainly consisting of rocky escarpments rising from the ocean depths topped in thick spruce groves, fanned away into the distance. Maine’s unique coast was formed during the recession of the last Ice Age, when sea levels rose and reduced mountains to the small islands found today off Maine’s rocky coast.
Leaving from Naskeag Point, a world that I had lived so close to, for so long, yet never fully explored, suddenly came to life before me. The Necky Chatham proved to be the perfect boat for the journey, surfing well along big swells and cruising fast despite all of the weight that I had packed into the spacious hatches.
I spent the first night of my tour camped on a small, grassy island topped with a field of colorful wildflowers. I kindled a small cooking fire below the high tide line and ate a meal of beans and pasta while watching a full moon rise above the windswept sea and illuminate the distant isles standing against the blue twilight of the horizon.
At dawn the next morning, I broke camp, strapped on my life vest, eased the Necky off a rocky outcropping into the high tide, and started paddling. Before me lay a journey of roughly several hundred miles that would take me through an island paradise in the northern seas.