If you missed some of the Casco Bay Stories from this summer, be sure to check out this compilation! There are a few more stories to come, but we wanted to celebrate the end of summer (autumn is just around the corner!) by sharing these stories about living, working, and playing in Casco Bay.
Vinnie Marotta works for the Maine Island Trail Association (MITA) and is the caretaker of Jewell Island in Casco Bay. Jewell is the farthest island out in the Bay. It’s a popular site for campers and boaters in the summer, and it’s Vinnie’s job to make sure the island is clean and safe. But Vinnie goes above and beyond the call of duty, he connects with almost every camper who comes to visit Jewell.
To hear Vinnie’s story, play the audio story above. Written, produced, and photographed by Galen Koch.
Vinnie on the caretaker boat, anchoring on Jewell Island.
Boats in Cocktail Cove, between Little Jewell and Jewell islands.
Mary and Emma Todd aboard “F/V Aiden and Sadie” in Casco Bay
Mary Todd is a lobsterman. She’s been on the water since she was twelve years old and this summer she’s the only female captain operating a boat out of Chebeague Island. Mary runs her boat, F/V Aiden and Sadie (named after her twin children),with her sternwoman and stepdaughter Emma.
The morning I go to haul with Mary and Emma it’s unseasonably cool, with sunshine breaking through dark rain clouds. This is Emma’s first year going out regularly with Mary, but they’re already in sync. They maneuver around one another and the gear on board - the bait totes and the hoses running from the live lobster tank. Their movements seem choreographed; they work silently as music blasts from the stereo and fishermen banter on the radio. (To hear the sounds of Mary’s lobster boat, watch the audio slideshow below)
Despite the fast pace of hauling traps, there is a calm rhythm on board F/V Aiden and Sadie. Mary hauls the traps in a hydraulic hauler and pulls the trap onto the boat as Emma unlatches the top and takes out the old bait. Mary picks out the lobsters one-by-one, measuring to see if they’re legal. The ones that are too small or too big get thrown back. The lobsters that are just right get placed in a red bin in the cockpit. Emma puts new bait in the trap, closes the top, and sprays the pot with hot salt water to keep invasive sea plants from growing on the metal. Then she swings the trap to the back of the boat and the whole process begins again until the six-trap string is ready to go back in the water. This all happens in a couple of minutes.
Paul Rollins has been scuba diving in Casco Bay and the surrounding waters for over 40 years. The morning I interviewed Paul, we met at Kettle Cove, just south of Casco Bay. Paul showed up at the Cove in his company car – a large 15-passenger van with the words “Rollins – Scuba Associates” on the side. The van is a sort of mobile diving office. There are oxygen tanks, diving suits, and facemasks inside. There’s even a tank of hot fresh water for “showers” after his dives (a much needed luxury after swimming in the cold Maine ocean).
Paul is a commercial and recreational diver. He’s logged over 20,000 dives in his career and his business is 30 years old. He specializes in teaching diving to people with disabilities, and he helped create both the Portland and South Portland Police Dive Teams.
Paul’s stories from the past forty years are far too numerous to recount. When I ask him about some of his favorite diving moments, Paul tells me about swimming with a twelve-foot Beluga whale in Kettle Cove. He recounts a story about untangling a leatherback turtle from a lobster trap line (hear Paul tell this story in the audio slideshow above). And he tells me about watching ducks dive 30 feet below the surface to catch fish.
Paul has seen many changes in and around Casco Bay.
The Trout Brook Youth Conservation Corps - crew members from left to right, Andrew Volent, Brandon Ledoux, Sage Waldron, AJ Romano, Caroline Gleason and team leader Ryan Messier
On a cloudy day in July, I met with the crew members of the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC). Rain fell steadily that morning and by 10 am, despite the peeking sun, the yard beside Kimball Brook was a swamp. The YCC crew members, comprised of five teens and young adults, were unfazed by the soaking grass and sinking mud. AJ Romano seemed excited about the wet ground as he dug the toe of his new Timberland boots into the dirt. It’s only a matter of time before AJ’s pristine boots are covered in mud, and he was eager to speed up the process. The rest of the crew sport scuffed up boots, orange tee shirts, and dirty jeans: the unofficial uniform of the YCC.
“I mean everything on earth needs water… humans, plants, animals, it all revolves around water.” - AJ Romano
Cove Henry is three years old, and he’s a bit of a wild man. It’s mid-July in Maine and I’m with Cove, his big brother Kai, and their parents, Josh and Heidi, on the family’s sailboat (and summer residence) Tiny Bubbles II. Kai, the quieter and more contemplative brother, is sitting in an inflatable kayak, eating seaweed as the sailboat tows him through Casco Bay. Cove is running around the cockpit, asking if he can go to the bow. Josh agrees but not before fastening a rope to Cove’s life jacket.
Heidi tells me that usually they have jacklines set up. Jacklines are rope or wire guard rails that run from the stern to the bow of the boat. The boys attach to the jacklines with safety clips, so they don’t fall overboard. “They can move up and forward and we just clip ‘em in, but we don’t have the jacklines set up right now.” Heidi says as Cove, now securely tied to the boat, scampers to the bow and peers over the edge.
Bob Perry lives on Bailey Island, at the northeast tip of Casco Bay. I met Bob on the working wharf by Cook’s Lobster House while wandering through town with my audio equipment and camera. Bob was loading his boat with lobster traps, getting ready to set another round of traps.
As often happens in rural Maine, I had stumbled upon a resident with a vast amount of local knowledge. Bob is a third generation islander, he has a son and grandchildren and all together the family spans five generations. His great grandfather moved here from Nova Scotia on a sailing vessel, and the family has been on the water ever since.
“I first went out on the water when I was about three… with my father, we’d go up and down the bay, clamming and stuff.”
Nature Day Camp campers appreciating what the coast of Maine has to offer
Growing up in coastal Maine, I spent a lot of time outdoors. Warm Maine summers meant swimming at the local pond, barefoot walks to the ice cream shop, and playing Ghost in the Graveyard on hot, sticky nights. My friends and I would compare the calluses on our feet. Whoever had the toughest summer feet was considered, for lack of a better word, “cool.”
Things have changed in the last twenty years. Research suggests that children aren’t spending as much time outside, and they spend hours in front of screens of all types. We hear phrases like “nature deficit disorder” on the news, to describe the effect that this lack of outdoor play has on children. Kids need time outside. They need to be in nature not just to appreciate the world around them, but for their physical and emotional development.
Children at Nature Day Camp learn what’s in store for the day
Nature Day Camp, a program of the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust (HHLT), offers structured outdoor playtime for kids. The camp’s objective is to combat “nature deficit disorder.” The goal of the camp is to get children away from the screens and into the woods, beaches, and fields that comprise the Maine coast.