National Geographic : 1952 Sep
Down East Cruise Cape Porpoise affords a snug haven, its chief hazard being a fantastic number of lob ster-pot buoys which can foul a propeller, even with a vessel under sail. We did not tarry but proceeded to Cape Elizabeth and Port land, that fine harbor which the explorer Champlain seems to have overlooked. The white shaft of Portland Head Light reminded me of previous visits, many years ago, in an old square-rigger, the four-masted Swedish bark Abraham Rydberg, now the Foz do Douro of Lisbon, and much later in the U. S. submarine Sea Robin. The poet Long fellow, when a Portland resident, composed many of his verses perched beside the light house as the seas crashed on Maine's rocky coast (page 331).* Nomad had developed an annoying leak in the shaft log; so we had her hauled out at the Handy Boat Service, next door to the Portland Yacht Club on Falmouth Foreside's wooded shore (page 369). It was there we began getting so well acquainted with Maine lobsters that Marden remarked toward the end of the cruise that it was the first time he ever had enough lobsters. In a small building on the boat-yard pier the wives of the yard operators served, at very moderate prices, lobsters fresh from the sea and excellent homemade doughnuts. This fare was augmented by tinker mackerel caught off the float by Luis on a trout fly rod. Visiting yachts sometimes are considered sitting ducks by boat yards, so we called for our bill with some misgivings. It came to onl $6 for labor and 26 cents for material, an agreeable example of the fair and friendly treatment we enjoyed everywhere Down East. An Island a Day With Nomad shipshape once more, we put out boldly across island-strewn Casco Bay, which is reputed to have one island for every day of the year. Passages between them, we found, were often so narrow that the shores were only a fly cast away, but they are so well marked that there would have been little excuse for going aground. Sailing close to attractive Haskell Island, we gave it more than casual attention because of a shuddery chapter in its past. Late in the last century a lobster fisherman named Humphrey lived there. The island was over + A Deeply Indented Shore Makes Maine Waters Ideal for Yachting The imaginary crow that flies in straight lines so convenient to distance measurers would cover 228 miles to reach Quoddy from Kittery.. If a sailor followed all the tidal shore line, he would log 3,478 miles; and, if the kinks were taken out, that mileage would stretch from Canada through the Panama Canal to Guayaquil, Ecuador. run by rats, but the elderly man got along well enough with the rodents, even though they continually raided his bait barrels. One day, however, a passing fisherman no ticed the absence of smoke from Humphrey's chimney and landed to investigate. He found the shack swarming with rats; but little re mained of their host. Cats Battle Rats on Haskell Island A first attempt to exterminate the rats failed. Later, two young fishermen, Bruce and Wal lace Mills, established themselves on the island, taking along about a dozen husky cats. A war seldom equaled in fury ensued. The cats suffered some initial reverses, but even tually triumphed. Not a rat remained on Haskell. The cats, however, multiplied at a great rate and increased in size and ferocity. Al though the Mills brothers strove to satisfy the wranglers with fish, birds vanished from the island, their songs succeeded by nocturnal feline yowling. Eventually the island was wanted for sum mer homes, and the Millses were told they were squatters and must leave. Their refusal was supported by their fierce pets, until some one put poison ashore at night and wiped out the entire cat population. Heartbroken, the brothers left and were never heard from again. It was breezing up as we arrived at Bailey Island, and we were glad to slip into Mackerel Cove, the island's harbor. There a big man on the steamboat wharf invited us to tie up to the lee of that structure. We appreciated our snug berth even more when the wind piped up to a shrill whistle and several an chored craft began to drag. Our friend proved to be Phil Johnson, brother of Elroy who was named by the State its typical lobstering man. Robert P. Tris tram Coffin, enthusiastic historian of Maine, in his Yankee Coast, has this to say of the lobstering man: "From being so much in the weather, the lobstering man gets a face like bronze. He gets to standing bronze-like in his body, too. He never puts on fat, he moves about so much. Leaning against the wind, he grows lean him self. He is cut right down to essential muscle and bone. . . . He would look fine in bronze. "And he does. One of the best of his kind has got into a statue. He is Elroy Johnson, . .and he went to the last World's Fair, the one in New York, in bronze. . . . Elroy is about the best lobsterman along the whole coast. . .. He looks a lot like Will Rogers easy to look at and very American. He talks * See "Maine, the Outpost State," by George Otis Smith, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, May, 1935.