Isles of Flies

We’re nearly out of Maine. Today we sailed south from Kennebunk to the Isles of Shoals. Lots of wind and swells pushed us from behind so we made great time. By “we” I mean Drew, Soren, Elsa and me — plus at least 100 flies that hitched a ride in our cockpit to get out of the wind. SO GROSS. I even saw two pairs mating this afternoon behind the steering wheel. That’s all we need. Why does no one ever tell you about these things?

There’s an amusing saying among mariners: “A gentleman never sails to weather.” This means a he never sails into the wind because it’s more comfortable pointing away from it. Seems to me, therefore, that a gentleman always sails with lots of disgusting flies hanging around him all afternoon, and if said gentleman is summering in Maine like the Bushes or Rockefellers or whomever, he will also be bitten by these flies repeatedly because Maine flies are biting flies. Ugh.

At least we bought a fly swatter at the Walmart in Thomaston.

But more about the Isles of Shoals. They’re a good six miles out in the Atlantic, a tiny collection of granite boulders brushed with grasses and a few trees, dotted with three small houses and one improbable red-roofed hotel (now closed). The fact that people settled here, so far out to sea and facing the full force of the Atlantic, amazes me.

Maybe it’s history that drew them. Captain John Smith (of Jamestown and Pocohontas fame) landed in 1614 and tried to name the Isles after himself. A hundred years later the Isles were visited by actual PIRATES. Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard, came in 1720 to honeymoon with his fifteenth wife. When British sails appeared on the horizon, though, he promptly jumped aboard his ship and abandoned his bride. (This might explain why he had so many wives.) She waited in vain for fifteen years before passing on, and supposedly her ghost still wanders the beaches crying, “He’ll be back! He’ll be back!” A few decades later a British captain found actual pirate treasure here — four bars of silver under a rock. He sold them and used the funds to build a jetty that we’re now moored about ten feet from. And now in the present day, on Star Island, just behind us, there are a group of Unitarians on a religious retreat. At sunset I saw a woman on the small sloping lawn swaying and swinging her arms about in a sort of free-form version of tai chi. What would Blackbeard have thought?

1 Comment

  1. Linda, your tellings about these land forms and their history are marvelous. I can only imagine how much Soren and Elsa are taking in about these places and their “stories” from the past to today. You’re amazing! xox

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