Kayakers enjoy a close-up view of Franklin Island Light. Ron Chase photos

Four of us were sea kayaking back from remote Eastern Egg Rock in outer Muscongus Bay. A modest tailwind helped propel us north while traversing the 3-mile exposed crossing to the relative security of a trio of islands. Franklin Island Light dominated the view in the east.

Members of the Penobscot Paddle & Chowder Society, we had just finished a successful visit with the colorful Atlantic puffins who had returned to the tiny atoll to breed. An annual club trip, ours had been the triumphant culmination of months of anticipation followed by a week of planning to confirm the puffins had returned while ensuring safe weather for the voyage. A last-minute, patchy-fog forecast had been a concern. Although ominous fog banks were observed to our east and west, we enjoyed clear seas during our cruise.

A hike to spectacular cliffs on Harbor Island are part of a Muscongus Bay trip.

The next destination was Black Island where our intended campsite was located. Situated in the heart of Muscongus Bay, the 15-acre island is owned and preserved by Maine Coast Heritage Trust. The campsite on the northwestern corner is conveniently located about 4 miles southwest of the Bradford Point Landing in Friendship and a little less than halfway to Eastern Egg Rock.

Benefiting from clear conditions, we angled right for a close-up view of Franklin Island Light. The 45-foot tower was built in 1855 as the area was identified as one of the most dangerous localities on the coast of Maine. Numerous sunken ledges that form hazardous tidal currents are the cause. That probably explained the turbulence we experienced paddling to and from Eastern Egg. Now owned by Franklin Island National Wildlife Refuge, the island is closed between April 1 and July 31 for the bird-nesting season.

Proceeding north, we passed Crane Island on the left and entered a narrow channel between Harbor and Hall Islands. If conditions allowed, our plan was to return to Harbor the following day to hike to cliffs on the west side.

Navigating across a mile and a half of open water brought us to the exceptional Black Island campsite. One member of our group continued to Friendship while three of us established camp. We joined one other kayaker who was already occupying the site. Open ledges facing north and west offer wonderful views of the surrounding area and a grassy sector provides space for several tents.


Warm temperatures and a gentle sea breeze was the recipe for an exquisite evening. The four of us enjoyed a relaxing dinner perched atop the rugged prominence. One of the longest days of the year, our evening ended with a spectacular sunset.

When I peered out of my tent early the next morning, dense fog was an unwelcome intruder. Our paddling plans were in jeopardy. The four of us consulted weather radios and various weather websites searching for reassurance the fog would soon lift. The verdict wasn’t encouraging.

A rare fog bow developed while camping on Black Island.

There truly is a silver lining in every cloud. While eating breakfast, an unusual fog bow developed in the west and lingered for about an hour. My first experience viewing the rare phenomenon, it was a pleasant distraction from the disappointing conditions.

Since it was only a 4-mile paddle to Friendship, we decided to delay our departure in hopes of improvement. Around mid-morning, patchy fog supplanted the soupy haze. By the time we loaded our kayaks, a window of clearing opened between Black and Harbor islands. Like the previous day, fog banks could be seen east and west.

Intent on avoiding a disadvantageous change in the fog location, we hurriedly paddled south to Cliffs Trailhead on the east side of Harbor Island. Beginning on a sandy beach, the marked trail led through a wooded area and over an ancient stone wall to a dramatic expanse of imposing cliffs. We spent about an hour scrambling over the impressive, rugged terrain.

Mildly turbulent waters were experienced paddling northeast through fortuitously fog-free Otter Island Passage. Continuing past Friendship Long Island to Bradford Point Landing, we completed a remarkable two-day adventure visiting the puffins on Eastern Egg Rock, experiencing a fog bow and hiking the cliffs of Harbor Island.

My book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine,” includes a narrative about another Eastern Egg Rock trip that began at Round Pond and seven more exciting sea kayak voyages along the Maine coast.

Ron Chase resides in Topsham. His latest book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” is available at northcountrypress.com/maine-al-fresco or in bookstores and through online retailers. His previous books are “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England.” Visit his website at ronchaseoutdoors.com or he can be reached at ronchaseoutdoors@comcast.net.

A kayaker approaches Black Island in Muscongus Bay.

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