Why "Safely Out to Sea?" What does that mean?

Eva Murray. Monday, Aug-16-10

"Safely Out to Sea" is Eva Murray's personal website. Murray is a freelance writer who lives full time on Matinicus Island in Maine. You may link from here to Eva Murray's writing in area publications such as Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors; Working Waterfront; Down East online and the (Rockland) Free Press. There are archived columns from the op-ed pages of the Knox County Times, the Lewiston Sun Journal, and other Maine newspapers. Read some of her essays and articles about island life and about other things, view some images of Matinicus Island, check out her book "Well Out to Sea," or send her a note.


Matinicus Island is located at the approach to Penobscot Bay in the mid-coast region of Maine. A small rocky outpost roughly 23 miles from Rockland, the nearest mainland city, without daily ferry service or any guarantee of transportation to or from the island in bad weather, the island community has a well-deserved reputation for isolation, independence, and defiance. Our resident population averages below 100 people, and can be well below that in the deep winter. Even during the summer "tourist season" Matinicus is the smallest of small towns. The weather can be ferocious, and the sense of being truly cut off from the rest of the world when sea conditions make boat travel unsafe contributes to the islanders' sense of their own resilience and strength.

Sometimes, the meteorologists on the evening news reassure the mainland population that with a bad storm coming, they need not worry as "the storm is headed safely out to sea." While that news is wonderful for Portland and Bangor, the reality is often that the storm is then headed straight toward us. We hear the expression "safely out to sea" on the weather report as an indication that the mainlanders have forgotten that people live out here on the islands, and that we are about to get hammered by the wind...again.

There is another meaning, however. For centuries, and certainly over the past couple of years, Matinicus Island has been called a place of lawlessness, anarchy, and violence. In roughly 300 essays and articles published over the past nine years, I have tried to make the point that such a characterization does not accurately represent all of us, all of the time. It is true--there are no police on the island, sometimes people come here to avoid responsibility and they bring their troubles and their misbehavior with them, there has been some rough stuff lately and lobstermen do live largely by their own ethic"”but those of us who call this place home feel safe in doing so. I can leave my door unlocked at night and the key in my automobile. To those who believe Matinicus to be a den of iniquity, I ask: can you do those things where you live?

Eva Murray first came to Matinicus as the teacher in the island's one-room school. She is a freelance writer, an EMT, runs a small seasonal bakery from her home during the summer, is married to the island's electrician and has raised two children on Matinicus.