Post Holiday Camping trip on Jewell Island

by: Joe Herlihy

On Monday, December 26, a small group of SMSKN regulars including myself, Joe G., Vick and Zach, decided to work off the fattened Christmas goose and got out on Casco Bay for an overnight to Jewell Island. I was eager to try out the new 4-season tent Santa had left me under the tree. And, it was my first shake-down cruise of my new NDK Explorer HV, purchased from Tom Bergh and Maine Island Kayak over the summer. Joe G. seemed to be on an orphan lobster buoy rescue mission, using his new sleek rudder touring boat. Zach was doing his own gear inspection of Portland Paddle tent inventory. And, Vick? What was Vick there for? Well, truthfully … someone needed to watch out for me! Trying to keep up with three guys each more than 10 years younger than me fitted with fast, rudder touring boats is not an easy task.

The trip began from East End Beach in Portland on a chilly Monday afternoon with the four of us getting on the water around 2:00PM with plenty of time for a gentle paddle out to Jewel Island. We paddled past House Island then past Peaks Island through Whitehead Passage and long the ocean-side of Peaks. We crossed Hussey Sound to Overset Island and thence to the eastern tip of Vaill Island where we decided to launch straight across to Jewell. The group decided to go around the eastward facing, ocean side of Jewell and were treated to a spectacularly beautiful early evening on the water with just enough action to be interesting, but not so much that we couldn’t appreciate the specialness of the moment.

Vick led us through a narrow entry into the Punchbowl on the back of Jewell where we landed on the beach on the north-end of the bowl, right at the MITA site. To our surprise, the big pre-Christmas storm had pretty much wiped away the campsites. There was plenty of room for tenting on the spit of sand between the beaches, but we all commented on the work ahead for the Jewell Island stewards to get those MITA sites up and going again.

The group headed out for an evening stroll to the south end of Jewell and a walk through the enchanted buoy forest to the southward facing beaches and cliffs. A walk on Jewell is always a fascinating walk back in time with the World War II era watch towers and gun-mounts harking back to a time that is not so very distance in the past. And, is as much a testament to how quickly Mother Nature recovers her own when given the chance.

After returning to the campsite, the team got set-up and got down to dinner and discussing various kayaking related stories from days past. Being the old-guy in the group, I needed to get to bed early to try out my sparkly new tent. (Alas, the tent worked great … but Santa forgot to include a new winter-weight sleeping bag! A problem since resolved!)

After a breezy night, we awoke to a breezy morning and headed off for a walk across Jewell to the north-western side and an investigation of the new campsites established along the bluffs overlooking Cocktail Cove. There was general agreement that while the sites were beautiful, they were not the most accessible for kayakers who would struggle to get boats up onto land above the high-tide mark.

After returning to camp, breakfast, and tearing down / packing, we headed back home with a brisk breeze out of the West. We went around the northern end of Jewell and headed southwest across the western side of Cliff Island to South Point. From there, we cut across to Long Island and hugged the southeastern edge of Long Island and were just able to sneak into Hussey Sound over the sandbar between Long Island’s Jerry Point and Overset Island. Once into Hussey Sound, we headed immediately west to Pumpkin Knob off the northern tip of Peaks Island. Then, across Diamond Island Pass to the eastern edge of Great Diamond, following that southwest to Lamson Cove between Little and Big Diamond. Passing over the bar between Little and Big Diamond, we then commenced our “Slog of Pain”, heading directly into 15+ knot winds to fight our way home to East End Beach boat launch.

Now, up until that moment, the guys had been very polite in making me feel like I was actually able to hang with them! I was feeling mighty smug in my new Explorer and thinking Tom B. would be mighty proud of me keeping up with these youngsters in their long rudder touring boats. But, alas, Vicky’s husbandly love and loyalty crushed any illusions in that area! Knowing that his lovely wife, Lenka, was likely concerned and waiting for us, Vick seemed to pull out a second paddle or something from somewhere and proceeded to launch into another kayaking dimension from which this mere mortal could watch, as if standing still in time. After a quick pause to hand-off “Joe H. Watch Duties” to Joe G., Vick was soon a speck on the horizon. And, I had the good fortune of having Joe G. patiently cheer me on into East End with a nearly empty tank of gas.

We did all land safely and satisfied with a great trip around 3:00PM. To put things in perspective, it took us about two hours to get to Jewell the prior day. But, four hours to get back. A different weather day.

We all finished off the trip with a wonderful dinner at Flatbread in downtown Portland.

Overall, it was a wonderful way to finish up the 2022 kayak season – with good boats, good gear, good food, good stories, and good friends.

Breakfast time on Jewell Island
Snack on the water.