There’s an old “Bert and I” sketch involving a tourist who wants to go to Millinocket. The native tries out a few answers involving roads that “turn to dirt now and then,” and finally gives up: “Milllinocket-come to think of it, you can’t get there from here.”

These days, if you want to get there, Canada’s looking a lot like Millinocket. In late November the only international flight leaving Portland’s “International” airport, offered by Starlink Airlines, ceased regular service. Now, if you want to reach Nova Scotia (or anywhere in Canada, for that matter) by air from Portland, you’ll have to fly by way of Boston or New York. If you want to do the trip by sea you can take the CAT ferry-unless you want to go between Columbus Day and Memorial Day. You can go in your own boat if you’re adventurous (a day and a half under sail from Portland to Cape Sable, less if you cross further north where the Bay of Fundy narrows down and shortens the trip) and there’s the driving option if you’re really patient and willing to spring for the gas.

Starlink was a small operation that ran from Halifax to Portland by way of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Having gotten myself over to that part of the world by way of New York and Toronto (I had to be in St. John’s, Newfoundland, to meet friends on their boat, and the circuitous route was the only way to do that) the chance to fly home more directly, on Starlink from Halifax, was a godsend. The ticket was expensive, but considering the alternatives-CAT, car, some other three-city route home-traveling directly made a lot of sense.

Not that it did so to the Department of Homeland Security, which operates the border crossing at the Portland airport. Swooping out the blue sky after an easy late-August crossing from Yarmouth, we landed and pulled up to a small building on the back side of the airport, far away from the regular terminal. The dozen or so passengers who had made the trip were directed toward an unmarked door for our immigration formalities. The door wasn’t open yet (someone hadn’t arrived) so we stood around for about 20 minutes. No bathroom in sight, although Starlink had plied us with lots of free drinking water on the flight. No shelter, although it was sunny and mild-I remember wondering what would have happened had it been raining. One by one, we were finally admitted, had our passports stamped and sent on our way. It was all very informal, not particularly welcoming, and highlighted the fact that where arrivals and departures are concerned, Portland isn’t particularly friendly. It helps to remember that the Jetport’s the only place where a 9-11 highjacker was caught on videotape boarding his plane-an image that seems to have toughened a generation of Portland security officials and baggage inspectors.

The demise of Starlink’s Portland-Yarmouth-Halifax run is the result of a Canadian government subsidy running out. When the flights stopped the airline blamed the end of the subsidy, while the government suggested that the airline dig into its own pockets if it wanted to keep flying. As for Starlink’s passengers, all they could do was lament the end of the service. Blame the airline, blame the government, blame the recession-in the end, no one was willing to pick up the tab.

Public transportation hasn’t been one of this region’s strengths for years-probably since the demise of steamer service that once connected Maine with Boston and the Maritimes. That was almost a century ago, and since those days we’ve had to settle for a variety of ships (and now the CAT), passenger rail service that sometimes connected with New Brunswick or Quebec, air service that usually meant a detour to Boston, ferries to various islands and bus service to here and there. But this time even Canada, a country that’s known for its willingness to support remote communities, troubled industries and large corporations, couldn’t bring itself to subsidize air service across the Gulf of Maine.

The losers, besides folks who used the service, are residents of this region as a whole. Once again, despite our commonalities-culture, language, family ties, history, fisheries, the economy-we on each side of the border are cut off from each other. Sure, we can get there, and there’s always the Internet, but it’s hard and getting harder. “Millinocket – come to think of it, you can’t get there from here.”

David D. Platt is former editor of Working Waterfront.