A Visit To Vinalhaven
Published on Jul 06, 2018
The natural beauty of Vinalhaven, an island in the middle of Penobscot Bay in Maine, is awe inspiring. I was lucky enough to visit this past week, and I’m still reflecting.
The highlight of my trip was an early morning kayak expedition out in the 360-acre tidal embayment dubbed “The Basin.” It was a perfectly still morning with hardly a ripple across the entire expanse and also a rare morning without the rumble of Lobster Boat’s diesel engines thanks to the holiday. I gently approached a group of five seals sunning themselves on a rock formation. With every patient stroke, they grew more alert until I got about 150-yards away when they disappeared into the depths. Except they didn’t. As I sat motionless, individual seals all repeatedly surfaced with an audible breath as their heads broke the surface, still about 150-yards away, and curiously watched me. Enchanted, I watched back for most of 30-minutes, our shared curiosity stronger than the threat of the unknown. Then, so as to let them get back to sunning, I eventually paddled off, but it was an experience I will not soon forget.
The clarity of the water also struck me. The sea weed thrived, and the rocks where it grew on weren’t slippery, which might be a function of algae’s inability to grow in such cold water or could be an indicator of just how clean the water is. The seabed was frequently visible at depths well over ten feet. Still more amazing were the hints of turquoise, reminiscent of the Carribiean, which occurred when the seabed was covered with broken white shells.
Equally striking was the resulting current from 11-foot tides, which was most evident at The Gut. Through The Gut flows the massive volume of water (perhaps a billion gallons) that covers and uncovers the banks of The Basin. A friend told me it peaks at 11-knots and I don’t doubt it as there’s at least a 1-foot head of water at mid-tide and it flows so hard that it both sounds and looks like river rapids. Still, Loberstmen and recreational boaters alike both shoot through it and it’s perilous rocky banks to enjoy the spoils of the basin.
Wildlife was unrelentingly abundant. We saw seals, porpoises, puffins, eider duck, osprey, eagles, terns, cormorants, gulls, lobster and more. No doubt the ample moisture, which makes moss so thick its like walking on a trampoline and also covers trees in Old Man’s Beard, is a major contributor to such a flourishing ecosystem.
Vinalhaven itself was also interesting. The Lobster industry appears resilient to the weak shell-fisheries elsewhere in the region, with some harbors and coves just littered with pots. Meanwhile, the conservation efforts flourish too. Many parcels have been eased or donated for public use, and power is supplied primarily by three large wind turbines.
I only had my phone, so I didn’t get any good wildlife pictures, but I did capture some of the views.