It’s tricky to get to Hurricane Island in the winter. It isn't a stop on the Maine State Ferry's route; the closest you can get is Carver's Harbor on Vinalhaven. Our small boats are hauled out for the season, so I reached out to a friend who fishes a 36' Beals designed lobster boat out of Vinalhaven, and happened to catch him on a day off. He kindly agreed to run me over to the island on a Sunday morning.
This particular Sunday morning happened to be the first morning of daylight savings time, which I was woefully unprepared for. I rolled out of bed at quarter to six, which felt like quarter to five, dragged on some clothes, and made my way to the ferry terminal in Rockland. On my walk to the ferry from a nearby parking spot, I was met with a scene that made me forget how early it felt, and set the tone for the day. I was treated to a gorgeous sunrise, looking out on working Rockland harbor, past the Breakwater Lighthouse and on to the Fox Islands.
I strolled off the ferry in Vinalhaven at 08:15, met my lobsterman friend at the locals’ favorite breakfast joint, and we headed over to the aluminum skiff at the lobster co-op. A few quick pulls on the start cord, and we were off on a short trip to the big boat, a purpose-built craft with diesel engine power. He ran through his startup procedure, and had the engine warming up in seconds. We dropped the mooring and idled out of the harbor. He slid a breakfast sandwich wrapped in wax paper in my hand. We were the only boat on the move that morning.
I had been watching the wind forecast the night before. As expected, it had come around from the northwest, and was now steadily building from the southeast. It's not known exactly what Hurricane Island is named for, but it wouldn't be a stretch to attribute it to exposure to big wind and seas. If you're at all familiar with Hurricane, you'll know that a rolling sea from the southeast makes its way in through the surrounding ledges, and directly into the mooring field and Main Pier. My friend and I shared the concern that it would be easy to get me on the island now, but could be much more challenging as the wind picked up later on. We decided to go for it, but make it a quick trip.
He leaned on the throttle as the engine came up to temp, and the boat got up on step as we rounded the north end of Greens Island, making the turn to shoot for Hurricane. It was a familiar sight, picking out more and more detail as we approached. We discussed the nature of the trip, and a timeline, yelling over 1200 rpm of throbbing combustion. I said I'd give a big wave when I was ready to get picked up, and he decided to hang on a mooring and wait for me to be done. He pulled up to windward of the Main Pier, and let the wind do the work, bringing us to a controlled stop against the pilings. I carefully scrambled up the ladder, tape measure, notebook, and camera in my pockets.
To my surprise, there was a significant amount of snow on the ground, drifted up in places more than a foot and a half. To the mainlanders who usually can't see out their kitchen windows by March, that may seem insignificant, but the heat from the ocean water often brings little snow accumulation to the islands these days. It's more likely to see a wintery mix of rain and snow. The buildings were exactly the way I had left them in November. The only tracks were those of the island animals. Deer, mink, and raccoons are the usual suspects.
I ran around collecting all the measurements I needed to plan for materials orders and repairs. I did a quick inspection of the main buildings, and found everything to be as it should. I took a spin around the south end of the island, inspecting the staff cabins and snapping a few photos as I went.
Once I was satisfied that everything was more or less in order, I headed back to the Pier and flapped my arms, signaling that I was ready to fly the coop. The wind had picked up considerably, and instead of coming side-to the pier, the captain took a stern-to approach, and backed down slowly to meet me. I was perched four or five rungs above the water, ready to step on. I did so with grace and dignity, and as soon as my feet hit the deck, the boat was in gear and we were off.