Fort Williams Fireworks Paddle, October 2000

Author: Bill Ridlon

It’s 5:30 on Thursday, June 29th. I’ve rushed home from work, put the boat on top of the truck, grabbed the kayaking gear, and headed the few miles to Willard Beach. I’m the fi rst one here but others soon appear. Bob arrives, Ray drives up, Lyn shows up just down the beach, and Barbara comes in last, but with plenty of time to make the 6:00 PM launch.

Shortly, we’re ready to head out. But wait. There are two others that have arrived and plan to join us so we paddle out a few hundred feet and wait. Finally, we’re a concentrated group with all paddlers off the beach and we start across the channel to House Island. It appears that the two paddlers that arrived last don’t have a lot of experience with Level 2 paddles. They have trouble with the chop and they begin to fall behind the main group. No matter, it gives us an opportunity to practice keeping a disparate group together.

After crossing the channel, we stop on the little island in Whitehead Passage to make clothing adjustments. Ray offers to return with the two paddlers that are having some difficulty. They decline his invitation. So… we continue through Whitehead Passage and out around Cushing Island, passing between Cushing and Ram Islands. Out here, we experience the Atlantic swells, which are great fun if you’re prepared and experienced, not so much fun if you’re not. Three of the experienced paddlers head off towards Fort Williams and Portland Headlight while Ray and I stay back with the two slower paddlers, Andy and Samantha. Ray is paddling with Andy and I’m keeping watch over Samantha as we travel slower, and slower, and slower.

Suddenly I hear, “Bill?” It’s Samantha. I paddle over to her to find out what’s on her mind.


“I think I’m getting seasick.”

Well, this should be a challenge. I give Samantha the standard warning to not lean over her boat to vomit. She follows my advice and lets the ocean wash everything away. Quite quickly it becomes clear that Samantha will be going nowhere, other than possibly out to sea, without some help. I clip Sabino Moon 3 my towrope onto her bow and we start making a little progress.

Eventually, our little pod of 4 paddlers arrives in Ship Cove at Fort Williams and we join the rest of our group. We manage to get Samantha and Andy onto the shore and Andy wisely chooses to walk back to Willard Beach to collect his car while Samantha settles her stomach.

Our remaining group floats in the cove for awhile, listening to the Portland Symphony orchestra. We also paddle here and there around the cove, playing tag with the mosquitoes.

It begins to get dark so we put our lights onto the boats. The concert draws to a close. Some of us paddle closer to where we think the fi reworks will be launched. Suddenly, the first one is fired! Then the second, the third, fourth, fifth, and many more without a break in between. It’s quick, probably less than 2 minutes. But, seeing fi reworks erupt directly above you makes it all worthwhile. Seeing them from that perspective makes the word spectacular seem too tame for the experience.

The paddle back along the Cape Elizabeth shore to Willard Beach is almost as nice as the concert and fi reworks. There is no moon in the sky so lighting is by stars and navigation by lights along the shoreline. At about 10:00 PM, 5 happy paddlers slip back into Simonton Cove, load boats onto cars and trucks, and head for home.