The Working Waterfront

A wintry slice of island life

Weather, boat trips, shopping—all in a day’s work

Barbara Fernald
Posted 2022-02-16
Last Modified 2022-03-15

It’s the afternoon of Jan. 6 and I’m in my studio on Little Cranberry Island, wondering if I have an island tale to tell on the day before my deadline. I usually have some idea by now, but not this week. I would have started writing this morning but I had to get some groceries.

I had not been off island since before Christmas and after family visits our supplies were getting low. My plan was to shop earlier in the week on a day when I would be off island for a medical appointment, but I came down with a cold. Despite a negative rapid test, I had to reschedule my appointment.

The following day was windy enough to cancel the afternoon boats. A snowstorm is on its way tomorrow and the weather man says we might get up to 10 inches. This morning was my best window to go off.

If it’s icy you have to hang on tight to the railing.

I took the 6:30 a.m. commuter boat, in the dark, with ten other passengers. Among them were several high school students. Some of the people who ride this boat return on the 5 p.m. commuter boat, coming and going in the dark for a number of weeks.

We watched the sky lighten. Today was too gray for a sunrise but the morning view from this boat can be spectacular.

“I send a video from the boat every morning to my grandson,” said Linda, who is the deckhand for her husband Danny, the captain.
In Northeast Harbor we stepped onto the float and the ramp up to the dock was steep. The shoppers among us smiled knowing that the tide would be nice and high by the time we returned with bags to carry. At this time of year that steep ramp can be treacherous. If it’s icy you have to hang on tight to the railing. If the ramp is salted, that rock salt acts like marbles under foot. It’s a one-bag-at-a-time transit on a low tide ramp in winter.

This morning the ramp was neither icy nor salty so the black ice in the parking lot came as a bit of a surprise. We each walked like penguins to our cars which were covered in a rather unyielding layer of thin ice. When you live on an island in winter, you need to remember to allow time for the ice scraping and shoveling of both the island car and the off-island car.

Today I had all kinds of time, which was good because I ended up directly behind the salt truck going 15 to 20 mph all the way to Bar Harbor, so it took a little longer than usual. This was also good because of the black ice.

I got to Hannaford’s around 7:30. My friend Evelyn, with long connections to Islesford, is a store manager there. We chatted a bit about how our families and people on the island were doing.

She asked, “Would you be willing to take a package over to Serena?” Of course. She was going to drop it off on the boat the day before but it had been canceled.

There were just a few other customers and I imagined how busy it would be later in the day as more people shopped for the storm. I checked a few more things off my list at the health food store and stopped in at Walgreens to see if they had any home test kits.

“Nope. Saturday,” was the robotic reply from the young cashier.

On to Sherman’s bookstore to pick up some birthday cards and then back to Northeast Harbor by 10 a.m. with an hour to wait for the 11 a.m. boat. I had time to shop more or go to the library in Northeast, but I parked near the dock facing the water as many of us do while we wait for the boat. Here we can see if we know anyone who might be going back to the island in their own boat.

An early ride home is good luck! This morning it was fine just watching the birds and the happenings in the harbor. The sun was out, it was a mild day and I felt well stocked for tomorrow’s storm and beyond. To top it off, the tide was nice and high as I carried my bags down the ramp to catch the boat home.

Barbara Fernald lives, writes, and makes jewelry on Islesford (Little Cranberry Island). She may be reached at