North Haven Island, dead ahead, is a distant patch of greens floating in a field of blues.
It’s not until we approach the Sugar Loaves, two plump rising islands in the Fox Islands Thorofare, that other colors bleed into the scene ahead. An ocre ring of rockweed glistens along the rocky shore in the receding tide. Multi-colored boat hulls bob along the water’s edge and angular house gables can be seen poking through the thick greens on the island ahead.
Under sail we glide quietly by Fish Head and Young Point on a smooth broad reach. Rounding the bend off Calf Point, North Haven’s busy harbor comes into view ahead.
Once we’re onshore, North Haven is a bustling small New England village. But you know instantly, it’s unique. It’s on an island. From the public landing gazing through the open decks of the docking Captain Neal Burgess ferry, the water beyond is full of boats under power and sail, transiting east and west along the Fox Islands Thorofare. It’s a sight that is unique to this stretch of water.
Main street is in busy midsummer mode, with a bandstand setting up for a later street dance. The arts are part of life on North Haven Island. Local works are on display in the Post Office and the American Legion Hall. Regular galleries also needed visiting to see what was showing.
It’s fun to sit on a bench in North Haven and parse out who is local, and who is from “away”. That’s not so easy these days — that could be a summer kid in fishing boots over there. The culture that constantly evolves from this historic coastal Maine dichotomy is fascinating.
Later, we hear the large speakers propped up on lobster traps thumping the street dance into action. Musicians emerge from behind the iconic green Peace Sign barn doors at the Waterman Community Center and take the stage. As music fills the air, native, seasonal, and vacationing islanders alike enjoy a perfect mid-summer evening concert on a roped off main street. Visiting sailors, like us, would be able to hear the soft music from our snug berths on the harbor, long into the night.
The next morning at 5 a.m. the wet tether on our JO Brown rental mooring hangs limp from Christmas‘ bow chock. As I dip the oar tips and pull gently, our motion on the water breaks the pre-dawn silence with an unnatural, “glub-hiss… glub-hiss… glub-hiss…”, sound.
The sun is clawing its way up the far side of the globe as a faint glow appears on the horizon to the east. During the dinghy’s lingering glides, I rest the oar tips on the transom and pick up my camera to try to capture the fleeting liquid light now floating on the water.
Blue Sunoco, a lobster boat, floats stone-quiet in the mercurial, oil-like harbor. Then Family Tradition and Early Bird glide by my lens. There’s a new sound on the water, “Click-click-click…”.
Then suddenly, like a gunshot, the first boat engine roars to life at a nearby dock. The liquid light of dawn scatters and North Haven Harbor begins another day.