Sunday, August 7, 2011

Isles of Shoals

Last weekend Sue and I took our annual summer trip to Rye Beach New Hampshire.  For years, good friends of ours have rented a cottage on the beach, and we typically plan one weekend every summer to visit.  It is our annual dose of beach sitting.  Two days of lounging by the shore, rolling my toes in the sand and watching the full range of body types walking by is about all I can take.  Fortunately it is also a great chance to shoot the seacoast, one of my favorite activities. The weather was perfect, sunny and warm – that is to say, less than perfect for dramatic ocean images, but there were some special opportunities.

Ocean Hotel, Star Island

On Saturday we rode a converted lobster boat 6 miles out into the  gulf of Maine for a brief visit to the Isles of Shoals. The Isles of Shoals is a starkly beautiful collection of dry rocky islands which straddle the border between Maine and New Hampshire. We cruised around the major islands of the group and had the opportunity to briefly explore Star Island. Over the centuries the islands have been used as a fishing base for native Americans and early settlers, and more recently as an isolated summer retreat. The islands vary from small tidal ledges to Appledore Island, which at 95 acres is the largest of the group.

 The second largest island, and the only one with public ferry service, is 45 acre Star Island. This island is used as a religious conference center affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association. During the summer the organization sponsors conferences covering a broad range of religious and secular topics.  In addition to the formal conferences, visitors can come for a “personal retreat” staying for one night or a few days.  Day visitors are also welcome to explore the rocky landscape and its well preserved
Rye Sunrise
historic buildings.  The conferences are held in the old Oceanic Hotel and Gosport House, which are the remaining examples of the Isles of Shoal’s “Grand” hotels that were popular during its peak as a summer retreat. There are also many surviving old stone structures dating back to the original settlement. The most striking of these is the classic 150 year old Chapel which proudly overlooks the surrounding islands from its perch on the modest height of land.


The Ferry from Portsmouth is in.

White Island Light
from Star Island
Despite its diminutive size Star Island provides a treasure of photographic opportunities. The windswept landscape is tough on living things, but there are interesting hardy trees and shrubs as well as an array of wildflowers.  There is also a variety of sea birds in residence and seals can occassionally be spotted patroling the surrounding waters.  The old buildings provide a wonderful glimpse back into hisory from early colonial times to faded 19th century opulence.  It is all set against vistas of the enveloping ocean, punctuated by the rugged surrounding islands, many of which have evocative names such as Appledore, Mingo, and Smuttynose.  It is hard to imagine a more classically situated, small 

White Island Lighthouse
island lighthouse than the White Island Light, lying just to the south of Star Island.  The lighthouse appears as if it had grown directly out of its small strip of rocky ledge.  Sadly I only had about 90 minutes to explore the island this weekend and I was stuck dealing with the brilliant midday light, but I am seriously considering reserving my own “personal retreat” in the near future. What a gift to have this magical place for a sunset and sunrise, or perhaps several.

For more information :Star Island Corporation

For more images check out my Atlantic Coast Flickr Set