Paddling in Casco Bay has become one of my favorite places to paddle when my time is limited to just a day or two. No two trips are ever the same, even while traveling the waters that I have previously visited. This interesting trip took us from Orrs' Island to Jewell Island, which lies a short 8 1/2 miles to the southwest. The entire two-day trip took us through 28 and 1/2 miles of Maine's beautiful coastal waters.
We started the trip from S.J. Prince and Son; located on route 24 just north of the bridge that connects Orr's and Bailey Islands. They offer a gravel launch ramp and parking for a fee. We left the boat launch just a little bit after 10 on the morning of August 18th and headed southward towards South Harpswell and Pinkham Island and then to the east of Haskell Island. After reaching the southern end Haskell Island we made a turn to the west and headed to Eagle Island, our first stop of the day.
Eagle Island was the summer home of Admiral Robert Peary, the first person to successfully reach the North Pole on April 6, 1906. Admiral Peary purchased the island in 1881 for $200 and finally retired there in 1911. After his death on February 20, 1920, his family continued to live in the home he built until 1955. In 1955 Admirals Peary's wife passed away and the family decided to donate the Island to the people of Maine. Today you can tour the home and Island for a small fee of $3. If you are planning a trip out on Casco Bay, make Eagle Island one of your stops; it is well worth the time and the $3 fee. While there, take some time and watch the short but informative 11-minute video about the life and accomplishments of Admiral Peary.
Departing Eagle Island, we continued our trip through open waters to Jewell Island, just 3 miles to the southwest. We arrived at Jewell Island during the mid afternoon and we were greeted by the MITA island caretaker. Jewell Island is open to the public, but it is also one of the many islands that is part of the Maine Island Trail. Being a weekend, most of the island campsites were full except for a few of the smaller locations. We ended up setting up camp at a small site that was located at the southern end of Cocktail Cove. Although this was not one of the prime sites, it did provide us with an excellent view of Cocktail Cove to the north. After dinner, we headed out for a three and half mile evening paddle around the island. The eastern and southern sides of the island are exposed to the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean and as we started around the southern tip of the island the surf started to get a little rougher. An hour and a half later, we arrived back at the camp site, cleaned up some and then found a spot along the western shore to relax and watch the sun disappear below the horizon. Before leaving Jewell Island on Sunday morning, we took a couple of hours to check out the many bunkers along with the two towers that were built on the southern end of the island during World War 1 and 2. It is strongly recommended that you bring along a good flashlight to use while exploring the bunkers. The corridors inside the bunkers are dark and there were several areas where we found openings in the floors that offered us views of the levels below. The views from the two towers are great, but the day we were there, a haze obscured our views of the mainland.
After a late start that morning, we headed back out on to the water to finish the trip. We headed north and then northwest past Cliff Island to Bangs Island. After paddling up the western side of the Bangs Island we decided to stop on Stockmans Island for a quick lunch. A very important thing to remember when stopping on any of the islands along the Maine coast is that they are very fragile. Stay on the trails or if there are no trails, stay on the beach, below the high tide line. From Stockmans Island we turned eastward, passed south of Little Birch Island and then turned northward and paddled between Horse Island and Basin Point. As we paddled into Ash Point Cove, we passed a film crew that was actively filming on one the many lobster boats on the bay. We finished up the trip by rounding Potts Point and then back to Orr's Island.