Last Tuesday dawned dim and grey, weather that might have found me back in the studio if I were in Rockport. Instead I was sailing into Stonington harbor. This is a place I visit regularly by car, but the long approach by water looked very different, with its long granite scarps and abandoned quarry.
There are certain parts of the Maine coast I cannot visit without seeing the Manhattan skyline overlaid on the scenery. Much of New York’s pink and grey granite came from here. For example, the blocks for the Brooklyn Bridge were quarried on Vinalhaven and delivered to the city by schooner. The Maine coast was quarried for two centuries to build America.
Most of Deer Isle and the surrounding islands are sitting on what is called the Deer Isle pluton (which is just the technical term for a big lump of intrusive igneous rock). In this area, the rock shelves cleave naturally into long steps that descend to the water’s edge, unless they have been replaced by tumbles of quarried stone.
Stonington is a fairly large town, with many buildings stepping down to the harbor. That was too much drafting for the time it took my fellow passengers to take their shore leave and Captain John Foss to row over to the lobster coop to collect dinner. I decided to paint the public dock, the area I know best because of Penobscot East Resource Center’s annual buoy fundraiser.
After passengers and lobsters were safely stowed, we moved to Russ Island for a picnic. This 40-acre island is owned and managed by Chewonki. Although there is a trail over the top, my new friend Lisa and I couldn’t find it; instead, we scrambled over the shoreline to the Stonington side, where we were finally defeated by a rock face jutting up out of the water. No choice then, but to go overland, which brought us past the disused quarry and back to the trail we couldn’t see from the bottom.
After a lobster festival on the beach we returned to the American Eagle. A lovely sunset was forming to the west. I painted it while Sarah O’Connor hand-sewed the binding to an eighteenth-century corset and cook Matthew Weeks knitted.
Knitting and sailing have an ancient relationship. It is thought that knitting derived from net-making somewhere in the dim recesses of time. Once wool came into common use for knitting, fishermen and sailors took to it. Not only was knitting portable, its end result was warm, weatherproof and especially useful to those who made their living on the sea.