George Essex, Finbar Curtain, and Rob Root grew up in Vermont. Rob and George, friends since elementary school, met Finbar in high school, at Thetford Academy. They all graduated from college this spring, but due to COVID-19, all of their summer plans were suspended. So... here follows their story.
"We decided to make an opportunity of it, and come together to go on an adventure!"
The biggest challenges so far have mental: overcoming boredom, sea sickness, and fatigue. On our second day, we did seven hours of paddling across open water, and it was very challenging. Since then, we've learned that adding breaks to long days makes the task much easier to accomplish. We have also had some run ins with wildlife: aggressive seagulls and rams. All in all, it has been a great adventure so far, and we are glad that we have much more to see!
ABOUT THE PADDLERS
Rob Root, also raised in Strafford, VT. Graduated from Montana State University with a degree in Civil Engineering. My sense of adventure was born from a month long NOLS trip in the Rocky Mountains. Since then, George and I have toured the West coast of the US, and I have spent many days exploring all Montana has to offer.
June 11, 2020
They should be hiding from the wind somewhere a bit East of the Kennebec’s Fort Popham in the Rivers section of Maine. These images are of this PM’s satellite and water vapor, and we’ve attached the Coastal Marine forecast. These boys spent two weeks prepping for this great adventure, sealed printed out charts in zip locks, pieced together their training knowledge from YouTube videos, internet forums and family friends. Practiced rolls and rescues in their local lake. Today’s PM winds are running SW 19-23 knots. The visible cold front will pass this evening. If YOU had a choice of what side of an island to land on for camping this evening, and launching tomorrow AM, which side would you consider and why? Once the cold front is through do you know the probably wind direction and Force? When you cite wind direction are you referring to which direction its coming from? Or going to?
Coastal Waters from Cape Elizabeth, ME to Merrimack River, MA out
25 NM- 348 PM EDT Thu Jun 11 2020
...SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY IN EFFECT THROUGH LATE TONIGHT...
TONIGHT...S winds 10 to 20 kt with gusts up to 30 kt, becoming SW
5 to 15 kt with gusts up to 20 kt after midnight. Seas 4 to 7 ft,
subsiding to 3 to 5 ft after midnight. A chance of showers. Areas of
fog. Vsby 1 to 3 NM.
Synopsis for Stonington ME to Merrimack River MA out to 25 NM...
A cold front will cross the waters this evening with a secondary
cold front reaching the waters late Friday. High
pressure settles south into the maritimes and northern New England
this weekend with onshore flow continuing over the waters.
June 12, 2020
Last night these recent-college-graduate VT Boys Paddle Downeast pod of George, Finbar & Rob stayed on the Western side of Muscongus Bay, near Round Pond. So today they likely crossed Muscongus Bay with rather strong starboard beam seas which will have schooled their hip flexors in staying loose while in control. Muscongus Bay is open mouthed offering little protection from today’s Force 3-4.
My question for all of you following their grand adventure: once around the corner of Port Clyde and running NE up past Mosquito with its 1-2 kn currents, they’ll be approaching the...? BUT where, when and how will they OR would YOU plot a course/choose to make their first longer crossing to Vinalhaven? It's anywhere from 8 to 12 NMs, open to the South, has dispersed large boat traffic, and lots of lobstermen plying the waters.
Here is some data for you to consider:
What other info would you like to have to plan your crossing from Maine’s coast across to the beautiful granites of Vinalhaven? These boys spent a month self training via You Tube, chat groups, lake paddling to support this long paddle of the entire coast of Maine. They’re over 100 miles in and have had many days of tiring and challenging winds. Stay tuned as I hope to report on their crossing choice.
"Down Easter Paradox: regardless of the direction of travel, there will always be a headwind."
June 15, 2020
Over the past three days, we have made our way from Muscongus Bay to the eastern end of North Haven island. Tomorrow we will cross the Penobscot, and the day after, we will resupply at Mt. Desert.
We have discovered a meteorological peculiarity known as the Down Easter Paradox: regardless of the direction of travel, there will always be a headwind. Around every corner, just when we think we will come perpendicular to the wind, it seems to turn on us. Yesterday, crossing from Mosquito Head to Monroe island, we had a vicious wind that proved quite challenging. Finbar's boat, which has a skeg rather than a rudder, was severely turning on him, causing quite the frustration. Today, he played around with the depth of skeg, to balance between weathercocking and turning with the wind, and found his heading much more manageable. Even though we have been out here for two weeks, we still have much to learn!
While crossing the bay today, we found an entire clove of garlic floating in the water. Now, we weren't sure if there is some Maine rule of thumb about avoiding random sea shallots, but we decided to save it for dinner. And wow, the flavor it added to our rice and beans was the morale boost we needed! We anticipate that we have nine more days of paddling. But we are taking it one at a time!
Finbar, George, Rob
June 19, 2020
The next day, we made our way to Bass Harbor on Mt. Desert island. After another tasty lunch, we decided to explore a small river that fed into the bay. Imagining ourselves as French voyageurs under the command of Samuel de Champlain, we dragged our kayaks up a short waterfall to a shallow and muddy lake. After awhile of searching for a campsite, we began to realize that the water level was receding, and we would soon be stuck in the mud! Fortunately, we made it back to land, but it did involve some grimy knuckledragging. Now covered in mud, we decided we would camp there for the night, and wait for high tide to refill the lake in the morning. To make our inland excursion more exciting, we tramped a mile through the woods to a road, and walked to a convenience store to resupply our stock of rice and beans.
The distance for the next day was awkwardly short, due to spacing of MITA sites, but it was nice to have the afternoon free. We set up camp on an islet in the Cranberry Isles, with a gorgeous view of Acadia National Park. With our down time, we fashioned together sails made from garbage bags and drift wood. Rob even used his on our paddle today! However, George and Finbar consider the sail morally questionable as "kayaking purists"...
June 22, 2020
Since our previous update, we have made it from Oceanwood Campground, on Schoodic Point, to a campsite on the eastern side of Cross Island, beyond Machias Bay. We are impressed at the level of cell reception this deep into the expedition!
From Oceanwood, we had a short journey to Bois Bubert island, where we waited out the heat wave playing beach-pebble backgammon in the shade. The next day, the weather could not have been more different. It was the coldest day of the trip and a thick blanket of fog had rolled in. We had yet to encounter fog this dense on the journey, or perhaps in our lives, but we were not deterred. With our GPS in one hand and our compass in the other, we tunneled our way through the claustrophobic haze. At certain points, we could have been 100 miles at sea, or 100 feet from shore, but it would have all looked the same. Eventually, we hit our target, a 1 acre islet by Jonesport, called Mouse Island. After landing, we wasted no time setting up the tent and changing into dry clothes!
Today, the fog was dense, but opened up in some places. Now, we at least know what northern Maine looks like! With the water being calm, we really pushed ourselves to cover distance, and made it 21 miles to Cross Island. Consequently, the rice and beans tasted extra good tonight.
We expect to arrive in Lubec Wednesday afternoon. Three champagne bottles are safely stored in our boats for the moment we land!
Rob, George, Finbar
I hope that the VT Boys, Rob, George, and Finbar 's quick reports from their great adventure of deciding to teach themselves to sea kayak in a month, and then paddle Portsmouth to Lubec, has charged some of you up to get out there and wisely experience the nomadic tribal adventuring that flows from 'going to sea in a little boat'.
I'd consider their chosen course from the VT born dream, to thought, to study and self training, to Portsmouth and then weeks out on the colder waters, biggish tides, and windy seas paddling hundred of miles to Lubec, a bold and real deal.
And one available to most any of us who believes in Darwin and their own common sense/judgement. That's what attracted me to following these young men's adventure, they had built themselves a framework for success over their shortish years of life.
For sure their skills, knowledge and experience cornerstones could readily have bean endlessly critiqued. But it appears to me that these 'VT Boys Going Downeast' recognized their limits and chose wisely in their applied seamanship, that essential n smart balancing of their goals and chosen course around the big variables of Environment, People, and Equipment.
SO...Hurrah, Hurrah to Rob, George n Finbar, those mountain Boys from VT Who Went Downeast!
Tom Bergh, MIKCo, Peaks
PS: Boys, hope you'll send us along some future tidbits on your re-entry back into the more manmade world, it can be a challenge too.
June 25, 2020
Here is our last update! Two days ago, we made our way from Cross Island to a beach campsite along the Bold Coast, called Eastern Head. As we left Cross Island, we passed by twenty 1000 ft tall radio towers that fiercely shot out of the fog. We were fortunate enough to have a tailwind (a rare occurrence during this expedition), but by midday, the seas became viciously choppy.
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” Confucius