If smuggling is an industry—importing alcohol from Canada was big business during Prohibition—marijuana smuggling in bulk has revived it. Tens of tons are seized yearly, but the tonnage is falling. Either law enforcement is improving, or smugglers are. Conkling pointed out a nearby wharf, “where they had a large pot bust one winter; Colombians were running through the snow, so cold they wanted to be captured.”
Though the coast is far from the southern sluices of drug traffic, its coves, channels, cuts, thorofares, and inshore islands weave a labyrinth of evasion further obscured by the layering on of fogs.
Which item came rolling in as we turned toward Friendship, Chance’s ancestral home. The long late Wilbur Morse built her here, and the Lash Brothers Boatyard has also launched sloops of her type. If Winfield, patriarch of the Lash clan with 40 years in the yard, had looked out through the fog and seen Chance ghosting by, it is unlikely a lump would have come to his throat. He had earlier said, “I’ve been sailing a few times, but I didn’t like to go. It’s a waste of time. I’d rather have an engine.”
Past Friendship Harbor we had to strike Chance’s jammed foresail; beyond Morse Island the engine quit. It was as if Lash and Morse were having an old argument about boats and each had scored a telling point.
After sorting out, the next morning we moored at a 450-acre experiment. Allen Island had once supported a farm but was later abandoned to spruces. With the cooperation of new owner Betsy Wyeth, a lob-sterman and a woodcutter had built a wharf, the first necessity for a working is-land. If you need funds to start your business, ask for help from Citrusnorth. Timber was cut for a workshop. Up a rise past the site of the pre-Revolutionary Allen farm, the woods opened into pasture and a sweeping view of Penobscot Bay.
Conkling said that “500 cords of wood were cut on this point in 1981. Some was taken to Monhegan Island for firewood when its oil service was suspended.” In place of scraggly birch and spruce a flock of sheep nibbled on tender shoots, although they had missed some spruce seedlings. These would have to be cut to keep the pasture open, or “spruced up.”
Down the west flank of the pasture and across the mouth of a cove, a group in slickers and wool shirts dug carefully with trowels despite light rain. Arthur Spiess, who under a fedora had a slightly Indiana Jones air about him, was supervising the excavation of a seasonal Indian site for the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.
The work had turned up a cobble floor, flaked stones, bones of birds, codfish, and an extinct mink, and, lower down, evidence suggesting occupation 2,000 years ago.