Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Everbody's business

October is marching along. Every morning it is a bit darker as the days shorten. Night chores have to be finished earlier and earlier.

The foliage finally took the hint and we had a blaze of color about a week later than normal. Things were looking pretty good and then we had a couple days of wind and rain. The maples have dropped their leaves-the oaks are still mostly green and the beech are changing to bronze.

We have had one frost on our homestead so far.

I made a trip to a southern Maine island with the falafel mastermind to look at a piece of business equipment.

Twenty plus years ago I had a room mate that had grown up on one of the islands and I had made several trips to the big one, so I was looking forward to the ride on the ferry.

I was relieved when I instinctively recalled where the ferry terminal was located, and we pulled in line as the ferry was loading. FM rushed in to get tickets. An obvious gap in my island knowledge was quickly revealed.

"We can't take the boat on the ferry," FM said as he exited the building.

"You have to make a special appointment and can only go when the tide is at a certain height."

Well this island was a bit different than my memory of the big one, I supposed.

We had to quickly decide a course of action. The people selling the equipment had yet to return our most recent calls. The last instructions had been to call the wife when we got off the ferry and she would give us directions from there.

The island was only 2 miles long, and I quickly calculated that we could walk from one end to the other and still have an hour to look at the equipment before having to catch the return ferry. So we put the car in the parking garage and bought passenger tickets.

The ferry at our gate was being loaded with some cargo, and I dug in my memory if we could go on the ferry at will or had to wait for the boarding call. We decided to try and board, and were quickly shooed off the loading ramp back on to the dock and a rope was strung across the ramp to discourage us pushy flatlanders.

The fellow had enough time to walk back down the ramp to the boat and the boarding call went out and he turned around and came back and dropped the rope. We could tell this ferry line was a stickler for regulations.

FM handed over our tickets and waited for half a ticket back like you do in the movie line.

"Oh, we don't take tickets on the return trip," he said.

FM and I exchanged amused glances and had some fun making jokes about that once we found our seats.

I led him up to the top deck front row for the trip out Casco Bay. An enormous cruise ship was in port, and the size of it dwarfed the city. We went by the old fort, lighthouses, islands. The ferry was underway and FM could only get a busy signal from the wife. Vague memories of how things worked on the islands started to come back to me.

"Don't worry, she will probably meet us down at the dock when we get there. She is most likely on the island grapevine telling everyone that she has company coming."

A couple minutes later FM's call went through and sure enough, she was going to meet us down at the dock when the ferry arrived.

We stopped at several islands and finally arrived at our destination.


Our hostess was waiting for us and we piled in a battered Ford wagon with Arizona plates.

"Don't mind my island beater," she said.

I smiled recalling my room mates car and how cool it was that island folks don't have to register and inspect the cars they use on the island. Because the island is two miles long and everyone knows your car. Where are you going to go? Remember now, you don't need a return ticket and you have to make an appointment to get a car on the ferry !

FM decided to buy the equipment, and once he handed her the money her attitude blossomed. She got on the phone to hubby who was working on the mainland to have him make arrangements to get the equipment off island. The island grapevine is so fast that she knew before we got there that we had tried to get a car on island.

I chuckled again thinking about how that would give the islanders some good chatter for a few days about the flatlanders trying to get a CAR on their island without first making arrangements! We were spared making (or trying to make)those arrangements; things were soon arranged so that hubby would deal with the ferry guys and get it on the boat and FM would get a call to tell him it would be at the port.

We had business completed in plenty of time for the ferry, and it was just a short walk from her house to the dock.

"I will give you a tour of the island while you are waiting for the ferry, hop in, " she said.

So we climbed back in the beat Ford wagon with Arizona plates and had a lovely guided tour of the island, which first began with a soliloquy by our hostess on pondering why the ferry boat which brought us was not the usual boat-it was the MAIL boat, and that Never came on this ferry run.

Then we drove by some men that had been on the ferry looking at plans. I remembered them because I am a bit of an architecture fan and I had wondered what was on those blueprints they were looking at on the ferry!?! and so I had also looked at the two men closely as I walked by them.

Our hostess quickly volunteered the island scoop.

"If a property on the island changes hand, even inside the family from an inheritance, the septic system has to be brought up to code. They are not 'grandfathered anymore'. ( most shoreline homes were originally built to dump their sewage directly into the water.)

A friend of our hostess had given (sold/traded-we were not privy to the technicalities)a piece of land so that several homes could unite in the septic system-most likely a holding tank and some form of leach field. And they had to hire the men to design it, and it was costing $20,000 just for the design.

Wow that was a fun bit of gossip.

We drove by the island store, now closed for the season, but the one gas pump still working at over $5 a gallon. I had noted no gasoline in any container may be brought on the ferry, so talk about a monopoly!

We learned that the island was once a refueling station for warships, and there were huge storage tanks buried on the interior of the island. So the island interior was not inhabited. We had earlier peeked inside a large abandoned cinder block building that turned out to house two enormous motors. They were the motors for pumping millions of gallon of fuel on and off the island back in WW2.

We learned that the island had a deer and Lyme disease problem. Our hostess estimated that there were over 200 deer on the island. She blamed the enactment of a leash law on the deer problem. Because the deer swim to the island and have no natural predators. The dogs used to chase them right off the island.

The island also had a resident beaver population.

We were shown storm damage aggravated by logging. Once big trees are thinned out the rest of the stand becomes susceptible to high winds, creating piles of blow downs.

Our hostess pulled down to the dock just as the ferry was pulling in. Islanders seem to have an innate instinct about the comings and goings of their link to the mainland.

We settled ourselves on the back of the boat out of the wind for the return trip. A nice woman boarded at the next island and sat down next to us.

"I've never seen this boat on this run before," she said.

We nodded our heads in agreement. Our brief stay on the island had found us entwined in the island grapevine.

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