Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ocean Kayaking in the Deer Isle Region of the Maine Coast – Stonington to Isle au Haut

The Deer Island Region of the Maine Island Trail
The Maine Island Trail (MIT) is a 375-mile chain of over 180 wild islands along the coast of Maine.  In mid-July friends Dundee, Cully, David and I did a three day paddle on the MIT in the Deer Island Region.  The Deer Isle Region extends from Stonington south to Isle au Haut and east into Blue Hill Bay.  We tented two days on the two acre Steves Island (name by coincidence.)

We put-in at Stonington, Maine at the Old Quarry Ocean Adventure campground.  Click the video below for exciting footage of our trip, including a Google Earth map of our MIT route.

Here are some special notes on our trip
  • Over the years, the pronunciation of “Isle au Haut” has drifted considerably. Nowadays, people who have spent time on the island pronounce it “i-la-HO.”
  • Dundee was both our Chef and Navigator.  He is top-notch in both areas.
  • Where are we in the Atlantic? A map and compass are mandatory in these Deer Island
    waters.  Admittedly we had moments where we were questioning the name of the islands we could see in the distance.  Certainly, when fog is present (frequently), you either stay on a known island, use your map and compass to get to your next island destination, or back to the mainland.
  • Disposal of human waste
    • The Maine Island Trail Association (MITA) requests all island visitors carry off solid human waste and dispose of it safely on the mainland.  The Maine Island trail Guide lists several good carry off methods to help you deal with human waste on the Trail.  We chose the Crap Wrap method.
  • Water
    • We brought our own potable water. The islands we visited had no drinking water - and remember, we were in the ocean. 
  • Day 1 Old Quarry Campground to Steves Island
    • A 4.6 mile paddle from Old Quarry Ocean Adventures campground to the 2 acre Steves Island where we camped for two nights
    • Met Randy and son Steve from Lancaster, PA
    • First come – first camp.  Steves Island 2 acres and three sites – ten max
    • Put-in and Parking at Old Quarry Adventure Campground
    • 90 plus minute paddle from Old Quarry to Steve’s Island.
    • Dave caught Mackerel
  • Day 2 Steves Island to Isle au Haut
    • 11 mile paddle was from Steve Island to Harbor Island, where we walked around the Island.  We continued our paddle pass Merchant Island, Pell Island, Nathan Island, and entered the waterway of the Isle au Haut Thoroughfare.  We had lunch outside the Island Store.  We returned to Steves Island the same route.  The round trip was close to 5 hours with windy and choppy seas.
    • Dundee cooked us McNestlers for breakfast.
    • Paddle to Harbor Island (went ashore), then to Isle au Haunt.  Total paddle back to Steves Island was about 5 hours in windy and choppy waters.
    • Lunch Isle of Haunt at Island Store
    • Found mussels on Steves Island for a feast and invited Randy and Steve to join us.
    • We located mussels on Steves Island.  A warming here must be made about Red Tide
  • Day 3 Steves Island to Crotch Island quarry, pass Stonington and takeout at Old Quarry
    • 6 mile paddle passed the George Head island sandbar in a whoop-de-doo surfing wave.   We visited Crotch Island which was once a world renowned granite quarry.  We went up the “crotch” past hills of waste chunks of granite.  We saw osprey and eagles. We continued along the shoreline of the town of Stonington with its many wharfs of commercial lobster and fishing operations.  Lobster boats have the right of way and we learned this quickly as our final hour coincided when lobster boats returning in mass to sell their day’s work.
    • With expectations of a rain and wind storm on Wednesday night, we decided to curtail out trip.  After a coffee and orange juice, we hada  burrito breakfast of pita bread, eggs, cheese and salsa.
    • Crotch Island and stone quarry.  At the turn of the century, Crotch was one of 33 major island quarries along the Maine coast. They provided work for an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people, creating a boom-town atmosphere in nearby coastal towns. Crotch Island is an active remnant of what once was a dominant industry and colorful part of Maine’s past.
    • Crotch Island's 450 acres are littered with the rusted relics of its past, and dotted
      with hills of waste rock, chunks of granite that didn't break right and couldn't be used. A steam-powered Brown hoist crane with a 40-foot boom stands rusting near the V-shaped inlet that gives Crotch Island its name.  We saw an osprey nest on a hoist crane.
For those interested in more detail of our Deer Isle Region paddle, Bedford Community TV has an online 25 minute video.

To learn about my 2010 trip on the Maine Island Trail (MIT) visit Sea kayaking and Camping on the Maine Island Trail:  Outdoor Steve’s Blog post of August 2010

The Maine Island Trail Association (MITA)
The Maine Island Trail Association ( MIT is a must membership for any outdoor enthusiast considering an ocean paddle.

As a member of the Maine Island Trail Association (MITA) I enjoy the benefits of an MITA e-newsletter and a MITA Guidebook. Dundee, Cully, Dave and I used this guidebook with its maps and island descriptions to plan our three day 22 mile sea kayak paddle in the Deer Island region of the MIT.

In my 2010 paddle on the Maine Island Trail I emailed the office of the Maine Island Trail Association, and MITA responded answering my questions about island fire permits (there is a telephone number in the MITA online ( and hard copy guidebook); camp site reservations (There is no need for camp reservations on any of the islands - a MITA member has access to all sites on the trail, at any time, unless the guide descriptions indicates otherwise); The Deer Isle overview page of the guide has a list of put-ins available, and we selected Old Quarry Ocean Adventures

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