This article appeared in the Forecaster Newspaper 1999
Opinion – John’s Column (by John Cole) 1999
Maine folks are among those responsible for at least some of that heavy traffic you must have complained about at least once by now. And like a great may other Maine folks, the Boss and I were on the road last week, headed Downeast for a few days in an enchanted world. Our destination, thanks to the kindness of friends, was the Claremont Hotel on Southwest Harbor.
Now 115 years old and growing, the Claremont has been popular for more than a century, and with good reason. Well, several good reasons. One of them, and surely one of the top 10, is its location. Perched on a hilltop overlooking the entrance to Somes Sound on Mount Desert Island, the Claremont commands one of Maine’s most splendid prospects, and, I am certain, one of the finest on the planet.
Sitting and rocking (as I have done so many times) in one of the hotel’s fine wood-and-wicker rockers on the main building’s long, high-roofed porch, the fortunate rusticator gazes east by southeast across the sound’s blue and sparkling waters to the rounded mountaintops of Acadia rising green against the sky. To the north, Somes Sound, the nation’s only genuine fjord, moves majestically between the mountains as lobster boats circle their trap buoys like anxious mothers.
It is so quintessentially Maine coast it never fails to take my breath away, and, after a while, restore my faith in the goodness of our lives. That would be reason enough spending time perched on harsh rock ledges, but no such primitivism is required at the Claremont: a most civilized and gentle place, a kind of Never-Never Land in today’s frantic and helter-skelter world. A restorative if ever there was.
The sights and the beauty that can be seen from a Claremont rocking chair are exceptional, to say the least. But this past weekend, they were nothing less than remarkable. On Saturday – a day, as you may recall, blessed by clear skies, and a refreshing northwest breeze – a stately procession of more than 100 of the finest wooden boats ever built sailed and motored up Somes Sound from the sea. They were boats that had been built at Southwest Harbor’s Hinckley Boatyard, wooden boats conceived, designed, and built in that small corner of Maine by Maine craftspeople: each and every one a thing of beauty and classic performance.
To see these living sculptures in such a breathtaking procession, one after the other, well, I’ll tell you, there in that superb setting, it was indeed an unforgettable experience. I know that phrase is over-used, but anyone, landlubber or Midwest suburbanite, fortunate enough to witness that parade of angels afloat will never forget it. I know that for a fact.
So I’m sitting there rusticating in my Claremont rocker and I’m thinking that this is Maine at its best. It is Maine at it best because it’s so genuine, so possessed of such an uncommon integrity, a virtue diminishing before our eyes, even in our nation’s capital. Well, especially in our nation’s capital.
But here is the Claremont, precisely what it claims to be: a summer hotel, although this one sets the standard for summer hotels the world around. And there are those Hinckley boats, charged with an integrity of craftsmanship and design that sets them apart, the world around. And there are those famous mountains of Acadia looking down on Maine lobstermen doing their work of generations.
If anyone out there is wondering what Maine should become, it would be a fine thing for them to spend some time in a rocker on the Claremont porch before any decisions are made.