A Trip Report: Lola the pup and her family of two big humans and two little humans brave the Atlantic Ocean for a weekend camping trip by boat.
Lola has always been an adventurer at heart. Born in New Zealand, her first boat trip nearly ten years ago had her grinning ear to flapping ear down a remote stretch of New Zealand’s Fiordland coastline. Now that we're back in the States, when we had the chance to take a boat trip in our backyard off the coast of Maine, we couldn’t get out there fast enough.
Maine is home to 4,600 coastal islands, and through the stand up work by the Maine Island Trail Association and other conservation groups, there is incredible public access known as The Maine Island Trail. This pioneering project grants public access to private and government-owned land off the coast of Maine, making it the closest thing the east coast has to the West’s BLM (Bureau of Land Management).
For those who find themselves hustling in a New England 9-5 desk job, yearning for your next adventure, a boat might be just the ticket. And if a Maine coastal adventure is on your bucket list, be sure to become a member of the Maine Island Trail to unlock a year's worth of secrets for best tides, camp sites, boat launches and multi-day camp trips by water. And that’s what our family of five chose for our next adventure - two adults, two little kids, one pup, a boat and the open sea. Fortunately, my old man let us borrow his-18 foot Boston Whaler with a 90 hp engine, a perfect tool for the job.
We packed everyone up, got the boat on the trailer, and headed out towards our revered Jewell Island. We didn't get far though... the axle on the boat trailer snapped twenty minutes into the drive. Disappointed we headed back home. Fast forward six weeks and at the tail end of the first September swell, we were launching our humble boat out into the water.
For this trip, we would not be island hopping night-by-night, but exploring Jewell Island for our three day stay. Lola led the way, standing proud on the bow as if she knew exactly where we were heading. We chose the remote “Punch Bowl” campsite on the far side of the island facing east - straight out over the Atlantic. Of the ten or so campsites, in our opinion, it feels the most wild, and with the punch-bowl filling and draining on the tides, offers great tide-pooling for little ones.
We've learned to travel fairly light for these types of trips. Our basecamp set up includes our three-person tent (close quarters for two adults, two kiddos and a dog!), our kitchen with a Coleman-style two burner stove, firewood and one small bag each for clothing. For food we prefer to bring fresh fruits and veggies and dried or premade food.
After a relaxing morning and a late lunch of fresh mussels, we spent the afternoon exploring the remains of the island's WWII history. Portland, Maine was the closest US Port to Europe and because of this was a very important site requiring heavy protection. In 1940 alone, 4,407 alley ships were sunk here in the Atlantic by German U-boats. Casco Bay is littered with forts, U-boat towers and artillery stations, which have left a pretty neat footprint to couple adventure boat travel with American history. On Jewell we climbed one of two U-boat towers, easily sitting 250 feet off the water, giving us incredible views of Maine in it’s most stunning month. Because the stairs were so steep, Lola preferred to stick around the perimeter at the bottom of the tower, chasing squirrels in the forest on the brink of autumnal change. Like on the boat, Lola led us back to our campsite, moving gracefully and correctly through any split in the trail.
Our second day we took the boat out for a rip, basking in the rare 65+ degree weather. We hit a couple of our favorite secret white sand beaches for picnics. There is something liberating about being on the water. Back in familiar territory, after a couple of years of living on the road, that felt just right. We had the space in our lives to really soak it all in, knowing we’d be leaving soon, and wouldn’t have the chance to be back on the water again in Maine for a few years. The day knew it too, really blasting us with the long tail of a beautiful Maine summer.
The next day, we awoke to a different story. Dark gray, soupy clouds transposed themselves onto the water, blanketing everything with one dank layer of blah. It was anyone’s guess if it was high or low tide, and navigating home with just enough fuel was surely going to make the Afuera Vida novel of poor but entertaining family choices.
The stress of the impending fifteen mile journey home began to mount, and as I stuffed a sopping wet tent fly into it's bag, I watched Lola stride over to her perch above our camp, and watch the birds, patiently observing the subtle movement of the day. Witnessing her calm quieted my mind, absolving me of any anxiety regarding the journey ahead, and knowing that my intuition would guide us safely through the thick fog and around the perilous hidden rocks. And now as Lola enters her twelfth year with us, I know that the more I study Lola’s ways, the more I learn about patience, loyalty, wisdom and perception.
Follow along with Lola and her family on all of their global adventures at @afueravida!