The first thing many people assume about living on an island without a bridge is that you can still get here by car. There is no car ferry to the Cranberry Isles, yet we have plenty of cars and trucks and golf carts on both Little and Great Cranberry Islands.

“How do they get here?” visitors ask. Island residents are all versed in the ways of barging to and from the islands. Trucks with building supplies from EBS come and go by barge. The dumpsters in our recycling and solid waste centers come and go by barge. Modular homes and moving vans arrive by barge, as do the necessary “honey wagons” and fuel trucks.

There are several barging companies who serve the Cranberry Isles. They may seem expensive, but they are usually able to carry several vehicles at a time, allowing for an economic division of fees. They come and go as often as hired, as long as the weather is cooperative. Too much wind or rough water will cause a delay.

“Could you put it on the boat?” is the most obvious question when considering getting something to and from the Cranberry Isles. Most often this question refers to the Beal and Bunker Mailboat, the only passenger ferry that serves the islands year round. Along with passengers and mail, they also carry a generous amount of freight for island people and businesses.

When Bruce and I recently ate lunch at Lolita, a new restaurant in Portland where our son Cameron is one of the cooks, we met the owner, Guy Hernandez, who was lamenting an overdue food delivery truck. Cameron and I glanced briefly at each other, the unspoken message being, “Try getting all of your restaurant supplies delivered by boat!” as the Islesford Dock Restaurant (where both of our sons have worked) must do every summer on a daily basis. 

With a little imagination, any non-islander could think of a variety of things that might come out on the ferry. It is always worth asking a business from Southwest or Northeast Harbor if they would be willing to put something on the boat for delivery.

Many of us would rather not leave the island for a whole day to do just a few errands. If you have an account, Brown’s hardware in Northeast Harbor is happy to make a run down the road to put just about anything, from screws to birdseed, on the boat. The same with Pine Tree Market and food deliveries. New York Times readers can get their daily fix thanks to McGrath’s in Northeast Harbor.

If you don’t want to take a trip off island for your plants, Islandscaping, a nursery in Manset, will put flats on the Cranberry Cove Ferry for you. Carroll Drug, in Southwest harbor will put medications on the boat, and Sawyer’s Market makes boat deliveries as well.

“I have heads ready to be picked up for my traps,” Bruce told his brother Mark one day when he heard he was going to Downeast Fishing Gear in Ellsworth. “If it’s easy for you, could you pick them up and put them on one of the boats?” It’s a pretty basic request.

When I had friends coming out from Ellsworth for lunch, I put a boat ticket on the boat, in an envelope with their names on it, to pay for their trip. I put the family parking pass on the boat to be picked up by my cousin when he arrived from Chicago last week. Sometimes it is forgotten purses or car keys that travel over or back to their owners, thanks to helpful captains and friends. One weekend, as we left the Islesford harbor, the captain swung by a boat on a mooring to drop off a fresh pot of coffee to the owner.

Household items make up quite a list of less-than-usual freight that arrives or leaves by mailboat, including: stoves, refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, furniture, bath tubs, toilets, showers, empty fuel tanks, wood stoves, gas grills, mattresses and even coffins. Motorcycles, scooters, dirt bikes and four-wheelers are some of the vehicles that have come out on the boat. 

Then there are the animals. In addition to the expected dogs on leashes and cats in carriers are the occasional pig, goat, sheep, baby chicks, hens, roosters, geese, owls, and even once a miniature pony. Recently, a few ducks were borrowed from Great Cranberry to rid an Islesford garden of an infestation of insects and snails. The cage was put on the mailboat at one dock and retrieved at another. 

Beal and Bunker provide quite a service to the islands in all they are willing to transport. Whatever they charge for carrying freight is usually worth it. They have transported just about anything you could imagine and some you could not. It’s one of the curious things I love about living here. Where else could I leave to go grocery shopping and travel back home alongside 1,000 bees?

Barbara Fernald lives, writes and makes jewelry on Islesford (Little Cranberry Island).