House For Sale on Swan's Island | The Island With 351 Friends
Yes, everyone who lives on Swan’s Island, Maine, knows everyone else. As to waterfront properties currently available out there, well, we found several–one for, no kidding, $65,000!
We were a half-hour early for the 9:00 a.m. ferry to Swan’s Island out of Bass Harbor (which is some 15 miles southwest of Bar Harbor). So we found ourselves chatting with the ticket lady, Colleen Hyland, who, we learned, besides selling ferry tickets, owns and operates the Harbor Watch Inn on Swan’s Island (swansisland.com). She, of course, knew the two real-estate agents, Belinda Doliber and Christal Applin, who were scheduled to meet us at the ferry landing at Atlantic, one of the three small villages on Swan’s Island. “They’ll show you some nice shorefront properties now available out there,” Colleen promised us.
At precisely 9:00 o’clock, the 16-car ferry pulled out of Bass Harbor. “In bad weather it takes a bit longer than the usual 30 to 40 minutes,” Captain Bob Morehouse told us. Obviously, Colleen had somehow informed him that we were “the Yankee Magazine Moseyer,” and he’d kindly invited us to join him and First Mate Jason Rantala up on the bridge for the trip across a large stretch of open water to Swan’s Island. We felt very privileged. Captain Morehouse explained that they work one week on, one off (when another crew comes on), making six trips a day during the summer, four trips a day during the off-season, and that they dock every night at Swan’s Island. “We’re available for any medical emergency that might arise on the island during the night,” he noted. And, sure, he knew Belinda and Christal. Of course.
And then there they were, waving and laughing, at the end of the pier as we glided in for a landing. They had to be Belinda and Christal, but how did they recognize us before we even introduced ourselves? (Probably because they personally knew everyone else in sight.)
Anyway, within minutes, we’d piled into Belinda’s car and were heading for the first shorefront property they wanted to show us. On the way, we learned that there are currently 351 year-round residents on Swan’s Island, lots more in the summer; 12 miles of paved roads; a general store; a school that goes through eighth grade (high-school students commute by ferry to Mount Desert); several restaurants, coffee shops, and “takeouts”; four churches; a new library; and, well, it’s obviously very much a going community. Belinda, although originally from Marblehead, Massachusetts, has been an island resident for 23 years, while her colleague, Christal, was born on Swan’s Island (as was her father) and even went to the island school.
“Swan’s Island is part of me and my family,” Christal said, adding that quite a few family members, including her father, lie in the island cemetery. Both Belinda and Christal are married to year-round lobstermen, but, like everyone else on Swan’s Island, lobstermen do other things, too–such as carpentry, plowing, caretaking for the summer folks, or whatever. They both agreed that lobsters were plentiful last year, but, they said, “the prices were lousy.”
We’d love to own the first property we visited. This 22-by-24-foot, five-room cottage has the most marvelously spacious wraparound deck within steps of Burnt Coat Harbor, with 1,000 feet of water frontage included. There’s also a separate garage, currently housing kayaks and rowboats. The $249,000 price includes no fewer than 10 acres of hilly woods, with, in season, an abundance of wild berries. Overall, a real gem.
On our drive to the second property on the agenda, we stopped at Mill Pond Park to admire another view of Burnt Coat Harbor, with Swan’s Island Village across the way. “My grandparents’ house is over there,” Christal said as we sat briefly at one of several picnic tables. “Now my brother owns it.”
As we approached the second property, a house and outbuildings with 195 feet of water frontage on what’s called Mill Pond (a saltwater section of, again, Burnt Coat Harbor), Belinda warned us that “nothing has ever left this place.” We soon understood what she meant: Lying on the ground all around several falling-down outbuildings were old lobster traps and tons of unidentifiable debris, next to a good-size two-story house that, sure, might provide shelter some rainy night if you were lost, but, no, it’s no longer livable as is. However! Remember that the 195 feet of frontage and the water view would be wonderful once a few thick bushes that have grown up between the house and the rocky shore were trimmed. And best of all is the price: just $65,000. (Somebody is going to grab themselves a nice bargain!)