Friday, December 26, 2008

B.O.A.T (Bring On Another Thousand)

Ever since the first summer we lived on Little Cranberry Island I have had boat envy.  While standing on the dock waiting for the ferry I would watch with envy as islanders would come and go on their boats.  Boats of all kinds sit in the harbor during the summer.  We have big sailboats with their masts sticking up into the sky and little bulls eyes for the day sailors.  I have been sailing a little bit, but I find being subject to the whims of the wind too trying on my patience.  

It is the power boats that catch my eye.  Living on LCI in the summer is a  little easier with a ferry running back to Mount Desert Island every couple of hours.  Still though you are at the mercy of the boat schedule.  Oh how I would dream of coming and going on my own.  Having a boat when you live on an island is freedom.  I thought it would be a long time before we could afford to bring a boat into our life.  On the morning of our wedding my wish came true.  Our family friend Curt Rice said he had a boat that he would like to give us.  As he described the boat to me I could just feel the freedom coming into my body.  Though I knew it wouldn't be until the next summer that I would be able to enjoy that freedom.

Even though I grew up on the coast of Maine, I had limited exposure to boats.  During the summers down east I have had the opportunity to be on many boats of various sizes.  I take each ride as a chance to learn something knew about handling boats.  I pay a lot of attention to the boats in the harbor, if I can emulate the practices of the lobsterman who take really good care of their boats then I think that I will be fine with my own boat.

This winter I noticed that the mooring ropes on the lobster boats had all been lengthened.  I recognized this as a way to give a little slack when the wind blows.  There was one pleasure boat in the harbor that was not given this leeway.  I watched many a storm toss that boat back and forth on it's mooring.  The boat was really being tugged on hard, when the lobster boats would be rocking much less violently.  Finally during the Solstice Night blizzard she gave in, and was blown right threw the mooring field of lobster boats and put up onto the rocks in front of the Harbor Tower house.  It has been sitting there for a few days now with holes in the hull.  This is an unfortunate event, but a healthy reminder to me of the reality of what can happen to a boat if left unattended.

So I have been dreaming of getting my new boat up onto the island, so that I can get it ready for the summer.  At thanksgiving Kaitlyn and I were able to visit Curt and Mary in Cumberland where the boat is under cover for the winter.  I learned the boat was made by a friend of theirs after taking a boat building course down in North Carolina.  The boat is a replica of a boat designed by a man named Tom N. Simmons.  It is a 20' dory style boat with a 60hp outboard motor.  It is in good shape.  It is a really cool looking boat, check out the Simmons sea skiff web page to see images of other boats in the same style (

We know that we're going to have a little bit of work to put into the boat before launching it, but we are excited to join the ranks of the islanders who have the freedom to come and go as they please.  I look forward to going up into Somes Sound and exploring, and giving rides to our guests out to Bakers Island to the visit the dancing rocks.  

People tell me that a boat is a whole in the ocean where you pour your money into.  I know that our new boat is going to be an added expense, but it one that I think will be worth it.  It just seems wrong to live on an island and not own a boat.

For know I will keep dreaming of the wind blowing through our hair, the dog up on the bow, and beautiful summer days in Maine that were made for being on the water in a boat, whether it be under the power of an outboard or under the power of the wind.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Solstice Island style.

We are experiencing our first Nor'easter today.  A nor'easter is usually a big storm.  The winds come from the north east carrying a lot of moisture with it.  If it is cold enough it turns to snow.  At 10 o'clock tonight we have about 9 inches.  

This storm happens to coincide with the winter solstice.  A woman on the island reinstated an old tradition of having a bonfire on the beach in celebration of light.  A group built a big pile of wood and touched it off around 7:30.  It took a little prodding but finally caught.  It was sending the most beautiful sparks into the air where it was mixing with the snow that was falling.  With the wave from the high tide lapping nearby it was a wondrous experience.  

We go to bed tonight, the longest night of the year.  Tomorrow we'll wake to the days getting longer.  Albeit only a few short seconds each day.  But it is a reminder that no day is like the other.  Tomorrow the sun rises at 7:10 am, the next a little earlier.  I am not wishing winter away by any means.  I look forward to many more snow storms. 

We of course forgot our camera, but I hope to capture some from other who were there.   

It takes and Eagle's eye to find food on this rock.

I ran into a couple of lobsterman on Friday down at the town dock.  They were off loading the last of their traps.  So most of the lobsterman are done for the year, a few are still going 25 miles offshore to haul traps.  With most of the Islesford traps hauled out of the water we figured it was time to put our bikes away until spring.  Kaitlyn walked two bikes down and I rode mine down to our friend's house.  

As you can see there is some snow on the ground, and there is more to come.  It was brutally cold today.  We ended up on Gilley Beach and took some photos of the snow and frozen beach rock.  I was suddenly surprised when a bald eagle came into view.  He was down on the rocks and we were up at the top of the beach behind the seawall.  I think he was spooked by our dog Cairn.  The eagle was working hard to get some altitude, and while I was going crazy about him an immature eagle flew up into sight.  So now I was really excited.  It's not often you see two eagles together around here.  I was hootin' and hollerin' when a third eagle flew up, by this time the other two were circling aways off, seeing if we were leaving.  This third eagle was also a mature bird.  I just couldn't believe what I was seeing.  Kaitlyn got a picture of one of the birds.  I was so curious to see what it was that three big eagles would be down on the beach for.  From atop the seawall I could see something bright red on the rocks, I ran down and found three pairs of seagull wings strewn about, and the bodies minus the feathers.  

I have a couple of eagle sightings a week this time of year.  When they fly into an area all the gulls, ravens and crows go bizerk.  They try and chase the eagle off by dive bombing them and making lots of noise.  I know that the eagles are looking for injured birds down on the beach, or any food that may have been left by a fleeing gull.  Eagles are true scavengers.  They look for the easiest way to get a meal.  
Our friend Rick Alley was out a few years back hauling when he saw an amazing thing.  A shearwater or maybe a petrel had caught a fish on his own by diving into the water.  Upon getting back into the air it was trying to swallow the fish.  While the unsuspecting bird was trying to get it's lunch into it's belly a bald eagle was bearing down on it.  The eagle flew right into the other bird causing it to eject it's catch.  The eagle then flew down and grasped the fish and easily flew off with it.
The bald eagle is an amazing sight to see.  They are so strong looking and very majestic when perched, but like everything else out here they will do whatever it takes to make it through the cold winter.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Winter is coming to town

The mainland recently experienced an ice storm that knocked out power all over the state.  Here on LCI we had really different weather.  Lots of rain, and super intense winds.  The amazing thing though, is while everyone else had cold air we had temps in the 40's.  This island and probably all islands off shore in Maine have unique weather.  There is no sense in listening to the weather reports on the radio or television, their predictions never fit what we have.  We have had some cold snaps, but surprisingly the temperatures have been quite mild here.  I certainly don't mind since I haven't bought any long johns yet.

Tonight we are experiencing high winds, it sounds like a train is coming.  I have found myself on many an occasion spellbound by the waves that are created by the wind.  Looking out from Gilley beach on Friday, waves were breaking everywhere.  This month's full moon was the biggest and brightest of the year.  This meant that we had extra high and low tides.  On Saturday afternoon the tide was the lowest I have ever seen  This made going up the ramp from the float to the wharf in NE Harbor super steep.  

The boat rides are getting more exciting as a result of these winter winds.  Lots of sea spray coming over the bow.  Some of it freezing to the sides of the boat on cold days.  I am always amazed when watching  boat captains and how they are able to pull a big boat up to the wharf and get it next to the stairs when the wind is blowing them either away from the dock or pushing them too quickly towards the pier.  The boats definitely get more banged up this time of the year, there aren't many smooth landings.  

The Beal & Bunker boats have a bell up at the forward part of the cabin.  If the bell gets rung while under way you know it is real rough.  Not like you need a bell to tell you this, usually your stomach has filled you in by then.  

The ferry ride on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving was really rough.  I didn't hear the bell but another passenger told me days later that it rung a couple of times.  The only comfort I can gather from being on such a sloppy ride is that I am not the only person on the boat.  

If it gets too bad the captain doesn't hesitate to cancel the boat.  I have heard though the cancelling of boats is more of a recent occurrence.  In the days of old boats were never cancelled, something like only twice in 50 years is what I heard.  I guess we are getting a little soft out here.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sick and tired of being sick

It's been a week of being sick, so I went off island today to see a doctor at the MDI Family Medical Center in Bar Harbor.  The good news is that I don't have strep throat, the bad news is there is no magical cure for whatever I have.  So I am trying to get a lot of fluids and rest.  What an adventure though, an all day affair just to see the doctor for a 1/2 hour.  I took the 8 o'clock boat off island, and the wind was blowing from the NW at about 40 mph.   The lobster boats in the harbor were really tugging on their moorings.  The good thing about the wind coming from that direction is that the bow of the boat is facing right into the waves, which means a lot less rocking side to side.  The next boat leaves NE Harbor at 11 am, which didn't leave me enough time.  So I had to wait around for the 3:30.  This meant that I didn't actually get to rest very much today.  Just another fact of life when you live on an island.  I wouldn't trade it away though.  I just hope that this cold goes away.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Not just anyone can catch Lobstah...

I just finished taking the test for my noncommercial lobster & crab license.  I sent in to the state for the test and the application.  They sent a book that has all the rules about trap requirements, how to measure a lobster correctly, and what constitutes a keeper (legally harvested lobster).

There are lots of rules and regulations, but they are all there to help keep the industry viable.  If I pass the test I will be able to set five traps in the water.  I will be subject to the same laws as any other lobsterman, except that I will not be able to sell my catch.  That is perfectly okay with me, I look forward to eating lobster during the summer, and maybe be able to put some away in the freezer.  

I had an extra application/test sent for Kaitlyn, she hasn't committed to the idea yet.  She has a pretty busy summer season, and lobstering probably won't be what she wants to do with her spare time.

I am looking forward to it.  The times when I have gone lobstering with others I have had so much fun.  When a trap is hauled up you never know what is going to be in it.  It is like getting one of those scratch and win lottery tickets.  You might get nothing, or you might get a trap full of keepahs (the jackpot).  The consolation prize for not getting a keeper in the trap is getting to see all the other sea creatures that have entered the trap to feed on the bait bag.  

It is a little bit of an investment to get into having traps, but I think that the benefits will far outweigh the costs.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gotcha deer yet?

On Saturday I was able to get a deer.  I sent it off to Pine Tree Market in NE Harbor to be butchered and packaged in freezer bags.  It was an amazing experience.  The quickness and speed that these magnificent animals have is remarkable.  I am honored to see them throughout the year here on the island.  

I thought the hard part was finding a deer to shoot.  It is certainly time intensive, but the hard work is after the deer has been shot.  First step is to cut out the guts, thanks to my friend Sam I was able to do this without any of the insides getting cut.  I was surprised at how not gross the insides of the deer were.  The anatomy of the deer is incredible, everything is packed in there just so.  It allowed me to imagine what my own insides might look like.  Lastly, I had to drag it out of the woods.  It wasn't a particularly big deer, but hauling out a 100 lbs. of dead weight is tiring.  Thankfully it wasn't too far to the road.

After returning from travelling during the Thanksgiving weekend, Kaitlyn and I spent a couple of hours Sunday evening making sausage from the ground meat.  We used two recipes that we got from my brother-in-law, Andy.  One is a spicy recipe, ours didn't turn out quite as spicy as Andy's.  We used a little less crushed red pepper.  Our sweet sausage is really good.  We used maple sugar that comes from our friend Mitch and Penny in Bowdoinham.  I was surprised that Kaitlyn enjoyed making sausage as much as she did, we had a lot of fun.  We packaged it into little one pound packages.  We had 20 pounds of sausage meat and about 25 pounds of steaks and stew meat.  It is really comforting to have this food stored for winter.  Every time I think about the deer or eat some of the meat I am grateful for the life of that deer and I appreciate the sacrifice it has given so that I may be nourished.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Keeping it Free Range

So Kaitlyn is reading the book Omnivore's Dilemma, she has been reading little excerpts to me.  There are a lot of things that are surprising to hear, but at the same time they aren't that surprising.  Example, the free range chickens that are sold at Whole Foods, only get to range free outside their cages for something like two weeks of their lives.  

So we are trying to eat more locally.  We have joined a co-op.  Every two weeks we get together and put an order together.  It is delivered to the mailboat in NE Harbor and brought out to the island where members split up the bulk order into each members smaller order.  The food all comes from farms in Maine. As well as trying to eat food that comes from nearby, we are trying to eat foods that are closer to the seasons.  If we were farmers we would have a root cellar full of potatoes, squash, onions and other vegetables that keep for long periods of time, we wouldn't be eating a lot of greens.  We are eating more meat, such as chicken and beef.  Last night our whole dinner came from Maine.  We had french fries made from Natures Circle Farm in NEw Limerick, Maine.  We had lobster that was caught that morning by our friend Richard Dudman on his boat Scorpio's Lady.  By eating food that comes from more nearby, we hope that we are contributing less to process of shipping vegetables across the country or from South America, thus contributing less to the amount of fuel being burned in the world.  We also help to keep money in our state, and further help to keep farm land the way it is.  

These certainly aren't my original ideas, but we enjoy taking part in them and in helping to spread these practices.  Next year we plan on buying a share in a local farm.  By investing in the farm in the late winter we get a share in the crop come spring, summer and fall.  It will be a little more effort to be sure that we go off island to pick up our produce, but we do that anyways when we drive to Ellsworth and go to Hannaford.  Don't worry Hannaford Bros., you won't be totally losing our business.  I still will want my orange juice, and we'll need to buy tissues and toilet paper.

Living here on the island has really opened us to the idea of keeping things local.  Each day I watch 15-30 workers get off the boat to come and work on houses here on LCI.  All that money then goes off island.  This island really has the great potential for being relatively self sufficient.  You can grow things here, lot's of people already have egg laying chickens, and there were four pigs raised here this year.  Not to mention that there are deer here, and hunting season offers the chance to harvest the ultimate free range meat.

I went out this morning to hunt.  I did not see any deer, but I did see lots of crows and ravens, a really fat Hairy woodpecker, and a Marsh Hawk (Harrier) and lots of sea gulls.  It was a beautiful morning to be out in the woods, little wind and lots of sun.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Boy was it windy today.  A bunch of the guys on the crew got wet riding the mail boat over.  Days like this I really like the 2 1/2 minute drive to work.  

My day was not very eventful, I nailed some wood up onto the house.  Same old, same old as they say.   Kaitlyn on the other hand did have quite an exciting afternoon.  She and Cairn were out in the cemetery behind her studio and she heard someone yelling for help.  She ran over to find the our eldest citizen (he's 92 years old) on the ground with his head slot open from a fall. Kaitlyn called 911 and our local EMT's came in the Islesford Volunteer Fire Department ambulance and put him onto a stretcher and prepared him for the trip to the hospital.  On the mainland this is routine, but out here it requires getting the stretcher onto a lobster boat.  No easy task, and then add winds of 20 mph and gust up to 30 mph and it becomes a tough job.  

Today's events remind me of the very first night Kaitlyn and I had visited LCI.  It was early April and we were at a Corn Dog Party.  One of the kids on the island slipped and broke his collar bone.  Without hesitation or any question one of the lobsterman went right down to his boat and got it off the mooring and brought it to the dock to take the family to the hospital.  I was so impressed at this, that a member of the community without hesitation rowed out in the pitch dark to retrieve their lobster boat, start it up and run it across to the mainland.  

I am continually amazed at how the members of this community on a daily basis work together.  People in this town are constantly helping each other in more ways than I can mention.  It is a real honor to be a part of it.  

Though I must say that since I have been working for the company that I do, I feel that I am missing out on a lot of the regular daily happenings in town.  When I worked for myself I often went into town to get mail or meet the boat where I would run into friends and get some interaction, but now I spend 10 hours at the job site with non-islanders and don't pass through town until after it is dark.  I am grateful for the work, but I am not sure if it is really the job for me while living on this island.  

I miss the freedom I had before.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Today I worked ten hours out in the cold.  Today was our first really cold day here on Islesford.  The sky was clear, only a little bit of wind.  Lots of sun.  

Tonight we attended a Islesford Sustainability meeting.  Lots of good ideas being thrown out there.  Ideas about jobs for people on the island.  Jobs that I would be qualified to do.  Whenever I attend a meeting such as this I get really excited about living here on Little Cranberry island, and the possibility of being able to make a living and live a good life.