Casco Bay Islands - Scenic Mountain Tops
There they sit, as they have for years and years --- a long string of wooded, different-sized islands -- actually, mountain tops -- popped up at the eastern end of the peninsula that is Portland, Maine.
Tradition says they used to be called the Calendar Islands, because there was one for every day of the year. (Many are only uninhabitable, small, clumps of land, constantly besieged by the restless, tidal Atlantic ocean.) I haven't been there for awhile, but I used to live there. I'll tell you a little about what I remember. I doubt they've changed much, anyway.
With a few exceptions, the only way to get to any of the islands is by boat -- usually the Casco Bay Lines, situated at the Portland waterfront. Attempting the trip any other way, unless on a sizeable, seaworthy boat, is at least risky and bumpy, and sometimes downright hazardous (although I've done it.) All there is between these islands, and a few farther out to sea, is the mighty Ocean, plus England, Europe and Africa.
The character of the islands changes every Memorial Day, when 'the summah people' come to visit or rent. They bring whatever they need for their stay---sometimes virtual households. Whatever they need a good, fun, restful stay. There are no 'box stores' here.
The summer weather is usually sunny, warm and just foggy and rainy enough to keep everything green and growing. Swim suits and shorts are the uniform of the day. What shops and services there are offer practical, interesting wares, and helpful information for free. (On many of the islands, there are few if any shops.)
Come Labor Day, everything changes. Everyone is busy packing up, saying so long to friends and summer romances, and taking a few lasting looks at where they've parked their hearts since they arrived. It's as if they'd gone to summer camp and now it's time to go home.
After Labor Day, and on through the ensuing fall, winter and spring, the population dwindles -- sometimes by a factor of 5-10 to one -- and the "year rounders" take center stage. Quietly. Without fanfare.
Schools, if the population is big enough to support them, begin to function. Often they only cover lower grades. Older children must catch the 7am boat to Junior High and High school, returning hime on the 2pm boat or later, if after-school activities require. This goes on no matter what the weather.
Residents buy what they need locally, if they can. Otherwise they go 'up town,' often with a medium-size cart, and bring back what they need as part of their ticket price on 'the boat.' There is a car ferry to a few of the islands, but the ticket price often dwarfs the convenience for most residents.
Community events are organized and attended, and neighbors stay in touch. It's a little like frontier country, with everyone anchored in their home and doing their own thing. In case of emergency, there usually are only para-medics to help out. But if the matter is serious enough, a call goes out to the city Fireboat, moored in Portland, and it heads out with a basic load of medical services.
Ah well, that's enough for now. If you'd like to know more, I recommend you visit the area, and see for yourself what rustic magic weaves through these beautiful pinpoints on the map of southern Maine. Call the Casco Bay Lines and see when the next ride 'down the bay' is scheduled.
And, oh yes -- better bring a hat, jacket, and snack. And, of course, your camera.
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