A Busy Week

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The chicken was a hit and there was enough cobbler left for everyone.  We seem to be exhausted after meals together, generally turn in early and are awakened by the sun.  Whether that makes you get up then is another story usually determined by the weather,  and how many hands of rummy you’ve dealt the night before…

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Even in the prep week leading up to the big opening of the island on Memorial Day weekend, we’re following the Wednesday routine:  the caretakers meet a 7 o’clock boat in the morning in the cove filled with volunteers from FOSILS called the Wednesday Warriors.  They come ashore to mostly tackle projects on a long list of maintenance determined by the expertise of the individuals and the funds available (please consider a donation) who in a pinch can also guide visitors to the island, while the caretakers take the boat back to Popham so that they can run their errands picking up supplies and turning in receipts.  It’s a good exchange that means folks can visit any time and find the gift shop and museum open and can climb to the top of the tower to see the light.  Basically the caretakers work 9 to 5 but often some visitors come in their own boats and sometimes even moor in the cove overnight, so can appear up top at almost any hour of the day, curious to see what’s there or just to take a hike and have a picnic.

There was a fellow I remember who would kayak over from Popham very early in the morning.  Once I found him before 6 with 7 quarts of blackberries heading down the hill to take home to his mother who made jam.  Don’t let the word get out on that one.

The warriors who came today numbered only three but accomplished a lot.  Even though Ken took a little dip in the sea getting out of the dingy, we were able to find him dry sweat pants to wear for the day while they were at work.  Cyndy made Julie’s coffee cake recipe while we operated the tram to send up doors and screens and windows for a project Rick is working on to put an outer door on the Gift Shop.  Julie did more work setting up the museum with Ken and all of us met to go over what has been accomplished so far on the master “to do” list and to prioritize what will come next.

Ken and Julie have determined where the blacksmith’s shop sat at the bottom of the tram and will go to work marking it with a plaque documenting the history.

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By mid afternoon the warriors had finished for the day and Mitchell and Patty returned from shore with supplies, one of which was a new flag purchased at the hardware store which we couldn’t wait to send up the pole.  It looked beautiful flying in the southerly stiff breeze.

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The fog had rolled in and mostly what we saw on the horizon instead of the sunset was rain.

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Mitchell and Patty folded the flag while Grady ate Cyndy’s arm up to her elbow.  Later we feasted on pot roast and gravy with spinach salad and once again were ready for an early to bed.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

In the morning, Patty got on Gravely (new zero radius riding lawn mower) and found her true calling in life.  She made fast work of the third mow on the big lawn up top while Mitchell whacked weeds on the south trail (photos to follow on the next post), Cyndy busied herself cleaning the lens in the tower and I went to work with the push mower on the front lawn.  Lunch was on the fly, catch as catch can and by afternoon there was sun for a short respite of rest and warmth and raking.

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Before sunset, Mitchell and Patty took a cooler down to the cove, untied the dingy and rowed out to a keeper box lobsterman Jackson had tied to a mooring and retrieved the dozen lobster we had ordered the night before, eight of which we devoured shortly thereafter.

The dingy has a slow leak in one of it’s six sections.  That will be a chore to patch for a later day.  Meanwhile, it will have to be pumped periodically.

I wish I could have taken a photo of the lobster at the table but I was up to my elbows in butter and innards getting mine out of the shell.  All I did capture was Cyndy taking off the bands on the claws and throwing them into the steamy pot.  You’ll have to check out Mitchell’s blog on the Seguin web site for more.

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A sailboat had a good afternoon with Monhegan Island on the horizon.

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Summer Caretakers Come Aboard

I’m so happy to be back in Maine.  Cyndy and I are once again back on the island, thanks to Friends of Seguin Island Light Station (FOSILS), spending a week with the new summer caretakers Mitchell Thorpe and Patty Sullivan to do what we can to help them settle in and find their way and take over this coming Memorial Day weekend.  They are going to have a fantastic summer and I know you will really enjoy meeting them and having them show you around; so come on down!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

It was mid-tide and calm when we gathered in Popham at the dock.  There were 16 volunteers from FOSILS and two boats to go out for the day to open the island for the season.  Captain Ethan DeBery’s boat pulled our dingy and a skiff that was donated which will be exhibited on the ways in front of the boathouse.

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It was a scramble getting out of the boats, transferring supplies, water, gas and people with several trips in the dingy, onto the shore, over the rocks and up the stairs on the beach to the tram where we loaded everything for two trips up to the top and a lot of hauling in the process.  We were very careful operating the tram; it’s old and in need of repair and only used on rare occasions such as this.

Everyone went to work with assigned tasks including starting up the power, getting the pump going to fill the cistern, cleaning and unpacking, mowing, taking the grates and plywood off the windows and unpacking and setting up the museum items.  I didn’t get many photos because I was too busy myself unpacking groceries and vacuuming the keeper and the guest quarters.  Mitchell and Patty will post shortly on the FOSILS website with more details.

In the evening we snacked on cheese and crackers, sautéed scallops for appetizer and baked haddock with steamed fiddleheads.  I think we were all in bed by 8!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Starting the day early (the sun rises at 5 and sets at 8!) I could think of nothing better to do than make blueberry muffins which we ate for breakfast before I could even get a photo.  Then we dove into so many tasks it’s hard to remember.  Rick Mayo had done a great job on the sit down mower up top (the grass was almost knee high) and DD Morong with the push mower down below on the big Saturday workday, but all that had to have a second go just do distribute the massive clumps of grass.  And it was just a first rough cut as we say in the film industry.  I went to work with the sit down mower while Patty and Mitchell used the push mowers and the weed whacker.  And there was a patch on the front lawn that no one had gotten to the day before.  It was a tough row to mow!

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But when it was finished, it was worth all the effort.

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I stopped for a break around lunchtime and couldn’t find anyone, so I scarfed down a bowl of oatmeal leftover from breakfast with fresh blueberries.

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The first visitors of the summer arrived in a sailboat and for them, it wasn’t the first time that they had been the first visitors for the island.  The three of them stayed for lunch around the picnic table and hiked the North Trail.

There was still so much clumped grass, what was underneath would have suffered if we hadn’t all pitched in and spent the afternoon raking.  I didn’t get a shot of it before I mowed, but I was fascinated by the grass growing on the helipad.  You can’t really see it here but the weeds along the brick letter “H” had tiny red flowers that weren’t anywhere else on the lawn.

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Cyndy whacked weeds on the Lighthouse trail, while Mitchell did the trail to the Cove and mowed the picnic/camping area with the push mower.  We righted the antenna as well and fixed the sump pump which we found overflowing in the morning.

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We didn’t even finish before exhaustion and muscle fatigue set in so we all headed indoors for tea.  I keep my brother and sister appraised with texts and photos along the way and seeing all the work we did, my brother’s comment was “so much for your Sabbath; have a great work day!”  Patty put together the White Dinner consisting of broiled cauliflower with calamari penne pasta.  And thanks to my friend Lenny, just back from Italy, fresh parmesan cheese from Florence.

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We thought we wouldn’t see much of a sunset but in the end, a sliver shone through a break in the clouds at the horizon.

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Then, as spectacularly as the sun had set in the west, the moon rose up in the east.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

After a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs and the last of the blueberry muffins, while waiting for the dew to dry off the mowed grass enough so that we could finish the raking, we headed off to inspect the condition of the north trail with clippers and signage in hand. There were some swells out of the east but beautiful warm sun allowed tee shirts and shorts for the hike.

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The iris in the bog; the loop that goes down from the North Trail, are about to bloom.

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Toward the end of the trail, you can look back into the cove.  A Red-winged Blackbird was keeping watch.

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And the gulls were everywhere in the sky and perched on rocky outcroppings.  They have paired up (they mate for life) and were beginning to build nests.  One pair got an early start.  The crabapples are in blossom and the blackberries are just about to pop.

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Mitchell and Patty seem up to the challenge and are sure to have a great summer.

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Coming back we were famished and feasted on a terrific salad Patty put together with the last of the leftover baked halibut and hard boiled egg.

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After the last of the mowed grass was raked up top and disposed of,  we finished up down below:  cleaning the public composting outhouse, taking the last of the plywood off the Donkey Engine House windows, whacking weeds and cutting grass.  Mitchell tackled the Cobblestone Beach Trail with the weed whacker.

Then it was time for dinner.  Mitchell grilled citrus chicken and onions on the barbecue, Cyndy steamed asparagus and there was strawberry rhubarb cobbler for desert.

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And another unforgettable sunset.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

We woke to fog and then the rain so busied ourselves with chores indoors.  Patty and Mitchell cleaned and set up the gift shop.  Cyndy swept the tower and put away clean linens.

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Tomorrow Mitchell and Patty go ashore for supplies.  I’ve been working on this post while prepping a pot roast for tomorrow.  Baked chicken Shawarma with roasted potatoes and salad for tonight.  And if Cyndy didn’t eat it all, the last of the cobbler.

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A Frenzied Finish

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Dawn brought a clear morning.  We were happy for the sun on our last full day on the island so that we could get all of our work done.  We first went down to the cove to finish boarding up the windows in the Donkey Engine House and running the gas out of the push mower for the winter.

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Back up to the top of the island, we needed to do the same with the new sit-down mower.  This was a lot more fun because we got to drive it around the yard, but not too far away from the barn, because once it ran dry, we had to push it back into the Whistle House.  That is if you could figure out first how to put it in neutral.  Fortunately we know where the manuals.  That is if you can figure out how to read them.

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The view from the bathroom upstairs in the Keeper Quarters is spectacular.  Even the pilot of the Coast Guard helicopter that landed while I was here five years ago commented on that when he came out of the craft to make use of it.  (And I thought he just wanted to shake my hand.)

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Lunch was the last of the shrimp chowder, more eggplant parmesan, and a grilled cheddar cheese on olive garlic bread.

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The south side of the house was protected today from the wind, and the setting sun was so warm and peaceful, we stayed on the back porch for a long time soaking it in.

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I was privileged five years ago when I was here for three and a half months in the summer, to meet Jackson, one of the local lobstermen, and make an arrangement that I’ve used every time I’ve come to the island since.  Jackson’s number is still in my cell phone and all I need to do is call and leave a message the night before we plan lobster for dinner.  He ties a keeper box to one of the moors in the cove which floats just below the surface of the water.  We can put water to boil on the stove in the huge lobster pot late in the afternoon and head down to the cove with a tall plastic pail; untie the dingy, and paddle out to the box which contains our order, filled just as we requested.  By the time we’ve paddled back and secured the boat, climbed over the rocks and up the stairs and up the trail to the top, the water is boiling and in go the lobster for the freshest meal you’ve ever had.  I prefer meeting Jackson in the cove so that we can chat, and he is a talker.  But if we don’t connect, I leave a blank check made out to his son Jake for his college fund and let Jackson fill in the amount.  At these prices, we could have lobster every day of the week.

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Cyndy wanted to have lobster races but I thought that seemed cruel.  Instead, we let Grady play with one of them who went very still very quickly.  So that wasn’t cruel.

I love Grady dearly and will miss him very much but my advise to anyone who wants a dog (me included) is to avoid the puppy stage and get a rescue dog from the pound who will love you for the rest of the time you have together.  Our last sun set and we enjoyed the best meal we had in all of our sixteen days on the island.

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ethan was due to come with Anne and Greg to help do the final close down of the island at eight in the morning and called last night to say they were coming at seven thirty instead and wanted to make a quick departure after the work was done, because high seas were expected.  We were up at five and the cove was calm but the wind and the waves from the southwest were kicking up.  Per tradition, after a lobster meal, the next morning the shells go back into the ocean on Cobblestone Beach.

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I had hoped to take photos of our departure and the final close down but it was too fast and furious and it seemed we were not as prepared as we should have been.  Apparently the trip out for the crew on the boat was a really rough one and they we very worried about the return.

Greg is champion of the big aspects of the final shut down and takes charge of shutting down the water, which involves draining the pipes, and turning off the electricity.  We thought we’d have time during this process, to put the final screen gates on the downstairs windows but in fact, the crew was disappointed we hadn’t already taken care of this.

To make a long story short, we made such fast work of all of this and hightailed it down to the cove so quickly that there wasn’t even time for a selfie.  We had intended to tow the dingy back to shore to winterize it but instead, ended up tying it to a mooring with most of our provisions in it for weight as it wasn’t advisable to take it out on the high seas.  Ethan said he’d come for it tomorrow and I hope he’ll take me along to help.  It’s like a refrigerator there so we’re not worried about the food from the fridge going bad; we just don’t really know what we’re going to have for dinner.

Fortunately the trip back wasn’t as bad as the one out, according to the captain, but we managed to get soaked in the choppy water regardless.  Grady was secure on Anne’s lap in my old canvas bag but was still shaking like a leaf on my lap later on in the car.

It’s a shock to be back on the mainland.  Cyndy’s car wouldn’t start and after Anne gave it a jump, we were on our way, enjoying the fall foliage.  (Tthe colors had really popped while we were on the island.)  But trying to start it again at Cyndy’s house after we’d unpacked was a no go so she was off to the neighbor for jumper cables.  So off to that big store starting with the letter W for a new battery.  I went inside to look for matching curtains to the ones in the living room of the caretaker quarters, so that we could use them on the two doors into the room, but they were not in stock and the whole experience really brought us down.  After purchasing the Sunday New York Times at the drug store in Bath and a coffee at Cafe Creme, we went for a truly delightful lunch at the new Winnegance Cafe and are now tucked in for the day to recuperate.

We enjoyed our sixteen days on the island more than you can imagine and got a lot of work done too.  It’s always a privilege to carry on this tradition with such caring friends who are dedicated to the preservation and promotion of this wonderful light, and we are grateful to share with them this responsibility.

Your first sight of the first order Fresnel lens at Seguin Light will take your breath away.  Each time you view it after that is no less magical.

 

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More Cats and Dogs

Friday, October 9, 2015

I’m so glad we’re not leaving tomorrow!  Up before dawn, the sky was completely overcast except for a sliver on the ocean horizon to the east.

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After a hearty breakfast we decided to get down to the cove and finish boarding up the windows to the Donkey Engine House.  It had started to sprinkle.  While we were there we put stabilizer in the gas and drained what was in the push mower.

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A final dust up in the outhouse put that in order before we lock it up and turn off the fan.

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The cove was calm as the wind has shifted from the southeast.  By the time we got back up to the house and had put the tools away, white caps were heavy out to sea.  In no time, the winds were gusting up to 20 mph and it began to rain heavily.  We took the flag down.

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Cyndy had a call from a man from Westport Island who had seen a photo in the museum a while back about a shipwreck and wanted more information on that because it was his ancestor who was lost at sea.  She knew right where it was and called him back with the information.  He said he would make a generous donation to the Friends of Seguin Light Station in return, and just because he thought if was overdue anyway.

For lunch there was leftover shrimp and corn chowder with toasted olive and garlic bread.  I had to make a loaf of apple bread to use up what was on hand.  By the afternoon, we both took naps for the first time in two weeks.  It’s 74 and sunny in New York City but here on the island, 55 degrees and heavy rain falling.  The fog horn went on at 11:55 AM.

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For dinner, Cyndy made eggplant parmesan.  We did really well making everything last until the last day, even given the bonus day we were awarded.  The only thing we ran out of  was eggs and water.  Thank goodness there is a supply of bottled water in the gift shop.  At a dollar a piece we’re really rationing it now.  No more cookies or pancakes but lots of great memories.  And Jackson left us lobster in the keeper box in the cove so we will be in heaven for our last meal on the island.  I hope they survived the rain.

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Wednesday Warriors

Thursday, October 8, 2015

During the summer, the caretakers have one day a week to go ashore to pick up provisions, stop in at the Friends office and do laundry.  On the boat that comes to pick them up early in the morning is a crew of volunteers, most of them members, who work on various projects.  There is a very long “to do” list.  In this way the island is always staffed and visitors are always able to tour the tower and the light and beautiful visit the museum and gift shop in addition to hiking the trails and taking in the vista 153 feet above sea level and three miles off the shore.

Even though we’re now into the fall volunteers, there was work to be done and the Warriors came on Thursday.  They were promised blueberry muffins so this morning I made blueberry corn muffins with coconut.  After shuttling everyone onto the shore in the dingy and hauling bags and tools up to the top of the island, we settled at the picnic table for coffee and muffins and to talk about what needed to be done.  The one thing Ken said he couldn’t stand to eat was coconut but he ate all of his muffin and said he loved it.  There was a surprise in store for Ken:  desert at lunch was more coconut in the toffee cookies.

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Ken Young headed up to the top catwalk outside the light to touch up with black paint the moldings on the glass panes he had caulked earlier this fall.  It always surprises me to see people up there from the ground because they seem to dwarf the structure and make those structures seem smaller than they had appeared to me without anyone juxtaposed that way.

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Jeff and Tom and Rick added some hardware to the big doors at the base of the tower which had been refurbished this summer.  The inner doors to the tower are original but the outdoors were replaced in 2007 after a storm that tore through on Patriots’ Day that blew them out and also the window at the top landing.  It must have had to do with the pressure inside opposing the pressure of the storm outside; a real freak of nature.

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Years ago the British used cannons from the coast to warn ships at sea during intense fog.  The practice was followed in the early days of Republic but proved to be too costly.  Bells where then placed at light stations to be rung in fog  to warn ships away from the rocky shore.  Today of course, they use horns in fog and everything is automated.

Ken Young is the Friends historian and he did a lot of research to find out what happened to the bell that was used on Seguin.  He was able to find the original at the Coast Guard station in Boothbay and through documentation, prove that it was indeed the Seguin bell.  The evidence was irrefutable and the Coast Guard agreed finally to relinquish the bell and allow it to be transported back to the island.  So last summer a helicopter was arranged for the homecoming and today it proudly sits just about where it did in 1858.  There were minor adjustments to be made regarding how it was hung and Jeff and Tom and Rick went to work on that.

 

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At the same time, Cyndy, Julie and I began the process of putting the screens on the lower windows to protect the house during the winter when everything is locked and closed up for the season.

 

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Finally the bell was hung properly and free-standing for a few brief moments before wooden block supports were again placed under it.  There was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.  The bell doesn’t have a clapper but was rung by striking it on the outside with a mallet of some sort every ten seconds in fog no matter how cold or how nasty the weather was.  We had to hear what it sounds like so we each took a turn with a block of wood and it rang out for the first time in many many years.

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There was a lunch break when we all gathered once again around the picnic table.  Grady was becoming a little less shy and played with some of the newcomers.  And Ken loved the cookies (he had two) even with the coconut.

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During the heavy rain last week we noticed a puddle in the middle of the floor of the Whistle House floor so Jeff and Tom climbed up on the roof after lunch to put tar paper over the the peak.  It wasn’t big enough but will do until something more substantial can be put in place next year.

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Julie touched up spots on the big refurbished doors at the base of the tower and painted the threshold sill to the gift shop while Cyndy painted a piece of plywood for Jeff to install on the gift shop door to protect it in the winter where he will place a screen next year.  That’s good because there were two birds who got in the day before when Cyndy was in there packing up and left the door open.

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By mid afternoon the work was finished and the crew headed down to the cove to meet Captain DeBery for the transport back to Popham.  The new dingy works well but in the swells still crashing into the cove, everyone got wet and Tom slipped off the stern and fell in up to his waist trying to push off.  I hope Ethan has something warm for him to wear on the trip back.

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There was time to romp with Grady on the lawn before the sunset.  He loves his plastic pail and it’s a hoot to watch him try to grip it with his teeth.  He sometimes gets stuck.

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The remains of the shrimp boil made a terrific chowder.

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It was determined that we would leave the island on Sunday instead of Saturday so Cyndy and I are thrilled to have a bonus day.  Part of the evening was spent discussing how we would wrap everything up and have all of our provisions down to the cove by Sunday morning when Greg and Anne would arrive with Ethan to take care of shutting down the power and water, draining the pipes and locking up.  Now we don’t have to talk about it until Saturday and Friday can be spent enjoying a little more of this paradise.

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Only Two Wednesday Warriors Today

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Our big plan for the day was to sand the kitchen floor of at least three coats of paint that had not held up will over the coarse of dragged chairs and scuffs.  In the end, the equipment on hand was not up to the task so to make a long story short, we settled for a good scrubbing and then putting everything back in place.  A rough up with a sander and a fresh coat of paint will have to wait until next May.

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This detour did not stop me from making a batch of coconut toffee cookies.

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While Cyndy dragged out the gates that would be put in place on the windows next Sunday when we leave the island, and put away the items in the museum for storage over the winter, I gave the lawn a final mowing.  With the door open to the gift shop, two visitors arrived:  a pair of sparrows looking for a winter home.  We walked away and eventually they found their way out.  Next year a screen door will be made and hopefully we won’t have this problem again.

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The reward for all of that was a dip in the ocean (I only got up to my knees) and a brief sunning on the deck in front of the boathouse to dry off.  The swells from the east were even bigger than yesterday so we made the only walk we know of on the perimeter of the island, between the end of the cove trail and cobblestone beach.

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Sunset came after which we feasted on shrimp boil.  It wasn’t quite the presentation Beverly achieved last year but she would have been proud none the less.  We had to call her for the recipe.

 

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Sunshine and Surf

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

It’s a beautiful clear sunny day without a cloud in the sky.  The wind is still coming from the north so the cove is a mess.

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Captain DeBery informed us that he may come out between 12 and 1 with a few buddies who want to surf.  The video clip doesn’t really do it justice but the swells are huge and I can see why they thought it might be fun.  However, by the time they got here after 2, they’d decided the waves weren’t “pretty” enough so they hung out on the boat instead.  At least we were able to pick up the laundry bag with down jacket and vest that Cyndy had left behind when we came out.  This was the first time we’ve had a boat in the cove in ten days.  And as far as I was concerned, the cove was still too rough with the north wind blowing swells directly in, it was not advisable to take the dingy out to meet them.  But Cyndy was determined to get her puffy warm clean cloths and headed out in her bathing suit with a push from me.  I know better than to have my camera or glasses with me after capsizing just that way last May so I didn’t get a photo, but she managed to retrieve her laundry without swamping the boat.

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In anticipation of Ethan’s arrival, we brought down empty gas and water cans, dirty laundry, garbage, and three bins filled with gift shop items hoping Ethan could take them off the island for us, but it was too rough and we had to prioritize.  There is a work party coming out on Thursday (the Wednesday Warriors) so we can hopefully send them back with them.

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To kill time, Cyndy went up to the house and turned on the water so we could hose down the outhouse down below.  It’s now spic and span inside and ready for visitors next summer.  I spared you the photo.

We’ve seen a few monarch butterflies on the island but nothing will top the miracle we witnesses September 19, 2012 late in the afternoon.  We noticed them streaming toward Fat Albert (the squat evergreen near the sunset bench).  At closer examination, we saw each had found a spot on a limb and had settled in for the night folding in their wings.  In the morning, they left one at a time the same way they arrived and went on their way, to Mexico, we were led to believe.  Here’s a clip from that fall:

The summer caretakers (Larry and T’Ann) left us some nice chunks of beef in the freezer so I put them into the slow cooker in the morning with some carrots, onions, celery and a box of green beans we found in the freezer as well, ready after 9 hours on low for our evening meal.  There will be enough for leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  And we came up with a plan for the day tomorrow since the regular work party had to delay their arrival until Thursday.  I won’t mention it yet in case we find we can’t pull it off, but we’re really excited.

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