Glide of the Week: Penobscot Bay, Maine

Put-In/Takeout: Variable

Distance: 5 – 28 miles

Time: Variable

Wind Direction: N, S, W

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Possible Routes: Numerous! With Northerlies and Southerlies the shoreline of West Penobscot Bay allows for vehicle shuttles between the harbors of Rockland, Rockport, Camden, Lincolnville Beach and Belfast. Westerlies require motor vessel support but allow for bay crossings to the outer islands (only for the experienced and ocean savvy). Then there are the outer islands like Matinicus. Again, motor vessel support and some big-time cajones are required!

Hazards: Cold water, cold weather, boat traffic (including tankers, lobster boats, ferries, and pleasure craft), fog and a rock-bound coast.

Best Time of Year: Often fall through spring when there is more wind. But remember: these runs require more skills and the right gear.

About the Run: The Maine coast is an amazing place. There are thousands of islands and big bays. The biggest is Penobscot Bay, the second largest embayment on the East Coast. It is perhaps the best area on the Maine coast for downwinders. Similar to the surf scene, the best months are generally not during the short summer season. Instead, they are during the colder months (although the early summer sea breezes, which blow southwest, do sometimes have enough oomph to allow for some great rides). The downwinders in Maine fit the seascape and local character. They can be burly affairs that take place in howling gales and snow squalls. The hazards are many so skilled paddlers should bring the right gear and seek out local knowledge.

The mountains drop right to the sea along the shoreline of West Penobscot Bay and provide a stunning backdrop. Several miles offshore are the outer islands of North Haven and Vinalhaven, which can be accessed by the Maine State Ferry service. Surfing is not too far away at Popham Beach near Bath.

West Penobscot Bay is the local area, and by local we mean there are a couple of diehards that are pushing the miles in all sorts of conditions including winter gales. The picturesque communities of Rockland, Rockport, Camden, Lincolnville Beach and Belfast dot the western shoreline and allow for put-ins, takeouts and vehicle shuttles. This works for both northerlies and southerlies. Southerlies are the best due to unlimited fetch. Northerlies are common in the winter and can allow excellent, although chilly, runs. Be prepared to kick the ice off your deck! Westerlies can be good too, especially closer to the mouth of the bay where there is more fetch, but they require a motor vessel in order to return home. Any bay crossing also involves dodging boat traffic, which in the summer can be ample and include tankers, lobster boats, ferries and pleasure boats. Learn the traffic lanes, stay clear and get a motor vessel to keep watch. This can be accomplished by working with our company, Thorfinn Expeditions, a SUP adventure outfit that offers guided downwinders on SIC boards in the area and has access to several motor vessels.

Despite all the challenges, the Maine coast and Penobscot Bay in particular offer up world-class paddling and downwinders.

For more information contact Thor Emory at Thorfinn Expeditions.

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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