Self-Propelled Journal: July 28-29

July 28, 2012

Swells off Phillips Cove

Departed Windsurfer Beach at Fort Foster on Gerrish Island at 2:38 pm.  The wind was calm and the water was flat in the channel between the two states.

But, as I rowed outside the protection of the mouth of the river, a series of long, slow two foot swells reminded me that I was no longer training on Clearwater Lake near Farmington.

The canoe rowed beautifully, averaging 3 – 3.5 miles per hour despite the seas – according to the GPS. Due to operator error – I failed to hit the right button on departure – there will be no digital satellite bread crumbs to today’s route.

If it existed, the digital track would reveal good steady speed and a straight course along the coast until I reached Nubble Light (DeLormes Map 1, A-5)  near York Beach. At that point, the gentle swell doubled in size and seemed to be coming more from the SE.  The waves also got shorter and more confused around the lighthouse.  Navigation and steady speed became a real isse.

I’m a land lubber and motion sickness has always been a problem – so nausea helped to make things worse.  The last two hours on the water were much less fun – but I landed safely at Phillips Cove in Cape Neddick at 7:15 pm.  The cove was the only apparent safe spot on what had become a long coastline of crashing surf. This part of the coast is very exposed.  John Mullens, Director of Education Programs for the AMC, was on hand to help me land on the rocky beach (and take a few photos!)  He and his wife Sue are my hosts tonight.

Tomorrow – a hard look at the weather before deciding what to do.  Bigger swells or more wind will mean a change in travel plans.

July 29 – Day Two

Taking off on Day 2 – Phillips Cove, Cape Neddick


Embarked with some trepidation at 9:00 am from Phillips Cove on Cape Neddick.  The forecast was for weather similar to yesterday.  I went down to the cove to check on the boat at 6:00 am and the swell was not too bad – maybe two feet.

After breakfast, at 9:00 am, the swell was worse  but I decided to try a short hop up to Ogunquit (Perkins Cove) about four miles.  It was raining in fits and starts.

Outside the cove the swell was much worse than yesterday (4-5 feet) but from a northeasterly direction. Low skies and offshore fog dominated the view.  A huge breaking wave just outside the cove – (underwater ledge) – required an immediate detour to deeper water.

Again, the canoe behave beautifully riding the swells.  It never felt unsteady or tippy.  And I could maintain a straight course – but any real speed against the swell was nearly impossible.

Rough waters.

Off Bald Head in Ogunquit things got rougher.  Two much larger swells came in along the same wave train.  Big enough that when I was down in the trough, I completely lost sight of land.  Big enough that when the canoe fell off the back side of the wave the hull slapped down had on the water – something that had not happened previously.  I estimate those two swells at 7 – 8 feet.

I pulled hard for Perkins Cove and it still took 1 3/4 hours to make the 4 miles.  No other boats were on the water.

Arrival at Perkins Cove


John Mullens surprised me at the public shart in Perkins Cove.  I had planed to call him on arrival – but he had driven up to meet me instead.  We discussed options and I planned to rent a bike and head for Kennebunkport – my next planned stopping point.

John graciously offered loan me a bike and transport my canoe and gear.  And then I talked myself into riding the bike all the way to Ferry Beach in Saco – my last planned salt water stopping point.

We made the necessary gear exchanges among the summer tourists in Ogunquit.  The canoe garnered a lot of attention while I was with it on the wharf at Perkins Cove.

Switching gears.

It felt good to be on the bike and making 15-20 miles an hour almost without effort compared to rowing.  I took a roundabout route trying to avoid Route 1 – made more roundabout by getting “turned around” in Kennebunkport.

The off and on rain showers took a little of the joy out of the fast travel.  The wind also picked up out of the northwest.  Despite the traffic and the wet road – I was glad not to be on the ocean.

I arrived at my Ferry Beach campsite at 5 pm – the trip meter on the bike read 39 miles. Enough.  A day off tomorrow.

Relaxing at Ferry Beach.

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About jimandrews

Jim Andrews is an attorney, Registered Maine Guide, writer, husband, dad and sixth-generation Mainer who grew up in the hills of Oxford County and now lives in Farmington. He is a monthly columnist for the The Maine Sportsman magazine where he focuses on muscle-powered travel in the outdoors and specific applications to fishing and hunting in Maine. Late in the fall of 2010 Jim suffered a mid-life crisis and decided that the cure would be a self-propelled trip from Kittery to Fort Kent in the summer of 2012. The preparation, planning and execution of that trip will be covered here -- as well as his own ongoing attempts to reintroduce physical effort back into the increasingly-motorized world of fishing and hunting in Maine. Find Self-propelled on Facebook: