Category Archives: off season

The Essence of Summer: the Pine Island Skiff

Pine Island’s off-season has a predictable rhythm. The turning of the calendar triggers familiar tasks year after year – October is Registration Month, December yields The Pine Needle, and each May we pass an exciting milestone as the first docks go in the water. As alumnus Ned Bishop says, “Once the big docks are in, everything is possible.” This year putting the docks in is especially exciting because it brings us tangibly closer to our long-awaited Opening Day. Once the docks are in, the KWS – our 28-foot launch – arrives, and soon our fleet of catboats and rowboats will be moored and bobbing in the cove, awaiting beginning and experienced sailors and oarsmen alike.

Six of the boats that will be moored in the cove are Pine Island Skiffs designed specifically for Pine Island by boatbuilder David Stimson. Returning campers will remember John, Paul, George, Ringo, and Stu, but there’s a new addition this year – Pete.

Pete is the result of a small but successful fundraising campaign supported by many generations of Pine Island oarsmen as well as hundreds of hours of time donated by the talented and generous alumnus and super-volunteer Rob Whitehouse. With the original plans to our first skiffs lost, Rob re-created them using a combination of engineering skills, complicated math, and possibly some magic. This monumental project caught the attention of the folks at Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors and is featured in their May/June 2021 issue. I hope you’ll all take the time to read this excellent article by Donnie Mullen – The Essence of Summer and a Skiff Designed for Lake Use whether or not you’ve spent time in these skiffs. And I hope you’ll join me in thanking Rob Whitehouse for his tremendous work.

Thank you!

Earlier this month, we hosted a Campfire to close out our shortfall campaign, a months-long fundraiser to help us through our cancelled 2020 season and to set us on firm ground to meet the challenges ahead.  The event featured current campers and several generations of alums, all of whom volunteered their time to produce quality campfire entertainment.  We’re very happy to report that our Shortfall Campfire pushed us over the finish line. Thank you! 

In so many ways, our worlds have shrunk. Almost all of us have spent more time with our immediate households than ever before, and we’ve seen less of our friends, extended family, and community. Even our Pine Island community had to be apart this summer. But in many ways, Pine Island has grown. We stayed in touch with our campers via Zoom, video chat, phone calls, and hand-written letters.  We reconnected with long-lost alums and welcomed new families into our community. And in the end, over 400 people gave to our Shortfall Campaign. Each one helped make it a success. We’re grateful to the friends, parents, alumni – and campers – who helped us get there.

Thank you very much for your loyalty to our beautiful island. We’re looking forward to a happy reunion in 2021, thanks to this great community.

Akka Lakka,
Sumner Ford

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

May 18 was a somber day, despite the bright sunshine and spring flowers in full bloom.  We spent the day letting the PIC community know that camp would not open in 2020.  Knowing that we had made the right decision definitely did not make it any easier, and I felt sad, nostalgic, and profoundly mournful all day. 

I spent much of the day at the desk in my office on the second floor of our house, which offers a perfect vantage point for observing spring migrants feeding in the maple trees in the back yard and a spinney of birches in the side yard.  Every year I see an amazing number of warbler species – up to 16 in a season – without ever leaving the house.  Although May 18 was a bad day for Pine Island, it was a great day for spring birding.  In addition to the usual cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, cedar waxwings, and downy woodpeckers, I saw yellow, parula, black and white, Wilson’s, and magnolia warblers, redstarts, and chimney swifts. 

But there was another bird flitting energetically among the birches, definitely not one of the usual suspects.  After watching it closely through my binoculars for a few minutes and consulting my Peterson’s guide, I determined that it was a blue-gray gnatcatcher, a bird I had never before seen here in Brunswick, Maine and had seen only once before in my life many years ago at Whitehead.  Watching its tireless activity and cheery aspect was a bright spot in an otherwise bleak day.  Could this delightful little bird be an emissary from King Kababa, sent from Mt. Philip to remind me that Pine Island had been in tough places before and would find its way out of this one too?  Blue and Gray, resourceful, optimistic, energetic, hard-working, cheerful – a sign from the King if ever there was one.

Photo: Jesse Gordon/Audubon Photography Awards

Whoa, King Kababa!

With high hopes for a wonderful reunion back on Great Pond in 2021,

Emily Swan

Password: “Take Pine Island With You”

Every day at camp between tent cleanup and morning activities, campers and counselors gather together in Honk Hall on well-worn wooden folding chairs to hear a story. The role of storyteller falls to a different counselor each day and their task is simple: tell about a moment when you faced a dilemma or a tough situation, when you found humor in an unexpected place, when you stepped outside your comfort zone, when you failed or made a mistake. At the end of the story, the password of the day is declared, a simple statement to remind everyone about the lesson.  Today, Director Sumner Ford offers this Password:

This winter I had the pleasure of traveling to Seattle to meet with prospective campers, current campers, and alumni. During my trip I reconnected with Woody Hoyt, who was one of my favorite counselors from my days as a camper. Woody was my tent counselor in Tent 11 and also led me and seven others on PIC’s renowned Senior White Mountains trip that same year. As we gathered in our host John Pollard’s kitchen, Woody and I looked through his photos from that trip, old 3×5 prints taken with his disposable camera. Looking at those photos, I quickly connected with my 13-year-old self and went back to a place where I faced one of the biggest challenges of my camper career. 

The steep, imposing cliffs of Mt. Webster lived in infamy in the Pine Island community and I wasn’t sure that I had what it took to make it up the mountain. Three days of hiking did little to alleviate my fears. The morning that we set out from Ethan Pond, my fellow campers sensed my concern. Those who were feeling stronger selflessly volunteered to carry some of my group gear. Our goal was communal — to reach the top of Mt. Webster — but each of us would need to succeed as individuals to achieve our goal. Mt. Webster was only attainable if we looked after each other. As we ascended the near-vertical face of the mountain, we boosted one another with words of encouragement. It wasn’t easy, but we made it – together.

Pine Island offers many ways for campers to conquer challenges and achieve their goals. Many campers focus on sailing and paddling and every one of them has a story of strong winds and tired arms. Others spend hours in Honk Hall on a Saturday, memorizing lines and donating all of their day to entertain their friends during the night’s Saturday Night Show. Whatever path you carved for yourself at Pine Island, it was paved with selflessness and a strong sense of community. Now, more than ever, we all follow that path.

The last password every Pine Islander hears before departing for home is “Take Pine Island with You.” In this stressful and uncertain time, I hope your memories of camp will buoy your spirits and serve as a lasting reminder that selflessness and a concern for others are the foundation of every great community. Today, more than any other day, take Pine Island with you.

Akka Lakka!