We paddled by puffins on an overnight sea kayaking tour in Muscongus Bay


For several years I led a Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Society sea kayaking tour from Round Pond to visit the puffins on Eastern Egg Rock in Outer Muscongus Bay. The round trip is a demanding 16 mile day trip. This year I decided to explore an alternate route that included overnight camping.

Following my research of options and a preliminary outing in Eastern Muscongus Bay, I decided to take off from Bradford Point in Friendship. The actual distance to Eastern Egg and back is approximately 17 miles. However, paddling for several days made for a more relaxed excursion. My plan was to kayak four miles to Black Island on day one and explore and hike nearby islands. On the second day we were completing the nine mile round trip to Eastern Egg and deciding whether or not to spend a second night on Black Island.

Paddlers pass Franklin Light on return from Eastern Egg Rock.

At the end of June, I received confirmation from a club member who works on Eastern Egg Rock for the National Audubon Society that the puffins had arrived on the island. After getting a quality three-day weather forecast, I announced a club trip and eight enthusiastic Chowderheads signed up.

Six of us met at Bradford Point Landing on a beautiful summer day with clear skies, moderate temperatures and light winds. A major concern was a change in the weather forecast for the following days. The forecast for the second and third days had deteriorated overnight to fog, strong onshore winds and heavier seas.

The trip to Black Island was a delight. Six lone kayakers paddled out of Friendship Harbor and along the western shore of Friendship Long Island. Fishing southwest at the end, we passed Cranberry Island on our left while heading to the campground at the north end of Black. There we encountered two more Chowderheads who had spent the previous night on Thief Island in central Muscongus Bay.

As the boats unloaded, wary paddlers watched the deteriorating forecast. Brent Elwell got an updated forecast on his weather radio confirming that the exceptional conditions we have been experiencing will continue for the rest of the day. We decided to change our plans and attempt the trip to Eastern Egg that afternoon.

From left to right, a team of kayakers paddle through Friendship Harbor. Sea kayakers arrive at Eastern Egg Rock. Credit: Courtesy of Ron Chase

Great paddles were encountered traveling south through a narrow channel between Harbor and Hall islands. Entering open water, the hazy outline of Eastern Egg Rock could be seen about three miles to the south, with only tiny Franklin Island and its distinctive lighthouse between.

Light winds and smooth seas continued as we crossed to the rock where we were greeted by dozens of colorful puffins floating in the surf or floating to and from the island. The relatively calm conditions allowed us to enjoy an extended visit with the remarkable little seabirds.

After circumnavigating the small atoll in rolling swells, we returned to Black Island, enjoying a tailwind and rising tide. A sunny end to the day with a cool sea breeze made for a very enjoyable evening camping at the spacious site owned by the Maine Coastal Heritage Trust.

The next morning we woke up to scattered fog and a strong offshore wind. Our decision to visit the puffins the day before was validated. Three members of the group elected to return to Friendship while the remaining Chowderheads decided to wait out the fog and complete further exploration of the island.

Puffins float just off the bow of a kayak near Eastern Egg Rock. Credit: Courtesy of Ron Chase

When the fog lifted, the tenacious kayakers broke camp and paddled to a beach at the northeast end of Harbor Island. From here, curious explorers followed a hiking trail across the island to the dramatic west side cliffs, where they were entertained by panoramic views of Muscongus Bay. Then the hiking contingent returned to the mainland aided by a blustery tailwind and cooperative rising tide.

Despite some unforeseen obstacles, we had another successful Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Society trip to visit the puffins. A gratifying postscript, trip participants Jean Miller and Ken Gordon were able to capture a collection of exceptional close-up photos of the wonderful puffins – no easy task paddling a solo sea kayak.

Read a chronicle of another thrilling trip to Eastern Egg Rock from Round Pond and seven additional sea kayaking adventures along the Maine coast in my book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine.”


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