As a young teacher, Eva Murray had dreams of teaching in a one-room schoolhouse.

She attained that dream some 23 years ago when she landed a job as the teacher on Matinicus, an island 23 miles off the coast of Rockland.

But her dream led to a life she had not dreamed of. She met and married the island’s electrician, Paul Murray, and has lived on Matinicus ever since, raising her two children and working a variety of jobs.

Murray, 46, has written about daily life on the island for various local publications. Her writings are about the day-to-day challenges and pleasures of island life. Buying groceries for islanders means faxing an order to the Rockland Shaw’s and then waiting for the food to be flown in by the local air service.

But the island — with fewer than 100 year-round residents — also provides a lot of freedom and “a sense that you can be more in control of day-to-day details,” Murray said.

At the prompting of friends and readers, Murray has compiled her writings about life on Matinicus into a book, “Well Out to Sea: Year-Round on Matinicus Island” ($20), published by Tilbury House in Gardiner.

Murray is an EMT on the island and runs a bakery in the summer. 

Q: Is there a central theme to your writings in the book?

A: These are all free-standing articles about how we get things done, largely in the off-season. There’s not much about lobstering, because my husband and I don’t do that. But there’s a lot about the one-room schoolhouse, where my kids went, and about the power company (which her husband runs) and the people. 

Q: What are the biggest day-to-day challenges on Matinicus?

A: Anything having to do with transportation is a massive runaround. There’s no 24-hour store. Getting groceries means you have to send a fax to the Shaw’s in Rockland, with your shopping list in detail, before 10 a.m. Then someone packs it in cartons and it goes to the air service out of Owls Head. Then in clear weather they fly it over, for $8 a box air freight. Then the phone rings, someone tells you your groceries are coming, and you drive down to the air strip.

There’s no regular boat in winter, though there’s a passenger boat in summer. Most people stock up on groceries, and bumming from your neighbor is not considered an imposition. 

Q: So it sounds like you don’t go into Rockland or to the mainland unless you have a really good reason. Is that right?

A: Yes. We don’t have a boat. The trip is over open ocean, so you need some serious boat under you. Riding on the air service is $50 each way. 

Q: So why do you stay out there?

A: There’s a lot of freedom. There’s a sense that you can be more in control of day-to-day details. I’m building a blacksmith shop as a hobby, and I don’t have to ask permission of all sorts of boards and commissions and neighborhood associations. Plus, I fell in love with someone who already lived out here.

There’s a lot of elements to it. It’s also nice to live among such a talented group of people. Everyone out here knows how to do 15 or 20 things. We don’t have consultants in cubicles out here. Though there are a few bad actors, but you get that in every town. And when something goes wrong, everyone comes to help; it doesn’t matter whether you like the guy or not. 

Q: In your book, you don’t write much about the much-publicized shooting on the island last summer, when lobsterman Vance Bunker was arrested (and later acquitted) in the shooting and injury of Christopher Young, in an apparent dispute over lobster fishing territories. Why is that?

A: There are stories in the book, written before the shooting, which feature Vance Bunker involved in a number of search and rescues off the island. But as far as the shooting, I was an EMT who responded to the scene, so I shouldn’t talk about it.

Though there is a piece in the book about how (the media) has treated us poorly, painting us as a bunch of crazy, violent hooligans. It’s insulting, and it’s just not accurate. 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: [email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.