Tenacious is how I would describe my longtime friend and Brunswick resident, Carolyn Welch. An octogenarian, she has endured several months of physical setbacks followed by the difficulties and uncertainties of the pandemic. I suspect even the most ardent outdoor enthusiasts among us would lie low for the summer. Not Carolyn.
Despite the fact that all of the outdoor clubs she’s affiliated with cancelled trips, Carolyn was not to be deterred. If you’re a friend of Carolyn and love the outdoors, you’re the beneficiary of her resolve. Recently, I received her “unofficial paddle trips with friends” summer sea kayak schedule. First on the agenda was New Meadows River located between Bath and Brunswick. Technically not a river, New Meadows is a tidal inlet off from Casco Bay.
The New Meadows River is about ten miles in length. Carolyn’s plan was to travel a little less than halfway out, find a location for lunch in the Upper and Lower Coombs Island area, and return. Since this would be the first sea kayak paddle of the year for many of the participants, the approximately eight-mile roundtrip was deemed a suitable introductory excursion.
Never one to lollipop around issues, Carolyn announced stringent guidelines to address preventing the spread of Covid-19. Masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing were prerequisites. Once on the water, masks could be removed. My wife Nancy and I enthusiastically signed on.
Ten paddlers met at Sawyer Park Boat Landing on Old US Route One in Brunswick on an idyllic late spring morning. I didn’t conduct a poll, but my estimate is the average age was approximately 70. The guys were outnumbered eight to two. I’m not sure if that’s a reflection of our shorter life spans or if too many of us are addicted to the couch.
Typically, Carolyn had planned a tide friendly trip. In her words, “a waning tide with almost no wind” was experienced launching from Sawyer Park paddling south. Early on, a fearless Great Blue Heron was observed standing on a rock unperturbed as our entourage passed close enough to make eye contact. Numerous fish were witnessed jumping in search of breakfast, a jellyfish captured the attention of several paddlers, and there were the ubiquitous seal sightings.
Passing Howard Point at the entrance to Thomas Bay, an acquaintance of many in the group joined us paddling her speedy rowing shell. She had departed from her home farther downriver earlier in the morning and graced us with her company as our sanguine band navigated onward.
Approaching distinctive Woodward Point on the west side of the inlet, owners of an oyster harvesting company were encountered setting out baby oysters. Our inquisitive loquacious assemblage engaged them in friendly chatter. The persuasive entrepreneurs effectively marketed their product procuring several orders from crustacean lovers in our party.
Two striper fishermen were discerned on Upper Coombs Island as we angled west around Woodward Point. Not surprisingly, they were “Friends of Carolyn.” Her former kayak rolling companions were paddling elegant handcrafted wooden vessels that were the envy of all.
Advancing circuitously through shoals exposed by a low tide, an ideal lunch spot was located in the intertidal area on Lower Coombs Island. An easement property of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, the pristine seven acre island is undeveloped and scenic. Much of the area consists of mudflats at low tide. The Coombs Islands and Woodward Point are connected for a short period during each tidal cycle.
Departing southeast from Lower Coombs towards a green channel marker, a bald eagle was sighted in a tall tree on the northern terminus of nearby Bombazine Island. This area is a feeding territory for many bird species including osprey. While a probable osprey nest had been detected earlier, the handsome fish hawks were nowhere to be seen. They were likely out fishing.
Pivoting north, we began our return benefiting from an incoming tide. This time, the wind didn’t cooperate. Instead, a nuisance breeze from the north impeded progress. Undismayed by the minor inconvenience, paddlers separated into smaller groups enjoying conversations while maintaining appropriate physical separation. One of the advantages of sea kayaking during the pandemic is the opportunity to safely socialize.
Arriving at Sawyer Park about mid-afternoon, paddlers donned their masks and loaded boats. The primary topic of discussion was Carolyn’s next trip.
Carolyn summed up the day perfectly, “Such a lovely day and delightful paddle with good friends!”
Author of “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England,” Ron Chase resides in Topsham. Visit his website at www.ronchaseoutdoors.com or he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .