Medium 9780892726776

Enjoying Maine's Islands

Views: 1038
Ratings: (0)

In this guidebook, wide-roaming author John Gibson takes travelers to all the Maine islands that are accessible by public ferry. In addition to providing the expected facts about how to get there and what you'll find when you arrive, John touches on the spirit of the Maine islands — what it is that attracts us. Besides helpful advice on being a prepared traveler — everything from planning around limited ferry schedules and packing enough warm clothing to knowing when not to bring the dog — he tells you some island history, lore, and legends to help you truly experience the islands.

List price: $11.99

Your Price: $9.59

You Save: 20%

Remix
Remove
 

9 Slices

Format Buy Remix

The Isles of Shoals

ePub

Maine’s southernmost sea islands lie within that cluster of rocks, ledges, mounds, and bars known as the Isles of Shoals at the mouth of the Piscataqua River, off Newcastle and Kittery. Shared with New Hampshire, the Isles comprise Duck, Appledore, Smuttynose, Cedar, Malaga, Star, Lunging (Londoner), Seavey, and White Islands, the initial five lying within Maine waters, the others belonging to New Hampshire. An article in the July 1898 issue of New England Magazine avowed that “Wherever you walk or drive on the sea-coast within several miles of the mouth of the Piscataqua, you are confronted, with more or less distinctness and from the most unexpected points of view, by the Isles of Shoals. In clear weather no vessel can skirt the coast without sighting them, and they cannot have failed to attract the attention of all early navigators in the vicinity.” Indeed, for navigators and all those who work the sea, the Shoals have long been the lodestones of Maine’s southern coast.

The islands in this group rise on a staggered southwest–northeast line several miles out from Whaleback Light. The southernmost of the chain, New Hampshire’s White Island, supports highly visible White Island Light. The three central islands in the group, Smuttynose, Cedar, and Star, are connected by a breakwater that forms the ocean side of Gosport Harbor. Historically, the Isles were a place where ships grounded, ran headlong into ledge in fog, and picked their way gingerly northwest in conflicting tides and currents toward the Piscataqua and the port of Portsmouth. Today massive LNG ships and oil tankers, radar and GPS on full, cautiously find their way past the Isles and up the Piscataqua.

 

Casco Bay Isles

ePub

Casco Bay is a vast pool of islands, sounds, scattered lighthouses, oceangoing ship traffic, fishing activity, and kayakers out for a stroll. Close to Portland yet distinctly apart, the numerous islands of Casco Bay are of all sizes and inclinations, and a welcome respite from Maine’s busiest region onshore. The bay reminds one of how quickly, in Maine, one can step from settled premises to the saltwater world—a world, too, of hospitable islands.

Inner Casco Bay boasts a chain of islands, some of which make excellent destinations for day trips or overnight journeys. There are Great and Little Chebeague, Long, Peaks, Great and Little Diamond, Cousins, Cliff, and several hundred others with names like Lower Goose, Little Whaleboat, and Ministerial. This expansive collection has been long referred to as the Calendar Isles, based on the assumption that within the wide limits of Casco Bay there are 365 islands, one for every day of the year. Many are privately held, locations of small cottage colonies or isolated residences. Many more are mere ledges, awash with the changing tide, their only regular visitors herring gulls and wind. Sounds shape the flow of current here as well: Luckse, Broad, Merriconeag, Hussey are highways of water.

 

Muscongus Bay

ePub

If you stand slightly to the left of Port Clyde’s Marshall Point Light and stare southward, miles beyond the ledges and a chain of smaller islands, a great lump of land rears itself in the company of a smaller mound well to seaward. Those smaller mounds are Thompson, Davis, Benner, Allen, and Burnt Islands. Presuming a clear day when the Nova Scotia Current and the Gulf Stream are not working together to produce some foggy extravaganza, the farther two islands thus seen are Monhegan and its smaller sister isle, Manana. They lie like a great mother whale and her offspring well off by themselves in the deep waters of the Gulf of Maine twelve miles out of Port Clyde.

A lobstering community of long duration, Monhegan is also an artists’ hideout, an outpost where many of the famous and not-quite-famous come to paint and seek inspiration. Jamie Wyeth has a house that looks south over the rocks here. His father painted on Monhegan as well. Historically, the island’s legendary sunsets and sunrises, its rocky cliffs and sheltered harbor have provided a continuous source of ocean motifs and painterly ideas for the many who come to sketch for a day, week, or whole summer. And then there are those who stay permanently. All of the Maine coast engages the eye, but there are scenes on Monhegan that bear capturing generation after generation. Should you disembark from the Elizabeth Ann at Monhegan one day without a small easel and paints, you may find yourself in an unexpected minority.

 

Penobscot Bay

ePub

As a rather young child, I never spent a Saturday morning eating my pancakes out of earshot of Edward Rowe Snow. An author and lecturer, Snow told stories of lonely islands, the ghosts of shipwrecks, and murder at sea. Come Saturday, like thousands of other children in Maine and New England, I glued myself to the radio, not wanting to miss a word of Snow’s stories as they floated across the ether on the Yankee Network. (You will, perhaps, recall a time when there were actually programs on the radio, rather than the idiotic garbage that now occupies the commercial airwaves.) Snow had a soft, even shaggy voice plus an acute ability to draw one in as he related tales of ghastly accidents at sea. Or lighthouses growing dark in great storms and heroic attempts to restore the beacon. One couldn’t listen to Snow week after week and not become addicted to the coast and islands.

In his popular Lighthouses of New England, Snow recounted the history of Matinicus Rock Light and its sister islands. He noted the loneliness of this isolated ledge, its location subjected always to the sea’s wild hammering. Aloft, Snow flew over the rock in winter, as he did many offshore lighthouses, dropping sacks of Christmas gifts. With a little effort, travelers to Matinicus today can feast their eyes on both the lighthouse and Matinicus Island, as Snow described them, exploring Maine’s most remote island settlement.

 

The Fox Islands

ePub

Fifteen miles due east of Rockland lie the Fox Islands: North Haven, Vinalhaven, Green, and Hurricane, plus many smaller isles in a cluster nearly eleven miles in diameter. The two largest of the group, Vinalhaven and North Haven, look across at each other over the Fox Islands Thoroughfare, a chasm in the bedrock that separated these two bits of raised ground when sea levels were lower. That chasm has long since been filled by the sea. Vinalhaven and North Haven are now distinct communities, the Thoroughfare their common highway.

The Fox Islands were recorded in the logs of many coasting ships. The Bristolman Martin Pring came here in the summer of 1603, the Speedwell and Discoverer dropping anchor in the midst of this sprawling island collection. Pring is said to have named the islands in recognition of the numerous gray foxes that occupied these isles. He and his crews regularly saw these wily animals raiding nests and fishing along the shore. The Fox Islands lay within fishing grounds heavily used by various European nations, and a modest trade with Indians occurred here, but the islands did not initially see the heavy use that places such as Monhegan experienced. Micmacs (also called Tarrantines or Tarratines), and Maliseets valued the Fox Islands greatly, and, as time went along, repeatedly attacked settlers who attempted to establish permanent island communities. As in so much of northern New England, the real thrust of occupation would come after the 1760s.

 

West Penobscot Bay

ePub

Islesboro lies opposite the Camden Hills in Penobscot Bay, its long, narrow north–south dimension a familiar dark line three miles out on the eastern horizon. It is a wooded place, very rural in flavor, and with limited visible development. Given its long, thin shape, Islesboro often seems all shoreline, its perimeter a collection of superb harbors and coves. From those sheltered inlets, the views from the island’s west side back to the mainland are striking, the hills forming a visual border as far as the eye can see. Except at the ferry landing, two markets, two gallery-shop-cafés, and post office, there are few gathering places for Islesboro’s roughly 650 year-rounders. The island seems notably reserved, quiet, and private. Islanders like it that way, and seek to keep their domain free of the ugly, honky-tonk clutter found elsewhere.

Islesboro can be explored on foot, on a bicycle, or by car. The short ferry trip accommodates vehicles and cycles, and walkers will find the roads that traverse the island from end to end relatively quiet and not heavily traveled. Seeing all of the island matters here—there are so many pretty harbors and views to landward. At the north end of the island, beautiful Turtle Head Cove offers striking, broad outlooks toward the mainland. Meadow Pond Road brings you south past the pretty body of water of that name. From Main Road you look over Ryder Cove, Sabbathday Harbor, and Seal Harbor. Crew Cove and Islesboro Harbor are at the Narrows and are equally attractive. Derby Road and Pendleton Point Road carry you out to Pendleton Point, where a town park offers outstanding views east and south. Fishing boats hauling traps work these waters daily around Job and Lime Islands. Sailors find these channels inviting, too, and craft under sail move up and down the waters from Gilkey Harbor on fair days.

 

East Penobscot Bay

ePub

A continuing argument might be waged as to precisely where Maine’s coastal islands are the most resistant to the twenty-first century. One could argue that any coastal island is an improvement on the depredations of mainland shopping malls, superhighways, and media noise. Absolutely. Still, I observe that, as one works northward along Maine’s glaciated shore, communities get smaller, the effects of modernity less noticeable, and the islands still more serene and unalloyed. All of the Maine coast pleases the eye, but as one drifts farther down east, human intrusion fades and, in places, nearly disappears. Where a human presence is felt at all, it is seemly, tied to traditional occupations, and deeply anchored. My mother came from this country. And her parents before her, her mother making the leap from Grand Manan Island to a little mainland farm as far down east as you are likely to get.

I am speculating here about that country which thrusts itself into the eastern end of Penobscot Bay and then eases north and east, as if pushed along by a prevailing wind, as were so many ships here in their time. Connected places such as Deer Isle and Stonington support a quiet mix of fishermen and artists. Spruce-clad islands interlaced in a field of dense blue lie offshore, one of the most beautiful places in the world to hoist sail and beat downwind or to point one’s kayak toward blue water.

 

Jericho Bay

ePub

South-southwest of Mount Desert Island, Swans Island floats in the Atlantic, looking from the air like a giant dinner roll out of the middle of which an enormous bite has been taken. A largish six-thousand-acre island amid many smaller ones, Swans perches at the mouth of Blue Hill Bay, awash in muscular, conflicting currents. It is a hilly, ledgy, sometimes even marshy island with serrated north and south shores that greet regular eleven-foot tides, rising to sixteen feet on a spring full moon. Now and then, the tides around Swans have been described as violent. Periodically, they are bolstered by the swift currents that roam from east and northwest, and the wind ruffles the dense, spruce feathers of the wooded island sometimes no less energetically than the sea.

A necklace of other islands supports Swans to the south, east, and west, shaping if not mitigating the strength of local currents. Placentia, Black, and Great and Little Gott Islands lie a mile or so off Swans to the northeast. Tiny Sheep and Eagle Islands plus Pond, Opechee, and Black stand across the Casco Passage opposite Swans Island’s northwest corner and Marshall and Seal Coves. Long Island (Frenchboro) lies to the southeast. Marshall Island is the largest of its kind to the south, separated from Swans by Toothacher Bay.

 

Gulf of Maine

ePub

Frenchboro is Long Island’s sole community, a village served by a single road with a spur or two, the quintessential island outpost dedicated to fishing. A roundish mound about two and a half miles across, Long looks outward toward the open Atlantic and the Gulf of Maine a modest distance below Placentia and Black Islands. With Swans away to the west, this whole cluster of isles rests due south of Mount Desert. Frenchboro supports approximately sixty souls, and then a bit more in summer, all dwelling around the isle’s protected harbor along its west side. It has that feeling of smallness and separateness appropriate to a community whose position at sea determines much. One might say that Frenchboro is one of few examples of coastal island life where fishing occupations continue largely undisturbed, and where community life has not been shaped by tourism.

Some would claim there are more deer than humans on this island, the whitetails being tame enough to eat from the hands of those they trust. These deer shelter in Long’s thick coniferous woods, which are largely owned by the David Rockefeller heirs. Most of the island’s twenty-five hundred or so acres have been preserved in a pristine state with few signs of development, and the island has, thus, maintained its character as a small fishing outland unspoiled by the usual hokum artifices of modernity.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Sku
B000000030955
Isbn
9780892728268
File size
4.74 MB
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata