At first, Ann Fernald wanted to be a marine biology researcher. Raised in Hebron, she received an associate degree in marine biology from Southern Maine Community College and moved to Portland to look for research positions.
But there was “no money for research,” said Ann, and so she took a job at Sappi Fine Paper in Westbrook, working in the development of adhesives.
Then one day in the early 1980s she answered an ad in the personals section of the now-shuttered alt-weekly The Maine Times.
“Single fisherman seeks woman who is looking for adventure,” she remembered. She wrote an ocean-themed postcard decorated with seashells and sent it off.
It would be several months before she and her husband of now more than 30 years would connect, but eventually they met in Portland, at her apartment in an old building near the Fore River. And it wasn’t long after that that Arthur successfully convinced her to move to Islesford, on Little Cranberry Island, where he had been raised.
The couple would spend 22 years there, lobstering together on Arthur’s 1964 Arno Day wooden lobster boat, Sea Chimes. They relocated to Frenchboro in 2005.
Arthur recalls the day they came around the island, saying he asked his wife: “We haven’t been island-hopping in about a year. You want to go to Frenchboro tomorrow?”
“We were getting kind of hemmed in on Islesford,” said Ann. “We like space.”
Arthur recalls sitting on Frenchboro’s Ferry Hill that day in 2005 discussing his boat with David Lunt, who recognized it by the sparkling muffler. The Fernalds moved to Frenchboro not long thereafter, and Sea Chimes is still moored in the harbor today, her hull painted a glossy sapphire blue.
Living on an island eight miles from the mainland has its challenges.
“This isn’t the best place if you need to see the doctor,” Arthur noted. But, said Ann, “We can always figure something out.”
The key is “you have to start writing things down. A list is the way to go.”
The couple visit the mainland every six to eight weeks for groceries, Ann said. The trip occasionally goes awry, like the time Arthur brought back a slew of flavored cottage cheese tubs (pineapple, strawberry) instead of Ann’s treasured morning yogurt, or the time they spent upward of $8,000 on groceries but the ferry was canceled for weather and they had to stuff a fridge at Cafe Drydock & Inn in Southwest Harbor.
“We were lugging things upstairs thinking ‘why did we buy 20 pounds of potatoes?!’” she laughed.
Ann has served as town clerk, on the Board of Selectmen, on the board of the Frenchboro Future Development Corp., and in waste management. She now manages the post office.
“The island’s gone through quite a bit of changes,” she said.
“I think it’s somewhat of a phase — it’s generational. I think people need the two incomes,” Ann continued, and “there’s not much out here for jobs.”
Most residents make a living fishing, but “you never know what’s going to happen with lobstering,” Ann said.
But overall, said Ann, even when bad seas come in, “It almost feels safer out here than the mainland.”
“Everyone kind of watches out,” she said. “We’ve got everything we need.”