When my octogenarian friend, Carolyn Welch, invited me to join her and companions for a sea kayak trip to Crow Island in Merepoint Bay, I eagerly accepted. Although scheduled for hip surgery a few days later, I found kayaking manageable and the proposed excursion was a modest one. Her plan was to depart from Mere Point Boat Launch near the southern end of Merepoint Neck in Brunswick.
Carolyn’s trips are extremely well-planned and organized. The weather forecast was exquisite. Her intention was to ride an incoming tide north to Crow Island in the morning and return on an outgoing tide early afternoon. In terms of construction, parking and amenities, Mere Point Boat Launch is the Cadillac of boat landings.
I’ve been launching kayaks at Mere Point Boat Launch since it opened about a dozen years ago. My regular pattern has been to line up with other boat owners and load and unload on the paved ramps. Why would anyone do otherwise? At some point, I became vaguely aware that a separate loading and unloading zone had been designated for kayaks about 100 yards from the water. Frankly, I ignored that option (as did most others) because it created unsafe conditions for kayakers and was discriminatory since motorized watercraft owners were allowed to use the convenient paved ramps.
When I arrived at the boat landing for this trip, a kayaker from another group informed me the harbormaster was now enforcing the burdensome loading and unloading rule for kayakers. Further, for the first time, I learned there was a designated launch site for kayakers that entailed trying to hold and slide a long heavy kayak down a steep narrow wooden ramp while negotiating equally steep cement steps that literally end in the water at high tide. This ridiculously dangerous contrivance was a bad accident waiting to happen.
Five solo kayakers assembled for Carolyn’s outing. The average age was in excess of 70. I’m 73 and as noted was awaiting hip surgery at the time. We complied with the onerous edict to park in the designated loading and unloading area and toted or hauled our heavy boats to and from the water. However, we launched and returned on the paved ramps as we always have because the slide and stairs were inherently hazardous. I have a knowledgeable friend who says the stairs don’t meet State of Maine safety standards and they certainly don’t comply with ADA access requirements for those with disabilities. The mandate that kayakers must drag or lug their heavy boats for a relatively long distance through traffic is unsafe and discriminatory.
Winds were light and skies partly sunny when the five of us departed from the landing. Since there was a southwest breeze and an incoming tide, we collectively decided to travel south across sheltered Merepoint Bay to the end of Birch Island and then use the wind and tide to our advantage traveling north in Middle Bay toward Crow Island.
The tide had risen sufficiently to allow navigation through a narrow channel separating tiny House Island from the southwestern terminus of Birch Island. From there, a gentle tailwind helped propel us north along the east side of Birch while enjoying numerous bird sightings. Continuing past Little Birch Island, we entered a channel between expansive White Island and Little Iron and Scrag Islands to the east. One kayaker observed a large osprey nest high in a tree on Little Iron. Alas, closer inspection failed to confirm the presence of chicks.
From the northern end of White, it was about a half mile paddle to Crow Island. Formerly owned by Civil War hero and Governor Joshua Chamberlain, the island was donated to Harpswell Heritage Land Trust which now conserves it. After some exploration, we found a suitable location for lunch. Two in our group went for a swim. A cold water sissy, I held out for a hot shower at home.
A light headwind provided relief from the humidity on our return voyage south through Merepoint Bay. To my knowledge, no injuries were suffered as a result of the arduous carry at the takeout. Joint damage and muscle strains were certainly a risk.
On Aug. 18, I sent a letter to Brunswick Parks & Recreation requesting they change the unacceptable rules for kayakers. To date, they haven’t responded.