Ramble On

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Shipping Out to the Cranberry Islands

As we left Northeast Harbor, there was a view of
the Asticou Inn, where we stayed.
We had planned to take a day cruise in Maine - we'd heard about whale watching and the potential of having a look at a year-round colony of puffins.  While we were in the park the first day we learned that the National Park Service offered a cruise to the Cranberry Islands, which are just offshore of the larger Mount Desert Island where Acadia National Park is.

Bear Island Light - an early sight on the NPS cruise.
The fare is a bargain, and even better for us, the boat left from Northeast Harbor, a location within sight of the Asticou Inn where we were staying.  There is also a regular ferry to the islands, including Little Cranberry Island, which is the one our trip went to - the NPS operates a small museum with interpretive displays about island life there.

Our boat was crewed by a knowledgeable ranger who had been leading this tour for a few years.  On our cruise out, we made our way to the furthest of the islands.  There was something noteworthy to mention all along the way, including the Bear Island Lighthouse.

A second point of interest out in the harbor is a simple day marker that is built on a low lying island, no more than a pile of rocks.  Our boat approached and took shelter in the lee of the island - it was quite windy and there was a good chop going for the duration of our trip.

The daymarker - seals are visible as points of light
on the right.

Just to the west of the marker there lay a colony of gray seals, which partially explained why we had kept our distance from the island.  Maybe 50 of the animals lay sunning themselves, none disturbed by the nearby boat.
Our boat turned for our port-of-call at Little Cranberry Island, but not before we passed the location of a few osprey nests, and may have actually spied a nestling or two in one of them.  Eventually we arrived at the island, which is also known as Isleford, for an hourlong walk.

That was enough time to check out the storage yards around the harbor - several of the residents are lobstermen, and there was an exhibit in the little museum about island life, including the fishermen that live here.

Lobster pots and buoys stored for the season.
As our guide explained, in the past there were as many as 100 islands off the coast of Maine that hosted year-round residents, but now there are only 15.  Three of the islands are located here, near the park, including Mount Desert Island, Big Cranberry, and Little Cranberry Island.  

That was where my thoughts focused during the walk around the island - not only the challenges of living there during modern times, but especially how challenging it must have been during the early settlements, or even as recently as the last 50 years or so.

More lobster pots and buoys in storage.

As we made our way back to the harbor, Mary and I stopped into a pottery shop there.  The proprietor explained that she summered on the island, staying there from June until August.  She was just opening for the season when we stopped in - for the rest of the year she lives in Boston.

The chop on the harbor had gotten a little worse than when we first set out.  It wasn't so bad on the boat when we were underway, although docking at Little Cranberry took a second attempt.  We also were treated to the arrival of the mail boat, and a ferry arrival of folks arriving for the season, unloading all their luggage and groceries there on the little dock.

On the way back, our trip took us into Somes Sound, a glacier carved harbor that is similar to a fjord.  We were treated to a philosophical discussion of the technical definition of a fjord based on the Norwegian topography, and the result that this body of water has been downgraded in recent years because it is a relatively tame example of one of these features.

Our cruise over, Mary and I headed over to Bar Harbor for lunch.  Our first choice wasn't open, so after a walk around town we selected an Italian place near the water.  We fueled up, looking forward to a short hike we had planned for the afternoon, which will be the topic of my next post.

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