All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy
January 4, 2018 2:49 PM   Subscribe

10 miles off of the coast of New Hampshire lies Star Island, home of the Oceanic Hotel. During the winter months, the island is home to but a single inhabitant, the hotel's winter caretaker.

(Star Island previously)
posted by Chrysostom (22 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Another writer once recommended to me that I get into the caretaking business in order to have time to write, but it's sure not for me in the wintertime. Winter isolation is the worst. Two ordinary winters in a good-sized Vermont town scared me off.

And yet I am still foolish enough to find this place appealing. Fantastic job for a photographer, too. Every day would be a new cover for a literary quarterly.

I wonder if she's packing heat up there. I suppose she'd have to be.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:19 PM on January 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

That's one of my favorite places on earth, and she's a great artist.
posted by Miko at 3:19 PM on January 4, 2018

That was wonderful and exactly what I needed right now. She sounds like an amazing person and her photography is so good.
posted by octothorpe at 3:33 PM on January 4, 2018

I wonder how much maintenance she has to do to keep all of the systems operational. Hers would be an interesting blog to read.
posted by mightshould at 3:34 PM on January 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

A storm like today's would be difficult.
posted by theora55 at 3:35 PM on January 4, 2018

Will she be retiring soon? Asking for a friend.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:07 PM on January 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

I might be writing "All work and no play makes jack a dull boy" over and over again before too long.
posted by Xoc at 4:29 PM on January 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I’m about a third of the way through The Shining for the first time.
posted by MtDewd at 5:40 PM on January 4, 2018

Been there in the summer, it's pretty barren group of islands. There's a research installation on one but don't know if it's manned year round. The hotel is more a church retreat kind of place than an actual hotel, and dry. The sort of harbor between the ring of islands is deep and rocky so anchoring is not practical for a small boat but two Portsmouth yacht clubs keep moorings for their members and if one in unused it's allowed to be used by a transient boater, a popular mid-week stop between Maine and Mass.
posted by sammyo at 5:51 PM on January 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

ZenMasterThis: Tell them not to get their hopes up. When she retires, applicants will come in... torrents.
posted by BiggerJ at 6:10 PM on January 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

There's a research installation on one but don't know if it's manned year round.

That's Appledore Island, home of Shoals Marine Labs, run as a partnership between Cornell and UNH. The lab is not open year-round, but there are some private residences on that island -
only a few, and seasonal, and no access except for private boat.

The hotel is more a church retreat kind of place than an actual hotel, and dry.

The Oceanic Hotel started out as a Victorian grande dame summer hotel - with a sister hotel, the Appledore Hotel, which burned long ago. When it no longer was profitable, the island - which includes the remnants of the village of Gosport, was purchased as a Unitarian Universalist retreat center. Today it operates separate from any church as a nonprofit corporation. It hosts programs, conferences, and personal retreat stays. Most of them aren't religious - there's a poetry week, a singer-songwriter week, family camp, etc. As you say, there's no bar, but guests are welcome to bring their own booze and enjoy it on the porch most weeks, as long as they're not out of control. The Pelicans who work there certainly have no shortage of substances. There's also no real restaurant - if you take a day trip, which you can do from Portsmouth on the tourist boat Thomas Laighton or from Rye in the converted lobster boat Uncle Oscar, you can sign up for lunch in the guest dining room. If you're staying for a week, you take all your meals in the dining room, family style. There's a tiny snack bar, too.

It's super tiny, it's rustic, it's homey and homely, it's very very plain, it's not luxurious. Yet it's an incredible, gorgeous, elemental place to visit. You can hike the tiny island in under an hour, or ramble out on the rocks to watch the gulls and surf, and be the only person you see for hours any afternoon. You can rock on the porch for endless hours. It's not for everyone, but it's pretty wonderful if it's the kind of thing you like. Even in summer, it feels remote, a trip to the past.
posted by Miko at 6:20 PM on January 4, 2018 [19 favorites]

Thar’s whar it all begun—that cursed place of all wickedness whar the deep water starts. Gate o’ hell—sheer drop daown to a bottom no saoundin’-line kin tech. Ol’ Cap’n Obed done it—him that faound aout more’n was good fer him in the Saouth Sea islands...
posted by glonous keming at 7:49 PM on January 4, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm pretty cool about creepy places, but I think I would have had a heart attack seeing that kayaker coming out an upstairs room.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:08 PM on January 4, 2018

Oh, I've been there. Like 28 years ago. IIRC, it was fun!
posted by aubilenon at 9:06 PM on January 4, 2018

Star Island was founded on the traditions of Unitarian Universalism and the United Church of Christ.

Caretaker: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but I respect his free and responsible search for truth and meaning, and I recognize his inherent worth and dignity, as well as that of every person."

Evil Ghost: "You people are just the worst."
posted by leotrotsky at 7:04 AM on January 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

I went there a few times as a kid for Unitarian Church things. I remember the incessant wind, which would keep a kite up forever (you could just tie the string to something and walk away), and a story they told about a stony islet nearby, something about a woman and her baby hiding from pursuing Indians (?), the baby wouldn't stop crying, and the mother doing the unthinkable.
posted by gottabefunky at 1:02 PM on January 5, 2018

I wonder if you're mixing up your scary stories? There is a horrible murder story about the Isles of Shoals, but not with a baby.
posted by Miko at 3:26 PM on January 5, 2018

The baby story is probably apocryphal; supposedly it happened in Betty Moody's Cave. There is a very sad little cemetery for some children who died in the 1860s of scarlet fever or diphtheria, though, with a headstone marked "I don't want to die, but I'll do just as Jesus wants me to."
posted by bcwinters at 5:14 PM on January 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I remember the incessant wind, which would keep a kite up forever.

Totally accurate. I attended All Star One (the conference retreat that always fell around July 4) a few times with my family as a child, and my aunt's side of the family is full of Pelicans, some of whom met their future spouses out on the island.

I have some great memories of Star Island, but one of my favorites was this glorious dragon made of ginormous old rubber tires out by the art workshop shed.
posted by mostly vowels at 5:50 PM on January 5, 2018

Oh and the snack bar! The lime rickeys and Swedish fish were always a highlight of each afternoon.
posted by mostly vowels at 5:52 PM on January 5, 2018

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