It was June of 1973 and I was taking my new bride home to “Meet The Folks”. As you know from our “About Us” page, I had met Judy in Traverse City, Michigan in 1971 and we began dating in the fall of 1972. Somewhere before the end of that year I asked, “Wilt Thou?” and she wilted. So in the spring of 1973 we became one and have been that way ever since.
Anyhow, back to the story. We took our first trip together to the great Pine Tree, Chickadee, Vacationland State of Maine. Being a flatlander, Judy had never really experienced seafood until that voyage east. By the end of the first week she was more than ready for the pot roast dinner that my dad had prepared for a Sunday’s meal. She had “et” steamed clams, fried clams, clam chowdah, fried shrimp, fried haddock, fish chowdah, and fried scallops not to mention lobstah and lobstah stew. Needless to say, she had eaten seafood until it was coming out of her ears.
My new bride was beginning to wonder if Mainers ate anything but seafood. Two facial expressions that I’ll never forget was when she met her first boiled lobstah and when she saw that pot roast come out of the oven after a week of seafood - Priceless!
Well, somewhere thrown into that two week trip was a boat ride out to Flat Island for a good old fashioned New England clam bake right on the seashore. There was always a large entourage whenever a clambake was in the making. The Brown’s, the Cassida’s, the Cobb’s, and the Patterson’s would round up their boats and make tracks (or should I say “make waves”) toward Flat Island which is just outside of Seal Harbor located on Islesboro island. It is about a 12 mile trip from Belfast Harbor so it would take around an hour and a half (or three beers) for the cruise. Arrival on the island was scheduled for just before low tide which is the best time to start digging clams.
Flat Island is exactly that, flat with not a single tree in sight. It is a relatively small island (not even a half of a mile to walk all the way around it) and is covered with bushes that are used by gulls, ducks, and other sea birds for nesting purposes. There is one beach area where, at low tide, you can dig clams until your heart’s delight.
Each boat would bring the essentials for any good clam bake; clam hoes, clam rollers (that’s what you put your clams in while digging), large pots, lots of buttah, and plenty of beer. There would be lobstahs and crabs on board as well as “con” on the cob, potato salad, coleslaw, and potato chips; and did I mention plenty of beer?
Several of the men folk would man the clam hoes before the tide changed while everyone else formed a search party to round up as much driftwood as possible to set fire to. The pots would be filled with clean ocean water and seaweed would be gathered to cover the pots with once the clams, crabs, and lobstahs were placed, ever so gently, into the boiling pots of water.
We didn’t take any lawn chairs with us so the cooking fires would be established near logs that had drifted up onto the beach. The logs and blankets spread out on the beach would be as the seating arrangement for the day. Next the potato chips and other munchies would be broken out to help fill the void while waiting the clams, crabs, “con”, and lobstahs to finish cooking. Buttah would be melting on the side.
Finally one of the chefs would call out the long awaited words, “Dinner’s On!!” and, Oh My Goodness!! There’s absolutely nothing better than an Old Fashioned New England Clam Bake Dinner right on the seashore. (Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my computer screen!)
Before you knew it, everyone had eaten their fill, the tide was flooding in, and it was time to pack up the boats and head home. After another 12 miles back to Belfast Harbor, our day had quickly come to an end.
Wow, what great memories I have of growing up on Penobscot Bay. Many of those people have passed on now, but they certainly knew how to make the most out of a day at sea. Hopefully, before I get too much older, I can make one more trip to Flat Island, if for no other reason, to just sit there and soak in the memories of the good times shared on that beach during ages past.
Take Care and May God Bless Until Next Time - - - - -