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The New York Times - "A Tiny Cabin, A Little Island and a Big Change: Am I Crazy?"


"A New Jersey woman now lives alone part of the year on a remote island in Maine that Stephen King called ‘a novel here, just waiting to be written.

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A tiny cabin sits on a rocky island off the coast of Maine. The island has a scrubby growth of green vegetation.

Greta Rybus for The New York Times

“Duck Ledges Island,” the listing read, “offered in its entirety.”

The accompanying photos showed a scene of stark beauty: a tiny spit of rock sitting in clear blue waters, with a little cabin on it and nothing else — not even a single tree — to block the 360-degree views of ocean and sky.

The island was in Wohoa Bay, in Downeast Maine, along a section of rocky coastline known as the Bold Coast.

To anyone who has fantasized about their own private island getaway — and who hasn’t, judging by the way such idylls capture worldwide attention? — the ad for Duck Ledges, when it appeared last June, was a clarion call. One of the people who answered it was Charlotte Gale.

A licensed massage therapist from New Jersey, Ms. Gale had a rough couple of years. Her business vanished overnight with the pandemic and the lockdowns. She had to sell her house, she said, with its Victorian garden she’d grown and tended over a decade.

Ms. Gale moved to a rental in Hoboken, planning to stay for a couple of years while she figured out her next step. But then her landlord raised her rent by $770 a month.

She had some money from the sale of her home and began searching online listings for a simple cottage with space for a garden, in a nearby state like Delaware or Connecticut. Nothing stood out. No place seemed special.

The homey interior of a cabin is decorated with a table, a vintage-style metal cooler and framed art. An island and the sea beyond can be seen through large windows.

Ms. Gale has decorated the cabin with a table, a vintage-style metal cooler and framed art. Every item was lugged over in a boat, of course. Greta Rybus for The New York Times

Then she widened her search to Maine and saw Duck Ledges.

By that point, the listing had gone viral, and the island’s owner, Billy Milliken, was fielding calls from all over. But Mr. Milliken had a unique request, as Ms. Gale learned when she answered the ad. The buyer had to spend one night on the island before making an offer. There is no running water and nothing but seals and ducks and birds to keep you company.

Days later, Ms. Gale stood at the marina in tiny Jonesport, a working lobster fishing village with no resort hotels, little dining other than a pizza shop and not a mall or chain retailer for miles. Culture shock for a Jersey Girl.

Christine Crowley, Ms. Gale’s real estate agent, remembers her on the dock that day, waiting for Mr. Milliken to take her out to the island in his boat.

“She had with her just one bag,” Ms. Crowley said. “She was wearing shorts. She had on flip-flops or sandals. She was a little hesitant at first. She started to get a little bit of cold feet. She said, ‘Am I crazy? Can I do this?’ I said, ‘You need to stay somewhere tonight.’”

When Ms. Gale got to the one-and-a-half-acre island, she took in her surroundings — the cedar-clad cabin standing there improbably yet invitingly; the flat rock ledges where seals sunbathe; the little sandy beaches and tide pools. It was a summer day with clear blue skies — “the most perfect top 10 day,” as Ms. Gale would later say.

She was not on the island 10 minutes before she pulled out her phone.

“As soon as Billy and his friend dropped her off, Charlotte called me almost immediately,” Ms. Crowley, who had stayed on shore, recalled. “She said, ‘I want it. I’ve got to have it.’”

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