Paddlers approach Goat Island. Ron Chase photos

Early each September, the United States Coast Guard, the Maine Office of Tourism and the American Lighthouse Foundation sponsor Maine Open Lighthouse Day. The event provides an opportunity for the public to visit and explore many historic lighthouses and attracts more than 15,000 visitors each year.

This year, the event was held on Sept. 9. Twenty famous Maine lighthouses participated, including Goat Island Light in Cape Porpoise Harbor near Kennebunkport. An offshore lighthouse, there is no ferry service to Goat Island and visitors must find their own transportation.

Our friend, Shweta Galway, conceived a unique plan to experience the event. She proposed a Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Society sea kayak trip to the island. My wife, Nancy, and I enthusiastically signed on.

Weather was a concern. There was a chance of storms, fog and gusty winds. We carefully monitored the forecast in advance of the trip. The prediction improved the night before, but the possibility of fog and some storms remained. The trip was on for early the next morning.

It was high tide when five of us met at a small primitive landing on the causeway between Cape Porpoise and Bickford Island. The winds were calm, skies partly clear and no fog. While unloading a tandem and three solo kayaks, we wondered how difficult our return would be at low tide.

The waters were mirror calm when we departed and turned south. While cruising along the east side of Bickford Island, we met a paddler who reported he had been to the lighthouse and it appeared closed. Since it was early, we decided to explore some of the other islands in the vicinity and planned a later arrival at the lighthouse.


We progressed farther south into Cape Porpoise Harbor and navigated along the shores of Folly and Green Islands. Investigating the narrow circuitous passages between them was a very stimulating endeavor. However, breaking waves could be seen on the outside of the islands. We decided to remain in the more protected environment on the inside.

Visitors enjoy spectacular views from the Goat Island Light Tower.

Persisting northeasterly from Folly Island, the distinctive profile of the lighthouse tower and keepers’ house could be seen when approaching treeless Goat Island. We weren’t the only paddlers who had this undertaking in mind, as we met four other kayakers when landing on the gravel beach next to the dock.

A short walk brought us to the keepers’ house. Friendly and helpful Scott Dombrowski, who shares keeper duties with his wife Karen, met us at the door and confirmed the lighthouse was open. He told us how to access the lighthouse tower and the enclosed walkway that connects the tower with the house.

Early English explorer John Smith sailed by the islands in 1614 and named the area “Cape Porpus.” Numerous reefs and ledges on the periphery of the harbor make entry potentially hazardous. The need for a lighthouse was apparent early on. The original light was established in 1833 and the current 25-foot brick tower was rebuilt in 1859. Keeper records indicate that during one 55-year period, there were 46 shipwrecks in the area.

Climbing the narrow, dark, circular tower stairs to the railed platform at the top was like taking a journey back in time. The views of the surrounding area were nothing short of phenomenal. The lighthouse is now automated and still an important navigation aid.

The covered walkway was rebuilt in 2011 after the original was swept away during the blizzard of 1978. The current bell tower was also constructed during that timeframe. Keeper Dombrowski thoughtfully opened the bell tower for our inspection.


Our thoroughly enjoyable and informative visit completed, we decided on some additional island exploration on the return trip. Departing from Goat Island, we kayaked northeasterly into modest swells on the outside of Trott Island and then negotiated through a very narrow rocky channel between Trott and Cape Islands.

A gentle tailwind helped propel us back to the causeway landing. Low tide resulted in a substantial mudflat at the takeout. Rather than wallow through the mud, we elected a strenuous carry along the rugged shoreline. The unplanned struggle at the end did not diminish from a wonderful day of paddling and lighthouse reconnoitering.

My book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine,” narrates eight more exciting sea kayaking excursions on the Maine coast.

Ron Chase resides in Topsham. His latest book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” is available at 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 or he can be reached at

Kayakers cross Cape Porpoise Harbor.

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