Our stormy winter blended into a wet windy spring in the Cranberry Isles. Like most places, we experienced a few power outages, but throughout the winter they were the result of electricity being cut off on the mainland rather than any island specific damages. 

When the lights go out on the islands, one of the first things anyone does is to call “the Hydro” to report the outage and listen to the recording to see where else the power is out. If the outage is on the mainland we know it will be repaired more quickly because trucks and crews can drive to the sites and get right to work. The kind of weather that knocks out power is the same kind of weather that keeps people from wanting to be out on a boat.

Four days after keeping our lights on through a blizzard and much higher winds, we woke after midnight to total darkness, on the last Sunday of March. Grabbing a bedside flashlight, Bruce went downstairs to use our non-remote phone to call Emera Maine and report the outage. There was no recorded message about an outage on the mainland, so he drove around the island to see if there were any wires down. Lights were still on in Southwest Harbor and on Great Cranberry which was a sure sign that the problem was somewhere on Islesford, though he didn’t find it.

There was nothing to do but go back to bed and wait for daylight. 

In the morning, Roy Hadlock drove around to see if any breakers were tripped on any of the transformers, but he also was unable to locate the cause of the outage. At one time, when Bruce was a boy, Islesford resident Hillis Bryant used to work for Bangor Hydro. He had a special pole he could use to reset a tripped switch on a breaker. Later, when Hillis no longer lived on the island, Harvey Bunker inherited the pole and for several years he was often able to easily remedy an island outage.

Even if that were still an option, it wouldn’t have helped in this case. When there is no visible cause for an island power outage, we start to fear it might be a problem with the cable that comes from the big island. We are down to the last of what were once three working lines of power. When that one goes, we will have to wait for the underwater cable to be replaced— a costly and time consuming undertaking for us and for the power company. 

Sunday morning was full of phone calls. Islanders were checking with each other to see who knew why the power was out and when it might be restored.

Bruce called Richard Beal on Great Cranberry to get the phone number for a direct contact at Emera Maine. He also called Blair Colby to see if he would drive around the island to check for downed lines that might affect our power on Islesford. He checked with David Bunker about running a boat for the Bangor Hydro crew, despite the fact that the only run of the day had already been canceled due to high winds.

“It’s not an emergency, but if we can get it fixed with just a boat ride it’s worth it,” said Bruce. David OK’d a run if Bruce could connect with the captain on the mainland, who had already been given the day off. At the same time, Roy volunteered to take his boat, Two Chances, to pick up the crew if needed.

Roy headed to Northeast Harbor as soon as he heard a repair crew was on the way. With our generator running, Bruce kept in touch with Roy over the VHF radio:”¨”It’s a little snotty out there isn’t it?”

Roy checked back: “It was lousy between the islands, but it won’t be so bad coming back the other way. I’m just passing the bell buoy now, I should be there in about 15 minutes.”

Bruce: “Well, I have the cell phone number of the Hydro guys so I’ll let them know when you’ll be there.”

“If they’re not there, I’ll probably wait for them,” answered Roy. (Gotta love a sense of humor on the high seas.)

About the time Roy arrived with the crew on Islesford, Blair called from Great Cranberry to say he noticed a fuse hanging down on the “third line” from one of the transformers just up the road from their town dock. I called Roy on the radio to let him know and he said he’d get the message to Bruce who was helping jump start the hydro truck, which had a dead battery.

The crew made a sweep of Little Cranberry, found no cause of the outage here and headed with Roy over to Great Cranberry. (Where Blair had to help them jump start that truck!) It was too rough for the Two Chances to wait alongside the dock, so Roy rode out the choppy waves on a nearby mooring while the Hydro crew fixed the problem. 

Thanks to Roy, a repair crew willing to take a rough boat ride, and a bunch of phone calls from others, our power was restored by mid-afternoon on a stormy Sunday. Everyone in Maine experiences weather related power outages. We prepare for them on the islands just like you do on the mainland. The only difference is we prefer the problem to be caused at your end, not ours.

Barbara Fernald lives on Islesford (Little Cranberry Island).