It was a cold night on Fort Island, the previous rainstorm leaving a slight mist in the air. Our sea kayaking group gathered in a circle under the stars, and we quietly listened to the radio for any indication of the next day’s weather. We were hoping to end the trip with our longest, most exciting day yet- rounding Pemaquid Point- but as our trip leader Conor mentioned many times, it was weather dependent. This path exposed us to the open ocean, so any sort of wind or rain would create waves too large for our little kayaks to manage. The alternative plan was to do a day paddle, which wouldn’t require us to wake up quite as early. While the weather sounded clear based on the radio report, we wouldn’t know if we could do it for sure until early the next morning. As our circle dispersed and I headed back to my tent for the night, I looked up at the bright stars and for once, hoped that we would get woken up extra early for a long day out on the water.
The next morning, my eyes slowly blinked open to the sound of Teo’s off-key voice singing a song. Remembering the uncertainty from the night before, I rolled over in my sleeping bag and quickly checked my watch to see the time. It was 4:30 am- that meant we were Pemaquid-bound! Excitement was in the air as we packed up our tents, made a quick oatmeal breakfast, and stuffed our drybags into our brightly-colored fleet of kayaks. By the time we were on the water, the sun was coming over the island, casting a warm glow on our faces. It took us a couple hours to cross the channel and paddle along the coast. When we were close to Pemaquid, Conor had us raft-up (group our kayaks together into a pod) and we went over the plan. He would paddle on the inside, making sure we didn’t get too close to the waves slapping against the rocks. One leader of the day would lead the group, and the other would sweep. We got our last snacks and sips of water and headed on our way.
Only a few minutes after we started again, we heard Will call out from the back of the group- his rudder had broken. While Conor went over to work on that, we tried to stay together as best as possible, the current pulling us down the coast. As the wind picked up, so did my nervousness about rounding the exposed point. The waves pulled back and forth at my boat, threatening to flip it if I wasn’t paying attention. At last, after about half an hour, Conor had been able to tie Will’s rudder up and out of the way. The group continued on, with one less rudder. As we approached the point, I started to see the house with the tennis courts- where we had driven in for field lab, just a few weeks earlier! My spirits lifted, and I put a little more power into my paddle stroke, the bow of my boat cutting through the waves. Whitney cheered as we came around the point- we had done it! I saw the exact spot where we had stood observing the tidepools earlier, and the feeling of accomplishment filled my heart. We stopped for a quick photoshoot in front of the iconic lighthouse, feeling grateful for the weather and our experienced leader, both of which allowed us to make this journey.
After a few more miles, we reached our lunch spot, tucked away in the little lobstering inlet of New Harbor. Chickpea salad, tortillas, and surprise Swedish Fish from Megan would fuel our long afternoon- we still had ten more miles until our next campsite at Hog Island. To pass the time while we paddled, we played word games, told jokes, and recounted stories from earlier in the semester. Everyone’s arms were starting to ache, but our spirits stayed strong since we had each other. We finally arrived at the island at about 4:30 pm- 12 hours after we had woken up that morning. As Whitney and I stirred the mac and cheese together on the little camp stove, the stars started to appear one by one across the dark sky, each little light reminding us to capture the adventurous and incredible day we had.
Anna Peck, Los Gatos High School, Los Gatos, CA