Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Visiting Little Cranberry Island

Monday August 5, 2013
Acadia National Park


So where is he going??

Our friends Al and Karen of Wish Upon an RV Star told us they were going to take the 10:00 Ranger Tour over to Little Cranberry Island and asked if we’d like to join them.  Sounded like a great plan so we made reservations and arrive at 9:30 for our 10:00 sailing out of Northeast Harbor.   While we are standing on the dock waiting for the Sea Princess to pick us up we chat and I notice this big dump truck being pulled out into the water.  I wonder where he is going and how he’s going to get there.  To one of the many many islands is probably the answer.   As you can see from just the area near Northeast Harbor, there are a lot of islands surrounding Mount Desert Island. 


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I do know where we are going.

We are going from Northeast Harbor to Little Cranberry Island and the Islesford Historical Museum which is marked on the map.  Little Cranberry is part of the Cranberry Isles, five islands off the coast of Mount Desert Island.   Only two, Greater Cranberry and Little Cranberry are open to the public and populated year round. The other three Bear, Baker and Sutton are privately owned.



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The Sea Princess pulls up to the dock and we board with about 30 other people.

There are two rangers.  On will give us some information on the trip over and the other will open the museum for the day when we get there.






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The high today will be 75 but not until much later in the day so we are all prepared for a breezy sea voyage with our sweatshirts and in David’s case a rain slicker.   They look like happy campers don’t they?






Here’s a Lighthouse you can only see from the water.

The first place the Captain takes us on our way to Little Cranberry is past Bear Island and the Bear Island Lighthouse at the entrance to Northeast Harbor.  The island is 11 acres and is part of the group known as The Cranberry Isles.  The first lighthouse here was erected in 1839.  This one in 1889. 


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Ranger Becky passes around a photograph of the lighthouse in its early years.  I take a not so hot picture of the plastic coated picture but you can see that the island is not heavily treed.  Pretty nearly all of Mount Desert Island and the islands off shore were heavily timbered before the creation of the park.   She tells us that historians speculate that the island was first name Bare Island because it was treeless since no one has ever known of Bears being on the island.   I wonder if it is a cartographer’s copying error.  Bear for Bare.


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So what are bell buoys??

Just past the lighthouse we pass a bell buoy but I don’t hear its bell over the sound of the engine.  I wonder what good they are if ships can’t hear them when the waves ring their bells.  Bell buoys are used for hazardous markings to warn of shallow waters or submerged dangers.  They usually have a flashing colored light with a specific pattern.  They are placed by the coast guard usually so perhaps Paul Dahl can tell us the real scoop.


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The water is filled with smaller buoys.  They are the colorful lobstermen’s buoys.  Or in this case, lobsterwomen.  Their green and white buoy identifies their pots in the water.  I assume they are going out to check their catch.


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I see lots of other colored lobster buoys are floating as I notice the Bubbles in the distance.  I did a previous post on them and you can find it here if you are interested..


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It’s true I wasn’t paying attention but I did see the seals.

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Yes, I will fess up and admit that I don’t hear what Ranger Becky tells me about this structure on the island after she says there are seals in the water.  It looks like a giant beehive, well maybe paper wasps nest, really interesting but I can’t find anything on line that tells me what it is.

Unfortunately the seals are not on the island which would have made them much easier to see.  They are mainly harbor seals and today they are in the water with just their noses sticking out.  Hope you can spot them in the few distant pictures I was able to get.  They look great through the binoculars though.  I know that doesn’t do you much good.


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Blurry seal head exhibit B


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One little tid bit I didn’t ask about when making the reservation turns out to be very important.


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As we are approaching Little Cranberry Island, Ranger Becky tells us the boat will leave to take us back in 40 minutes.  Forty minutes will hardly be enough to see the museum and will leave nothing for a look at the town of Islesford or the rest of the island.

At this point I realize we should have taken the Mail Boat rather than this “cruise”.   Ranger Becky has provided some information on the trip over and no doubt will on the trip back but she is very scripted and so far has not been able to answer any of the questions put to her by the passengers.   The ranger opening and staffing the museum will be there all day for anyone who comes to the island.   If you take the mail boat, you can spend the morning on Great or Little Cranberry and then take the boat to the other and spend the afternoon and come back to Northeast Harbor.  All for the same price as the this cruise.  


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But here we are and I’ll know better next time and now you know better.  We disembark onto a series of floating docks connected by bridges to the main dock which houses the Islesford Dock Restaurant. 





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The restaurant is closed both Monday and Tuesday.  Another good reason for coming on the mail boat Wednesday through Sunday rather than Monday.


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This small spot on Little Cranberry Island is  part of Acadia National park. 


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Inside the museum the excellent ranger explains how this building came to be built to more safely  house the collection originally begun by William Sawtelle displayed in the Blue Duck just in front of the current museum.  Of course there is a story explaining the name of the building but I don’t want to tell you everything.  It’s a great little museum and will be even better once the actual artifacts are returned.  But I’m getting ahead of myself here.


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Sawtelle was a professor of physics teaching at both Harvard where he obtained his degrees and MIT before moving to Pennsylvania to teach at Haverford College.  Hey Carrie, how about that??   His career in science was distinguished but he is now best known for founding this museum and his achievements in the field of Maine History.   In the 1920’s and 30’s he was acknowledged to be the foremost expert on the early settlement of eastern Maine and of this region once known as Acadia.  That’s another story in itself.



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She also tells us that the building was built originally as a museum and not as a home or school as some of us have speculated.  The purpose for the building was to provide more room and for protection of the collection from fire  Fireproof it is, water proof it is not.   Apparently a beautiful semi circular window over the door was blown out in a winter storm and not discovered for some time.  Many of the museum pieces were damaged.  The park removed them from the museum until the building could be made water proof and has replaced them with education boards which tell the story of life on a remote island in the 1800’s. The window is currently boarded over.  The sequester seems to have hit here as well.


The exhibits show how children were educated, how families made a living, what home life was like and the employment on the island.  The images in this exhibit are from Dr. Sawtelle’s collections and from Marie Locke great granddaughter of the photographer Frederick Morse.. 


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Morse  who brought his wife and 3 month old daughter Irene to the island in 1909.  Irene spent all but the first 3 months of her life on the island and this exhibit is inspired by the book Memories of a Maine Island.   In 1993 Marie Locke with help from her “Gram” (Irene) and her Aunt Jo collected  stories and photographs about her great grandfather and her grandmother’s lives on the island.








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By the time we finish with the museum there is less than ten minutes left before we must be back on the boat. 


I haven’t even seen Islesford or the town.   The others visit the restroom and wander around the dock.  I hot foot it up town to at least get a look


I think I’m seeing the working section of the dock as I hurry up the road to the town.

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Love this house and look what is going on in the side yard.  Wish I had time to stop for a lemonade.

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I hurry on up the street at a very fast walk trying to take in this darling little town in the 10 minutes I have.  Impossible – must return at the much more leisurely pace it deserves.



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Many of the houses seem to be turn of the century style similar to our farmhouse.  They bring back happy memories, especially this one with the garden in the yard.


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But my time is up before I even get to the center of town.  I turn around and hurry back down the way I came.


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I make it on time although I may be the last person to board.  Forty minutes is definitely not enough time here.




Ranger Becky has cool props.


On our return trip, Ranger Becky tells us about lobstering and the gear used.


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On the way we see a pretty small osprey nest on a channel marker.  Don’t know if he was still working on it or was just stopping by to check out an abandoned platform.


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I see familiar site I recognize.  On top of Beech Mountain is the fire tower.  Can you see it up there?  I’ll give you a closer look tomorrow.  We plan to hike up to it.


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Here’s a preview

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The last thing on our cruise is a trip up to the mouth of Somes Sound the only fjord on the east coast of the United States. 


We’ve seen it from the side of Sargeant Drive but this is a good chance to see it really looking like a fjord with mountains on both sides.


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On both the trip out to the island and back I have seen some boats I would love to get on board.   Look at the tall mast on this one.

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There are few things more beautiful than a sailboat on the water.  I can see myself on this one, it even has a toad.



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I snap this shot of the many many boats in the Northeast Harbor as we approach our dock for landing.


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Once back on shore we confer about what’s next. 

Karen suggests we go to Jordan Pond House for the traditional tea and popovers or popovers and something.   Great idea I think, another tradition to experience.   Al isn’t so sure, he thinks parking for what he lovingly refers to as their monster truck may be impossible.   But we agree to give it a try.

We should be able to take the Stanley Brook Road or the Jordan Pond road up to Jordan Pond House from Seal Harbor a nice short trip.  BUT both roads are closed so we have to go all the way around Route 3 to cut back to the loop road and go down to Jordan Pond House.  Much much longer.   As we are going along Al passes Otter Creek Road which is a short cut to the loop road.  We take it and get there before them.



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David drops me off to get in line for walk in “reservations”.  I tell them 4 of us.  They ask “inside, lawn or first available”.  First available I say thinking it will still be a long time and plenty of time for everyone to get here.   “40 minutes” they say.  “Fine” I say.  They give me a beeper and tell me to report to the dining room when it goes off. 



 Turns out to be much less of a wait than anyone anticipated.


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I go outside to wait in a place where whoever shows up first can see me.  In about 10 minutes, David shows up.  He has just headed out to the restroom when the beeper goes off.  It’s been less than 15 minutes.  Oh Dear, where are Karen and Al.  David returns, we are seated on the patio and David says he saw them looking for a parking place along the road and told them I was getting a reservation.



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We tell the waiter we are waiting for our friends to find parking and David goes out to look for them.  I watch the hustle and bustle of the waiters serving the folks on the lawn.





Twenty minutes later he returns.  No Karen, No Al.

We can’t phone them as there is no service in the center of Acadia where we are now.

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We don’t feel right about continuing to hold the table thinking they will be here any minute.  David says there were plenty of spaces along the road.  But our Lobster stew and popovers for me and Seafood chowder and popovers for David is served and still no Al and Karen.   Now I’m worried something might have happened.  David assures me that it’s possible their truck just would not fit and they would have called us if they could.  He’s right.



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What a shame.  They are missing what turns out to be a lot of fun and not that out of line pricewise with anything else in the area.  The food is absolutely delicious.  The Lobster stew is the best I’ve ever had and David says his chowder is excellent.  Both come with two popovers.  One is served warm at the same time the soups are served.  The other is served warm when you have eaten the first one.  The waiters are very attentive.   Both strawberry jam and butter are served with it.  Look at the size of that popover.  Now I know it is hollow inside but still.  It takes up the whole plate





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it’s a lovely lunch and we really enjoyed it but are so sorry Al and Karen didn’t make it.  They must be sure to do this though.  It is a great tradition.

When we arrive home there is an email from Karen apologizing and telling us just what David suspected.  They could not fit their truck along the side of the road and had to give up. 



We missed you guys.
Here’s your place at the table.

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  1. The FOOOOOD! OH, MY! And here's me, starving!

  2. Years ago I made popovers a lot, and ate most of them warm from the oven. Nothing better!

  3. 40 mins is a rip off, especially with a scripted Ranger. But that popover might have made up for it. Your a natural tour guide connecting us readers to this gorgeous Park.

  4. So many islands, so little time! :c(

    The red bell buoy has a red light on it and each one has different flashing patterns so they can be easily distinguished from one another at night. The buoy number and flashing patterns are shown on nautical charts. Too bad your boat's motor was so loud, you usually can hear the bell clearly. The green buoys are also numbered and have a green light with a distinct flashing pattern and have gongs on them so they make a different sound, easily recognizable from the bell sound on the red buoys.

    Red buoys mark one side of a channel and green buoys mark the other side. You can tell which way you are traveling by the little ditty: "Red-Right-Returning", so if the red buoys are on your right you are coming into the channel, if on the left, you're going out.

    The reason the buoys have bells and gongs is to help mariners tell where the buoys are in fog conditions, not that fog happens very often in Maine... ;c)

    Now I think I need to take a popover break!

  5. That looks like a fun day! The boat ride and the tour and then great food. Way to go.

  6. Sorry you didn't get to spend more time on the island, but it still looked like a great adventure!!

  7. Excellent- just what you I imagined Maine to be - It will take a couple of years but we will get there!

  8. Our family just returned from Acadia a few weeks ago, and I must say, your blog presents so much more then we could have imagined to see. Then I decided that maybe it is in the eye of the viewer. Thanks for making me decide that next trip to anywhere I need to SLOW down and appreciate all that is around me. I think you may have also inspired me to consider Kayaking. Enjoying your blog immensely. Thanks.

  9. Just reading the previous comment from Wendy and I agree. You two certainly get to know an area while you are there. That's the way we like to travel as well (although not quite like we're doing here in Florida right now).

    Acadia certainly has a lot to offer and I could see spending an entire summer there.

    I hope you get back to finish exploring Little Cranberry Island.

    I need to Google fjord. Never seen one, and not really sure what they are. :)

  10. I can taste that popover melting in my mouth. Looks like a fun day and of course it would be with good food, water and museums too.

  11. So can you hitch a ride with the mail boat back over to the island? It would be pretty amazing to live in a place only accessible by boat. No ferry, either?

    I've never had a popover and now I know that I must, sometime, somewhere, have a popover.

  12. oh goodness. . .and here we are scheduled to do the exact same cruise tomorrow. . .phooey. . .perhaps you can convince my hubby otherwise when we meet you guys for ice cream. . . ;)

  13. I believe these were my first popovers. I did recognize them as puff pastries, so I must have eaten relatives of the popover somewhere in my past. I did not take time to taste the popover without the butter and strawberry jam, but with those added, they were delicious!

  14. I only know that in channels, boats keep red to their left and green to their right. Or something similar.

  15. Those popovers look amazing ... some the hype for places like the Jordan Pond House turn out to be just that hype. Good to know that's not the case here.

  16. I think the lunch made up for the quick trip to the island. It all looks wonderful

  17. Popovers? Yes please! That little island town looked really cool.You will have to go back on the mail boat so that you can explore more. Miss you- xxxoo Pam

  18. I remember riding a mail boat once ;) A Haverfordian-I approve. Pretty ride and neat spot for food. - sounds delicious!


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