Beta on Lubec to Machias Bay ME

Hey Guys,

I am heading up to Maine for some paddling and need some beta! Have any of you paddled the shore of Maine from the Lubec area to Machias bay? I was just wondering how actually rugged the shoreline is? Is it shear cliff? I am just trying to figure out if I want to do this or not. I am seeing three possible “good” landings on the map at Quoddy head state park, before heading into the ocean, south trescott and cutler. If any of you know what the shoreline is like in between let me know. Thanks!


Rugged Coast
This is a rugged section of coast with a lot of cliffs. There tend to be pocket beaches or inlets where you can tuck in but there are alot of rock and cliff. The section from Cutler east is called “The Bold Coast”. This part of the coast is known for big tides (25ft.+), currents, fog, and cold water. People paddle this section every year but it is real deal ocean paddling.

If Arledge is around maybe he will chime in, he just paddled that section . …

topo maps a must
I have not paddled it save from Lubec north and Jonesport south but have backpacked the Bold Coast Trail and yes there are cliffs…

If you have good timing, good tides and a favorable wind and stay away from reflecting waves its totally doable but I have no details having only looked down and not up the cliffs.

Same here
I’ve paddled around Lubec, Machias Bay, Cobscook Bay, and Passamaquoddy Bay, and you have to do your homework before you go. Big tides, fog, and big seas make for an exciting and very beautiful paddle, but you need to know the tides, the weather, and have a bailout point or two already ID’ed.

The MITA guidebook would be a decent resource.

Bailout is what I am looking for

– Last Updated: Aug-24-08 1:44 PM EST –

So I think this section is doable... I just need to make sure I have not to windy days. The wind chop is what bothers me not so much a swell. The last thing I want to happen is the conditions to get big and choppy and not have anywhere to land! I mean I can land in some surf but thats in north carolina where there is sand...

So I know the tides are big. But how much do they actually affect you when you are paddling in the ocean? I know they will be ripping through Lubec and anywhere it gets constricted? But what about the open water?

I have got the MITA book - a cruising guide to maine for sailboats (these are kinda cool for paddling to) and topo on the GPS. So I am going over it all.


Consider This…

– Last Updated: Aug-24-08 3:00 PM EST –

From the Coastal Pilot and when they say "small craft" they are not talking about tiny kayaks.

"A rough sea builds up quickly when the wind is contrary to the tidal current and small craft may find themselves beset and unable to make the shelter of the coves without assistance."

I have talked with some who have done the bold coast and you must time the tides properly and do it in decent weather to avoid a true epic or worse. Arledge would be a very good source of info as he and his pals have done it a few times. Of course, he is off paddling for a few weeks so he may not respond for awhile.

If your paddling experience is along the Carolinas, it will be difficult for you to grasp what the tides and current are like there. The tide current is quite strong and you are in the tidal stream constantly for all practical purposes. Time it right, and you are a rocket ship, time it wrong and you may end up going backwards. Consider how far the longest leg will be, how long it will take to paddle it, and what the tide will do over that period.

Neither the MITA book nor any other guide for kayaking in Maine covers the bold coast. There is a reason. If you are competent to paddle it, you don't need no stinkin' guidebook and nobody wants to be responsible for people getting way over their heads. You need more references than you have mentioned to plan this trip.

If you have not paddled in Maine. You might want to nibble a bit first before the bold coast on more benign areas such as Stonington and perhaps Great Wass. When you see headlands scoured to bare rock for up to around 40', you start to think about what things can be like when wind and waves are not your friends. You should assume you are going to be in swells and if chop bothers you, then the confusing seas when swells hit those cliffs and what just tends to be the case around the headlands will keep you rather alert.

You really need to go over the nautical charts as well. Up there the water is always moving and you need to have a good sense of the water. The Great Waas (Jonesport)suggestion is a good one. That area I know very well and you can poke your nose out into the big water and still be able to retreat back to shelter. The key is that there is always a sea running and all the variations thereof.

I am not sure I would go alone, it’s nice to have someone there to help fish you out if you get munched. This year I saw a case where we were in dead flat calm and then 300 yards later we were in the middle of a 6-8 foot really short and steep, almost breaking sea because of current, wind, (look for Mistake Island to the east of Great Waas). Welcome to downeast Maine.

Even if you have a bombproof roll, we have some pretty big bombs . . .

MITA guide book

– Last Updated: Aug-25-08 10:48 AM EST –

glosses over this area as it really isn't on the trail. My advice is to contact Bob Arledge who sometimes posts here---he paddled this section earlier this summer---he can be reached at Southern Maine Sea Kayakers.

I agree with Ed--eel--that if you aren't familiar with paddling the Maine coast and don't have experience paddling similar types of enviorment--maybe going someplace less dangerous like MDI, Stonington, Penobscot Bay or Muscongus Bay would allow you to build the skills, confidence and judgement to tackle the Bold Coast later on.

BTW I noticed that you are paddling it from Easport/Lubec west/southwest to Machias---That is usually backwards from the way many people paddle it---the reason most people go from Machias Bay to Lubec is that the prevailing winds most summer and early fall days are out of the southwest---paddling the opposite direction could put you into a 20 knot headwind for the 25-30 miles or so of the trip--not something you want, I would imagine.


– Last Updated: Aug-26-08 11:09 AM EST –

Looks like a fun but knarly piece of coast! How long is the commitment on that, 12-14 miles? That is a stretch, some pull offs halfway through, but that still means quite a bit of paddling to get off the water. Once you leave the safety of Cutler, looks like some good protection just southwest of South Trescott to get off the water, and a few pocket beaches even closer. But that's just looking at the map, I've never seen the terrain in person... How good are the weather reports up in Maine?

its 22 miles

– Last Updated: Aug-31-08 10:36 AM EST –

from Cutler to West Quoddy Head, according to Dorcas Miller in her guidebook---you're right there are very few coves--1-2--where you can land and depending on the wind direction and speed it might be very difficult even at those places. Add to this mix Tides of between 18 and 20 feet(some of the highest in the world) and it makes this area very challenging--oh and weather reports in Maine are about as reliable as anyplace else---that is to say not very.

Pocket Beaches
They are cobble beaches (rocks!) and you will definitely have to land and launch through the surf. Do able but be aware . . .

Arledge’s Report
Arledge and two others did the coast of Maine this summer is something like 14 days give or take a few. Suffice it to say they paddled fast and are at hope in some rather serious water and weather. He wrote a report on P-Net of the trip and the following is the section related to the Bold Coast. I think it highlights, in his understated way, the issues one may encounter doing that section.

“On Wednesday we crossed Machias Bay in fog, then around the north end of Cross Island. At Cutler the Navy has a couple of dozen large radio towers that comprise an antenna array for communications with submerged submarines at very low frequencies. I know this from previous trips; this trip they were hidden in the fog. When we came out of Machias Bay we ran into some long period five foot waves. These waves piled up big when they hit the shoal water at the shoreline and reflected off the rocks making pretty bouncy conditions. The problem was, with the fog we couldn’t see the coast unless we were within 50 yards, but at 50 yards we were in big clapotis caused by the incoming and reflected waves, and into the odd ledge breaks as well. After fiddling with this for an hour or so I gave up and got out the GPS for the first time on the trip. Eventually we found the Long Point Cove which is the stepping off point for the Bold Coast.

Thursday we did the Bold Coast. There are 2 to 3 knot tidal currents along the Bold Coast, so you want to get the tide right. We left at one hour into the flood so we would have the strongest part of the flood to carry us up the Bold Coast and into the Quoddy Narrows. We had the same problem with fog and clapotis which extended a half mile or more off shore. We could see from the lobster buoys that we had a very strong current, but I couldn’t tell whether it was 2 knots, 3 knots or more, so I had to resort to the GPS again. I don’t think we were making more than about 3.5 knots through the water because of the rough conditions, but according to the GPS we were doing over 7 knots over the ground. Including the time we spent moving in and out from the coast, fiddling with the GPS and resting in our boats, it only took us a little over two hours to cover the 13 nm up to the Quoddy Head Light. After that it was only another four miles or so up through the Lubec Narrows, the campground and the end of the Maine Coast part of the trip.”

Good info
Any other particularly squirrelly parts of the trail?

that is not part of the trail

– Last Updated: Aug-26-08 8:40 PM EST –

It was so squirrily that the powers that be did not include it on the trail---My suggestion is that you join MITA and get the guidebook---each section has danger spots that are thoroughly described--Cape Small, Pemiquid, Schoodic Point, Bass Harbor Bar among others.

Bold Coast Experience

– Last Updated: Aug-30-08 11:41 AM EST –

I’ve done the Bold Coast three times; two of the times I actually saw the coast; the third time I mostly saw fog, but could hear the waves pounding on the rocks. Two of the times we went from Long point Cove (two nm ENE of Cutler) straight to West Quoddy Head without stopping; when you have the tidal current with you (and you have to have the tidal current with you) you can cover that 13 nm very quickly. The other time we stopped at Baileys Mistake for lunch. I understand that Baileys Mistake is generally considered to be the only all weather bailout on the Bold Coast, and I would not dispute that.

I saw many places along the coast were one could land in benign conditions, but most of them are exposed to the sea and would not be accessible in rough seas. Long Point Cove seems much protected and the three times I was there it was quite calm, but the end of the cove is a pretty steep cobble beach and those cobbles didn’t crawl up there by themselves. Cobble beaches are formed by wave action and the steepness of the beach is an indication of the energy of the wave action; so even the protected landings apparently have their off days.

In addition to the problem of not having many bad weather bailouts there is the problem of finding the ones that exist. This summer when I did the Bold Coast the sea was rough and the weather was foggy. The waves hitting inshore ledges and rebounding waves created conditions that made it impractical to poke along the shoreline close enough to see it through the fog. In fact, the inshore ledges and the clapotis from rebounding waves make it desirable to stay well out from shore in poor visibility when the seas are running high. The strong tidal currents reduce the accuracy of dead reckoning, and I was glad to have my GPS to help me find Long Point Cove. There is a fog horn at the Little River lighthouse at the mouth of the cove at Cutler, but because of all the noise of the waves pounding on the shore, we didn’t hear it until we came around Western Head less than a half mile from the lighthouse. There is a whistle buoy (groaner) outside the mouth of Baileys Mistake and we heard it as we passed further out to sea; so we could have gotten in there if we wanted to. There is a foghorn at the West Quoddy Head light and a whistle buoy outside the inshore ledges at West Quoddy Head, so it is fairly easy to get into the Quoddy Narrows in foul weather if you haven't allowed yourself to be carried too far off the coast by wind and tide. If you inadvertently pass your destination, the tidal currents may make it difficult to work your way back to it.

In summary: Plan your trip to travel with the tidal current; make sure you have a pretty good idea what the wind, waves and visibility are going to be; assume you are going to have limited opportunities to land; have the means to navigate if the weather turns unexpectedly bad, and don’t plan on paddling at the extreme limit of your skills, keep a little in reserve for unanticipated deterioration of conditions. If you do bail out at Baileys Mistake it would be nice to have a few days provender in the event you are windbound.

I just got back from the south coast of Newfoundland and its coast is a lot bolder than the Bold Coast, but it is spectacular. I recommend it.