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Spring Cleaning On-Island

Smuttynose Island
Even a barely-inhabited island requires sprucing up in May. rides along with a few Smuttynose Stewards, a volunteer group that helps maintain the protected environment on one of the historic Isles of Shoals. (See PHOTOS)




It’s almost Smuttynose time again. But before we can spend a quiet week in the Haley Cottage, there’s a laundry list of chores to complete. So while the rest of the Seacoast sweltered in a record-breaking 90 degree May heat wave, we spent the weekend preparing the island for the inevitable flow of summer visitors.

This trip began at the Wentworth Marina, packed with luxurious double-decker yachts. The contrast to Smuttynose at the Isles of Shoals could not be more dramatic. On-island, twenty minutes later, there are just two stark uninsulated wooden buildings with no electricity and no running water. Each summer a dozen pairs of volunteer stewards maintain the structures, greet and monitor visitors, trim the grounds and clear the trail that winds to the back of the island dominated by thousands of nesting gulls.

We joined Laurey, John, Kate and Marge who were trimming brush, planting the garden and mowing the expanding lawn. Richard, who had been on-island all week, is working inside the restored 18th century cabin. This year, for the first time in two decades, a new flag welcomes visitors. A gull has settled her nest about two feet from the new flagpole. That means she and her mate will be screaming at us each time we step out onto the lawn this summer. The sumac, which will soon dominate the area behind the cottage, has just begun to bud. By June, the vegetation will swallow the trails and crowd up toward the ancient house.

We could hear crews working at the Oceanic Hotel across the harbor in Star Island. The lawnmover hummed. Lobster boats chugged by. The cove, brimful when we arrived, was almost fully drained when we climbed, tired and peaceful, into the boat for the trip "back to America". We left Richard, looking a bit like old Captain Sam Haley who once owned the island, standing blissfully alone again.

Following are a few spring photos from this year’s early visit. The island, for those considering a visit, has no hotel, no ferry, no roads, no store, no camping area, no fresh water, no food shops, no rest rooms, no shade trees, no picnic area, no fireplaces, no lifeguard, no public mooring, no first-aid station. It is an island as all island’s once were – primitive and very quiet – except when the gulls are screaming your name.

All photos by J. Dennis Robinson

READ: Smuttynose Diaries
VISIT: Smuttynose Murder Web Site

Wentworth Marina

Smuttynose Island

Sumac on Smuttynose

Star Island in background

Gull nesting by flagpole

Gull eggs

Richard On-Island 

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Friday, February 23, 2018 
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