Sunday, June 22, 2008

Monhegan Island

We've been away the past week or so. Our first part of our vacation 6/13-6/15 was in northern NJ visiting. We left from there to Port Clyde, ME on 6/16 - it took almost 9 hours with an hour's stop for lunch at Sturbridge. We stayed a night at Seaside Inn with dinner at the nearby Harpoon restaurant. The next morning we took the 10:30 am ferry, the Elizabeth Ann out to Port Clyde where we stayed at The Shining Sails. The ferry ride was about an hour and fortunately I was not too seasick. For $2 a bag, a pickup truck transported our bags to the inn.

Monhegan Island is about 10 miles out from the mainland and what struck me first was how it became such a tourist destination compared to the other closer islands like Hooper's Island. There were certainly a lot more that were more accessible and my guesses are:
1. The inhabitants of the islands own most of the land and have chosen not to become more dense. Certainly there are fewer houses on some of these islands than Monhegan which has a year round population of about 70.
2. There residents of these low population islands are wealthier and do not have to sell their land (hence increasing density).

The weather was showery, overcast and cool for most of our stay. It was the perfect weather for hikes and though we did not do all 17 miles of trails we did manage to get out the Whitehead and back through the meadow (lots of flies which K1 and K2 did not like), Lobster Cove to see the shipwrecked tugboat DT Sheridan (circa 1948) and to Pebble Beach to the seal ledges where we did get to see one (and maybe another swimming) seal on the rocks.

The room was a one bedroom apartment with a pull out sofa which I'm determined never to have to sleep on one again for any vacation. It had a kitchen/living room where the sofa was, which we used to make 2 dinners (pasta and sauce). We tried to get chicken from the store (the Carina) but they ran out - chicken's coming in on the late boat - they said. For some reason, it sounded funny. It would have been nice to have a microwave or a toaster and a broom to sweep out the sand but there was a vacuum cleaner in the closet in the hall. They also had pots and pans (some pots without covers) which were sufficient for our needs. No TV which was also okay but there was some WiFi which unfortunately was rather weak and sometimes I would lose connectivity completely.

There was a strong smell in the room that I could not place - either bleach or propane (the propane tanks were right outside) and fortunately I got used to it. There was a gas fireplace which was nice (and useful for drying clothes). The bathroom was shower stall only and fortunately neither K1 nor K2 minded. The bedroom had a queen bed which was comfortable when we got to sleep in it instead of K1 or K2.

All around are signs that water is scarce on Monhegan as well as to recycle since garbage disposal is expensive. Day trippers are encouraged to bring their garbage out with them. The Monhegan General store used only paper bags encouraged us to reuse. Pickup trucks and golf carts have right of way on the paths on Monhegan. There are no paved roads, no street lights and some houses for rent seem to claim proudly "No electricity".

Breakfast was in the common room - continental breakfast so we did not expect too much - bagels, muffins (if we're there early enough), juice, coffee, cereals. There was a complaint on Tripadvisor about the breakfast and I guess I can see their point although the website was clear that it was not a hot breakfast. Perhaps the cereals could have been in some containers instead of the boxes but all in all I was fine with it.

The innkeeper John Murdock kept mostly to himself. He was releasing a CD that week we were there "Songs of the Sails" but his wife, Winnie spent some breakfasts talking to us. She was very pleasant and K1 and K2 helped her with the garden along with some other inn guests (Carroll and Connie) who seemed to know one another. (Connie was on the CD with John, I think). They were there for a wedding and the CD release (concert to benefit the Monhegan Church). The owners also had two cats which added to K1 and K2's contentment at being there.

There were only two dinner options on the island: the Island Inn which we went to on our last night (entrees $25-$40) the Trailing Yew (which was also a rooming house). The Monhegan House had not opened its dining room to the public yet although on it's website it said that it would come 6/27. There were several sandwich and grocery stores on the island - the Monhegan Store, Carina, Black Duck, Novelty and all seemed pricey. We bought a small box of Cheerios for over $5.00 and sandwiches were generally in the $7-$8 range. I was torn between feeling ripped off and a desire to support the locally owned stores.

Besides hiking, K1 and K2 met some other children who were on the island for the wedding. They tried to build a dam near the creek that ran into the beach and had a great time. They also liked Connie and Winnie and some other guests that we met and had a great time. Connie came down to the wharf to see us off and gave us some wildflowers to throw off the boat as it left the harbor. A symbol that we would return to Monhegan. Of course, K1 and K2 didn't want to throw the pretty flowers but we did. They were very sad we were leaving (first time I think and mostly because of the symbolism).

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