Cruising in "Katie"
The Rivers of Maine Part II
The Back River
by Steve Bosquette

THE BACK RIVER IS FORMED BY A NARROW CLEFT IN THE ROCK BETWEEN ARROWSIC ISLAND AND GEORGETOWN ISLAND. THE LOWER HALF OF THE RIVER IS NARROWER AND SHALLOWER THAN THE UPPER PART. IN FACT AT LOW TIDE IT IS NOT PASSABLE WHERE IT FLOWS INTO HOCKOMOCK BAY.

MY BROTHER-IN-LAW STEVE CONNOLLY JOINED ME ON THIS VOYAGE. AS YOU CAN SEE FROM THE PHOTOS IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL SUMMER DAY. WE WAITED UNTIL NEAR HIGH TIDE TO LEAVE WANTING TO AVOID THE SHALLOW AREA MENTIONED ABOVE. WE LEFT THE PUBLIC BOAT RAMP SOUTH OF BATH . THIS WAS THE SAME JUMPING OF POINT THAT WE USED IN PART ONE, ALTHOUGH THIS TRIP WE HEADED SOUTH ON THE KENNEBEC INSTEAD OF NORTH. YOU WILL NOTICE IN THE PHOTO BELOW THE BATH IRON WORKS SHIPYARD IN BATH.

SOON AFTER WE LEFT BATH WE CAME UPON THE FIRST OF THE LIGHTHOUSES THAT MARK SAFE NAVIGATION FOR THE KENNEBEC. IT IS BUILT ON A GRANITE FOUNDATION ON THE EDGE OF THE TIDAL RANGE OF THE RIVER AND IS CONNECTED BY A WOODEN CATWALK TO THE DRY EARTH ON SHORE. THE ORIGINAL LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER’S HOUSE CAN BE SEEN IN THE WOODS. ALL LIGHTHOUSES ARE NOW AUTOMATED ALONG THE MAINE COAST, INCLUDING LIGHTHOUSES ON MAINE’S RIVERS. THIS LIGHTHOUSE IS ON THE EAST SHORE OF THE RIVER. (REFER TO MAP-ABOVE)

ALONG THE COAST OF MAINE ARE MANY ISLETS AND EXPOSED REEFS THAT ARE MARKED BY DAY MARKERS. THESE ARE COMMON AIDS TO NAVIGATION USED AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO BOUYS. THEY REQUIRE LESS MAINTENANCE BY THE COAST GUARD.

THIS ONE MARKS AN ISLET IN THE KENNEBEC JUST SOUTH OF THE LIGHTHOUSE.

WE PASS PHIPPSBURG WHICH IS ONE OF THE MANY PICTURESQUE SMALL TOWNS ALONG THE MAINE COAST AND RIVERS. IT HAS A CHURCH SPIRE IN THE CENTER OF TOWN THAT DOMINATES THE SKYLINE.

SOUTH OF PHIPPSBURG ON THE EAST SHORE IS ANOTHER LIGHTHOUSE WHICH MARKS A DOGLEG TURN IN THE RIVER. THIS LIGHTHOUSE IS BUILT ON THE SHORE. NOTICE THAT THE KEEPERS HOUSE IS VISIBLE AND THERE IS A BOATHOUSE WITH A “WAY” WHICH THE KEEPER USED TO LAUCH HIS ROWBOAT FOR WEEKLY TRIPS UP TO BATH FOR PROVISIONS. AT THIS POINT IN THE RIVER THE LARGE WARSHIPS, MADE AT BATH IRON WORKS, HAVE TO USE EXTREME CAUTION AND PASS ONLY AT HIGH TIDE. THE CHANNEL IS NARROWER AT THIS POINT AND THE DOGLEG PRESENTS AN UNUSUAL CHALLENGE FOR THE SKIPPER.

JUST BELOW THE LIGHTHOUSE AS WE BEGIN TO MAKE OUR TURN INTO THE MOUTH OF THE BACK RIVER WE CAN JUST SEE THE MOUTH OF THE KENNEBEC RIVER WHERE SHE EMPTIES IN THE GULF OF MAINE AND THE ATLANTIC OCEAN BEYOND.

AFTER CONTINUING DUE SOUTH ON THE KENNEBEC WE SPOT THE MOUTH OF THE BACK RIVER. STRAIGHT AHEAD IS A LOBSTERMAN’S COMPOUND WHICH CONTAINS HIS HOME, WORKSHOP, BAITHOUSE AND DOCK.

AS WE PROCEED NORTHEAST TOWARD HOCKOMOCK BAY AND WISCASSET BEYOND, THE RIVER TWISTS AND TURNS AND BECOMES VERY NARROW ( A COUPLE HUNDRED FEET ACROSS). THE PHOTO ABOVE SHOWS THE PRETTIEST GROUP OF HOMES THAT WE SAW ON THIS GORGEOUS RIVER.

NOT FAR FROM THE SHARP BEND IN THE RIVER ABOVE THOSE NICE HOUSES IS THE ONLY BRIDGE CONNECTING ARROWSIC AND GEORGETOWN ISLANDS. IT IS A STATE MAINTAINED BRIDGE BUILT TOO LOW TO THE WATER FOR SAFE NAVIGATION IN ANYTHING OTHER THAN A SMALL POWERBOAT. THE CLEARANCE AT HIGH TIDE IS MAYBE 8 FEET.

A MILE OR SO NORTH OF THE BRIDGE IS THE POINT WHERE THE BACK RIVER MEETS HOCKOMOCK BAY AND THE SASANOA RIVER. YOU CAN SEE IN THE PHOTO THE OPEN AREA TO THE RIGHT OF THE SMALL ISLAND THE SHALLOW SPOT THAT IS IMPASSABLE AT LOW TIDE.

HAVING CROSSED HOCKOMOCK BAY AND CONTINUED NORTHEAST ON THE UPPER SECTION OF THE BACK RIVER WE HAPPEN UPON THE NOW DECOMMISSIONED MAINE YANKEE NUCLEAR POWER PLANT. VISIBLE IN THE CENTER OF THE PHOTO IS THE CONTAINMENT BUILDING. WISCASSET IS BEYOND, A LITTLE FARTHER TO THE NORTH. FOR TWENTY YEARS THIS PLANT PROVIDED POWER FOR SOUTHERN MAINE WITHOUT INCIDENT.

ACROSS THE RIVER FROM THE POWER PLANT IS THE ISLAND OF WESTPORT. IT IS A LONG ISLAND WITH MANY YEAR ROUND AND SUMMER HOMES. THE ISLAND STRETCHES FROM WISCASSET ON THE NORTH END TO ROBINHOOD ON THE SOUTH END. IT’S WEST SIDE BORDERS THE BACK RIVER AND IT’S EAST SIDE BORDERS THE SHEEPSCOT RIVER. THE ONLY CONNECTION TO THE MAINLAND IS THE WESTPORT BRIDGE. UNLIKE THE ARROWSIC BRIDGE THIS ONE HAS HIGH CLEARANCE UNDER IT. EVEN A SMALL SAILBOAT COULD GET UNDERNEATH.

A SHORT DISTANCE FROM THE BRIDGE ON THE LEFT IS THE DISTRIBUTION BUILDING, NOW ABANDONED, FOR THE POWER PLANT. IT SITS ON THE WEST SIDE OF WISCASSET HARBOR.

AT LAST WE ARRIVE AT WISCASSET NAMED “THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VILLAGE IN MAINE”. IT BOASTS A LARGE HARBOR WHICH IS ACTUALLY MADE FROM THE SHEEPSCOT RIVER NOT THE BACK RIVER. THE BACK RIVER ENDED JUST BEYOND THE WESTPORT BRIDGE. WE STOPPED AT THE PUBLIC LANDING DOCK FOR LUNCH BEFORE HEADING BACK TO BATH VIA THE SASANOA RIVER.

SADLY THIS IS THE LAST ARTICLE OF THE “CRUISING IN KATIE” SERIES. I HAVE SOLD “KATIE” AND AM NOW BUILDING A MICHALAK AF4 GRANDE “MISSY”. I WILL, HOWEVER, CONTINUE THE SERIES ABOUT THE MAINE RIVERS IN “MISSY” NEXT SUMMER.

YOU CAN CHECK MY BUILDING PROGRESS OF “MISSY” AT: http://www.geocities.com/mainesal5/index.html