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.