Being a Great Lakes Paddler, I don’t have to deal with tides (or tidal currents) in my home waters. I have paddled in tidal regions several times in the past, but doing so as a solo paddler for an 11 day trip in Maine was a new experience. I set out along the Maine Coast on July 15th with some trepidation, not knowing exactly what I would find for landings. The tidal range is about 10 feet, and I wondered how I would be able to manage dragging my boat up and down with the tide. I had along a set of small wheels (on loan from Sam), not sure if I would be able to use them.
They did come in handy right at the launch – a natural smooth stone entry. I headed out and camped my first night at Harbor Island. I landed at low tide, unloaded gear and hoped the tide would bring my boat up. I wasn’t sure how it would work, as the landing wasn’t great. A couple sailors arrived, and helped me move the boat. It was not convenient to my campsite, but above high tide and a better bet for launching the next morning. In the evening I walked around the island. The tide had risen enough to cover some big boulders in another area, leaving a smooth, stone ramp between the island and the ocean. I knew I could land and launch there except at the very lowest of tides, so I moved my boat again (and the wheels came in quite handy!)
From there on, I became better at scouting and calculating how the tides would effect my launching. Timing is everything – when I left in the morning depended more on the tides than on anything. The next several nights I spent at Kimball Island with a great cobble beach that acted like ball bearings – pretty easy to move the boat. The first morning, I was launching at low tide, and the boat was up high. I gave a little push, figuring it would go part way and I could push again. But, it rolled all the way to the ocean. Some other kayakers were there, and I am sure they thought I was nuts as I ran behind the boat, catching it before it launched without me!
At one campsite (Ram Island, in Hurricane Sound) there were 2 hours on either side of low that would make any launch inconvenient, and a solo launch very difficult (if not quite impossible). I used the wheels again here, to get my boat on and off a big flat rock where it would be safe overnight – though could only do so for an hour or so on either side of high water. I had to get up at 5:00 a.m. so I could make it work.
I decided traveling with someone else in tidal regions makes life much easier – especially where access is already quite limited by geography and lots of private land.