A World of Unique Character and Natural Beauty

Flying Cold

March 13, 2015      Author : Maine Island Living    Category: Community, Environment      2 Comment(s)


As the waters along the coast and between islands froze for the first time since 2003, and snowstorm after snowstorm pummeled the region, Penobscot Island Air (PIA) went into high gear to help struggling communities.

Take off by Taylor610x407“The folks who live on islands are special,” says PIA’s owner, chief pilot and president Kevin Waters, “To be able to help, assist and feel part of the communities is rewarding.”

On Matinicus, the farthest outpost 18 nautical miles from the Rockland Harbor and a designated plantation under Maine State Law, both plow trucks were disabled and the harbor iced in, preventing crews from clearing roads for a week. PIA airdropped hydraulic hoses, alternators, bolts and nuts and hydraulic fluid to get the equipment going. With plows moving again folks on the ground cleared Matinicus’ 1,700-foot gravel landing strip, and PIA filled two planes with a John Deere snow blower for a tractor that the plantation could use to get to its power station.

Fox Islands Thoroughfare between Vinalhaven and North Haven islands

Fox Islands Thoroughfare between Vinalhaven and North Haven islands



North Haven’s postmistress Mary Hurtubise normally makes a quick boat ride commute across the Fox Islands Thoroughfare from her home on Vinalhaven. With the Thoroughfare iced over, PIA had to fly her to work—adding employee inter-island delivery to PIA’s responsibility of flying mail from the mainland. North Haven students continued art and vocational arts classes with Alice Bissell and Terry Goodhue thanks to flight availability for these Vinalhaven-based educators teaching at North Haven Community School.

Tackling the Thoroughfare – Coast Guard vessel Tackle captain and crew worked tirelessly breaking up Fox Islands Thoroughfare ice, allowing ferries to run.  An outboard skiff run between islands became impossible, however, necessitating PIA to fly people to their jobs island to island.

Tackling the Thoroughfare – Coast Guard vessel Tackle captain and crew worked tirelessly breaking up Fox Islands Thoroughfare ice, allowing ferries to run. An outboard skiff run between islands became impossible, however, necessitating PIA to fly people to their jobs island to island.



Coast Guard’s Tackle – Tackle by air, heading east as the ebbing tide pulls ice floes out to sea – photo by Tomas Sowles

Coast Guard’s Tackle – Tackle by air, heading east as the ebbing tide pulls ice floes out to sea – photo by Tomas Sowles



And on Long Island off of Friendship, a lone lobster scientist socked in by ice had food stores replenished thanks to thoughtful friends and PIA pilot Tomas Sowles.

These are just some of the special flights PIA engaged in this winter.
Tomas Sowles – Purdue University graduate Tomas Sowles has been a pilot for 7.5 years, earning his license at 18.  From North Yarmouth, Maine, Sowles has been flying with PIA for three years.  PIA employs 12 pilots, five fulltime and the rest seasonal.]

Tomas Sowles – Purdue University graduate Tomas Sowles has been a pilot for 7.5 years, earning his license at 18. From North Yarmouth, Maine, Sowles has been flying with PIA for three years. PIA employs 12 pilots, five fulltime and the rest seasonal.



As critically important as it is to keep towns clear of snow and powered up, students educated, mail delivered and individuals fed, PIA does not stop there: In 2014 they flew 178 Medevac flights from un-bridged islands. Within the peaks of this year’s cold weather snaps when island populations plummet, they have already flown 15 Medevac flights. North Haven EMS Crew Chief April Brown observed, "Penobscot Island air plays a critical role in island living, particularly when we need to evacuate patients who need immediate medical attention which cannot be afforded in our remote environment. Essentially, we couldn't do what we do without them, and are forever thankful to their entire crew."

True to his humble self, Waters credits others for PIA’s ability to land and serve, “Duck Brown on North Haven, Nick Barton and the Vinalhaven Public Works Crew and Nick Philbrook, Clayton Philbrook, Chad Walters and Paul Murray of Matinicus all went above and beyond in keeping the airstrips open and usable. Hand salute to them all.”

Waters adds, considering the likelihood of more such winters ahead, “I have looked at a set of skis to outfit at least one airplane, but they are $17,000 per set and I don’t have that kind of cash.”

Care package airdrop pilot Sowles was Maine Island Living’s flight captain on March 3rd. Much of the ice had melted by then, yet the harsh beauty of New England rural winter continued to leap from the lands and sea as we flew over these extraordinary communities.

PIA logged about 168 flights during January and February supporting Maine islands including flying the postmaster, teachers and health care workers between islands normally accessible by water.

PIA logged about 168 flights during January and February supporting Maine islands including flying the postmaster, teachers and health care workers between islands normally accessible by water.



Swans Island with Seal Cove and Mackarel Cove frozen over.  Mount Desert is in the distance.

Swans Island with Seal Cove and Mackarel Cove frozen over. Mount Desert is in the distance.



Traces of the ferry left in the ice approaching the Swans Island Terminal in Mackarel Cove

Traces of the ferry left in the ice approaching the Swans Island Terminal in Mackarel Cove



The fleet at Burnt Coat Harbor, Swans Island remains clear of ice.

The fleet at Burnt Coat Harbor, Swans Island remains clear of ice.



Head Harbor at the southern end of Isle au Haut with Long Pond , a revered wilderness lake in the distance.

Head Harbor at the southern end of Isle au Haut with Long Pond , a revered wilderness lake in the distance.



North Haven ferry, Captain Neal Burgess, exits the Fox Islands Thoroughfare on a cold morning  after plowing through the ice clogged harbor.

North Haven ferry, Captain Neal Burgess, exits the Fox Islands Thoroughfare on a cold morning after plowing through the ice clogged harbor.



Many areas among Maine's islands were totally iced over.

Many areas among Maine's islands were totally iced over.



North Haven buried in snow and locked in ice.  The small area of open water near the ferry pen was created by the ferry maneuvering at the landing.

North Haven buried in snow and locked in ice. The small area of open water near the ferry pen was created by the ferry maneuvering at the landing.



Lane Island and Carver's Harbor, Vinalhaven.  In the distance can be seen the three Fox Islands wind turbines.

Lane Island and Carver's Harbor, Vinalhaven. In the distance can be seen the three Fox Islands wind turbines.



Maine Island Living writer and award-winning photographer Kate Hotchkiss Taylor lives on North Haven, Isle au Haut and the waters between (when they are not iced over).  --Photo by Reem Nakhleh

Maine Island Living writer and award-winning photographer Kate Hotchkiss Taylor lives on North Haven, Isle au Haut and the waters between (when they are not iced over). --Photo by Reem Nakhleh













www.katehotchkisstaylor.com


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