Square Deal Garage

Route 15 runs right into the Square Deal Garage on the outskirts of town. It’s an iconic, well maintained, throwback building that has a a distinctive Maine feel to it. When you see the red Pegasus, you know you’re almost to Stonington.

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Stonington, 6:04 a.m.

A truly glorious sunrise over Stonington Harbor this morning, as a cool breeze blows and a rooster crows in the distance. This is a pretty little corner of the world, and one with moderate summer temperatures, too.

The Mini-Village Of Stonington

Small towns always seem to be filled with interesting characters and interesting stories. Stonington is no different.

One such story lies behind the “mini-village” of tiny houses and buildings found at one end of town. You can get a sense of their scale from the picture with Betty, below.

The buildings are the handiwork of Everette Knowlton, who began building them in 1947 and placed them on his property. By the time he died in 1978, he had constructed an entire village, complete with church, school, grocery store, barns, gas station, and homes. The purchaser of his property after his death donated the village to the town, and every year townspeople store the buildings for the winter and return them in the spring for everyone to enjoy.

I think the last part, about the citizens of Stonington storing the buildings for decades, is the coolest part of the story. It tells you something about the community.

A Friendly Spot On The Side Of The Road

After leaving Portland and heading north on 295 and 95 until we reached the outskirts of Augusta, we turned onto Route 3 and headed due east. From there, it’s two-lane road and local places — no chains or franchises.

This morning Russell and I stopped at one of those local spots, Lori’s Cafe, for a late breakfast. It’s right on the side of the road along Route 3, in a tiny town called Liberty. It’s the kind of place where the wait staff is friendly and unhurried, the food is served piping hot, there’s a box of little candies by the door — and you might just get your excellent coffee in a “hello Beautiful” cup. My pancake and sausage patties really hit the spot, too.

Lori’s Cafe is a great place to linger over a second cup of coffee. . . so we did. It’s also a great place to come back to . . . so we will.

The Mark Island Lighthouse

Every day we hear a low, sad sound — a kind of moan that comes in from somewhere out in the Stonington area harbor. It’s a very melancholy sound to hear on a quiet summer evening.

The sound is made by the Mark Island lighthouse, to caution ships that they are approaching the shore. We chugged past the tiny lighthouse on Sunday, on our tour of the harbor. The Mark Island lighthouse foghorn obviously serves a useful purpose, but why must the sound be so plaintive? Why not a happy burst of uplifting music instead?

Tools Of The Lobsterman’s Trade

Yesterday we went our for a boat ride on a beautiful day.  We were the guests of our neighbors and cruised around Stonington harbor and the nearby islands aboard their lobster boat.

They say you can learn a lot about an occupation by its tools.  For a lobsterman, the principal tool is the lobster boat.  Our neighbors’ boat is a hardy, trim craft that is clearly built for work.  Every inch seems to be devoted to the pursuit of the tasty crustaceans that dwell on the ocean floor.  There’s a lot of open space at the back of the boat for the lobster traps and the bins and buckets that hold the bait — which typically is some kind of fish that lobsters crave, occasionally mixed in with “de-haired beef hide” flavored with water, salt, and lime.  De-haired beef hide?  Our neighbor explained that the material is so tough that lobsters can munch on it for days, meaning they’ll hopefully stay in the baited trap, chewing away ,until the lobsterman hauls it up.

Every lobsterman has his or her own unique buoy, marked by color and configuration.  When they arrive at one of their buoys, they use a gaffer to catch the rope connecting the buoy to the trap, then haul the trap to the surface.  Our neighbor says he typically tries to check about 275 of his traps every day on the water. — and his days start at 5 a.m.  If there is a lobster inside the trap, the lobsterman uses the tool pictured above to stretch the yellow rubber bands and place them over the lobster’s claws, then put the lobster into a large plastic tank filled with water.  The trap gets baited and then returned to the ocean floor.  And every square inch of the cabin — and the exhaust pipe for the diesel engine, shown below — is used to store equipment, navigational monitors, knives, brushes, ropes, bungee cords, and other tools of the trade.

As I said, they say you can learn a lot about an occupation by its tools.  A lobsterman’s tools tell you that lobstering for a living is hard work.