lage to the vibrant beat of Flash in the Pans, a local traveling steel-drum
band. At night, we gathered around campfires beneath the constellations. I’ll never forget lying on the hood of the Yukon with our youngest
son, Caleb, as we enjoyed the last moments of his 18th birthday, while
watching the Perseids meteor shower in the Maine sky above us.
We hiked. Trails and paths crisscross Deer Isle’s many nature preserves, managed by the nonprofit Island Heritage Trust. One day, we
explored the silent, moss-covered understory on our way to Barred
Island, a small, mysterious island accessible only at low tide. Another
day, we took the mail boat from Stonington to neighboring Isle au
Haut, part of Acadia National Park, where we hiked for hours on the
up-and-down trails along the fogged-in coastline. As the trail wound
over and around the headland, we heard through the mist the low
thrum of lobster boats working close to the shore, shrouded in fog.
Lobster buoys lay washed up at the head of every boulder-strewn
cove, tangible evidence of this active fishery.
We kayaked. In Stonington, we launched at Old Quarry Ocean
ROCKS, FOG, AND LOBSTER TRAPS
Adventures and paddled for hours among rocky islands, dodging the
lobster boats and elegant sailboats. As we set off en masse across the
choppy water, our family friend TJ, who joins us for every trip, was
swamped by a wave and went bottom up in his kayak. Maine waters
are cold, and TJ, in his life jacket, popped out of his kayak and spray-
skirt at lightning speed. In good rescue-mission form, the rest of the
kayaks circled to right and drain his boat before making our way to a
well-deserved picnic on a rock-strewn island.
We fished. Captain Pete Douvarjo of Eggemoggin Guide Service
took TJ and the boys to inshore waters for pollock and mackerel and
up the Penobscot River for freshwater smallmouth bass. We feasted on
their catch. We went to the island seafood co-ops and feasted some
more on local oysters, clams, and lobster – lots and lots of lobster.
Our rental cottage on a quiet cove lacked a dock for our Whaler,
but that’s not unusual in Maine; they’re in short supply here because
of the big tides and the heavy-duty winters. So we sought out every
all-tide public boat ramp in the vicinity. We launched the Whaler all
around Deer Isle: at Stonington Harbor, Benjamin River, Bagaduce
River, Blue Hill Harbor, and South Blue Hill. We put many miles on
our boat exploring countless coves and harbors, and our 17-footer
rewarded us with close-up views of lighthouses, spruce-covered
islands, and lobstermen heaving their traps onto the gunwales of their
colorful boats. Our most mesmerizing times on our Maine holiday
occurred on these excursions.
My husband Eliot has done his fair share of boating up and down
the East Coast under power and sail, in boats large and small, and
knows that inshore Maine boating requires keen awareness of the
wind, tides, currents, fog, and, most of all, the unforgiving rocks that
lurk everywhere beneath the surface. The ubiquitous lobster traps, he
says, adds quite another dimension: “At home, the Chesapeake Bay
has its share of crab traps. But Maine waters have an exponentially
greater number of lobster buoys waiting to snag your prop. You really
have to stay on your game.”
We’ll never forget the morning we spent on Sea Woof, a lobster
boat owned by Captain Mark Billings. He named his boat for the
beloved German Shepherds who once accompanied him everywhere,
on land and sea. At daybreak in thick fog, as ocean swells rolled into
Stonington Harbor, we watched this experienced waterman effort-
lessly pull and check his never-ending line of traps. He taught us how
to measure the lobsters and throw back those too small or too large.
We learned how to band the lobster claws with rubber bands, fill the
bait pouches with dead fish, and throw the harvest into the holding
tank as the skipper sped off for the next buoy, warning us about the
lobsters in his Maine accent: “When they bite, they bite hawwd.”
Singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg ended his days on Deer Isle and
Eggemoggin Reach, and in his song “The Reach” paid tribute to its
seafaring culture: “And the morning will blow away as the waves crash
and fall, / And the Reach like a siren sings as she beckons and calls. /
As the coastline recedes from view, and the seas swell and roll, / I will
take from the Reach all that she has to teach to the depths of my soul.”
We were just visitors to Deer Isle that summer, and we don’t yet
know where our next family adventure will take us. But we know
for sure that someday we’ll return to cross that narrow bridge over
Eggemoggin Reach, our little boat in tow.
Ann Powell is an attorney and writer who lives and boats on the
Chesapeake Bay with her family.