I could list at least 30 advantages that standup paddleboards have over sea kayaks, but paddling in a beam wind is not one of them. Our 7 mile crossing back to the mainland from the Isles of Shoals lined up perfectly across the building wind and swell – not what we wanted. So badly I wanted to just turn and start running downwind, catching bumps. Not a bad plan except for the fact it would land us miles and miles away from where we needed to be.
At 7:15am I met up with Peter at the beach in Rye, my old neighborhood! I hadn’t seen him in a couple years, but he’s one of these friends that no matter how much time passes or how many life changes occur, it’s like we saw each other yesterday. Our friendship was born on the water and it’s still a great way to spend time with him. Peter owns and operates Seven Rivers Paddling on the New Hampshire Seacoast and is responsible for introducing and hooking tons of kids and adults on paddling.
We exchanged hugs and greetings and got ready to paddle, figuring we’d have plenty of time to catchup once we were on the water. A half hour later we launched through one foot surf and began paddling for Smuttynose Island, one of the Isles of Shoals set 7 – 7.5 miles off the New Hampshire and Maine coasts. Our plan for the day was to repeat a trip we did together about eight years ago by crossing out to the Isles, enjoying some lunch and quiet and then making our way back after noon, catching the tide along the way. The crossing out was uneventful but the 1hr 45min trip gave us plenty of time to get re-acquainted. Arriving into Gosport Harbor was really cool and like entering a new land – buildings, islands, boats, rock formations, wildlife, calm waters in the harbor and it was all new to me since the last time I was here, visibility was very limited by fog.
The Isles of Shoals are made up of eight distinct islands, nine at high tide, and bridge the Maine New Hampshire border. Appledore, Smuttynose, Malaga, Duck and Cedar islands are on the Maine side and Star, White and Lunging islands belong to New Hampshire. The history of the Isles dates back to 1614 when English explorer Captain John Smith spotted and named them. For this trip, we were visiting Peter’s friends on Smuttynose who have worked on the island as stewards for two weeks each summer for years. The first time we made this journey we were treated to fog & rain and were forced to make the trip by compass and sound. This time we were generously offered great weather, good tides and acceptable wind.
At 25 acres, Smuttynose Island is the third largest of the Isles of Shoals and is privately owned but open to the public for hiking and day-use. The island has a rich history including the tale of two brutal murders in the late 1800’s written about and portrayed on the screen in The Weight of Water. We discussed the history briefly with the family and got a tour of the two remaining buildings, including The Samuel Haley House, believed to be the oldest house in the state of Maine. Maintaining the property and structures is a big part of their time on the island and I could tell they take pride in doing a good job. Inside the house, looking out the windows across the island, there wasn’t a modern item in site and I could imagine someone standing in the exact same spot two hundred years in the past with the exact same view of islands and open ocean.
After more chatting and enjoying some lunch in the sunshine, we grabbed some beers and walked north along the islands’ granite coast to the ‘crack’ a really cool swimming area with tall rocks to jump from and crystal clear twenty foot deep water to land in. Making the plunge into the cold water was invigorating and gave us a chance to experience the maine tingle that comes with cold saltwater.
On the walk to and from the crack, the adult gulls were abnormally aggressive forcing us to wield sticks to keep them at bay. Along the trail we saw a half dozen baby seagulls and nests complete with unhatched eggs, which explained the behavior of the adults. Back to the launch site, we chatted some more while Nina and her family tried standup paddling in the harbor.
By 12:15pm, after a few hours relaxing on Smuttynose, we decided it would be smart to make the journey back to the mainland, anticipating an increase in wind at any minute. We said our goodbyes, took a compass reading and began our journey back to Rye. As we made our approach to Jenness Beach the winds kicked up a notch during the last twenty minutes and whitecaps began taking over the sea. I’m grateful for a fun day on the water with a good friend and a chance for some nice paddling on my home coast.
|Looking out at the Isles of Shoals from Rye, New Hampshire on a clear day|
|gearing up to launch|
|Beginning the crossing.|
|Peter entering Gosport Harbor|
|The Samuel Haley House – believed to be the oldest structure in the state of Maine|
|Beautiful day to relax and play before our crossing home|
|Gosport Harbor. Star Island retreat center in the background.|
|Return trip across the wind|