I know it sounds a little odd for someone my age to suggest that something can make him feel “giddy,” but I feel blessed that it’s a sensation I often feel and genuinely enjoy.

And it’s usually associated with some seasonal first, especially the first stroke of the paddle after launching my kayak in Penobscot Bay.

Kayaking probably has earned its rightful place on my giddiness scale because of all my summer delights, it’s the one to which I’ve been most recently drawn and come to love.

Although I’ve been an avid paddler all my life, beginning when I was a toddler spending summers at our family retreat on the west shore of Portage Lake up in Aroostook County, I had only occasionally been in a kayak, usually a small freshwater version loaned by friends, and for only short experimental excursions.

I had spent a couple of high school summers as Hike Master at a YMCA camp in Goshen, NH, which included leading three-day canoe trips every week for eight weeks around beautiful Lake Sunapee.

But I was taken by how easily a kayak slipped through the water compared with the canoe, and I didn’t have to search around for a heavy rock to place in the bow for ballast which I had to do when taking the canoe out solo.

About six years ago, I found a sea kayak in Uncle Henry’s: sleek but reasonably stable, with storage hatches for extended trips, a spray skirt and even a deck-mounted compass for the occasional time when the fog might roll in around me.

In addition to how easy it was to propel the craft, the other thing that struck me on my first trip in the ocean was how different everything looked from what I had seen for years from the perspective I’d gotten so used to standing at the helm of my lobster boat. The view from water level rendered even very familiar haunts completely new. You’ll have to experience the feeling of being one with the ocean that only kayaking can offer.

My traditional first paddle of the season, usually during the latter weeks of April (although the 80-degree stretch we experienced in March this year provoked me to take an early day on the bay), is close to my home and especially delightful because the two harbors I visit are so quiet.

Putting the kayak in at the public launch site on the east side of Camden Harbor, I take a swing to its head where the Megunticook River cascades under The Smiling Cow over a striking set of falls, avoiding the elver nets and stopping to converse with the omnipresent ducks awaiting food from folks in Harbor Park.

I glide past the still plastic-enshrouded schooner fleet, but I can hear some of the crews beginning to prepare their boats for the summer.

Out past the yacht club I swing by Laite Beach and circumnavigate Curtis Island. I snap a shot or two of one of Maine’s most beautiful lighthouses before heading toward Rockport Harbor and its guardian light on Indian Island, which holds a very special place in my heart. It was there, 30 years ago, that Marty and I were married, as our lobster boat bobbed on its mooring on the protected westerly side.

Hugging the shoreline, in hopes of picking up a few pieces of flotsam that might have washed ashore in winter storms (pot buoys, cork floats, sea glass) I make my way down the bay with the Owl’s Head light always in sight, and the ferries plying their way to and from Vinalhaven and North Haven. I’ll always see a few intrepid sailors out for their first trips of the season and lobstermen pulling pots.

As quiet as Camden is, Rockport is even more serene this time of year, and what fun it is to see the ospreys returning to their nest on the ledge marker part way up the harbor.

After a leisurely cruise around the harbor, I’ll head back up the bay, and if the seas are calm enough I’ll stay well outside of Curtis Island on a course toward Lincolnville Beach, as that affords the very best view of the Camden Hills, “where the mountains meet the sea.”

An old friend of mine once said to me, “You know, John, it’s too bad. Most people see the coast of Maine from the wrong side.”

Well, if you want to see the Maine coast, from the right side, get yourself a kayak and paddle along a few of the thousands of miles of spectacular scenery. You’ll see why that first trip of mine provokes giddiness year after year.

John Christie is an author and year-round Maine explorer. He and his son, Josh, write in Outdoors about places to enjoy beauty only Maine has to offer. He can be contacted at:

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