Safe Harbor On Seguin

When we decided to return to Seguin this summer, I started thinking about the kind of blog I’d like to write this year.  

I knew I wanted to do something differently than last year’s daily journal-themed posts, but what?  My “aha” moment came in May when I read an NPR piece Chris shared with me, referenced in this year’s first post.   Briefly, the article addressed how one might live purposefully in atypical circumstances. The featured example was a man who has lived high in the Colorado Rockies for decades, year-round and alone. Specifically, the article featured his efforts to “Notice and Record” some of his daily personal and professional activities, the latter which includes regularly recording and submitting weather data used to study climate change.  So with that idea in mind, I have shared some of our summer on Seguin with each of this year’s posts, to include this, our season’s last.

At the conclusion of our 2019 season on Seguin, Chris and I made a presentation about our summer at the Patten Free Library in Bath.  This is an annual season’s-end event for FOSILS’ summer keepers.  Since we’ve all had to go virtual these past few months, I am going to use this venue as our forum for this year’s concluding “presentation.” Enjoy!

By nautical leagues, our most frequently heard comment/question this summer?

“I have motored, sailed, just moored at Seguin for two, five, ten, fifty years, and this is the first time I’ve stopped/come ashore. I’m so glad I did. I had no idea how special it is up here!”

Additional conversation usually confirmed that past summers were full of other things to do that took precedence over stopping here or even coming ashore if they moored in the cove. By contrast, this year’s regular summer residents, as well as COVID “refugees” who have flocked to Maine, have been searching for new experiences, including new venues to explore and enjoy, and a stop at Seguin has filled the bill!

Our second most frequently heard comment this summer?

“We didn’t think you’d be open this summer!”

And, coming in a close third, “Can we tour the tower and museum?”  We invited those who posed that question and received our “not this year” response, to return next summer when, we hope, the tower and museum will be open again.

Singular Seguin Summer 2019 experiences:

  • Generator necessary to power everything!  No electricity otherwise
  • Ferry from Popham Beach brought visitors three to four times per week
  • International sailors arrived from Canada, Germany, 
  •  Netherlands, and Sweden
  • Rain, rain, and more rain, which had us mowing at least twice 
  • a week until mid-August
  • 30 glorious minutes watching a breaching, fluke-slapping 
  • humpback whale cavorting off the southeast coast of the island from “front row” porch seats!

Singular Seguin Summer 2020 experiences:

  • Solar installed so we didn’t use the generator at all – hurrah! –although it’s still used during heavy construction.  As an unconsidered benefit, the new solar installation has also provided a new perch for birds of a feather!
  • Lighthouse re-illuminated courtesy of a separate USCG solar installation
  • USCG radio monitoring thanks to an abundant supply of  solar-generated electricity.   Wow, who knew there were so many watercraft adrift out on the water or the number of mariners apparently unaware that Channel 16 is to be used for Safety and Distress communications only?
  • Seeing Comet NEOWISE, low in the northwestern sky
  • Domestic-only sailors, regretfully constrained from sailing into Canadian waters over the summer and anticipating
  • comparable constraints in the Caribbean this winter.

PRE-POST NEWS FLASH: We were just told that domestic sailors who own their moorings or slips in the Caribbean can still use them.  We also met a two foreign sailors who had obtained their US travel visas prior to lockdowns.

  • Only visitors with access to their own water transportation and still, 1,300+ came on-island in the 12 weeks we were here,  more than half a “normal” summer when the ferry is running from Popham Beach.
  • Drought conditions for duration of our summer made for very little mowing; about a quarter of what we did last year.
  • Lots and lots and lots of geese, allover the island, until they
  •  flew the island coop mid-August
  • A pair of peregrine falcons, and maybe a chick or two?
  • Taps played in the cove, but no reveille the following morning; smart, eh?
  • A bat in the house
  • A blink of an eye glimpse of a minke whale breaching off the southeast coast of the island

Seguin Summer 2019 and 2020 experiences in common:

  • Meeting and visiting with interesting new and repeat visitors
  • Mariners initiating the fog horn…on beautiful and sun-filled, cloudless days, as well as fog-filled days and nights
  • The Milky Way and Perseid meteor showers
  • Spectacularly beautiful views, wherever you look.
  • Berries galore
  • Ospreys in the cove, and overflying the island with just caught fish in their talons
  • Snakes everywhere – including the three living in the garden – leaving Chris with full responsibility for post-planting maintenance and harvesting the rest of the season.  Last year’s readers were frequently apprised of how I feel about snakes – shudder, shudder – even the “good,” non- poisonous garter and green snakes who live on Seguin. 

         Still, the allure of Seguin overcame my distaste for them!  

So once again, as summer comes to a close, it’s time for us to say adieu, with thanks to FOSILS board members and executive director, Cyndy, as well as visitors who enthusiastically supported our summer 2020 sojourn on Seguin. Please join us in welcoming our successor keepers, Cyndy and Michael, and Lynne and Tim, for the remainder of the 2020 season.  

This is what Chris was taking in as the moon rose behind  him.

Gifts of Bough, Vine, Cane, Gardens and Rain

There are numerous varieties of plants and trees on the island, some of which I’ve mentioned in prior posts.  Novice botanists and aspiring foragers, Chris and I have enjoyed discovering what grows on the island through the summer season, especially what we can eat directly from the island’s boughs, vines, canes and our garden!

Chris has plucked and snacked on beach plums as we’ve walked the North Trail. We’ve sampled the small apples and pears growing on the South Trail.   We’ve also enjoyed a succession of berries: first red raspberries; then blueberries, now waning blackberries, and elderberries still to ripen.  Seguin Island is a veritable cornucopia of edible fruits!

Our thanks to everyone who has supplemented our garden and larder from their Maine-land gardens, pantries and ovens.  While we’ve happily enjoyed fresh-picked something from the garden daily – usually some mélange of beets, chard, chives, dill, kale, lettuce, nasturtiums, and purslane – we wouldn’t have enjoyed fresh basil, cherries, corn on the cob, green beans, tomatoes, and zucchini, much less jam, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and zucchini bread absent the generosity of visitors and volunteers alike.  Thank you all!

In an earlier post, I’d shared our plan for food and water self-sufficiency while on island this summer; a plan that would entirely preclude the need for last summer’s weekly trips ashore to purchase groceries.  Overall, I would give us kudos for pretty accurately identifying and purchasing the kinds and quantities of foodstuffs we’d need for the summer, before coming to the island.  We felt fortunate to be able to procure most everything on our spreadsheet, despite the coronavirus-related unavailability of some groceries at the time we were shopping.  We purchased in anticipation of 16 weeks on island, which ultimately evolved to 12 weeks due to scheduling shifts at the beginning and end of the summer.  For that reason, we already know we’ll be returning with unopened and/or unconsumed food purchases, in addition to some last minute harvests from our island garden.   The former includes multiple pounds of yellow-eyed beans and lentils, cornmeal, flour, oats/cereal grains, and milk powder; canned tomatoes; spices we never expected to use up; plus nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.  Still, we were right on the money with the fresh fruits and veggies we brought out as well as olive and grapeseed oils, peanut butter, honey, maple syrup, mustard, cheese and wine.

Shockingly, we will be returning with some amount of each of the kinds of chocolate we brought with us: 1# dark chocolate bars, semi-sweet chocolate baking chips, and cocoa powder.   We ate very well but in retrospect, I think we may have over-rationed ourselves, both in terms of how much we brought and how carefully we consumed our stores post-arrival.  

We also unexpectedly ran short of a few items including balsamic vinegar – how do you plan for a USCG helicopter flinging the bottles off the shelf, through a closed door, spilling most of the contents? – lemons – who knew you could make jam using lemon juice versus pectin? – and vanilla – which keeps Chris in baking heaven, when he’s not baking bread!

And thanks to late August rains that actually fell on versus around the island, we were ultimately able to supply ourselves – and even our fresh water-seeking visitors – with some of our own drinking water, collected in buckets and then filtered.

Like many of our fortunately more positive than negative experiences brought about by the coronavirus, we’re delighted that we challenged ourselves to remain on-island all summer, and with the success of our advanced food purchase plan!

Thank you for your support!

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