There Are Seeds Of Stories Everywhere

I thought today’s post would be all about the sea… the waves, the coastline, the islands, the boats. And yes, there was plenty of that. I took a three hour ferry ride around some of the islands in Casco Bay, Portland, Maine, a trip known as the Mailboat Run. There was plenty to see and inspire.

And plenty to hear too. In the channels between the islands, a long lazy swell was running in from the Atlantic, gentle to look at, with long troughs between the waves, but powerful and full of voice as it washed up against the shorelines.The sounds of the sea never fail to mesmerise me.

But for all that, the stars of the day were Captain Gene, skipper of the mailboat, and the conversation we had over the course of the cruise. Gene grew up on one of the Casco Bay islands, and has been working on the ferries for the last 37 years. Our chat was littered with snippets of life around the islands here, each one the seed of some small story waiting to be told.

A strong candidate for the world smallest lighthouse is parked at the end of the front garden of a fine looking house on Big Diamond Island:

The story goes that it was built originally in honour of Captain John Smith, a British explorer and writer who was responsible for charting much of the coastline of this area (New England), and who might or might not have been saved by Pocahontas from a certain death at the hands of the natives who weren’t too excited about his presence. Apparently this little lighthouse has been kept going since it was built, and even appears on maritime charts of the area as a real, working lighthouse. However… a little Googling failed to turn up any evidence of this. Perhaps I shouldn’t let the lack of a few facts get in the way of a good story.

Big Diamond island is about one mile long and much less across, with a road that runs down the middle of it. Half way along the road is locked gate. It seems the people who live in the village at the southern end of the island don’t exactly get along with the folks in the bigger houses at the north end of the island. So traffic between the two ends is at agreed times for agreed reasons only, with certain trusted individuals being keyholders and gatekeepers. This on an island just one mile long!

Another story related to a family who own Hope Island, which is further out into the middle of Casco Bay. Gene talked about how they provide a refuge on the island for old cart horses from the Amish communities down in Pennsylvania. When the horses have served out their useful working lives, rather than being put down this family takes them away out to the island and treats them like equine royalty for the rest of their days. Good karma for their long service to the Amish communities perhaps?

Further out again on Cliff Island there is a small, single room schoolhouse with three students on the roll. One of the three students is the child of the teacher. Soon, the teacher’s next youngest child will be at school going age, and one of the existing students will be old enough to leave… which will mean that two out of the three school students will be the teacher’s kids. Could the teacher work it to some day have their descendants account for the whole school roll? Truely a lifestyle career you’d have to think.

So taken was I with these and other stories of the day that I got off the mailboat and made my way straight to Longfellow Books in the old port area of Portland. I asked the guys there for a novel set in the area, or by a local author, and was recommended “The Truth Of All Things” by Kieran Shields, a murder mystery set in Portland in Victorian times. I’m half way though and finding it to be a great read, all the better for knowing (roughly at least) where many of the scenes are set.

I look forward to returning to Portland and Casco Bay again, maybe in summertime, maybe arriving by sea, and maybe adding in some small way to the vast store of good stories that spring from there.

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