To mother and daughter Claire and Carly Weinberg, seaweed is not just slimy stuff that grazes your feet as you wade into the ocean — it’s a miracle worker.
“It’s just this crazy, amazing thing,” Carly said, her face lighting up. “All the added benefits, the health benefits…we’re trying to teach people that it’s awesome.”
The Weinbergs use seaweeds and hand-picked, air-dried botanicals in their natural bath and body line, Dulse and Rugosa. The name refers to seaweed and a kind of wild rose called rosa rugosa, key ingredients which they harvest from the beaches and meadows of Great Gotts Island.
Only about one mile by a half mile round, Great Gotts lies about one mile from Bass Harbor on Mount Desert Island. No residents live there year-round —the Weinbergs were the last to do so, in the 1980s — and apart from the Fourth of July, there are usually only a handful of people on the island at any given time in the summer.
Claire says the cottage industry was born from their love of natural products. Seaweed shampoo healed her chronically itchy scalp, and they both swear by the Vitamin C found in rosehips. They also sought to do something with their island land.
Their skin-care creations, which range from island body butter to rosehip lip balm to sunburn survival seaweed packs, are sold online and in stores and co-ops across New England.
Plants that aren’t found naturally on the island, such as lavender, chamomile, calendulas, bachelor’s buttons and mint, are grown in their raised-bed gardens.
In the summer, Carly splits her time between the island and Seal Harbor, while Claire’s home base is in Rockland in Knox County.
There is no ferry service to the island, and the island can only be accessed during high tide.
Their yellow house lacks a flush toilet, Internet access and reliable cell phone service. The only electricity is solar-powered, and the roads are dirt. Staying up past 8:30 p.m. is considered late.
But the island also offers few distractions, a peaceful atmosphere and the opportunity for self-sufficiency.
“People either go out there and just love it 100 percent, or they hate it. Completely hate it,” Carly explained. “There’s no in between.”
“It’s either, ‘get me off’ or ‘I never want to leave,’” Claire agreed.
It’s easy to tell which category the Weinbergs fall into.
“I love everything about it,” Carly said.