My pace slows while walking on a level trail back to camp. There are shadows here too. A jeep and two trucks on the thoroughfare. I stand aside and watch them pass. The crunch of boots on ice dutifully cross behind me. A door opens, “Enter,” snap-click, “Your 1400 hours report, Sir.” “At ease.” Laughter from the Mess hall slips lightly through the trees . Was it a winning hand or The Burns and Allen Show on the Radio?
I must sit down. There’s so much here! I know. Today’s exploration is only a minute slice of Jewell Island’s time. But what an exceptional time it was! It’s a far cry from the historical ebb and flow of Casco Bay, except for fighting over land, fishing rights, and the bloodshed of war with the “natives.” Now, that’s a perceptual discovery – sarcasm! The norm is selfishness and unrest. Ponder that, Jude. Hmm. That’s the history of man. Really? I think not. I’ve traveled mile upon mile, sometimes hours, others months long and have yet to meet the dangerous person, not even the one who has the aura, “gotta get out of here!”
The truth of my journeys have the reward of connecting with people who share their abundance (no matter the size), who help in need, and are a pleasure to be around. I think that we all prefer to remember these types of moments. Yes, the outcries over the sensationally divisive and frightening daily news is quite loud. However, what I hear and read about the most are the sacrifices people make on behalf of others, to the point of risking life and perhaps losing it to save a stranger. Someone we do not know. Casco Bay’s is chuck full of heroic acts. Whoa Jude, slow down. Get back on track.
What did I see here, today? I saw my feet walk on steps inside cement buildings with a view, scuffling over the prints of men whose sole duty was that of securing America . They were trained in sighting via the trigonometric process of horizontal triangulation. Some men’s paint scraping boots climbed the stairs to observe or keep watch, hour after hour and day after day, scanning for threats within the visual range from any floor of either tower. Others manned the batteries, be it the 202, the AMTB’s or other weapons of defense. “Honor, Courage, and Commitment” amidst smoking, cussing and swearing. I need to learn more about this and the Island’s history in much more detail. I wish that I had taken the time (what time!) to purchase, read and study “The History of Jewell Island” by Peter W. Benoit before leaving.
Whew! Woozy from musings, I head back to camp for some afternoon relaxation. It is time to let go, to pass thought into rest as nature has with the broken derelicts of wood, tar and metal. Trees, shrub, vines, weeds and the like growing over, in and through what once was but is no more.
I take leave of the Punchbowl and the Great Blue Heron. Off to explore, the structures and relics left from WWII.
I think of the men. Did they like it here with the cool damp air and frigid winters? According to my source for Jewell Island History, barracks were hastily built and had no insulation. Water was scarce and tainted with minerals. The batteries were unfinished when the first men arrived, but the towers were built. These were constructed out of concrete (one at 50′ and the other at 80′) and were used as “base-end” stations, coordinating with the station at Trundy Point, Cape Elizabeth. Their primary use was to aid the accuracy of new 12 inch guns, 17 miles range, at Fort Levitt on Cushing Island.
Jewell was also the best choice for harbor defenses, adding observation as an additional use for the towers. It was also a light-station and had Anti mortar torpedo boat batteries. These were 90 mm guns that could fire 24 shots a minute at a range of 10,000 yards. [Info from History of Jewell Island, Maine by Peter W. Benoit, an excellent read.] Click for weapons info and photos
Footsteps o’er shadows
Blocks and Metal
Towers and Storage
China in Pieces
Roof on the ground
Something for nothing
For nothing did happen
Abbie B and me head north stopping by an exposed rock where I look to the east eyeing Fort Gorges. A place I’ve wanted to visit since I first saw it from Fort Williams Park. The first lighthouse of Maine is also located at the park. (Portland Head Light built 1787-1790 as ordered by President George Washington.)
Fort Gorges lies a little over a mile from Portland Harbor. Its construction began in 1857 but was not completed until after the civil war, 1865. The fort is named after Sir Ferdinando Gorges, “The Father of Maine.” Gorges poured some 30 to 40 years of his life, expending all of his resources toward the colonization of Maine. It’s sad to say that Fort Gorges is the only place that acknowledges his devotion to the great state of Maine.
Photo credit: WorldIslandInfo.com / Foter / CC BY Click to view a photo gallery of the Fort. Since access to Fort Gorges crosses Portland Harbor shipping lanes, you may want to make a security call on your vhf radio both ways. Click to find out why.
We continue our northward paddle until crossing a minor shipping lane. I chose this one because it is outside of Portland Harbor and in a lane that is mostly used by small craft. However the small craft often pose more of a danger than the big ones. Pilots of jet skis and “cigarette” boats are self-absorbed and move at high speeds. Bam! What was that? I don’t know. Maybe a piece of garbage or driftwood.
We reach the shallow water that runs along the western side of Great Diamond Island and sit for a while. A lone lobster boat is motoring to the north. A sailboat lazily passes by on its southward track. The island is quiet and I wonder what it sounded like during its early years of settlement.
Yup, a lot of grunting went on as the island was once home for hogs. In fact, it was called Hog Island. The name change was to direct focus to the attractiveness of the island. Folklore says that Great Diamond is based on the sun’s reflection off the minerals of its rocky ledges.
Abbie B and me continuing our own lazy jaunt along Great Diamond’s coast to its north end. Cow island is nearly a stone’s throw from there. We travel between the two Islands to eliminate concern for other craft and meet two men fishing from a bass boat. We exchange hello’s and chat a few minutes before making our way across Hussey Sound. The sea is rolling a bit and a light current meets us making short work of reaching Long Island.
The light is waning as the sun hits the horizon but Abbie B and me maintain our pleasant pace. Long Island is long and it takes awhile to reach the northern end where a narrow channel runs between it and Little Chebeague Island. A lobster boat heads out through it while Abbie B and me watch. The boat’s gentle wake causes us to bob up and down in the water. Water that was blue and is now a grayish-green.
We cross the channel and paddle along the southern tip of Little Chebegue until the rocky shoreline turns to sand. The designated camping areas are on the sheltered east side. However, the tide is still low and I see a rocky protrusion that extends out and along the channel. It’s silly to paddle all the way around it when there is a lovely spot that locals use is right next to me.
We land and I push myself up and out of Abbie B sending her back between my legs. Brr, the water is cold. I’m wearing my dry top from now on! Abbie B slides easily up the sandy bank.
St-r-e-e-t-ch, ah that feels good! Wow, look at that moon. It sits in silence beckoning me to do the same. I do. My eyes trace the sky above and below the small white orb. Peaceful, very peaceful.