It’s 6 a.m. and it looks like rain. I’m standing in my parents’ rental cottage in St. George with a thick head and only half a cup of coffee in me. I’m thinking about how I don’t have the right day pack with me and how am I going to carry all the little things one needs for a day adrift on the island. I’m thinking how I might like to stay behind and spend the morning reading the extensive library of mystery novels that line the living room bookshelf. I’m thinking about another cup of coffee.

But the Laura B is waiting for us and it’s time to go. My parents and my Aunt Pat and I pile into the car and head down Route 131 toward Port Clyde. I’m think maybe I shouldn’t have walked down this road in the dark late last night. I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t have blown up at my mother for not solving climate change. I’m thinking about how the Airforce just announced their investigation into the bodies they found in the engines of the planes departing Bagram Airport.

The parking attendant at the pier is chipper in the early morning calm. We are tickled to be ushered to a parking space on the dock itself. We are chatting with strangers, the other island-goers gathered at the end of the pier, all waiting to board the good ship Laura B. There is the sweet and inquisitive couple from New Jersey. There is the wise-cracking insurance adjuster from Belfast who rides the island circuit, the only one of us here for work. I think about jumping off the dock, just to stir things up and maybe wake up a little bit. I wish I had time for a breakfast sandwich from the general store.

The Laura B is a wooden boat. She was a mine sweeper in the Pacific theater in 1945. Made of wood, she could creep up close to the magnetically charged mines so her crew could defuse them. She saw action in the Philippines. She was judged so fine a vessel they didn’t skunk her in the south seas when the war was over. They sailed her home by way of the Panama Canal. Eighty years later she brings the daily mail to Monhegan. This knowledge brings me solemn satisfaction, as does the polished hardwood of the passenger cabin. If a boat has been completely refastened, is it still the same boat?

We are all masked up again, all of us in the cabin of the Laura B on the 7 o’clock run to Monhegan. We are all masked up again and I can’t help but feel like the world is crazy. The world is crazy in fact, and my mask is my little piece of control and safety.

We cut through Herring Gut and the captain tells us about Hupper Island and how Chief Justice Roberts has a house out there. Now I’m thinking about how our country is slowly descending into antidemocratic chaos and how I wish I could just have a nice vacation with my parents without thinking about wildfires or the Delta variant or the Proud Boys. I’m thinking about how nice it would be to see a puffin in the wild before they are gone. I’m thinking about how lucky I am that my parents taught me to love wild animals and history and how maybe democracy would stand a chance if more people did that. I wish the crew was serving breakfast sandwiches.

We are rapt as we watch a bald eagle steal an osprey’s breakfast. All the passengers are united by this violent display. We smile around at each other, each of us assuring the others that we are moved by the brutality of nature. I wonder for the millionth time if the successful resurgence of the American Bald Eagle could be having a negative impact on the loon census. I wonder if the Taliban is capable of change.
Then I think about how the Archangel sailed these waters, and I am calmed by the film reel of history. I pretend that this isn’t the Laura B at all but the Archangel and I am following Weymouth into the New World. Never mind that we are about to deliver smallpox to the Wabanaki; we are here to be men of adventure and purpose. We are here to be pioneers and world-makers.

We sail by an ancient farmhouse on an island that was preserved by Betsy Wyeth and now belongs to Colby College.

I want to scramble over each of these islands. I want to climb the rocks and know the shade of the few trees that grow out here. I want to be a small mammal that resides here, living by the tides and the seasons. I could coexist with the collapse of society because I would have no sense of history.

Out on the open Gulf the water is choppy, but the sky is clear. For a while it is easy for the four of us to sit here and talk of simple things. I am so glad to still have all of them and I wish we could just stay here without the world creeping in. But it does creep in, and I won’t jump off the dock because we still need each other.

Off the bow now I can clearly make out the shape of Manana, emerging in the morning haze. We are approaching Monhegan, and the day still lies ahead of us.

W. W. Matteson is a writer who lives in Hope, where he weaves tales about Maine’s coast and mountains.