Here’s a Hidden Gem of an Island Town We Bet You’ve Never Heard of
Discover Small Town America Tour correspondents Cheryl and Jerry Devokaitis recently explored an extremely off-the-beaten-path island town in Lincoln County Maine. Called Monhegan (estimated pop. 65), the island is only accessible by a mailboat ferry (established in 1914) from Booth Bay Harbor, New Harbor or Port Clyde. The ferry ride is about 12 nautical miles and it took an hour from Port Clyde to make the crossing. Much to Cheryl and Jerry’s joy, eight of their friends were at the dock in Monhegan to greet upon their arrival.
Island History and Facts
Monhegan Island has a rich fishing history which dates to the 1500s. According to the Island’s online visitor’s guide (http://bit.ly/1lJf3u1), “Since long before the explorer John Smith visited it in 1614, it was known to Native Americans as a prime fishing area, and today its economy is still ruled by those who make their living from the sea, fishing and lobstering.”
The island is about a mile long. The one room school house has a total enrollment of 2 students – a kindergartener and a 4th grader. Talk about an amazing student-to-teacher ratio! Three B&Bs, a church, a general store and a few seasonal shops surround the many cottages whose vistas are all magnificent.
Jerry and his musician friends played some old-time blue grass music in Monhegan’s annual jamboree in the town’s nondenominational community church(http://on.fb.me/1qBjR7J). Two little girls perched on a piano bench regaled the audience with “Heart and Soul”, the piano duet many remember from childhood. A muslim prayer was sung and everyone “Zen-ed” out. With the strange and eerie notes of a language unknown to Jerry and Cheryl, but whose essence was love and peace, it was all very stirring to them. This is a view of their friends enjoying a Monhegan sunset later that evening.
Painter Andrew Wyeth and his family lived on Monhegan Island until his death in 2009. Many artists still come to paint, photograph, and write or commune with nature, and artisans sell their one-of-a-kind wares. Others come to hike the many trails (12 miles of them), some very challenging. Cheryl left that trek to Jerry and his friends while she soaked up the sun and the views from her chaise.
When they left the island Cher and Jer were escorted to the dock by their friends and handed bouquets of wild flowers. The island tradition is to present the flowers to ferry passengers and, when the ferry pulls away from the dock, passengers throws stems over the rail to the water, letting the people on the island know they will be returning to this magical place one day.
If your friends jump into the water by the ferry it’s the ultimate compliment to you for having visited. Some kids actually did this, but Jerry and Cher’s “senior” friends wouldn’t have jumped in that freezing water unless their lives depended on it!
Reentry to real life was jarring…or is the island life real life and the hub bub of this world artificial? You decide after you’ve visited. We highly recommend you add Monhegan Island to your personal Discover Small Town America Tour itinerary. But remember: if the forecast is for possible stormy weather be sure to call ahead to confirm the ferry is running.