The excursion to Islesboro started in the coastal town of Lincolnville, Maine. Waiting in the parking lot of the Lobster Pound Restaurant, I frequently saw young children frolicking across the sandy Lincolnville Beach off of Route 1. The smell of freshly cooked seafood and salty sea air mixed together while I sat on one of the bucolic wooden benches along the shore. The Margaret Chase Smith, the Maine State Ferry Service's ship that ventured to Islesboro and back, quickly docked at the end of a long wooden pier strewn with barnacles.
The ferry navigated back and forth between eight monstrous black rubber pads jutting out from the water until it finally halted. The rusty metal ramp lowered onto the deck of the ship as cars started their loud engines, intruding upon the tranquility of the scene. My grandfather and I cautiously walked onto the ship after all the outgoing cars had departed. We gave the attendant our tickets and then watched the cars behind us drive onto the ferry like young children following their grade school teacher.
After rushing up the water-coated staircase to the observation deck, I instinctively ran over to one of the large, four-foot windows in the observation room. My grandfather approached me and lifted up the heavy glass window. I loved feeling the cool sea breeze rush past me. As a child, I adored scavenger hunts, and the zenith of my voyage was when I rushed up to the ship's fire plan document displayed for general viewing above the ship's main water fountain. I searched the ship with my grandfather for all of the fire extinguishers, returned to the map to observe if there were any that I ad missed, and then journeyed again to find the unnoticed extinguishers. I proceeded to do the same for the life preservers, life jackets, and even the water hoses. My grandfather, waiting at the front of the observation room, assisted me up the stairs to the upper deck; by that time, enough time had passed so that the trip was almost complete. The top level of the ship was less active than any other place on the ship. Few people had the courage to stay on the windy, cold deck above the observation rooms. The only sound on the third level was the rumbling thunder of the electrical motor escaping from the captain's chamber.
An unpleasant metal chain bearing the simple "CREW ONLY" sign guarded the white cabin. I had found it to be an ideal location to take panoramic pictures of the surroundings. Focusing on the horizon, one could obtain a perfect picture of nearby Mt. Battie in Camden or the Islesboro lighthouse. It was also an outstanding place to grasp the railings and look over the side of the ship, noticing an occasional whitecap or piece of driftwood floating in the overall calm sea. Another of my favorite locations on the ship was standing at the bow of the ferry, clutching in my hands the rusty metal chain barricading the exit.
From this site, I was able to see everything directly in front of the ship and view the entire Islesboro dock as it rapidly approached. It had been from this location where I spotted a porpoise emerging from the bright blue ocean depths; I had also observed an enormous oil tanker voyaging up the bay to its port in the town of Searsport, fifteen miles north. The tanker's figure loomed like a rain cloud over the horizon in front of the boat; as we approached, we were able to identify the major features of its cargo.
Nearing the port at Islesboro, I smiled as I looked up at my grandfather. The first landmark I noticed was the Grindle Point Lighthouse. We had made a pledge to each other to see as many Maine lighthouses as possible during our years together. The green and red Grindle Point Light attracted visitors who could journey up the stairs to the source of the light. Continuing to stand at the bow of the ship, I saw the residents and visitors to the island desiring a ride back to the mainland. The large rubber hands of the dock led the boat into its proper position to unload.
The ride over to the island of Islesboro had been exciting for me throughout my life. It was very meaningful to me because it had always been something I enjoyed doing with my grandfather. Of the many voyages we had embarked upon, the Islesboro trip epitomized all of the experiences we enjoyed doing together. I have traveled on many boats as I have become older, such as the Bluenose to Nova Scotia and the Steamship Authority's ferry to Nantucket Island, but none have had more of an impact on me than my first ferry ride on the Margaret Chase Smith.