A Mystery Harbor in words, not pictures

May 2005

By Dodge Morgan

The sail to my Mystery Harbor was close-hauled in a 12-knot southeasterly breeze. There is a soft one-foot bright-blue sea chop and clear, blue skies. Air temperature and water temperature are both 80 degrees. The horizon is pocked with cookie-cutter white sloops obviously sailed by crews determined to test the known absolutes of set and trim, sheets hard down on a broad reach or sails uniquely half-raised or sheets artistically waving in a close reach.

The entrance to Mystery Harbor is straightforward, the channel well buoyed but also paved between roadside fences of breakers on reefs. The major obstacle is a haphazard array of small boats on random headings with highly populated decks holding an utter disregard for lookout. Anchored center harbor are two huge power craft – small ships actually – festooned with flags of unknown origin or identification. There is more skin showing around than in a National Geographic article on early anthropology.

This harbor is rimmed with white beaches and buzzing with activity, but only in select, clan-like zones. Snorkel spouts and fat asses burp on the surface. In a broad mooring area lie more and more of those cookie-cutter sloops, now made up with impressive displays of loose lines and laundry.

Mystery Harbor is quite large consuming perhaps a hundred acres of space. Nowhere is the water depth more than easy anchoring with a four-to-one scope. This presents us with alternatives. We can shoulder ourselves into one of the floating trailer parks or we can choose to isolate ourselves. The key decisions here are deciding to participate in the shoreside social turmoil and listen continually to other people’s bad music and hideous laughter or to seek quiet and neighbors far away enough not to discern we are both naked on deck.

We select the latter, even if it means someone has to cook something later. We anchor just off an idyllic island, high and steep-sided, lushly carpeted and not quite hiding in a quiet harbor corner, but nonetheless occupying one because of the human instinct to gather when on vacation. We are, indeed, alone here.

There are three beaches on the fringes of this island you might have seen in advertisements or in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. On the harbor-facing island side, there is what appears at first to be a living community of buildings. But what is very puzzling here is that this island is literally and totally abandoned and has been for several years now. Once a small but exclusive resort, it is now a ghost village. It was left by people in a hurry, in many cases not even stripping beds. The wonderful walking paths over the island are becoming overgrown and the facilities are graying. The only evidence of protective attention is the occasional skimpy barbed wire barrier randomly placed.

Mystery Harbor – and this entire part of the world – begs for nakedness and nakedness begs for solitude. This is not actively encouraged here. Americans are afraid of their own nakedness and critical of the nakedness of others, and Britons are addicted to drab clothing. But we are too old (me) or too uninhibited (she). The whole setting – the abandoned island, the weather, the temperature, the beach to ourselves, a sailboat that is a joy to row up to, Dave Brubeck and nakedness – is highly erotic.

As it should be. (You must excuse me for ending my story here. I do so to avoid again reading in “Letters” of the pain my “off-color” words have caused the two ultra-conservative Points East readers.) So name this Mystery Harbor and you could be awarded a rare T-shirt having absolutely no words or designs silk-screened thereon. Hint, it is not in Maine.

Dodge Morgan broke all sorts of records when he single-handed American Promise around the world without stopping in 1985 and ’86.

He lives on Snow Island in Harpswell, Maine.