Low Tide, Gotts Island, Maine — photograph by author

Years ago, I lived on a small island off the coast of Maine. My life was ruled by wind and tide. In that part of Maine the tide can rise or fall up to 14 feet, over 4 meters. A huge amount of water flows through the channels and between the islands with that amount of tidal change.

I knew the ebb and flow at a glance. I had to. Shorelines that are easy to navigate at high tide become a maze of ledges at low water. Every year green captains ran their boats aground on the bars between the islands and waited for the next high tide to float them free again. We watched the summer
skippers anchor for an island picnic and return to find their boats high and dry at crazy angles among the boulders.

It wasn’t enough to know the coast. You had to know what lay beneath.

The old timers I worked with knew the bottom out to the 100 fathom line. They knew every patch of hard bottom, all the rises, rocks, and shoals out to where the bottom dropped off in the gullies and canyons to the abyss off the continental shelf.

Tourists see the shoreline and take their pictures. They see the separate skein of islands like jewels in the blue green sea. A greater truth lies below, submerged, only partly uncovered with the tide.

The truth that all islands are connected. That no island stands alone. That worlds await discovery, mysteries and hidden places waiting for time and tide to be exposed.

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