Hello from North Haven, twelve-and-a-half nautical miles from ferry terminal to ferry terminal on the continent we call North America!
I’m thrilled and surprised to report that, despite wind gusts over 30 mph and torrential rain this morning, the power did not go out, at least at my house. The lights blinked a few times – enough to send my toddler running for her flashlight collection – but ultimately stayed on and now it’s a confusingly mild 46 degrees and sunny.
Power outages were pretty frequent a few decades ago. Electricity came from the mainland via a massive underwater cable, and a lot could go wrong in the 12.5 nautical milesof water between the power source and the island. A few years after I moved to North Haven from Somerville, Mass., where my electricity was never in question but the bill burned a serious hole in my pocket and the pockets of my fellow grad-student roommates, the Fox Islands Electric Cooperative erected three majestic wind turbines on Vinalhaven, the other Fox Island, where the salty breezes keep the blades turning and sending renewable energy to the owner-members.
When the power does go out, which is fairly infrequently thanks to our road crew and their judicious tree trimming, a small convoy from the Coop hops in a little boat and crosses the thorofare from Vinalhaven to put things right. There’s a swathe of us who lose phone usage when we lose power, but otherwise it just takes a quick phone call to put things in motion. The fire department, all volunteers, is always on standby as well in case of a downed power line, which cut power to folks living out on Crabtree Point this morning.
During the ice storm of ’98, my senior year Mt. Blue High School, my family waited out our five powerless days showering at the hospital and alternating our diet between nachos and ramen noodles cooked on the wood stove, and takeout from Pizza Hut (Farmington, a little north of my hometown, didn’t get iced in quite as badly). Friends just south waited weeks for things to clear up.
Our longest power outage in recent memory was exactly a year ago. My husband was trapped on the mainland after a conference, with all boats canceled due to weather. Our daughter had started off what I’d hoped was going to be a delightful girls’ weekend by projectile vomiting all over the couch. I’d hoped to relax in bed with her the next and recuperate from a long night of washing, drying, and re-covering the couch cushions, but she rolled out of bed and gave herself a goose egg instead. The next day the power went out, just as I was serving us a convalescent’s dinner. We finished by flashlight. The next morning, when service was finally restored, I learned that David Bowie had died. Talk about a power outage.
There’s a certain amount of smug satisfaction huddling around the battery-operated Gründig radio, knowing that our repair people are out there getting the lights (and the well and the power and the internet) back on, while reports roll in of customers of the larger mainland companies waiting long hours or even days. Even though the waterless, dark, communication-free time makes me antsy, it’s a pretty good bet that within an hour or two we’ll be back in business. That feeling of self-sufficiency, that OUR best people are on the job, is a real, tangible perk of life in the bay.