The news from Vinalhaven

By Susan Raven | Feb 07, 2013
Photo by: Susan Raven High winds on Lane's Island.

We’ve made it to February and though my camera couldn’t capture the chilly winds whipping the grasses and water out at Lane’s Island, the power of the wind wasn’t lost on those of us out for a hike. The sunlight is stronger now though and the daylight hours are longer each day. There’s still time to raise money for the island Fuel Fund by coming to eat at the Soups, Breads and Decadent Desserts evening on Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 6 p.m. at the Union Church. This annual benefit is a great way to help others, enjoy good food and good company.

School events

At the much anticipated North Haven vs. Vinalhaven basketball games this last week there was a flashmob orchestrated by Rachel Noyes including many willing participants of a wide range of ages who delighted the crowd with a choreographed dance routine. With the Vinalhaven girls winning and the North Haven boys winning, everyone went home with some sort of victory and everyone was talking about when the refs were going to make it off-island with predictions of boats canceled for at least the next day.

Business around town

In continuing to learn more about downtown shop owners that believe in keeping their stores open year round, I spoke with Carlene Michael this week. Carlene owns the Paper Store as we call it, or Vinal’s News Stand as it says over the door. The store is packed with books, cards, candles, office supplies, gifts, magazines, and many other items for sale, and is always packed with good will with conversation. Carlene acknowledges that enough business has to come in during the high season of summer to make it through the lean times of winter. “The summer folks are very loyal and appreciative,” she said. It does seem though that more and more locals are buying things on the mainland where they think things are cheaper. It’s hard to say if that’s more perception than reality though as the ferry costs alone add to your purchase price of mainland goods not to mention the gas and all the other stuff you tend to buy that you didn’t have on your list.

Carlene helped me understand that historically Vinalhaven businesses have worked hard to recognize each other’s stock and not overlap in what they sell and shopkeepers have worked to honor that. In the past there might have been more restaurants open in the winter, and more entertainment in the summer to draw people to the businesses, and less folks buying their stuff on the mainland. That said downtown can still be an important place to meet friends and family, buy what you need, and support your local businesses so that we continue to have local businesses. Try to find a chance to patronize your local businesses and thank them for sticking with it throughout the year and providing an economic and social service to the town.

If you are a year-round merchant and want to weigh in on this topic or a community member with thoughts to add, do feel free to contact me and I’ll try to include your comments in a future column. With the town working on its comprehensive plan, the school working on its visioning, nonprofits working on collaborating more, and various groups fine-tuning their goals as well, it’s a great time to think about how we invest in our town’s viability and structure.

Out and about

Out on a walk mid-week I was struck by how like Iceland Vinalhaven looked. The large chunks of ice in the harbor, the blowing mist, the low light level at mid-day, was reminiscent of the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in south east Iceland. Back in 2003 for our honeymoon we did a camping circumnavigation of Iceland and the similarities between that island and Vinalhaven are striking. Though very different in size, both islands have the fishing villages, with small shacks, cold winters and hearty folks. If you feel at home here, you’d likely do well there, though you might find it isolating at times. Actually, I remember Jud and I getting off the ferry the day we came to interview for teaching jobs and taking a deep breath of the fresh air, bait smell, and salty breeze and saying, “Ah, it’s like Iceland!” It’s good to know we may all have a whole country of kindred spirits not far to the northeast across the Atlantic.

If you have news to share that you’d like to see in this column, please drop me a line at or leave a message at 863-4134.

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