Today was basically the rest day that Dad and Rich were hoping for! We got up early, but not to hike. Today we were going to Baker Island!
We had planned all week to take the Baker Island cruise today. The first time Rich and I went to Baker Island, three years ago, the trip was canceled three times due to weather conditions before it actually went out—I understand this happens pretty often. We had a feeling we’d have great weather today, though, just like we’ve had all week.
The Baker Island tour is a ranger program of Acadia National Park, but the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company operates the boat and takes reservations. Yesterday morning when I tried to reserve our seats online, it looked like we were out of luck. There appeared to be only one seat left! But after breakfast yesterday we stopped at the whale watch ticket booth just to see what the story was, and it turned out there were actually five seats available. I have no idea why they didn’t show up in the online booking system, but either way, we bought our tickets and we were set.
Rich and I didn’t want much for breakfast this morning. Most place don’t open early enough, since we had to be at the pier for the cruise by 7:45am at the latest, and we always prefer to be early. Dad wanted something to eat, so he stopped at Jeannie’s for coffee and a blueberry muffin. Rich simply got a coffee at 59 Cottage Street as we walked by. We met Dad in front of Jeannie’s at 7:15 and walked down to the pier.
At first it wasn’t clear if the cruise was actually going out, since the boat wasn’t at the dock and no one else was waiting around. I guess we were just early. Before long some other people began to arrive, including a pleasant couple from Florida. They ended up sitting behind us on the boat, which arrived soon after everyone began to gather at the pier.
We had a different ranger—Bob Thayer—for the tour this time. Rich and I expected this, since we knew our ranger from last time, Kirk Lurvey, was also a teacher and would be in school on a weekday. Bob had an excellent personality for a ranger and provided a clear and interesting presentation of the island’s history, and he was pretty funny, too. He just didn’t have the personal connection and therefore understandably lacked some of Kirk Lurvey’s passion for the island and its inhabitants’ stories.
To Dad’s great relief, the ocean was calm today. We had a nice hour-long ride out to Baker Island, with a few sightings of harbor porpoises along the way, but not much other wildlife. Rich and I spotted the “Thrumcap Ledge” area (next to the Pulitzer cottage) that we explored on Sunday, and a few sea caves along the way. On the way out to Baker Island, the boat stays a bit father from shore so you can’t quite see the shore features in detail as you can on the return trip.
The boat was full today! The majority belonged to a group of what appeared to be homeschooled kids and their parents. They were a riot, generally nice kids but they all had names like Silas, Ezra and Ezekiel, and Silas was a real troublemaker. There was also a group of sassy ladies from Texas, and a couple other random people like us and the couple from Florida. So it took a while to offload everyone using the small skiff “Bakers Dozen.”
We were the first ones off the skiff, just like last time we came to Baker Island, so we had a chance to check out the small cemetery of the Gilley family before the others came ashore. I had wanted to look for another University of Rhode Island tri-station near the lighthouse, but the ranger asked us not to go near the lighthouse until he took us there on the tour, so we hung around the meadow and the rocky beach instead until the entire group was back together.
Then we began the tour. Bob shared some stories about the Gilley family and the history of the island, including the story about how William Gilley was removed from his lighthouse keeper’s job because he refused to join the Whig party. He was replaced with someone else whom the Gilleys harassed until the government threatened to remove them from the island. This was a distinct possibility since they never actually purchased the island from its owners (residents of Philadelphia) and were really just squatters all the while. But I suppose cooler heads prevailed, or some kind of deal was made, and they were allowed to remain on the island.
Next we took the trek through the woods, which were quiet, peaceful and dark even on this mostly sunny day! We traversed the island, just about a half-mile, to the “south beach” where the dance floor can be found, and where we were to eat our lunch. The white rocks reflecting the sun were warm and bright. The tide was going out, so the surf was relatively calm although there are always some waves against these rocks.
We sat, rested and snacked for about half an hour before Rich and I decided we had better head back toward the lighthouse to look for the survey marker. Dad didn’t have to, but he came with us. Thanks to adjusted coordinates the survey mark was an easy find, on a ledge about 250 feet north of the lighthouse, and adjacent to a long stone wall, or the rubble of what was once a stone wall.
We had a nice relaxing ride back except for one of the annoying women from Texas and the British guy who kept popping up everywhere we were looking or trying to take a photo. “That guy is everywhere like flies on horseshit!” Rich said at least a few times. The ranger talked about the features along the coast as we passed by, including Anemone Cave, to our surprise. It was another very warm afternoon and it was relaxing being out on the water. Dad was drifting off to sleep!
Back in town, Dad went to buy a few jars of jam for our friend Judy while Rich and I went out on the bar for a little while. We found a few interesting shells, including one of a sea urchin, but nothing worth back with us. Tired from the day’s adventures, the three of us rested for a few hours this afternoon and then Dad came up a little after 4:00 so we could drive to Southwest Harbor for supper at Red Sky. Red Sky is is always one of our favorites!
We were early for our reservation, so we stopped at the wine & cheese store on Main Street—Sawyer’s Specialties. Rich and I bought two half-pounds of Raschera for ourselves and our neighbors, some goat gouda, and some petit basque. We didn’t find anything we wanted in the other Sawyer’s market across the street, but by then but it was just about time for our dinner reservation anyway.
Red Sky was awesome as always! Rich has been saying for years that “next time” he will order the roast chicken that Dad always gets, but every time, be sees something else unusual that he has to try instead. Tonight was no exception. We were both pulled by the pasta dish with mushrooms and cream sauce, topped with goat cheese. It was even more amazing than it sounds!
Dad, as always, had the roast chicken. Rich and I both tried a bite, and it was sublime! But I’m getting ahead of myself. We all began with appetizers. Dad had the polenta appetizer, which is another one of his favorites, but this time it was even better than he remembered, with some gigantic king oyster mushrooms, and the reduction he said was out of this world. Rich had fried oysters with a tomatillo sauce which were tasty, and I had the small cheese plate (cheddar, a camembert, and another soft but mild cheese that I can’t recall the name of). Accompaniments were a cranberry chutney and the usual homemade sesame crackers. To drink Dad and Rich had the Bug Lager and I had the Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA. And we had just enough room for dessert!!! We got the gingerbread again, spicy and warm, which lasted about 30 seconds before every trace of it was wiped from the plate. We all loved it.
We dropped dad off at the Black Friar and came back to our room for another easy night of working on some photos and researching abandoned trails!