July 19, fog, rain and wind. High temperatures in the 50s. The petunia blossoms are molding, growth is stunted in the vegetable gardens, but trees and lawns are lush. Over the VHF radio in our kitchen, Bruce Damon gives Bruce Fernald a call. “I’ll be glad when they get them Superman glasses invented, won’t you? Then at least we’d be able to see our buoys through all of this!”

These days electronics have changed the lives of boaters. Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites and radar allow for reliable navigation despite poor visibility. Although fishermen can get from here to there, there is no technology to help them see from buoy to buoy. Lobster traps are set in strings of about 10 to 30 buoys in a row. Each buoy could be connected to one, two or three traps. The buoys are too small for radar reflectors and so a fisherman hauling traps in the fog may know, by count, if he/she missed a trap or two, but might not know until the next clear day which specific trap was missed. Most boats are now equipped with a plotter that combines a chart and GPS to find exactly where they need to go. Before GPS they used land-based LORAN coordinates to help find the next string of traps. When one fisherman happens to snag the lost trap of another, it is still the LORAN numbers they most frequently use to communicate the position of the wayward trap. Before LORAN, a compass and landmarks were the means of determining where to find the next string of traps. “Light on Pemetic with Richard’s Head out by,” meant lining up the light house on Baker Island with the top of Pemetic Mountain, and the tip of Long Island showing up just behind Great Duck Island.

The first time I fished with Bruce in the 70s, he showed me how to navigate through “the gut” at low tide, by heading south and lining up the stern of the boat with the “net ledges” and Jimmy’s Point on Great Cranberry. Then when the flat side of one of the gut ledges is lined up with one of the trees on the eastern side of Baker’s, you turn east southeast to avoid hitting “dirty rock.” It is still easier to use these landmarks on a clear day than it is to follow a plotter.

When the sun finally came out on our islands in August, gardens jumped back into action and the summer population swelled. These are the days of frantic activity as we all try to catch up with everyone at once. Even though they have experienced some new twists, two century-old traditions continue on Great Cranberry and Islesford. On Great Cranberry, the 104th Annual Ladies Aid Fair takes place on Aug. 14. This will be the second year they have held their fair on a Saturday rather than the traditional Thursday. When the Islesford Church Club was disbanded last year, it looked as if we would miss having a church fair for the first time in over 100 years. Twenty-one-year-old Amanda Ravenhill, who has summered here since she was a baby, was not going to see this tradition disappear. With help from her brothers Jeffrey and Brendon, and her mother, Judith Timyan, and Cheryl Sholl, Amanda organized the first annual Islesford Fair on Aug. 5. Over $4,000 was raised to help support the following community organizations: Islesford Neighborhood House, Islesford Congregational Church, Islesford Fire Department, Islesford Scholarship Fund, Islesford Historical Society, Islesford Library and Julie’s Garden. Amanda reported that every single person she asked for help said “Yes.”

The LifeFlight helicopter called to make an impromptu visit to Islesford on Fair day so volunteers marked a landing zone with blue plastic bait barrels. Four barrels marked a 100-foot square and a fifth barrel was placed to indicate the prevailing wind direction. The pilot called to ask Kate Chaplin, wife of Islesford Fire Chief Courtney Chaplin, for latitude and longitude coordinates for the town field, but she did not know them off the top of her head. She called Courtney at the dock who then went aboard Dan Lief’s boat to turn on his GPS to get the coordinates. He read them to Kate and she relayed them back to the pilot. The location of the Islesford landing field is now in the LifeFlight system and a crew of Islesford volunteers has become familiar with loading procedures.

On Aug. 10, folks from Islesford dealt with the sad business of saying goodbye to a beloved friend at a memorial service for Julie Rice Speakman. As a wife and mother she lived in many different parts of the world, but her home on Islesford was the anchor for her family. Julie is remembered by many of us for the twinkle in her eye, her very stylish manner, and for being one of the nicest people you could ever meet. As one friend remarked, “Even at her memorial service, you just thought she was going to be right there to meet you at the door.” In one of those sparkling island moments, as her son Jay made his closing remarks, a small bird hovered just outside one of the window panes above and behind the altar. Not everyone saw it, but those of us who did felt that, perhaps, Julie did come by to see us after all.

– Barbara Fernald, Islesford