This online document is a means of sharing the adventure of traveling on America's waterways with friends and family. Last Dance is continuing to take her crew to historical, natural, beautiful, and interesting places. Enjoy the ride.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Maine - Blue Hill Bay

Blue Hill Bay lies between Mount Desert Island and the Blue Hill peninsula.

It is a sheltered bay that provides quiet waters when the weather is churning up waters offshore.  Near the head of the bay, the very protected harbor known as Blue Hill Harbor has always been a refuge for boats.  At the head of the harbor, is the town of Blue Hill.

Yes, there is a reason why everything is called Blue Hill.  Traveling north into the bay, the predominant geological feature is a single mountain, and from a distance, it does have a blue cast.

Blue Hill Harbor is protected from winds and seas in all directions, but does pose a problem to boats - it is shallow for a long distance near shore.  The above image was taken from the town dock looking out into the harbor.  The reason that there are no boats for about a half mile is because that area goes dry near low tide.  The town dock is only accessible for 2 hours either side of high tide.

Falls Bridge is an interesting man-made landmark.  While it appears to be a steel arch, the construction is concrete.  The bridge is so named because it crosses a waterfall rather than a creek or river.

People in Maine enjoy boats and choose beautiful and often intriguing boats. In Blue Hill Harbor, these two wooden sloops are so similar, except in size.

A classic megayacht lies on its mooring, a long-time summer resident of Blue Hill Bay.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Maine - Isle au Haut - a Sociological Study

Societies isolated on islands often develop customs and culture that differ from the mainland where there is more interaction.  An example is Tangier Island, located in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.  On Tangier, the locals still speak a style of Old English that the first settlers brought to the island in the 1700's.  This is not a study of language, it is an examination of the cars on the island, an appropriate research strategy for a gearhead.

It is difficult and expensive to ship a car to the island, and with the main road only being 12 miles long, cars tend to remain on the island.  Note that this lobsterman's vehicle has no license plate.  None of the cars on the island do.  While there is that one state road, the residents do not believe a state registration is necessary to operate a car.

The summer people bring cars to the island, which rack up few miles on the tiny island during a short summer season.  So, the first cars they ever transported to the island are still running and serving as their main transportation.  This Model A Ford is in original condition, with the exception of a long ago applied coat of blue paint.

The older vehicles get the job done and become somewhat the expected norm, or even a status symbol.  The Model A Ford pickup on the town dock.

A Model A with custom bodywork.  Not the type of customization that makes cars shows, but one that brings practicality to meeting island needs.

A 1954 Chevy pickup that has been on the island many years.  One of the summer residents donated it to the community fundraiser as an auction item, with the caveat that in addition to no auto tag, it also had no title.  It could only be an island vehicle.  Winning bid was $6000.

A Willy-Overland Jeepster, c. 1949.

Studebaker pickup, c. 1951.

If you have a 1961 Rambler Classic but really need the hauling capacity of a pickup, just build a rooftop carrier.  Island people can improvise.

It appeared that this Chevy was being painted black and white with red and blue roof-mounted lights in preparation as a police car.  Puzzling, since there is no law enforcement presence on the island, save the park rangers.  Later it was spotted under the control of some teens, with a bit more paint.  They were creating a Blues Brothers vehicle as their budgets allowed them to purchase more cans of spray paint.

With no repair facilities or even parts availability, repairs can be difficult. So, when repairs are required, just park the vehicle on the portion of the main road that is paved, run it up on ramps, and a fine work location is achieved.

Transportation on an island has some different needs and challenges.  The solutions are often different.  Just sitting by the town dock or the store can result in a car show.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Maine - Isle au Haut

Isle au Haut, French for High Island, lies off the coast of Maine at the western edge of Penobscot Bay.

Acadia National Park manages 60% of the island, indicated in green.  The major difference in this park area and the one on Mount Desert Island is the number of visitors each year: 6 million on MDI and 7,000 at Isle au Haut.

The only transportation to Isle au Haut is the mailboat, a small passenger ferry, or private boat.  Anchoring opportunities are slim as most of the possibilities are not protected, subject to winds and rough waters.  The only protected area is in the Isle au Haut Thorofare, between Isle au Haut and Kimball Island, which is filled with moorings, leaving no room to anchor a boat.

The Thorofare is a skinny piece of water, whether referring to width or depth.  The northern end channel is only 50 feet wide, marked by just two red and green buoys.  Outside the channel, rock bottom awaits boats.

The center section of the Thorofare widens to become a usable harbor.  Kimball Island, in the background, has one home.

Fortunately, for the cruising boater, one of the local lobstermen maintains a half dozen rental moorings.  The rentals operate on the honor system.  A Coke bottle is attached to the mooring pendant as the payment system.  The $25/day fee is inserted into the bottle and the cap replaced.

The harbor is a working lobster boat harbor.  Most of the boats on moorings are lobster boats, from this example with most neglected esthetic maintenance, to . . .

beautifully maintained boats, such as the Mattie Belle, Linda Greenlaw's boat.

The town dock is the center of community.  It provides access to the island from moored boats, as evidenced by an always full dinghy dock.  The outside of the dock is reserved for the mailboat, and maintenance activities on lobster boats.

Linda Lewis photo, Lulu's Musings

Everything on the island, not just the mail, arrives on the mailboat.  The food for the grocery store is packed in a huge insulated container, packages from UPS for delivery on Isle au Haut are taken to the boat in Stonington, in short, anything purchased on the mainland arrives on the mailboat.  Seems half the population of the island is waiting on the town dock at mailboat arrival.

The town dock also serves as the local boatyard for the lobstermen.  Dock the boat at high tide . . .

and at low tide, the boat will be in dry dock for maintenance.  This is a common practice among the lobstermen in Maine.

A close look at the photo will reveal a Model A pickup parked on the dock. It is just one of the cars driven to the dock to meet the mailboat.

Twice a month the Sunbeam stops at the town dock.  It is the fifth in a series of Sunbeams serving people on Maine islands for over 100 years.  The mission provides a wide variety of services, including medical.  They have a full-time nurse aboard, and if the issue is greater than she can handle, the patient is linked to a doctor through the web, visual and auditory.

This tiny Incorporated town (population 79 by the 2010 census), has many town amenities.

The Isle au Haut Post Office has to be one of the smallest in the country. The Last Dance crew used this Post Office to receive mail while in Maine.

There is a full-service grocery store which could even be classified as a supermarket, having everything from fresh vegetables to frozen foods to motor oil.  And, the prices are reasonable, considering that everything has to be shipped in on the mailboat.

The first landmark that can be seen approaching the island is the steeple on the church, built high on a hill.

As do most coastal New England churches, the steeple is topped with a wind vane.  In a town where the major industry is fishing, the pointer on the vane is appropriately a fish.

With such a tiny population, the Isle au Haut school has difficulty maintaining the State of Maine required minimum enrollment for funding a teacher.  The community has a number of efforts to recruit young families to the island, including building affordable houses.  They are attempting to diversify the economy with cottage industries, making items and services that can be sold off the island.

One such business is Black Dinah Chocolatiers, a gourmet chocolate factory located in an old home, far out of town, on the edge of the woods defining the national park.  They serve breakfast and sell fine chocolates retail in the store.  The income to support the business does not come from islanders, they have retail stores on the mainland that carry their chocolates, and they sell online.  There is an interesting story about the couple who founded Black Dinah.

The biggest restaurant in town is The Maine Lobster Lady.  A lobsterman's wife operates from a food trailer placed in her side yard, along the only road on the island.  There is such little traffic that customers wait in line in the street.

Of course, the lobster roll is filled with fresh lobster and is one of the tastiest in Maine.  The fried haddock sandwich was the best fish sandwich sampled.  And, a real treat was her specialty blueberry iced tea, made, of course, with fresh wild blueberries.

The dining room is out under the trees, creating a most pleasant epicurean experience.

The Shore Shop Gifts is far different than gift stores in tourist towns.  The items in the store are made in Maine, including items from 22 island residents.  The inventory is quaint, different, and handmade.  The store was a daily stop on walks on the island.

The Shore Shop's proprietor, Kendra, became a friend and assisted the crew in finding some rare items.  Her husband, John, is a lobsterman and woodworker, producing fine art in wood.  The shop also sells live lobsters, and Kendra will steam them after she closes the store - another great meal aboard.

In the 1880's, people began building summer homes along the Atlantic Coast.  Isle au Haut was found by some of the wealthy families in the Boston area and summer homes were built on the island.  Some of the same families have kept these summer homes for generations.  In the summer the island population is comprised of three groups, the year-round residents, the summer people, and the short-term visitors.

Acadia National Park comprises over half of the island and has many trails leading across the island and through amazing Maine woods.

The mountain peaks on the trails provide vistas for long distances across the island and over Penobscot Bay and the Gulf of Maine.

An oddity to share - propeller rock - an artwork on Isle au Haut.

Attending a community fundraiser gave the Last Dance crew a chance to meet many of the year-round residents and summer people.  One of the more famous of the Isle au Haut natives, Martha Greenlaw, is a delightful person.  Here she autographs one of her books.

Isle au Haut Light

Flake Island on the Thorofare

Reading List

Linda Greenlaw was a swordfish boat captain.  She is known for being the female captain who warned a doomed fishing boat about the approaching storm.  Sebastian Junger wrote of this episode in his book, and it was also portrayed in the movie of the same name - The Perfect Storm.  She wrote a book about her experiences as a swordboat captain, The Hungry Ocean, which became a New York Times bestseller.

Greenlaw retired from swordfishing and returned to her childhood home on Isle au Haut.  She became a lobster boat captain, still making her living on the waters.  Her experiences living on Isle au Haut and fishing for lobster are described in her book, The Lobster Chronicles.

Greenlaw's writing skills combined with her mother, Martha Greenlaw's cooking skills, have produced two cookbooks.  The first is out of print and has become collectible.  The second, The Maine Summers Cookbook, is filled with recipes using the foods plentiful in Maine.

"Time and place.  Island in summer.  It's simple.  The summer folks show up on the mail boat, the lobsters start to crawl into traps, the gardeners fight the deer for fresh produce, and the parties begin.  Food and drink.  That's simple, too.  Plenty of each.  We cook local and fresh, more out of necessity than any heartfelt statement.  We just don't have access to gourmet on Isle au Haut.  Fortunately for us, our fresh and local includes lobsters, clams, mussels, halibut, blueberries, herbs, and produce that is neither prewashed, double washed, nor even washed at all.  We enjoy what the island and surrounding oceans provide.  We cook on the beach over open wood fires in washtubs.  We boil and steam using seawater dipped from any perch that allows access to the tide.  With provisions like these and a little imagination, meals and their preparations are adventures to be shared and treasured."  (page ix)

Maine has beautiful waters, coasts, forests, creatures, islands, and mountains, but to truly experience all the state has to offer, foods must be part of the experience, as the words from two Isle au Haut natives so aptly describe.