Making out like pirates, weather permitting

Considering that all but one member of my Hodgson family crossing the Atlantic in 1710 was decimated by French privateers, I find nothing romantic about pirates.

Even with legal sanction, as privateers were, they remained thieves and brutes of the seas. Well, though, there were apparently a number of unwritten understandings. Or else someone walks the plank. Or, in our case, died of maltreatment.

That said, one of Eastport’s two biggest events of the year comes the weekend after Labor Day, when everyone celebrates the city’s Pirate Festival. Yes, those black flags with the white skull and crossbones fly everywhere, even on seagoing fishing boats and the passenger ferry. And many folks dress the part to the hilt, even with what sometimes looks like a kilt. Some of the costumes are quite exquisite in their detailing, while others are pretty loose, like the guy in Hawaiian shirt and a pirate vest and hat.

It really does start to feel like a step back in time.

For the record, the port was once abuzz with smuggling to and from neighboring Canada.

History aside, I can’t complain about the special events and its welcome crowd that extend the summer season, even if I had thought it would mean I’d have to keep my mouth closed.

The big small-town parade includes a raft of family ATVs decked out for the occasion.
And an ambulance with its own sense of gallows humor.
And my own favorite, a float with a Jamaican steel drum band.

What we have is essentially a seafaring blast, with people strolling the street in period garb and canes. Some of them cross over into steampunk, which also fits the later steamship period, I suppose, and I do love watching for the anachronisms, like the cell phones and plastic water bottles in hand.

There’s plenty of up-to-snuff music-making, street dances, magicians and Punch-and-Judy presentations, a barrel relay race, even cutlass instruction for children armed with foam noodles.

Of special note are the flaming dance performances by Ravenbane’s Firecraft and the Saturday night fireworks at the Fish Pier.
There are decorations everywhere.

It’s like trick-or-treat nearly two months early, and the decorations can stay up till Halloween. I’ve been surprised at the light-hearted air of the celebration, one without the demonic undertow of Salem, Massachusetts, approaching November.

I do appreciate the appearance of parrots on some costumes, so much so I keep calling this our Parrot Festival.

As a footnote, last year’s attendance was curbed by the Canadian border closures due to Covid. Community here extends on both sides of the international boundary.

Just what is it about pirates that captures people’s imagination?


How to end a most memorable summer

When last summer ended, I proclaimed it my best one ever – in part because there were no complications from an employer or romantic upheavals. Instead, it was filled with new adventures, explorations along the Bold Coast and out on the waters, introductions to fascinating characters and geezers (both positive terms, in my estimation) who live here at least a goodly part of the year, plus a sequence of fascinating artists in residence combined with local painters and photographers and their galleries as well as a world-class chamber music series by mostly resident performers. Whew! And, oh yes, I had plenty of time to devote to a new book and setting up posts for this blog. I even got a new laptop, which meant importing and tweaking everything.

This time around has simply amplified everything.

The temperatures are generally cool on the island – often ten degrees less than what’s happening on the mainland even just seven miles to the west – so I rarely suffered from sweltering. On the downside, heritage tomatoes are rarely found here. Remember, in Dover I lived on tomato-and-mayo sandwiches from the beginning of August into October, some years, though in no small part due to global warming. Even so, the ocean temps here are too cold and the currents too treacherous, for any swimming, though inland lakes and streams provide a welcome alternative.

Well, that’s only half of it. Summer is when Eastport comes into its full glory. The streets are swarming, like a big party. To think, I’m experiencing the ideal of summering on a Maine island, combined with a lively artistic dimension! Never, in my wildest dreams, would I have expected that.

But all good things must come to an end.

Three-quarters of the Eastport’s population is what Mainers call Summer People. Now they’re mostly going-going-gone and we’re on the verge of getting back to our more essential state, something akin to a ghost town.

Not that we go down that easily.

This weekend featured the annual Salmon Festival, a delightfully low-key event highlighting local musicians, galleries, and crab rolls served by the senior center and Episcopal Church on Saturday and salmon dinners on Sunday, as well as tours of the salmon farms at Broad Cove.

The Salmon Festival is a low-key event, centered on the waterfront..
Historian Joe Clabby tells a circle at the amphitheater about the region’s rich past. One local wag calls this our “NPR festival,” in contrast to what’s coming next weekend.
Celebrating local seafood, there are crab rolls on Saturday and a big salmon dinner on Sunday.
And, of course, live music.

The event honors what was once the Sardine Capital of the World in its current incarnation as a center of aquaculture in the form of salmon.

But it’s also a prelude to next weekend’s blowout, the Pirate Festival.

On Saturday, a mini-flotilla, armed with water balloons and squirt guns, sailed down to invade neighboring Lubec. Next week, they’re expected to return the favor, all in good spirits.


What’s made your summer special?


A few life lessons

Pack light, run, get out of the way.
I learned that in Boy Scouts.

Much later, that you have to take care of yourself first
before all the complications in whatever role as a parent.

Much less the seed catalogue
midterms or finals.

Porcupine climbing a tree at Quoddy Head State Park. Seems to embody a few life lessons too.

This is the end of the road

But not a dead end. Rather, I see it as a destination, a place of arrival or culmination, rather than a fatal trap. Like Key West or Provincetown or Cape May that way. Or so I hope, only smaller and less touristy.

When I said it’s on the verge of being discovered, a neighboring couple shuddered and individually chorused, “I hope not!”

Well, an influx of income and youth wouldn’t hurt. Leave it at that.

Downtown Eastport in the dead of winter, as viewed from the Breakwater.

Maine has many fingers that reach out to the sea, but among them, tiny Eastport is unique. There are reasons it’s called the City in the Bay. Technically, it’s an island – or a group of them, with the two inhabited ones connected to the mainland by causeway. Moose Island, where most of us live, is still big enough for plenty of explorations, including a state park, forests, and rocky coves.

Along my life journey to here, I did write a novel about subways, which now has me thinking. A packed underground train can carry 1,200 to 1,800 passengers. Compare that to Eastport’s year-round population, around 1,300, swelling to 6,000 in high summer.

I can joke about coming here to die, but I’m not being morbid. Rather, I just don’t feel there’s anywhere else I’d rather live out my remaining years. Let’s call it focus.

Yes, I’ve loved big cities, though among them I’ve lived only in Baltimore. Meanwhile, Boston, close as it was, served largely as a place to visit, even if once or twice a week.

One thing that’s changed everything is the Internet. I’m not as isolated as I would have been even a decade ago. I can stream concerts, operas, and indie movies, as well as order self-published books or about anything I want retail, even download rare historic volumes, often for free.

In some ways, it’s seemed I’m just setting up shop – or camp – here.

Covid really has changed a lot of our social outlook. It made me hungry for face-to-face gatherings, which a small town can foster, yet it’s also made long-distance meetings more flexible. We don’t always have to drive for hours anymore.

I’ve long touted pedestrian-friendly communities, and that fits the tip of Moose Island where I’m living.

And, yes, via blogging, I can stay in touch with a world of folks like you.

Once the car’s parked, it can stay there as long as I want.