Cousins are wonderful.
Last Thursday, I received this email from my cousin, Matthew Dallett:
Glad to know that you’re doing well.
While you’re in Casco Bay, take a look at Clapboard Island, on the western side of the bay. My mother’s grandfather, Samuel Houston, bought the island and built the big house (and pier) on the southern end in about 1895, and my mother (and we) spent summers there until 1970, when my grandmother died. After that, the big house was sold (and is now for sale again for $7m) and one of my aunts acquired the northern half and built a modest house in the woods. The northern half is now owned by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, but my cousin, Bill Gillis, still has his mother’s house. His dock is a very small one at the northwest corner. You can go ashore on the beach at the middle of the island — the MCHT access point — and wander around if you like. And by all means call Bill and stop by his house to say hello. He’s a great guy and I know from very recent experience has a good stock of Kentucky bourbon to hand.
Those of you who know know that life aboard the Windleblo is fully serendipitous, so it was a no brainer to alter course toward Clapboard Island.
I left a voicemail for Bill before dropping the mooring line in Portland around Noon. Fortune was on our side. He later told me he never checks voice mails from unknown phone numbers, but for some reason this time he made an exception. He returned the call and invited us to visit so we could “figure out how we are related.”
An hour’s upwind beat later, we dropped the hook just off his dock. He and his girlfriend Terry hailed us from his launch as they came out to greet us.
On shore, Clapboard Island is stunning. Piney paths lead to the pebble beaches and shale outcrops fringing the shore. Osprey and bald eagle nests adorn tree limbs forming a tall canopy while sea and sap combine to create an intoxicating camphor signaling “island time.” So close to civilization (it’s only six miles to downtown Portland as the crow flies) yet so completely removed, this place exemplifies quintessential Maine. I could easily imagine my cousins sharing summers here as children during that simpler time long ago.
We ambled the afternoon away getting to know one another and appreciating the island. Bill and Terry live in Louisville, Kentucky, she as a marriage and family therapist, he a University of Kentucky professor. The tour ended with a viewing of Bill’s comfortable island home and a snort of Kentucky bourbon. Bill and Terry ferried us back to Windleblo where we all dined on pressure cooked chicken and mushrooms while observing the sun’s slow descent. Venus and Jupiter followed the sun over the western horizon as Bill and Terry returned to their island paradise.
Fittingly, the adjacent island that we had all gazed upon earlier in the day from Clapboard’s northern tip is named Cousins Island. It dawned on me as I drifted off to sleep that a new theme for the season has developed – cousins. So far we’ve been the beneficiaries of local knowledge supplied by three cousins who helped us explore the obscure (or not so obscure) islands of Manhattan and Clapboard. Thanks, cousins! May the theme persist.