travel photography

The Little Village of Stonington Maine

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Stonington, one of the few remaining authentic working waterfront villages of Maine, overlooks a majestic archipelago of more than sixty islands. This is where Jim and I landed on our summer mini vacation. Each year we pick a place in Maine, usually on the coast, that we have not been to before and spend about four days wandering and resting. We usually take nothing more than a bag of books and a bathing suit. That is all that is required in Maine in the summer. The minute we turned the corner and entered the downtown of Stonington, I felt like I had come home, the home I used to visit each summer as a child.

My family, on my Mother’s side, is from Springhill, Nova Scotia. Although that sits a bit inland it does not take very long to get to the ocean. My Grandfather was from over Digby Bay area, right on the water and he was a longshore fisherman. All the little fishing villages in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland look just like Stonington. My son has been coming to Stonington for two years now and encouraged us to visit there. We took his advice and we were just so delighted with the unique little village.

Main St. walks right along the water. You are never very far away from the working docks. Most of the downtown buildings that still hug the harbor were built in the 1800’s. Today Stonington has 325 registered fishing vessels. Expect to hear diesel engines heading out to the sea in the wee hours of the morning. Now, they are fishing lobster all the time. Many years ago it was a granite quarry. The town is lined and built with granite…It’s quite amazing. And if you want to see the fleet of lobster boats leaving the harbor you better be there by 4 am. They go out every day but Sunday. A little side story. Our first night there, we went to a restaurant right next to our hotel. The dinner special was a lobster dinner for $15.99. One lobster and your choice of two sides. I’m a lover of lobster and being on the ocean at home I get my fair share of it but never for this price. When the waitress came to take our order, I asked for the lobster special. In a very sad voice she said to me “I’m sorry, that couple over there, just got the last two lobsters”, my eyes must have shown my disappointment. She then said “if you don’t mind waiting about 10 more minutes the next boat is on it’s way in with the next load of lobsters” Of course I waited. Now that is what we call a fresh lobster in New England. It was wonderful to say the least and so were the fresh steamers we got to go along with it.

In 2014, over 16 million pounds of lobster were caught with a value of $57 million , giving Stonington the distinction of being the number one fishing port of Maine. Early lobstermen used hoop nets with joints to catch lobster. They would catch a buoy, pull hard to close the net, then hoist the net up from the bottom. Later, more modern traps were invented, made of wooden lathe and hand knitted nets. Today all traps are wire mesh. Boats can usually be seen arriving and unloading their catch in the late afternoon. We were able to view them unloading one afternoon and it was quite fascinating…

So, for our short visit there this year we learned a lot about lobstering even though we are familiar with that big boy at home. It’s quite different to see it actually happening and with such a rhythm of its own. The coast is much more rocky here than where we live and the people are much more laid back. Neighbors greet neighbors and people invite you in and share their views with you. Also lots of chatting in the ice cream lines. They have a new modern coffee shop and the local drug store sells everything you would ever need including groceries. Nothing fancy. Bright wild flowers, beautiful colors on the houses, quaint front yards and back porches. Dog friendly. Every room in the town taken. No large hotels here folks. It was the perfect place to destress and smell the salt air and the mud flats at low tide. Those smells bring me home…home to Nova Scotia and home to Massachusetts. I have a lot of ocean stories inside me. Those will have to be for another day…because today I just want to relax into the photos of Stonington…and take you back with me…get a cup of tea and pull up a chair.

The backyard of a lobsterman. So many different colored buoys in each back yard…A working town.

The backyard of a lobsterman. So many different colored buoys in each back yard…A working town.

Around town and along Main Street. The building on the left is where we stayed. Ocean views everywhere.

Around town and along Main Street. The building on the left is where we stayed. Ocean views everywhere.

Beautiful harbor views on one side of Main Street. Shops and restaurants on the other side. You don’t really need a car to get around town. Jim and Gracie going to the book store.

Beautiful harbor views on one side of Main Street. Shops and restaurants on the other side. You don’t really need a car to get around town. Jim and Gracie going to the book store.

Late afternoon, unloading the lobster boats…They work fast and its good to keep out of the way.

Late afternoon, unloading the lobster boats…They work fast and its good to keep out of the way.

Gorgeous sunsets over the ocean. To me, the best sunsets are always over water.. Finale shot of Pumpkin Lighthouse on the way out of Stonington.

Gorgeous sunsets over the ocean. To me, the best sunsets are always over water.. Finale shot of Pumpkin Lighthouse on the way out of Stonington.

I hope you enjoyed your mini trip to Stonington as much as we did. Sometimes we don’t have to travel far or stay away long to find the beauty that surrounds us. Four days was wonderful here. I did take lots more photos but I left some for you to discover on your own if you ever get Downeast. Maine is a unique and rural state. For me, I always find the joy of going home when I come to the coast of Maine and visit these little villages that never seem to “grow up”. That reminds me: they purposely do not have internet service in this village. You literally have to power off in town. In an emergency, you can go into one of the restaurants for service but that’s it folks…How cool is that these days. Honestly, we never missed it. I think we have found another place to revisit when we just need a short break from “life”. Stonington totally took my breath away…

There is a quality of life in Maine which is this
singular and unique.
I think.
It’s absolutely a world unto itself.
Jamie Wyeth