The Working Waterfront

Island travel logistics rely on kindness

Haircut, boat ride, and forgotten phone play roles

Barbara Fernald
Posted 2022-09-19
Last Modified 2022-09-19

Are you headed to the mainland today? Most of us on the islands have a “going off” ritual of checking for car keys, wallet, water bottle and phone right before we leave the house.

Quite a few years ago I was halfway to Great Cranberry, on the ferry, when I realized I was without car keys or wallet. “Argh!” I wailed to several women friends sitting nearby. “I forgot my purse!”

I would have to return home on the next boat and reschedule my plans. At least the day was nice and I could walk up to the library to wait for the next boat back to the island. This conversation followed my discovery:

“Where were you going?”

“I was going to get my hair cut in Southwest Harbor.”

“I can loan you some money.”

“I’m headed over that way, now, I’ll give you a ride.”

“Thanks, you guys. I’ll just head back and do it another day.”

“But it’s a haircut!”

All the women agreed that a haircut was a big appointment not to miss so I accepted their help and followed through with my plans.

All the women agreed that a haircut was a big appointment not to miss…

Afterwards I took a happy walk to the Upper Town Dock in Southwest Harbor to catch a different ferry back to Islesford. There I met my friend Sarah who was just about to go rowing but first offered to pay my fare back to the island. Things worked out quite nicely for me thanks the solidarity of friends who know what it feels like to find yourself empty handed on the boat.

A few weeks ago I went off island with my friend Susie for a day of garden shopping. We ended up packing her car with flats of plants, bags of potting soil, and bags of groceries. We were happy that my husband Bruce was picking us up with his boat so we wouldn’t have to wait for an hour to catch the ferry.

Another friend, Hannah, was sitting in her car by the dock watching us unload. “Do you want a ride back to the island?” I asked her.

The usual response to this question is “Yes!” It’s the reason many of us park in those spots looking over the harbor if we have a long wait for the boat. An early ride back is good luck.

On this day, though, Hannah’s reply was, “Thanks, but I’m just going to enjoy sitting here in the quiet waiting for the ferry.” Her choice ended up being lucky for me.

Our arrival on Islesford found a large truck and trailer filled with traps that were being lowered to a lobster boat below. They had only just started the job. We carried our stuff farther down the dock to access my island car. As I reached to my back pocket for my phone I wondered how many steps I’d made for the day. No phone! I realized I’d left it in Northeast Harbor in the public bathroom! Just then, my brother-in-law Mark was coming up the ramp. “Hey, do you have the harbormaster’s phone number? And may I use your phone to call him?”

He dialed it and handed me his phone. “I’ve got it in my pocket, I was just going to drop it off at the police station,” said John, the harbormaster.

Bless the moral person who found my phone and turned it in. It’s so reassuring when good happens. “Would you be willing to drop it off on the 4:30 ferry?” I asked. The ferry wasn’t in yet and John was done with work for the day, so he declined that request.

Then I remembered Hannah. I described where she was parked and asked John if he’d be willing to take two minutes to find her and give her my phone. “OK, but if she’s not there I’ll drop it at the police station.”

“Fair enough, thanks so much!”

My island car was not fully loaded with our days worth of stuff when Mark walked by my car. “I just heard from John. Hannah has your phone.” I had just enough time to drop Susie off, unload my plants and put groceries away before setting off to meet Hannah when the boat got in at 5.

Most of the time if you’re willing to ask for a little help, things work out. Especially when you live on an island.

Barbara Fernald lives on Islesford (Little Cranberry Island). She may be reached at