I would like to hear from anyone who has paddled from the Owls Head area of Maine over to Vinalhaven. What was the trip like, difficulties ,concerns. opinion. Thanks

Might that not be so dependent on
the particular conditions the day one took the trip as to limit the usefulness of other trip reports?

Concerns mostly
have to do with the day. Its about a ten mile crossing.

You have to get up early. Penobscot Bay kicks up about ten am… How high it kicks up depends somewhat on wind direction. Opposing wind and tide just makes conditions worse.

You have to paddle fast too… No ten miles in ten hours. Do it in two to three. I haven’t dared paddle across it yet though thought about paddling up to Lincolnville and then across to Isleboro… When I have been on island cleanups with the MITA power skiff its always been bouncy and a wet ride.

My husband and I have spent time in that area each summer for over 20 years.

Finding a nearest launch point could be challenging. Owls Head itself does have a park, but the beach is at the bottom of quite steep, tall cliffs. No launch point there - my husband and I have scouted it out. As you go further along the coast, towards Rockland, you can see even on a Google map that it is pretty much private homes and roads.

The nearest sure launch point for that trip is either Birch Point State Park further south/west, or going from a public launch in Rockland itself. Either means adding at least a couple of miles to the trip, and picking your damages between a more concentrated current to cross or messing around with commercial craft that are not expecting a kayak to be in quite that spot.

kayakmedic is dead on re the timing - in Penn Bay you have until 10am before things kick up in a way that increases the challenge. Most of this crossing in is bona fide open sea. That means dolphins, it is not rare for them to accompany the ferry from Rockland out, as well as a usual minimum of 4 to 6 ft seas.

One option that people consider is to paddle out and ferry back. But the ferries in Maine do not just keep running until everyone is back home, and even assuring space for one person and a kayak for the last trip of the day could require a reservation. They are small and operate in a much more restricted fashion than those in the NY and CT. In Maine is is not at all rare for an outsider to have to spend an overnight in their car on even the bigger island like Vinalhaven, because they did not understand the local system for assuring a space in the line for the return trip. We met one guy, a UPS driver, who kept ad apartment and a dog on Vinalhaven because he got stuck over there so often.

I know of one guy in Friendship who has a long time habit of this kind of trip, ten miles out to an island, once a month. But he starts at something like 4am and has not always been able to make the trip even with that timing and very careful planning.

This has been very helpful! Thanks so much for all the time. Was hoping to do it as part of a longer trip, stopping at vinal haven and then continuing on to deer isle area. we were not planning on doing a one day out and back so getting caught by weather late in the afternoon or evening wouldn’t matter so much as we could just hang out having some time to play with. Anyway it still sounds a bit more dodgey than we want!

Yeah - Vinalhaven is not a stop-over

– Last Updated: Jun-14-13 7:15 AM EST –

Like I said, we've paddled Muscongous and parts of Penn Bay for a lot of years, have gone as far as Eastern Egg in terms of out there. If you are including that stretch in your trip, feel free to email me. We don't know Stinington well, usually have gone out to Muscle Ridge for an archipelago hit. But we are pretty good from Pemaquid Point to the (oops) WESTern portions of Penn Bay.

exposed area
Rockland, to Vinalhaven area, to Stonington area is a nice journey, but it’s quite committing water. If you are not experienced with long crossings, tidal currents, and large boat traffic, then you might not want to start with that trip.

Each summer I hear about a few distress calls from groups of kayakers that decide to make that trip and get overwhelmed for whatever reason.

High risk crossing
Given the length of crossing, I consider this potentially dangerous, and would never attempt it. Consider island hopping from Little Deer Isle.

Dear Celia-I may be wrong, but I don’t believe the Ferry Service will allow transport of kayak alone in either direction-it must be attached to a car!

kayaks must be on cars
now if we could make kayaks look like bicycles…

I am sure you are right

– Last Updated: Jun-14-13 3:09 PM EST –

We have a group among which we have discussed the theory of doing the paddle out and ferry back thing to Monhegan (I got my Mon.... mixed up first version), but we have never been near having the critical mass of paddlers and skills to make the trip viable. So we never made it to the details of how to get the kayaks back.

I did it in 2005
with a friend to celebrate getting my Maine Sea kayak Guides license. We launched at the Rockland Harbor Boat Launch at about 8:30 and paddled the three miles to Owl’s Head.

After a rest and a bite to eat we paddled to Hurricane Sound, set up camp on a MITA island campsite at around noon (can’t remember the name but it’s in the guidebook) and spent the rest of the day exploring the area, including a stop at Hurricane Island,where I visited the HIOBS where I went in 1972 and Carver’s Harbor. We got an early start the next day, and were back at Owls Head by about 10 am and the landing at 11:00.

The crossing from Owls Head to Huricane Sound is almost exactly 9 miles and even when visibilty is good you should follow a compass heading as the shore of the island does not contain any visible reference points which are visible from Owl’s Head. The key to this trip is watching the weather. It was dead calm on our morning paddle out and a mild breeze (5 knots or so) on our paddle back. The calmest times are in the morning. By noon, a southwest breeze of any where from 10 to 15 knots usually picks up in the summer.

I couldn’t tell from your post whether you were planning on doing the whole trip in a day or were planning a two or three day trip. It’s an awfully long distance to paddle in a day (24 miles, 18 of which are essentially open ocean)although I’m sure others have done it. Better in my opinion to use two days, assuming the weather forcast is favorable. Have fun and be safe.

PS watch out for the lobster boats
The stretch of Penobscot Bay between Rockland and Vinalhaven has more lobster traps then any other spot I’ve paddled on the coast of Maine and that includes Stonington.

alternate trip
kayak medic suggested a trip from Lincolnville to Islesboro–Gilkey’s Harbor–this is open water but a much shorter distance (3 miles) and can be a day trip or an overnight staying at Warrens Island State Park. You could also launch at Northport for a longer trip but less open water (about 1.5-2miles) but parking might be a problem. I’ve done both multiple times and it is not the epic that paddling to Vinalhaven is.

From Deer Isle Option
If you are going to be in Stonington, you might want to explore going to Vinalhaven from there. Could be a loop by using MITA islands north of Northhaven. The crossing is shorter, but it is still something to think about.

I have not done it, but I know several who have gone to Vinalhaven from Rockland. Based on their experiences I concluded it is not inherently a huge deal, but having a right skill set, being prepared, and picking the right day weather/tide wise are all important to avoid having an “eventful” day on the water.

Again thanks for opinions and suggestions. I’m now thinking of crossing from further up the coast, Saturday Cove, and crossing over to Islesford. Seems a much more manageable crossing. I would then head up to the northern tip of the island and cross over to Deer isle area( this is being thought of as a multi-day trip so the possibility of needing to lay-over due to weather is built in). thanks all!

Saturday cove

– Last Updated: Jun-18-13 8:55 PM EST –

to Islesboro (not Isleford--different part of the coast) is a good place to cross--it's about 1.5-2.0 miles to Flat Island then another half mile to Islesboro. Turn south then paddle down the west side of Islesboro to Grindle Point and Gilkey's Harbor--you can camp at Warrens Island State Park--

if you want to do a circuit trip, continue to Pendleton Point at the south end of Islesboro, the paddle about 7 miles up to "the narrows" portage across(about 100 yards) to the west side and back to Saturday Cove. Or go north, paddle around Turtle Head down the east side portage across the narrows and back to Saturday Cove. Another alternative is to paddle from Wadsworth Cove, near Castine from the east side of Penobscot Bay.

If you want to paddle up the coast cross at Saturday cove, go north around Turtle Head (north end of Islesboro)then cross to Wadworth Cove/Dice Head then across the mouth of Castine Harbor, down the side of Cape Rozier then about 1 1/2 mile to Pond Island (Penobscot, not the Pond Island in Blue Hill Bay)where you can camp--from there it is an easy trip to Deer Isle.

The only trouble with Saturday Cove is parking--it used to be open to all, but the last time I was there, a sign was up saying parking was for local residents only---that was in 2008 it may have changed or may not be enforced. Alternatives are Lincolnville Beach and Bayside (about two miles north of Saturday Cove) I have paddled from the mainland to Islesboro many times. It gives you an open water-sea island paddling experience but is not the epic that paddling to Vinalhaven from Rockland is. If you want further info send me a private e-mail

Islesboro, etc
Paddling Islesboro to Stonington is a pretty big day, and currents matter, but it is pretty. I’ve typically gone around the South end though, not the North. Far more Islands and interesting waypoints along the way if you go around Pendleton Point, then on towards Spruce, Butter, etc. There are some camping options along the way too.

The crossing from Eagle to Deer Isle is not insignificant, and involves current and boat traffic. I encourage good preparation and caution for anyone doing crossings like that.

(This message, by the way, typed on the north east end of Islesboro, where I happen to be visiting my folks tonight.)

for Nate
Just rub it in… not all of us are as lucky as you to live in such a special place along the coast!

For suz

Great Advice/Local Knowledge
You are getting some great local knowledge advice which is priceless when planning trips. Just want to add that there is a good deal of merit in starting early and being at your destination by 1PM when paddling in areas that are exposed on the Maine coast. Also, Nate pointed out the current between Eagle and Deer Isle. My limited experience is that there is often more current than expected in some areas on the Maine coast like the passageway between Eagle and Deer Isle and not planning for it, especially when the prevailing winds are against the flow, can make for a long day at best and a dicey time at worst.