The relationship between Isle au Haut residents and the Isle au Haut Boat Company is a special one. I’m sure those on other islands feel a similar affinity for their boat captains, but after a year and a half on Isle au Haut I’m probably a little biased.
Unlike many of the larger islands, there is no state-run ferry service to Isle au Haut. We have a mailboat. In the offseason, there is one boat that runs twice a day Monday through Saturday (leaving Stonington for Isle au Haut at 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.), and two boats that run five times a day in the summer.
Having a mailboat means a lot of things. It means you can’t take your car back and forth between the island and the mainland.
It means the ticket prices are higher than many of the other islands (although residents do get a very fair discount).
It means that you end up doing a lot of lugging (lugging bags of groceries from your car on the mainland down the ramp to the boat, then off the boat and up the ramp on the island).
But it also means that you get to sit in the cabin with the captains. Even when you’re the only one on the boat (which happens in the offseason), you have two other people to chat with for the 45-minute ride.
It means that there is always someone there to help you lug those bags of groceries. It means that you can call and let them know if you get stuck behind a school bus in Deer Isle and might be a minute late for the last boat—they’ll wait for you.
I have heard countless stories of the boat captain’s kindness and patience and experienced it firsthand.
They have arrived at the island having forgotten someone’s package and gone all the way back to the mainland to retrieve it. One islander told me of a time when she arrived in Stonington only to realize she had left her purse on Isle au Haut. The captain took her all the way back to the island to get it. I have called and asked them to pick up something for me at the grocery store when what I needed was urgent and I was unable to come off island myself to get it.
The kindness isn’t a one way street—I can’t count the number of times I’ve been at the dock in the morning and seen Brenda come down to deliver homemade breakfast sandwiches to the captains working that day. Whenever there is a potluck or community supper people always think to set some aside for them. Like it or not, they’re part of our crazy island family.
During this season of Thanksgiving I wanted to stress how much the other Isle au Haut residents and I appreciate our boat captains. They get us safely to and from the real world, they make us laugh and they don’t give me a hard time for paying my $10 boat ticket in change (quarters, dimes and nickels). Who else would do that?