A Maine Island Summer, part two: “Mom, does Santa live at Amazon?”

I was in Boston last week to visit a new baby niece, and the check-out guy at Trader Joe’s told me, and I quote: “You look like one of those sun-cooked, salty people.” Hmmm, ok. I responded with something along the lines of, “Excuse me while I go home and lather my whole body in an expensive face mask.” But he did have a point. At this point in the summer I am feeling more than a little “sun cooked and salty.” When we first moved in to Polly Cove for the summer, there was naught but a rusty old water pump that–with some muscle–would bring out a stream of brownish water from an old surface well. No shower, no bathroom, no nothing. Electricity! There was that. But no clean water.

Home sweet Polly Cove
looking up from the water towards Pearl


So fixing our water situation was the first order of business. I didn’t feel great with four kids running wild through prime tick territory without a shower or tub at the end of the day. Of course, we do have 3 lovely hot showers aboard Robin Hood, but going out to the mooring each night proved unrealistic. Water–we got two giant containers for the house, that we filled with town drinking water at our friend’s house. That saved us from littering the world with countless plastic water bottles this summer, but we still needed to solve the dishes/shower problem. Eventually, we came up with a plan for a 1000 gallon cistern under our deck, with a system for collecting rain water and we found an electrician to rig a heater up. We put in faucets in the sink, and an outdoor shower. Its still pretty chilly when there is a north wind (next summer’s goal: a shower curtain!) but the water is clean and hot.

The original rusty hand pump, next to our drinking water solution for the summer


The sleeping quarters are also ummm…how do I put this…much cozier than most people would like. We were initially looking for raw land that we could put a dock or mooring on, but we ended up buying property with two existing cabins. So any amount of indoor space was considered a bonus this summer. One is very small and set back from the water, and affectionately known as “Pearl”. The other is a post-and-beam work of art. Truly beautiful but truly small with 6 people and a dog. I thought I had found the one spot in the entire cabin to change clothes privately…looked down and through the slats of the stairs I was looking at everyone sitting on the couch. So getting dressed is a family affair, as is sleeping. We all sleep in the loft, which just barely fits the three queen size beds. But–it works for now.

The sleeping loft
Gorgeous post n beam inside, was the first project by a local architect
Details like these beautiful handmade paper lights left by the previous owners really made this place feel special from the start


We have plans in the works for several “tiny house” type cabins, designed by the Gologic architecture team. Their work is amazing, the architect and his family are wicked cool sailors, and we are so pumped to break ground. First order of business is a communal bath house. Which brings me to the next delicate issue…a bathroom. There is no bathroom at our house, but a short walk away is an outhouse with a composting toilet. Now, I’m sure some of today’s composting toilets are just lovely and work swimmingly, but–to be blunt–shit only composts so fast. With 6 people using it, and many visitors, our composting toilet is basically just a receptacle. A rather shallow receptacle. Bummer, huh?!  Our bath house will be beautiful with a giant claw foot tub with the smaller kids to pile into, several showers and toilets, and a big hang-out area with couches surrounding the tub. A sauna on one end and a bar in the main room will have all our bases covered. But, this summer, lets just say we have all been VERY up close and personal.

The lovely outhouse


Before I sound too Debbie-downer, let me be clear that this summer has been a real-life fairy tale for us. The way our days unfold is hard to find in today’s world, and we have loved every second. Having less really teaches you to make do with what is there and it’s amazing to realize just how few of the trappings of our Boston apartment or Vermont cabin I miss. Although if I do miss something, I admit my new-found ability to survive with less only has to last as long as it takes Amazon packages to reach the island. Which depends on whether or not said item will even be delivered–sometimes we have to arrange our own delivery from the ferry in Rockland. If it DOES arrive via UPS, it depends on how busy the driver is. Often I drive around town looking for our caretaker’s Land Rover, peeking in the back looking for our boxes. Amazon is an island-dweller’s best friend, and my level of devotion can be summed up by my 3 year old’s recent question: “hey Mom doesn’t Santa Claus live at Amazon?!”

Main Street, Vinalhaven
“Queen Elizabeth I”, the land rover that i cruise town in search of!

I am also rather proud that we resisted the urge to make any improvements beyond the water supply. (not because I’m a glutton for punishment but we DID spend way over our budget…so a little restraint was in order!) To have to stop and wonder when I last looked in a mirror or watched the news is a novel experience. (Mirror–does the car mirror yesterday count?; News–absolutely no idea!)

Vinalhaven harbor
North Haven harbor–we love being in between the two towns. 15 minutes by car to Vinalhaven and 10 minutes by dinghy to North Haven

News here travels by word of mouth, and I’ve learned quite a bit just while standing in line at the bank or the grocery store. The local weekly newsletter, The Wind, is where one can find out what’s going on in town, special events, or just air a grievance about anything bugging you. Aptly named, it is town gossip and useful information all rolled into one.

Margaret Wise Brown scavenger hunt, a search for a hit and run suspect, and a thank you to everyone who helped make an island wedding special


Life rolls along at a different pace here. The people on this island are hardy Mainers, many living a way of life in concert with the sea that is rarely seen anymore. The lack of cell service only helps encourage the real conversations and interactions that happen here every day. I’m sitting in town typing this at a friends house while I “borrow” her washing machine. I was planning to text her and let her know, since she is back to work on the mainland, but I’m pretty sure at least 3 neighbors have already alerted her to this fact. As well as the outdoor shower we took here yesterday and the toddler meltdown that happened on her lawn on our way out. They know it all. And now so does she.

Our adorable in-town hangout. A picture of me taking this picture has already been sent to its owner by at least two casual observers 🙂

When we first arrived on island back in late April, our friend, local EMT and caretaker Jeff, explained to us that everyone waves when they pass on the roads. My husband took this very seriously and would have a small conniption every time I forgot to wave. It usually went along the lines of “OMG lily they are going to know our car and they will all be talking about those a-hole Vermonters who don’t wave, and OMG WTF YOU JUST MISSED ANOTHER WAVE!!!” These days I am a seasoned waver, and we both laugh every time we leave the island and find ourselves waving to every car between here and Boston.

Maybe all this world really needs is a few more people taking an island timeout. Forgetting the news, and seeing their reflection more in their neighbors than in the mirror. I’m just going to mull that over while I go book every beauty appointment on the planet for my return to the city next week…!


11 thoughts on “A Maine Island Summer, part two: “Mom, does Santa live at Amazon?”

    1. I love this!! I live in Key West, and have the same feelings about Amazon ! I’m in Nantucket now, and several people I met were just talking about the same thing!
      I also wave and talk to almost everyone I see on the street and here in Nantucket the tourist are very confused.. in KW it’s just normal. It’s so funny .. I’m originally from New England and I totally see why they think I’m a little nuts! Lol.
      Keep writing and enjoy your travels.

      1. Thank you!!! Hope you’re enjoying Nantucket–one of our favorite places. Key West too for that matter…I grew up in FL and always went to the keys a lot. Keep waving 🙂

  1. As it gets colder if you want an indoor shower, we are the next street over from Erin, just ask her where the twins live!! If we’re not home the doors are unlocked, and there’s a clawfoot tub to pile the kids in if you want!! Welcome to VH!

    1. Awww that’s so nice, thank you!!! We were hoping to stay longer but I think we might take off on our boat in a few weeks. Though I will say–with a north wind today it was already too cold for our shower!! Brrrr!!!

      1. Hey Lily, it’s Lilys Mom ! She is back at school now but you are welcome to drop in at our place too if you need an alternate shower or washer 🙂 We are right next to Sarah too 🙂

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