The Working Waterfront

Island life through the eyes of COVID refugees

Virus has brought new winter neighbors to Islesford

Barbara Fernald
Posted 2021-04-23
Last Modified 2021-04-23

When Andrei Pogany, his wife Deborah Gorman, and their two young daughters, Klara and Amalia came from Los Angeles to stay on Islesford last September, they planned to be here for about three months. The island internet was fast enough to work from home and Klara could start her L.A. kindergarten via “Zoom school.”

A friend suggested they see if Klara could go to the Ashley Bryan School with the seven other children from the island. It was easy. There are only two students in the older grades and the other five are concentrated in kindergarten and second grade. Klara would fit right in. Andrei described to me how great it was to get to see their daughter running and skipping down the road to school every day, a happy child during a pandemic.

Andrei’s business is Pogany Architecture. He has been busy working from home as clients look to redesign areas to accommodate home offices and grandparent spaces. Deborah is the chef and co-founder of SorBabes, a gourmet sorbet company. Other than a few trips to check on “factory stuff,” Deborah has been able to do her work from the island as well.

Andrei and Deborah decided it would be wise to stay on the island all winter…

When little Amalia learned to walk they knew they needed to find part-time child care.

When COVID prevented my niece and her boyfriend from safely taking a cross-country road trip, they stayed on for the winter at her father’s Islesford house. She easily took on the job of caring for Amalia.

As the virus numbers climbed in other parts of the country, Andrei and Deborah decided it would be wise to stay on the island all winter if they could work it out. The only problem was that the family house had already been rented for January, February, and March of this year. They found a winter rental and “moved into town” to stay until April. Another new island living experience.

When I walk by their house I look for Andrei and Deborah at work, through their window. “Hi!” I wave.  When I see them there I remember renting the house across the street from them, with my brother, during my very first winter on the island. Their home office used to be the island post office until it was moved to the store owned by Alice Lake in 1977. I smile at the memory.

The mundanity of March can be revitalized by something as simple as a fresh perspective. I am intrigued to learn that in L.A., people rarely think about the weather. Andrei is surprised by how much more connected they feel to the environment here where wind direction and temperature can determine where they take a family walk on a breezy day.

One of the things that fascinates Andrei is something I never even think about: “There are walls of lobster traps everywhere!” It’s true. Many of the island lobster fishermen take their traps out of the water for the winter, stacking 800 traps in rows in their yards. I‘ve neglected to notice how different the landscape is because it’s so familiar.

Deborah likes the feeling of self-sufficiency that comes with island living. At the same time, she appreciates that people here will help you find a solution when you need it. When Deborah wanted to experiment with some new recipes, she put a message out on the Cranberry Isles Information Page on Facebook. Did anyone have an ice cream maker she could borrow? We did. There would be a new sorbet product to try in exchange.

When they needed a baby gate, Lindsay had one to borrow. When the students needed a break from Zoom art classes, Andrei stepped in to teach art classes on Mondays.

It’s been wonderful having a new family on the island for the winter. Even with the limitations of COVID, they have become a part of the island social scene. Last week as Bruce and I were walking up the road from the dock, Andrei was headed down the road, earbuds in and phone in hand. He said, “Sunset board meeting. They’re still at work in L.A.” His whole demeanor said to me, “Can you believe I get to have a client meeting while walking to capture the best light of the day on Islesford?”

Yes, I can, but thanks for reminding me. I forget sometimes just how special it is to spend the winter on Islesford.

Barbara Fernald lives on Islesford (Little Cranberry Island).