I often find myself travelling as part of my fellowship. In fact, a large selling point of the fellowship was the chance to travel to other islands and communities. The work I do includes a number of participating schools, which allows me this opportunity, coupling the excitement of going to another locale with the pleasure of returning to Deer Isle.
In a past column, I wrote about travelling to Narraguagus High School in Harrington, which is close enough to easily squeeze into a one-day trip. While they can be done, other trips are a bit more difficult to squeeze into one day.
Travelling to Vinalhaven is a prime example. Located adjacent to Deer Isle, you can see this Penobscot Bay island from my road, looking almost a stone’s throw away. Yet by road, the trip involves driving the semi-perimeter of Penobscot Bay, capped off by a ferry ride, which combines for a total of close to three hours. Needless to say, that type of trip can make for a long day, ending with re-navigating the bumpy road down the Blue Hill Peninsula and crossing the narrow bridge and causeway before finally returning to Deer Isle.
In September, I travelled by lobster boat with a group of students and teachers to and from Hurricane Island, which is a close neighbor to Vinalhaven. Leaving from Stonington, the ride took about an hour. The return trip took a bit longer, mainly due to the gale force winds and resulting heavy swell. Save for the captain, who was stowed away in the dry wheelhouse, everyone onboard was soaked, wishing they hadn’t left their oil gear behind.
Oil gear or not, the commute seemed much more appropriate than riding on a dry and warm school bus. Evidently the crew of students and teachers agreed with me wholeheartedly, smiling ear to ear the entirety of the wet and rolling passage.
Many Maine islanders are quick to make the point that the trip to and from Deer Isle doesn’t involve a ferry. It may be why the lobster boat commutes to Hurricane Island seemed so appropriate to me. Ferry or not, leaving and returning to Deer Isle is a process, with the return trip having a mark of distinction. After crossing the bridge and causeway, you feel removed, set apart and unique. In a very welcoming way, you feel like you’ve arrived. It’s how returning to the place you call home should feel.
Ian Watkins in an Island Fellow through AmeriCorps and the Island Institute, working with the Eastern Maine Skippers program. He lives on Deer Isle.