The Gulf of Maine experienced a King tide this past Thursday at 12:10pm with a height of 10.8ft in my Southern Maine coastal destination. To celebrate, my sister and I paddled the route around Gerrish and Cutts Islands, a trip I haven’t done in almost ten years. The trip needed a high tide and offered a very short window to complete the circumnavigation as it relies on high water to fill-in an adjacent marsh in order to have the depth needed. Jill is still fairly new to SUP but was amped up for a challenge, dressed for the part and anxious to improve her skills – this was the perfect trip for that.
The term King tide is not scientific and indicates the highest tide cycle in a calendar year. The gravitational pulls of the moon and sun are aligned and working together to create a very high tide. King Tides are not a phenomenon, in fact they’re very predictable and expected. If a weather event happens to take place during a King tide, say a hurricane, strong wind or a large swell, the combined forces of the tide and weather can easily create devastating coastal flooding. The useful thing with King tides is they provide insight into what a normal tide could look like in 40-50 years. Thursdays King tide that brought water levels much higher than normal, into yards, streets, filling up wetlands and rising over jetties, could soon be the normal everyday tide height. Scientists in Maine use King tide observations for coastal planning and to have a working model of what could be as sea levels are on the rise. For Jill and I, it meant we could paddle this awesome route with ease.
Since this trip depends on water in the marsh, we had no choice but to run this route clockwise starting from the culvert on Chauncey Creek. For the first five minutes we paddled upstream into the marsh then quickly passed the midpoint where the current runs the other direction into the harbor on its way out to sea. Going with the current, we began cruising through the narrow passageways, some parts not much wider than ten feet. It feels like a racetrack as you rally for the holeshot into each corner. For Jill, it was a realistic place to practice board control and better understand how to turn a SUP quickly and efficiently. Into Brave Boat Harbor we surfed a few small waves rolling through the mouth, then turned South, paddling the outer coast for the next few miles along Cutts and Gerrish. As we made the turn, we hugged shore for wind protection and buckled down for a 12-15mph headwind that was pretty stiff. Ducking into lee after lee to take quick breaks, we made decent time considering the challenge of the wind and bumps on the water. No doubt this was Jills toughest paddle to date and hopefully her most rewarding.
Continuing into the wind we finally hit the crux as we passed Fort Foster and began our turn West into the Piscataqua river. Paddling upwind and up-current for a very difficult short stretch, we slowly made it through the worst of it and began to increase our pace heading upriver. Negotiating the shallow water of Pepperell Cove, we made our last right hand turn up Chauncey Creek with wind at our back and some small bumps to glide on. We fought hard to attain ground up two small shelves, paddling hard shallow strokes to avoid slamming rocks. Once above that section we relaxed, slowed our pace and completed the 8.5 mile loop to our starting point with a time of 3hours 45minutes, completely spent. This was one of the tougher paddles I’ve had in awhile and super fun with only one fall apiece. Nice paddling Jill.