This trip served as part three of my post-college graduation kayaking “expedition” to the Bath region of Maine. In it, I was looking for something uniquely Maine and I found it. A quaint fishing village, a lighthouse, an island full of seals, and even an unexpected deer sighting highlighted this memorable trip. The only thing that could have made it better was if the sun had decided to come out!
Five Islands is a small fishing community located west of Bath, ME but just east of Boothbay, ME at the terminus of Route 127. The harbor is nestled amongst five small islands that provide its namesake. I found few people around upon my arrival but I was not surprised because it was mid-week, gloomy, and many of the boats seemed to be out. I parked out of the way near what seemed to be a public park next door to Five Islands Lobster. The skies were overcast and threatened rain but the winds were light out of the SW and the tide was close to high. I geared up in full storm gear and carefully carried my kayak across the park and over some rocks to launch.
My first order of business was to explore the five barrier islands. None of them could have been more than a few acres but all of them had houses of some kind. I circled the Southern-most Island and headed to the North with the help of some good-old Atlantic ground swell. My favorite island was the northern-most in the chain. It was only a few hundred yards off of the mainland. I noticed something out of the corner of my eye as I navigated the narrow channel. It looked like a female deer and it appeared picture perfect nestled in some low scrub and protected from the rain by a pine bough. The scene was almost too perfect and I decided to investigate up close to see if, by chance, it was a hunting decoy. It was alive, alright and it bounded off into the island. “How did the deer get out there?” I wondered. There were two possibilities: it swam or it took advantage of some frozen water. Either way, it was queen of the island now.
Looking at my map, I noticed that there was a lighthouse just across the bay. What’s more Maine than a lighthouse?? Nothing, but I hadn’t seen one in a whole week and this may have been may last chance. The crossing was slightly more than a mile but the conditions were very manageable and I figured that it would only take a half hour to get across at worst. The solo crossing proved uneventful and I tucked into a protected cove to take in the sights and some lunch. I was relaxing after my fill of PB&J sandwiches when a seal popped up like a periscope only a dozen yards in front of me. Before I could grab my camera he slipped back beneath the water and was gone. One seal usually means that there are more around. I had a new mission: Find and photograph a seal.
I started to the North and began to explore the shoreline in search of a seal. After paddling for a few miles, I hadn’t seen any signs of the creatures save a fantastic seal sculpture that someone had erected in their yard. It was getting late so I decided to cross back over to the western side of the bay and try my luck over there on the way to Five Islands Harbor. The bay was wider to the North, about two miles or so, and I decided to set a course that intercepted a small, treeless island on the way. As it turned out, this pile of rocks was a well-populated seal rookery. There were hundreds of seals and their pups on the island. Most bailed out into the water when I approach and started splashing to ward me off. I snapped a few pictures and headed on my way. Needless to say, I had an escort for the next couple of miles. A few of the adults swam about fifty yards off my stern to make sure that I wasn’t a threat to their pups. At first, their continued presence worried me but then I began to enjoy their company. It was an amazing way to end a spectacular week of quiet, reflective paddling along the coast of Maine!
Launch: Five Islands Harbor, ME
Landing: Five Islands Harbor, ME
Highlights: Lighthouse, Seals, and Deer
Duration: ~4.5 hours with stops
Distance: ~7 miles
Kayak Dave Rating: 5 out of 5 stars