On a recent and especially placid morning on Penobscot Bay, I paddled a route I’d been planning for several summers. And as I did so, I was reminded that it’s virtually impossible to make a bad choice anywhere along Maine’s spectacular coast about where to spend some time out on the water … as long as winds and weather cooperate. And even in blustery conditions, there’s always a protected bay or harbor where your comfort level can still be pretty high.
But there were no threats on my recent outing as the seas were dead calm, and my post-dawn launch had me off the bay well before the customary afternoon southwest breezes picked up.
My morning paddle ended up being a leisurely 15 miles or slightly less, and was capped with a rousing ride on an outgoing tide under a pretty little bridge where the Weskeag River dumps into the bay. Originally called the Wessaweskeag – aptly translated to “tidal creek” by the Native Americans who named it – we now simply refer to the site of the Keag General Store by the bridge as The Gig.
And that’s where my day began, at a very convenient (with ample parking) launch ramp right across Route 173 from the store. A hot cup of coffee and a fresh pastry or hearty breakfast from the store can help invigorate you for your upcoming paddle, and I made a mental note to return at some point for the much-touted lobster roll.
As it was only about 7:30 a.m. when I slipped the kayak into the water, my plan was to head east out into the Muscle Ridge Channel and swing north past Spaulding Island, up around Otter Point and into the protected beach at Birch Point State Park, where I made arrangements to briefly visit with friends from Montreal who were camping at nearby Camden Hills State Park.
Pushing off from there, I headed north to catch a glimpse of Owls Head Light, then a southerly bearing took me past pretty little Tommy Island, beyond which Sprucehead Island juts out into the bay. After meandering among the lobster boats in the cozy harbor on the southerly side of the island, I then headed to the southwest across Seal Harbor, around Rackliff Island and turned north up into Wheeler Bay. I had a plan to arrive at Miller’s Lobster Company’s dock in time for an early lunch.
A longtime Christie family favorite, this choice dining spot sits on a dock and serves some of the midcoast’s best seafood fare. Not to mention homemade pies to die for.
The popular spot has even added beer and wine to its offerings, doing away with its long-standing BYOB tradition.
Sufficiently sated, and re-energized for my return paddle to The Gig, I had timed my entire trip with an eye on the tide schedule, as there was a second part of my plan for the day. And that was to get back to my launch site just as the tide would be turning so I could paddle a ways up the Weskeag and then ride the rushing outgoing torrent under the bridge – about as close as I ever get in my ocean kayak to the wonderful sensation of whitewater paddling.
In my explorations I’ve found a few such choice spots where, if you time it right, you can feel the rush of riding an outgoing tide. Among my favorites are Bagaduce Falls under Routes 175 and 176 in North Brooksville, Blue Hill Falls under Route 175 in South Blue Hill, and a special little place on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, where the old mill pond empties every 12 hours into Mill Cove. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve found a spot or two that I have yet to discover.
As summer winds down, it’s time to make some serious plans for autumn paddles, hikes and other outdoor adventures. In the coming few weeks, stay tuned as Josh and I pass along our best recommendations.
John Christie is an author and year-round Maine explorer. He and his son Josh write in Outdoors about places to enjoy the beauty that only Maine has to offer. He can be reached at