by Phil Duggan, Downeast Coastal Press August 22-28, 2006
Many of us often get the itching to take off for the day or weekend, to see new sights, find scenic photo opportunities and enjoy sunshine and fresh air. So, we gas up the car – at today’s gas prices, that’s not cheap – and head out to Baxter State Park or some other destination, stopping for lunch at restaurants along the way. By the end of the day, we probably had a good time, but we are tired of driving and our wallets are much lighter.
Candace Jackson, travel writer, for the Wall Street Journal sites Robertson Sea Tours as one of the things to in her Saturday, October 7, 2006 article Why Maine Doesn’t Want You to Relax.There is another option. Look around your own neighborhood. Washington County has breathtaking scenic areas, winding rivers and brooks, forests and hiking trails and perhaps the most overlooked treasure of all: the islands and bays of coastal Down East.
Unless you are a fisherman or owner of a seagoing pleasure craft, chances are you have taken for granted the incredible land and seascapes that glisten with color and character just off the coasts of our own communities. Several charter cruise companies provide a variety of trips along these coastal waterways.
Considering the cost for a day trip away, these local cruises are reasonable priced. Downeast Coastal Cruises and Robertson Sea Tours, both based out of Milbridge, offer lighthouse and lobster cruises, island trips in the Narraguagus Bay and more. Other cruises originate in Jonesport, Cutler and other coastal towns. Check local business chambers and organizations for more information or go on the Web at www.milbridge.org and www.machiaschamber.org. The islands and lighthouses in and near Narraguagus bay are a prime example of local treasures. A short boat ride offers spectacular view of islands with jagged cliffs, picturesque rock formations and colorful landscapes throughout the bay. Some might remind you of Arizona’s Grand Canyon or Garden of the Gods in Colorado and scenic areas only a smaller maritime version.
Jordan’s Delight is a 27-acre island aptly names – it’s scenic variety is pure delight. Pink wildflower blossoms contrast with the jagged rock cliffs, painted yellow with lichen and spattered with barnacles at the waterline. Bright green vegetation adorns the surface and bald eagles may be seen perched in a tree or soaring along the cliffs. The Hole-in-the-Wall, a window in a section of rock, perfectly illustrates the rugged splendor of Maine’s coastal islands.
On Pond Island sits the privately owned Narraguagus Light, also known as Pond Island Lighthouse, nestled amid the rocky shoreline and dense woods. Because the light is not visible from the roads of Milbridge, the only chance to see it is by boat, unless you own a helicopter or plane. Summer homes and camps are on the opposite side of Pond Island. Sightings of osprey hunting for food or protecting their nests are common.
Just outside the Narraguagus Bay are Nash Island and its lighthouse. Although Nash island Light may be seen at a distance from Cape Split and other roads in South Addison, by boat you can get up close and photograph the light, or the sheep that may be grazing by the lighthouse.
A jaunt in the other direction will lead to Petit Manan Island and Maine’s second-tallest lighthouse. Eagles, seals, eiders, puffins in early summer and other sea and songbirds are common hear and the rest of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge, formerly called Petit Manan Wildlife Refuge.
Ship Stern is another island work of art sculpted by nature’s hand. The jagged layers and bands of rock protrude into the bay with strong character. If this landscape were a sentient being, it would ooze with power and confidence. Viewed from the proper angle, Ship Stern Island resembles three colonial-style ships alongside each other, hence the name.
Maine is famous for lobster. Ever wonder what it is like to haul lobster traps? Some cruise charters offer tours for a glimpse into one of Maine’s primary industries. A family from Salem, New Hampshire, recently did just that on board the Mairi Leigh out of Milbridge. Captain Jamie Robertson hauled some of his traps near Tafton Island and gave the family a demonstration of what lobster fishing is like.
The visiting young boy names Mitchell and his older sister crinkled their noses, reached into the bait bucket and baited the traps, an odoriferous treat, indeed. The siblings learned how to tell the difference between a male and female lobster, to determine if a lobster was of legal size and other lobster trivia – the captain even demonstrated the technique of hypnotizing a lobster. The family was amazed and thrilled throughout the two-hour tour – an adventure they can’t have in Salem.
The next time you get the hankering to get out and enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer, think local. Treat yourself to the smells, sounds and sights of your own Downeast, Maine.