16
Jun-2017

Discover Eastern Bay aboard the Aaron Thomas

PHOTO COURTESY COASTAL CRUISES

What better way to explore the very picturesque Eastern Bay than in a cabin cruiser with two of the most seafaring siblings in Jonesport.

Meet the owners of Coastal Cruises: Laura Fish, Captain Laura that is, and her older brother, Harry Fish, a very seasoned mariner too.

Both have more than their sea legs.

Harry has sailed all of his life and took several live-aboard hiatuses during years of teaching geometry and trigonometry.

Laura finished her teaching degree, worked one year to pay off her student loans, and then spent more than a decade in the Caribbean, hopping from one sailboat crew to another.

She now teaches English as a second language on nearby Beals Island.

Brother and sister began offering the cruises in 1994 when Laura was living in St. Thomas. The Jonesporter found she missed being on the water when home in Maine for the summer.

The hunt for a boat began.

Harry discovered a 23-foot, fiberglass Penn Yan cabin cruiser in Virginia. Although they were accustomed to more traditional wooden boats, they realized the vessel would work perfectly as a cruiser.

On board the Aaron Thomas, passengers will travel by Little Sheep and Sheep Islands, Graveyard Point, Crow Point, among other islands in Eastern Bay. As part of the coastal cruises, visitors will have many sightings of cormorants, eagles and harbor seals basking on rocks after feeding.
PHOTO COURTESY COASTAL CRUISES

The boat has a nice deck area that comfortably accommodates up to six passengers with cover inside in case of inclement weather.

The cruiser’s 18-inch draught means it can be brought in close to the shore and islands.

The next decision was naming the boat.

“Men usually name boats after their wives or daughters, so I named this one after my son, Aaron,” Laura said.

From early July to Labor Day, the Aaron Thomas offers three-hour coastal cruises in Eastern Bay, which is dotted with islands known as the Great Wass Island archipelago.

Laura provides a running narration about what visitors are seeing while Harry steers from the flybridge.

Laura, incidentally, has her 100-ton captain’s license, which is much less common than the so-called “six-pack” license that limits passengers to six.

The 100-ton captain’s license requires that you spend 720 days at sea, but Laura had more than twice that when she qualified for her license.

When not talking about the history of the islands in Eastern Bay, Laura might be coaxed to talk about other nautical experiences — such as the time she was on a crew bringing a 60-foot catamaran from Key West to Grand Cayman.

“I could see lights in the distance and thought, ‘That must be Havana. If that’s Havana, then Thomas Kelley is right down there.’”

Samuel Kelley settled on Roque Island off Jonesport in 1772 with his wife, son, Thomas, and son-in-law, Francis Cummings.

Kelley died and is buried on Roque Island. The son, Thomas, relocated to Kelley Point in 1773 (the same spot as the Fish family, who are descendants) and became the first permanent white settler on the Jonesport mainland.

Thomas Jefferson Kelley died of yellow fever on a return trip home and was buried at sea off the southeastern tip of Cuba.

“I always carried a few pebbles from home in my pocket and threw them in and said a few words to Tom Kelley, one sea captain to another,” Laura said.

Visitors joining the coastal cruise will have many sightings of cormorants, eagles and harbor seals basking on rocks after feeding.

The Aaron Thomas can pull up close to the 1,100-acre Head Harbor Island, one of the original settlements that at one time had a working quarry.

One side of the island has the crumbly pink granite, best suited for cobblestones, while the other is made up of basalt rock.

Visitors on board the Aaron Thomas also will travel by Little Sheep and Sheep Islands, Graveyard Point, Crow Point, among other islands in Eastern Bay.

As part of the coastal cruises, visitors will have many sightings of cormorants, eagles and harbor seals basking on rocks after feeding.
PHOTO COURTESY COASTAL CRUISES

The cruise takes visitors alongside Mistake Island, which had been part of the U.S. Lighthouse Service since 1857 and then was taken over by the Coast Guard in 1939.

Mistake Island has become is a popular meme online — as in “I know where you were born” — and is listed on an Instagram feed as one of the saddest sounding places on Earth, alongside Cape Disappointment in Washington state, Unfortunate Cove in Canada and Tragedy Pool in Australia.

The 30-acre Mistake Island was the location for the award-winning indie film “To Keep the Light,” which is a fictional account based partly on stories by women lighthouse keepers in the 1870s.

The island was chosen for its lighthouse, the 57-foot Moose Peak Lighthouse, which is now privately owned.

 

Jacqueline's beat covers the eastern Hancock County towns of Lamoine through Gouldsboro as well as Steuben in Washington County. She was a reporter for the New York Times, United Press International and Reuters before moving to Maine. She also publicized medical research at Yale School of Medicine and scientific findings at Yale University for nine years.jweaver@ellsworthamerican.com