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  • Bangor Daily News

    Maine kayaker just clears 24-hour goal for Boston-to-Portland paddle

    By Troy R. Bennett,


    PORTLAND, Maine — Local paddler Joe Guglielmetti landed his 18-foot sea kayak on the tip of Cushing Island in Portland Harbor at 8:44 p.m. Monday night, 23 hours and 55 minutes after leaving Boston Harbor.

    It was a new record — at least as far as anyone can tell.

    There’s no official organization keeping track of such things, but Guglielmetti had set out to make the 107-mile trip within 24 hours.

    Then, the triumphant-but-exhausted kayaker immediately got soaked, falling in the water while crawling out of his boat.

    “I started shivering uncontrollably,” Guglielmett, 43, said. “My body was like, ‘Nope, you’re done.'”

    That’s when he called a friend to come and get him, even though a group of supporters was awaiting Guglielmetti’s arrival on the East End Beach.

    “It’s probably good I missed the crowd because I was in rough shape,” he said on Wednesday. “All I did was ask them to get a car warmed up that I could sit in.”

    By Wednesday morning, Guglielmetti was smiling and fully recovered. We talked with the professional kayaking trip leader and social worker while standing around the bed of his vintage Ford truck at the East End Beach.

    BDN: This is not your first long-distance ocean paddle. You’ve already traversed Maine’s entire coast, from Kittery to Canada, in four days. I read you also kayaked from Portland to Augusta in 13 hours, paddled across the Bay of Fundy and back, plus circumnavigated Mount Desert Island in a single day. What’s this all about for you?

    Guglielmetti: I call them ‘paddle challenges.’ They’re more dynamic than just how fast you can go. You have to kind of use knowledge of wind, waves, currents, boat traffic — and knowing your body. You’ve got to do it with those things in mind or else you won’t be successful. If you have no wind, or a help wind or a headwind, it makes a big difference.

    What was the hardest part of this latest self-imposed paddle challenge?

    When I was coming up the section from Plum Island, Massachusetts to Kittery, it’s a very long monotonous stretch. I had a tricky, strong westerly wind, so I had to not be too far offshore because the wind and the waves would get bigger the farther offshore — and it’s more dangerous in the middle of the night. Also, I didn’t want to be too close to shore because it would add a lot of distance.
    Joe Guglielmetti passes Nubble Lighthouse at Caped Neddick on Monday while setting a new record by paddling from Boston Harbor to Portland Harbor in fewer than 24 hours. Credit: Courtesy of Bethany & Dan Photography

    That sounds like a tough equation to work out while you’re at sea in a tiny boat.

    I was trying to figure out where to be, and then I got pretty frustrated. By the time I reached Hampton, New Hampshire I was thinking about actually quitting. I went into Wallis Sands Beach to just get out of the boat. Then I looked at the weather, and it promised that the winds were going to shift, so I decided I’ll just keep going for a while. Then I got a major second or third wind around Kittery.

    And you were all alone out there?

    People paddled with me for two stretches. From the launch to sunrise, my good friend and frequent paddle buddy Vytas Marciulionis was with me. He wanted to be there for the nighttime hours because they’re a little more risky. Then, from Kennebunkport to Biddeford, my friend Dan Cox joined me.

    How do you, um, go to the bathroom while you’re on a long-distance ocean paddle?

    As a guy in a kayak, sometimes you can actually pee up and out. But depending on the wind, and if you’re rocking a little bit, you’re probably gonna get wet. You can also use a pee bottle. But for number two, I haven’t ever actually done that out in the boat without getting out on land. On this trip, I actually didn’t go the entire time.

    You said you got out of the boat at Wallis Sands Beach. Did you land anywhere else to stretch your legs?

    I landed three times — at the Annisquam River in Massachusetts, at Wallis Sands in New Hampshire and then at Cape Porpoise. One of the things I’ve learned to do on these long paddles is stretch while continuing to paddle. There are ways to change your position, stretch your back and neck and actually keep moving.

    Is it more about going as fast as you can or keeping up a steady pace?

    Both. You can also greatly increase your speed if you surf. Sometimes, on the ocean, you can actually grab waves and have the opportunity to cheat a little, like when a certain ocean swell can grab your boat, and you can ride it, and then suddenly you’re flying for a second.

    I see a 2024 Kenduskeag Canoe Race sticker on your truck. You were in the race this year — in your sea kayak?

    I was.

    The water was pretty low. Did you get banged up?

    Yes. Three holes. I had to repair it [before the Boston to Portland trip].

    What’s next? Do you have another big paddle challenge lined up?

    The challenge I’ve got in my head is a little different. I’ve had this idea since high school, really. It’s not an ocean trip. It’s a fascination with the Connecticut River because it’s such a long river and it cuts through so much of New England. I’ve thought it’d be really cool to do its source to the sea, as fast as I could. It’s 410 miles. I wonder how long that would take?

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