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Smuttynose Diary Part 1

Attacking Seagull (c) Rodman Philbrick/


One house, one couple, no amenities and thousands of breeding angry seagulls. That’s what we call a vacation here on the isolated Maine island of Smuttynose. To quote the theme from Gilligan’s Island: "Like Robinson Crusoe, it’s primitive as can be." And then the relatives from Connecticut arrive.



MORE on Smuttynose and the Haley House and Celia and the Isles of Shoals


Inside Haley Cottage / SeacoastNH.comOur week as stewards began at noon. For seven days, Maryellen and I are again the keepers of Smuttynose Island, and its only residents -- other than muskrats, green snakes and 4,000 pairs of nesting gulls. Neither of the two island wells are potable, so we bring all our own water. There is no plumbing in the Haley House on the low rise of the hill, built sometime in the mid-to-late 1700s. There is no electricity here, never has been. Our job is to monitor the island activity for the owners, descendants of poet Celia Thaxter. We meet each visitor, enforce the island regulations and do the chores.

We arrived by the morning Isles of Shoals ferry to Star Island, but the Smuttynose rowboat, a sturdy, worn aluminum unit, was still floating at the mooring a quarter mile across Gosport Harbor. Ben, one of the Oceanic Hotel "pelicans" (the kids who do the work for the Star Island Corporation) offered us a lift to our rowboat at the mouth of the cove that links Smuttynose with its little neighbor island Malago. There was four inches of water in the boat from a recent rain, but this year we remembered to pack supplies in rubber duffel bags. Get things wet the first day, and they are likely to stay wet all week. Even now, storm clouds threaten.

Once we are on-island the isolation of Smuttynose kicks in. From the front lawn we can see New Hampshire. Maine and Massachusetts in a single sweeping glance. Our Portsmouth home is just 10 miles to the West as the gull flies. There are hundreds of conferees at nearby Star, moving specks across the harbor, not to mention the dozen pleasure boats moored in between. But with no motorboat, no generator and no amenities, we are distinctly and richly alone. We have not even brought a radio, and by 8pm, we are asleep.

CONTINUE with Smuttynose Island Diary

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Monday, February 19, 2018 
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