A smelting shanty at dusk on the Cathance river in Maine.

“Be careful – they bite. It’s best to cut off their heads first.” We received this warning along with a small pouch of folded newspaper. A look of horror filled my eleven year old niece’s eyes as she took the packet of bait and we headed out into the chilly January afternoon. 

Neither of us had been ice fishing before, and didn’t really know what to expect. We didn’t think we’d have to worry about being bitten by our bait, but more on that later. Dressed warmly and armed with a thermos of cocoa and a selection of snacks, we crossed the road toward a weathered wooden ramp leading down to the ice.

The Cathance River winds through the center of Bowdoinham, once a thriving business hub with several mills and dozens of commercial companies selling ice.  The mills are gone, but as Jim McPherson will tell you – Bowdoinham is still the “Smelt Capital of Maine”. He should know. He’s been working at smelt camps here since he was fifteen and now owns Jim’s Camps – which is as authentic a Maine experience as you are likely to find anywhere in the state.



Bloody Mary with a whole lobster tail and pickled asparagus.

Adding lobster to an already nearly perfect drink (the Bloody Mary) is a no-brainer.

I never understood a giant stalk of celery sticking out of a drink, but a whole skewered lobster tail I can get behind. What I love about this version of the Lobster Bloody Mary is that it’s something you can throw together in so many different ways depending on what you have on hand. Olives, gherkins, pickled asparagus and fiddleheads – you really can’t go wrong.

You can either use the tails from SIMPLE STEAMED LOBSTER or buy the tails (at a premium) from the seafood counter or market.

For the Bloody Mary mix I usually start with simple tomato juice  (without any added salt) and mix in some horseradish, celery salt and maybe some smoked paprika.  You could use V8, Clamato, or even mix in some green veggie juice – think celery and kale or spinach. I sometimes throw in a splash of pickle juice for tartness.

I rub the rim of the glass with a lemon wedge then dip it in a plate of flaky smoked sea salt and coarsely ground pepper. Sometimes I’ll add celery seeds or even some dried herbs like dill or parsley.

Fishing around in your glass for olives or pickles that have slipped off their toothpicks and disappeared into your drink is no fun. I prefer to serve the drinks with only the lobster tail and a sprig of dill – the put the rest on a  separate tray where people can pick and choose what they like most. Pretty much anything goes here – olives, pickles, peppers, even celery if you want.  Just add a shot glass of toothpicks and plenty of napkins.

Mike’s Maine makes deliciously pickled fiddleheads and asparagus tips that make a great (and very “Maine”) addition to the add-ins bar.



Early morning at the Monsweag Flea Market with vendors setting up their tables

Everyone loves Maine in Summer…

But Fall is when the state truly shines if you ask many Mainers.  The tourists have thinned out and the air is just starting to be cool and crisp. Fall is the perfect time to hit the road and explore the Flea Markets and Antique shops along the coast. There’s no shortage of options when it comes to antiquing in Maine, but since THE GILLS GROUP cottages are on Bailey Island, this day trip focuses on spots in the area.

6.00 am // WOOLWICH

The sun is barely up when I pull into the Monsweag Flea Market lot but the place is bustling. Trunks and vans and back seats are being unloaded onto endless rows of wooden tables. Everyone seems to have a large Dunkin Donuts coffee. It’s Saturday, so the market “officially” opens at 6.30, but there are already eager dealer types roaming the aisles.

Some tables are dusty piles of random “stuff” that resembles an emptied out junk drawer, while others are artfully arranged by color and texture. First thing I find is a huge box of vintage Nancy Drew hardcovers for 20 dollars – SCORE!  (If you’ve visited THE RED HOUSE you’ve seen them lining the secret revolving door to the upstairs bathroom).

A family run spot, Monsweag has been open since 1977 and has everything you could want from a flea market. What first seems like a massive sprawl of unorganized chaos, turns out to be a well-run line up of individually curated vendors – each with its own colorful character perched behind it – ready to sell.

Monsweag is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays starting at 6.30 – but Wednesday mornings is when the place is truly hopping. Wednesdays are “antiques only” and they open at 5.00am. You can expect to find the place crawling with dealers until it “slows down” around 9 am – but you don’t have to be there at sunrise to find something great I promise.



A view of the stacked granite slabs that make up the Bailey island Cribstone Bridge.


MY MAINE by Carter Smith

Bailey Island has always been a place where family and friends have gathered to reconnect.  Both with each other – and with the beauty and power of nature.  Bailey Island (and pretty much the whole state of Maine) is the perfect vacation spot for families who love the outdoors.  There are cliff walks along the dramatic shoreline. Magical woodland hikes where you can spot sunbathing seals and maybe even an elusive Maine Fairy House. There is delicious local seafood that’s as fresh as it gets. You can explore the coast by kayak or sailboat or paddle board.

Or you can sit back, relax, and do nothing at all, surrounded by friends and family.

Bailey Island offers families plenty to explore, and whatever you choose to do, you will surely leave with memories to last a lifetime. A guest at one of THE GILLS GROUP cottages summed it up when he wrote in the guestbook “Our family has never been so close, happy or active as we were during our weeks on Bailey Island.”

These are some of my favorite things to do when I have friends and family visiting Bailey Island…



A huge pile of briny lobsters on a wooden deck.


This is how I like lobster – sitting outside by the ocean surrounded by friends and family. The traditional way to eat lobster is everyone gets a single lobster then puts on their bib and struggles to extract the meat before their cup of melted butter gets cold. I prefer to steam lobster en masse, taking advantage of all the extra helping hands when I’m hosting guests. The idea is to prepare as many lobsters as possible then sit outside and pick the meat out as a group – saving it to use later.  People are excited to roll up their sleeves and pitch in, and everyone ends up feeling this great sense of accomplishment as they get better and better at it. I’ve done this with groups of six, and groups of twenty. It’s always a good time.

You end up with a massive amount of clean lobster meat that’s perfect for rolls, salads, stews, or pretty much anything else you can think of.

It also brings people together twice – once for the cooking/picking of the meat and again later at meal time.




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