Hello from North Haven!
Out here in the ocean, we might be pretty far from the mainland, but we have a neighbor we could swim to: Vinalhaven. Our islands together are called the Fox Islands, and until 1846 were incorporated into the same town, though geologically we are complete opposites. We share an electric coop and three wind turbines, but are bitter basketball rivals and often feel worlds apart.
Without a boat and a car parked at the thorofare landing, Vinalhaven is harder to get to than Rockland. If you take the water taxi from the boatyard, you’re still stuck several miles from Vinalhaven’s relatively bustling town center unless you have a friend to pick you up or a car to use.
Once you get to town, though, there are many wonders to behold. While North Haven virtually shuts down in the winter, save for the school, grocery store, church and community center, a few of Vinalhaven’s restaurants and even a bar remain open most of the year. There are sidewalks. There are even people walking on the sidewalks!
“Wonders” may be relative.
Sure, some Vinalhaveners might regard North Haveners as privileged yuppies, and arranging a trip across usually yields a skeptical, profanity-laced cackle from one of the boatyard elders, who call it Sin City. Regardless, it’s a pleasant place to visit. I’ve been several times in my almost 12 years on-island, including acting in a play a while back, and swimming in their quarries is one of summer’s chief joys. Now that my husband works at their beautiful school, I feel more connected to our neighbors than ever.
Last weekend my husband and I made the crossing to go to a gathering hosted by some of his co-workers. We secured some babysitters and borrowed a boat – the poor Kraken still wasn’t back in the water – and headed out. It was well above freezing and the sky over the thorofare had Orion, Perseus and Ursa Minor on display. There was no wind. The opportunity to be in an open boat under a black sky is never one to pass up.
The party was nice. Vinalhaven has over 1,000 people in their year round population, some of whom are old friends and some of whom are now new friends, even a few new Jewish friends, a big deal to me right now. And we (often) have a boat, and we have a car over there, and actually can spend time on our cosmopolitan neighbor whenever we want.
The best part, the surprise ending, was the crossing home. The water was now completely motionless. Although a haze had crept over the stars, the North Haven ferry, tucked in at the slip, with lights glowing, reflected itself completely in the water, an invitation to yet another world so close and yet unattainable.