Dinner in the Cove with Old Friends

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The summer seems to be slipping away.  Every day the sun seems to noticeably set earlier than ever before and in a different place much farther south.  I wake up just a little later because it’s darker longer.  We watch friends come and go and take joy in the memories they take with them and their good fortune at having visited.  Alex and Doug (newlyweds since last April) couldn’t get out on Monday because for the first time, Captain DeBery said the seas were too rough, so they found a B & B in Bath and explored the little city on the Kennebec.

When they finally arrived on Tuesday with Ethan’s tour there were also many visitors to greet on the same boat, some of whom enjoyed watching the wooden tram in action as we loaded their suitcase and provisions and sent them chugging up the hill.  They were truly enchanted and in not more than 24 hours, explored every trail and vista that is cleared.  France took on most of our duties while I helped them settle in.  Thinking they’d be here for two nights they had brought a case of beer and five bottles of wine.  Thank you Doug and Alex!  The chicken thighs, baked beans and coleslaw made the perfect lunch outside at the picnic table and I indulged in a bottle of beer with them which I don’t usually do during the day or at all in fact except with guests.  I stock a lot of beer but I don’t drink it unless we have friends visiting.

Alex was glad he came along to the cove later in the afternoon for our prescheduled rendez-vous with the lobsterman from whom I’ve been securing the freshest dinner for visiting guests any have ever tasted.  And I managed to snag four nice sized ones for the couple in the cove who were spending the night on their sailboat.  They were delighted.  Alex was surprised, as I was the first time, rowing out to the Black Diamond and hanging on to the edge of the boat while our white plastic pail was filled to the brim, at how chatty the captain was.  It must be nice to talk for a while when you spend most of the day hauling traps.  We made sure to buy enough so that we could shell a few after we’d had our fill, battling mosquitoes as we dug out the last pieces of juicy meat, to have enough for lobster rolls the next day for lunch.

They’d brought some of those tiny Maine blueberries so I had to get up early on Wednesday to make muffins.  Fortunately they couldn’t get tickets to tour the Ironworks in Bath, which prompted our decision not to go ashore and spend the morning with them until Ethan came to pick them up at noon.  Together they took the pail of lobster shells down to the Cobblestone Beach and threw them out to the gulls.

It’s the first time we didn’t go ashore and suddenly the repercussions of stretching provisions over two weeks became apparent.  I’m not even sure the drinking water will hold out.  France used almost an entire cube to boil the jars for the rose hip jelly she made and then we decided we didn’t want to put it back and drink it because the lobster pot is a little rusted inside, especially the rack that holds the jars.  There were so many rose hips she’d picked on the beach in Popham I thought we wouldn’t have enough Mason jars, but in the end, there were only four that were filled with beautiful orange translucent jelly.

After discussion with Dee, FOSI board president, last Sunday at lunch, we determined to take the day off as if we were gone shopping on the mainland.  France went off for an all day hike and I came back up the hill after seeing off Doug and Alex, and started changing sheets on the beds they’d used in the guest quarters.  Even though we publicize that the museum is closed on Wednesdays, when people see you around and know you are the caretaker, they want to get in.  So I invited the group of six in to tour while I made up the beds and put out fresh towels in anticipation of Connie and her friends arrival on Thursday.  I knew I’d never get anything done if I continued to stay around the house, and it was the perfect time to mow, so I locked everything up and headed for the Whistle House and my date with the sit-down mower.  I felt bad waving to the hordes as I mowed.  A lot of people came to the island, maybe 20 or 30, and even though I wished I could have taken them on tours, I knew I’d never finish the lawn if I stopped and turned off the mower every time I saw a new group come up from the cove.  And in fact, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.  Some took off to hike the trails and some just rested on the lawn or the benches and took in the views.  There were families and kayakers and couples.  I tried to at least mow elsewhere when folks seemed settled.  Few people ever venture down to the lawn in front of the Whistle House where we’ve just discovered the foundation to the assistant caretakers house, thanks to Coast Guardsman John P. Nichols.  (It was so obvious, I don’t know how we didn’t see it before.  On the beautiful green lawn there is a brown rectangle that is even harder than the rest of the turf when you step on it.)  At one point I thought the helipad would be safe and away from visitors just as several appeared on it coming back from the north trail.

By the time I’d finished mowing there was no one in sight and I was full of grass head to toe and including in my eyes.  If it’s at all windy, which it almost always is, this is unavoidable, and I didn’t wear my glasses this time because they never seemed to help keep anything from blowing in.  Even with the little rain we’ve had, the lawn looks beautiful.  I headed down to the cove and stripped down to my briefs to wade in and rinse off.  There was a powerboat tied to a buoy in the water, so the sight of me splashing around was probably offensive enough without mooning them.  Then of course, I had to dry off so a short doze in the chair on the deck in front of the boathouse seemed in order.

It wasn’t five yet by the time I came up, so I took out the leftover chicken and prepped some for chicken salad and the rest for oven roasted croquettes, while the bones simmered on the stove for stock.  Then France appeared with news that Richard had contacted her as they were returning from their sail in Penobscot Bay.  He and his wife Ann and their daughter Dana were the ones who sailed in a couple of weeks ago when Darko and Najda had just arrived and we were sitting down to the moussaka Najda had spent the afternoon making.  They were dinner guests that night and Richard said if they could find a place in the cove, they’d come up, and would we join them for dinner on the boat.  Wow!

They appeared a while later and spoke with France pouring over a map on the picnic table as Richard sipped some of Dad’s whiskey from Tennessee.  He insisted when we followed them back to the boat on rowing out to get us in his dingy which was a real treat.  France and I packed a basket of the leftover lobster salad which Richard couldn’t stop raving about, and one of the terrific bottles of pino noir Doug and Alex had left us.  Even the crackers I brought down were a welcome addition as Ann had crushed the bagful she had by setting a pot on them.  We started outside and I marveled at the efficiency of the boat where there is a place for everything with a purpose and tables materialize out of nowhere unfolding up and out to accommodate beer and conversation, and seat cushions turned the hard bench into a luxury banquette.  As Ann passed out small cutting boards with zucchini and onions up to us at arms length from down below up under the mosquito netting, the sun set, and it became apparent we’d have to move inside or be eaten alive.  Down below was even more comfortable and cozy then above and we were soon digging into the lobster salad and the delicious wine.  Ann’s pasta was super; I don’t think there was a bite leftover.  Even though Dana seemed tucked in and ready for bed (well, we all did), everyone jumped at France’s invitation to go ashore and climb up to the top of the lighthouse to have a last look at night.  Richard rowed the two of us to shore first.  We’d left our shoes and socks on the steps out of the cove and as we dried our feet and put them on, he went back to pick up Ann and Dana.  I’d thought to bring a flashlight but didn’t really need it.  They all had headlamps that lit the path up the hill as bright as day.  France had forgotten to bring the herbs from the garden she’d promised and I had forgotten the blueberry muffins to offer for their breakfast so after an exhilarating few minutes on the catwalk taking in the breeze and the lights on the mainland and the gibbous moon, and warm hugs good-bye, we made sure they took these back with them to the boat.

Richard had said they would leave at six the next morning and as I stepped out to the yard shortly after that, I could see a boat, sails unfurled, out at sea heading south around the island and I knew they were on their way.  I watched as it receded toward the horizon and pictured Dana still asleep curled up in her bunk and Richard at the wheel dodging the lobster markers while Ann perhaps put out the muffins.  Happy sailing, and may our paths cross again one time soon.

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