For several years, I’ve led a Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Society sea kayak trip from Round Pond to visit the puffins on Eastern Egg Rock in outer Muscongus Bay. The roundtrip voyage is an exacting 16-mile day trip. This year, I decided to explore an alternative itinerary that included camping overnight.
Following my research of options and a preliminary outing in eastern Muscongus Bay, I decided to launch from Bradford Point in Friendship. The actual distance to Eastern Egg and back is about 17 miles. However, paddling for multiple days provided for a more relaxed excursion. My plan was to kayak four miles to Black Island on the first day and explore and hike on nearby islands. On day two, we would complete the nine-mile round trip to Eastern Egg and decide whether or not to spend a second night on Black Island.
In late June, I received confirmation from a club member who is working on Eastern Egg Rock for the National Audubon Society that the puffins had arrived on the island. After obtaining a quality three-day weather forecast, I announced a club trip and eight enthusiastic Chowderheads signed on.
Six of us met at the Bradford Point landing on a beautiful summer day with clear skies, moderate temperatures and light winds. A major concern was a change in the weather forecast for the subsequent days. The forecast for days two and three had deteriorated overnight and predicted fog, strong onshore winds and larger seas.
The trip to Black Island was a delight. Six solo kayakers paddled out of Friendship Harbor and along the western shore of Friendship Long Island. Angling southwest at the end, we passed Cranberry Island on our left while journeying to the campsite on the north end of Black. There we met two additional Chowderheads who had spent the previous night on Thief Island in central Muscongus Bay.
While unloading boats, wary paddlers contemplated the worsening forecast. Brent Elwell obtained an updated forecast on his weather radio confirming that the exceptional conditions we were experiencing would continue for the remainder of the day. We decided to change our plans and attempt the voyage to Eastern Egg that afternoon.
Left to right, A team of kayakers paddle through Friendship Harbor. Sea kayakers arrive at Eastern Egg Rock. Credit: Courtesy of Ron Chase
Superb paddling was encountered traveling south through a narrow channel between Harbor and Hall islands. Entering open water, the hazy profile of Eastern Egg Rock could be seen about three miles south, with only tiny Franklin Island and its distinctive lighthouse between.
Light onshore winds and gentle seas continued during our traverse to the rock where we were greeted by scores of colorful puffins floating in the waves or fluttering to and from the island. The relatively calm conditions allowed us to enjoy an extended visit with the remarkable little sea birds.
After completing a circumnavigation of the diminutive atoll in rolling swells, we returned to Black Island, benefiting from a tailwind and an ingoing tide. A sunny end of the day with a cool sea breeze made for a very pleasant evening camping on the spacious site owned by Maine Coastal Heritage Trust.
The following morning, we awoke to patchy fog and a strong onshore wind. Our decision to visit the puffins the previous day was validated. Three in the group chose to return to Friendship while the remaining Chowderheads decided to wait out the fog and complete some additional island exploration.
When the fog lifted, the tenacious kayakers broke camp and paddled to a beach on the northeast end of Harbor Island. From there, the inquisitive explorers followed a hiking trail across the island to spectacular cliffs on the west side, where they were entertained by a panoramic view of Muscongus Bay. Afterward, the hiking contingent returned to the mainland assisted by a breezy tailwind and a cooperative ingoing tide.
Despite some unanticipated obstacles, we completed another successful Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Society trip to visit the puffins. A gratifying postscript, trip participants Jean Miller and Ken Gordon were able to capture a collection of exceptional close-up photos of the wonderful puffins — no easy accomplishment while paddling a solo sea kayak.
Read a chronicle of another exciting trip to Eastern Egg Rock from Round Pond and seven additional sea kayak adventures along the Maine coast in my book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine.”