Follow the Blizzard

January 26th, 2015

We don’t mean to feed into the hype that a storm brings, but thought you might be interested in seeing how tomorrow’s blizzard affects conditions out at the Isles of Shoals, and Star Island. This type of weather makes us ponder how people who lived out on the Shoals year round, like Celia Thaxter, could do it. We suppose writing poetry, or taking photographs (as our current winter caretaker does) provides a creative outlet to pass the time.

To fully understand the impact of a storm on the Isles of Shoals, being there would certainly help. But since that’s not possible this time of year, here are some resources for your snowday pleasure:

Shoals Marine Lab Webcam

The Shoals Marine Lab has numerous webcam shots available of Appledore and Star Islands. The images this webcam produces allow anyone to virtually stand on top of the old submarine tower on Appledore and take a glance at snowfall and waves crashing against shorelines.

Webcam Link

National Weather Service

Using the National Weather Service data as a companion to the Shoals Marine Lab webcams is a great way to get a deeper context to what is happening, and what will happen at the Isles of Shoals. From wave heights (which are currently predicted to be about 19 feet on Tuesday), to wind speeds (which might be gusting to 60 mph) provide numbers that speak to the visible conditions from the webcams.

Weather Service Link

National Data Buoy Center

To keep track of the actual wind speed and wave heights, buoy data is quite useful and readily available. The buoy off of York, ME is about equidistant from the coastline as the Isles of Shoals, and will share wave height that is comparable to what Star Island is facing. The collection center on White Island will provide the most accurate data on wind. A graph on that page also shows wind speeds over the past few hours. The data is displayed in knots, so you may want to click here to convert that info into mph.

York Buoy Link | White Island Data Link

Our Winter Caretaker

Our winter caretaker, Alex de Steiguer, is a noted photographer who is usually willing to step out into the freezing wind on island to snap photographs and video of conditions. We can’t guarantee that weather conditions will allow her to do such tomorrow, or if the storm impacts the island’s internet connection; however, you can follow her page on facebook where she usually posts a video or two when the weather is especially captivating.

Alex’s Facebook Page

Office Hours

Please note that our mainland office will be closed on Tuesday, January 27 due to the expected snowfall. We plan on returning to the office on Wednesday, but that is dependent on road conditions. Conference calls planned for Tuesday, January 27 are still expected to occur as scheduled.

Your Summer Starts By Registering

January 23rd, 2015

International Affairs Conference Profile

Summer might seem far away now, but once you register for a program on Star Island it will be that much closer. Registering for a program, or conference as they are often called, is easy. Well, easy once you pick which program to attend. With a number of options having themes including religion, education, history, yoga, writing, and art, the act of choosing a program will be the most daunting task.

Click here to view the 2015 summer programs

Once you have your program picked out, there are a couple simple ways to reigster.


  • Each conference listing online has an option to “Click Here to Register” at the top and bottom of their page. Simply click on that link, enter in the pertinent details, supply information for a room & board deposit and program fee payment and you’re golden. You’ll pay the remainder of the room and board on island this summer.
  • Paper

  • Living life old school? That’s fine by us. Paper registration forms are available by clicking here. A form can be mailed to you as well. Email email hidden; JavaScript is required or call 603-430-6272 for a form. Fill out the information on the form and mail it with a check totalling the room & board depoist plus the program fee payment. The form explains how much the room & board deposit is, and program fees may be found on the conference’s online listing. Mail the form into our office: 30 Middle Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801. You’ll pay the remainder of the room and board on island this summer.

If a youth under the age of 18 is attending any conference without a parent/guardian, a minor medical release form must be mailed to the Star Island office upon registration. Click here for the minor medical release form.

Now that everything is cleared up, time to register. Our popular weeklong conferences are known to fill up and have waiting lists, so registering early secures you a spot.


If you have any questions about registering, our Island Registrar is available to help. Email Mike Bray at email hidden; JavaScript is required with your questions.

Click here to view the 2015 summer programs

The First Blue Book

January 22nd, 2015


Every year we publish a catalog providing a description of the upcoming summer programs on Star Island. With the 2015 program catalog currently at the printers, getting ready for a mid-February arrival in your mailbox, we decided to take a look back in our archives at earlier program catalogs, once called the “Blue Book” for its rather blue-hued cover.

We can’t say for certain that the 1966 catalog is the first “Blue Book” printed, but it is the earliest one we currently have in our possession. Looking through this catalog, we are delighted to read through such charming descriptions of what Star Island was and, for the most part, still is. For example, the conferences on Star Island remain “tremendously exciting and stimulating to Shoalers” with the ability for guests to take part in as much or as little of each conference as they choose.

Activities popular in 1966 that continue to provide enjoyment for guests include “tennis, baseball, volleyball, horseshoes and exploring the island.” Okay, we focus on softball now instead of baseball. The 1966 brochure advertises that “swimming is probably the most universally enjoyed activity on island” which might still be true, especially on a hot day.

The catalog’s main purpose, providing conference descriptions, shares information in 1966 about a handful of conferences, many that remain to this day. The All Star Family Conferences, “designed especially for Unitarian Universalists, their families and their friends” had two weeks in July — which they still do (All Star 1 & All Star 2). Religious Education was “aimed at providing practical help to a wide variety of people in their specific roles of communicating the message of Liberal Religion” and still does (along with the families of religious educators” at the Lifespan Religious Education conference. The Congregational Conferences started off August of 1966 and continue to start off August of 2015, but now with a new name: Star Gathering UCC 1 & Star Gathering UCC 2. Rhese conferences were just as exciting and invigorating then as they are today.

We encourage you to look through this old catalog by clicking here or on the cover image to the left. Next week we’ll share the 2015 program catalog (now featuring a cover printed in more than just blue ink). You might also note that the opening words of the 1966 catalog talk about the 50th anniversary of Star Island’s dedication. Over the next few weeks we’ll also be sharing more information about our 100th Anniversary, and how we’ll start celebrating this centennial beginning in the summer of 2015 and concluding with a rededication of Star Island in 2016.

Interested in registering for a 1966 conference? Sadly that boat (the M/V Sightseer no longer exists) has sailed its last voyage. B you’re more than welcome to explore the 2015 conference listing by clicking here.

Some Old Notes

January 13th, 2015

We recently came across a pile of work request notes that guests filled out in 2008 and, for a reason we’re not too sure of, were kept in an envelope in our office. Granted, not as exciting as the recent opening of the time capsule left by Samuel Adams in 1795, these almost seven-year-old notes capture some odd and humorous requests during one fine summer on Star Island. Here’s a selection of those notes.

Pump It!


Bicycle pumps are hard to come by on a 47 acre island, so we try to keep one handy. We appreciate the time frame given in this note.

Fresh Ice


While not as elusive as a bicycle pump, fresh ice is in high demand most evenings during social hour (and especially on margarita night it turns out).

Whenever for Bubbles


This is possibly the cutest note we’ve ever received. Whenever for bubbles! How about right now?

We’re thinking this bubble recipe was used for one of many lawn game afternoons for youth and families.

From Ursula or Whoever


This invitation (?) to dances in Newton all week is great. We just don’t know exactly who is inviting us. You’re right, it’s more likely we are being told about a scheduling change for a conference activity, but we’d like to think this is our invitation to some awesome themed dance.

Celery Secret


These people want some butter, and some celery. Just keep the celery on the downlow.



This is why we can’t have nice things. Someone is spilling coffee on the bed linens. We smudged out the name to protect the guilty as the statute of limitations has expired. But in all honesty, we are more than happy to switch out your linens if you ever need (you can always blame things on ghosts when you want, too).

Also, thank you Dan for replacing those sheets.

Movie Night?


Like you even had to ask, Kate. Certainly. We can even watch “Never Been Kissed” every night this week.

Want to write your own note? Visit Star Island this summer for one of our many conferences. And if you do write a note, maybe you’ll see it on our website in seven or eight years.

How Our Gardens Grows – Infographic

January 8th, 2015

by Kyle M. Belmont, Program & Outreach Coordinator

Winter 2015 Newsletter

Star Island's Winter 2015 newsletter explores the theme of sustainability through several avenues including our solar project, being a Star steward, and the output of the island gardens

Bright Future Begins with Solar Array

January 8th, 2015

by Kyle M. Belmont, Program & Outreach Coordinator

At 47 acres, Star Island’s relatively small size is providing ample space to create a model for sustainable communities. Our most visible endeavor in this effort – a solar array – started operating on November 19, 2014. The project is designed to deliver up to 60% of Star Island’s energy needs.

Star Island’s Island Manager and Facilities Director, Jack Farrell recently took a closer look at the solar work and came away with these sentiments: “This solar project helps us to extend our values beyond our island community. This shapes our reputation in the region. We look innovative, responsible, forward thinking, and capable. We are doing something bold and taking leadership in an area of our values.”


The beauty that is the solar project has taken time, and on occasion been a struggle after decades of only relying on diesel fuel for power. The project started with the search for a new Facilities Director and a three-year strategic plan that placed a great importance on moving towards sustainable energy and away from fossil fuels. Farrell’s hiring brought about an increased motivation to make that move, and soon ideas were underway.

The next stepping stone was a grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation in 2012 for $10,000. Star Island used this money to hire the Island Institute of Rockland, ME to conduct a feasibility study of solar power on the island. After the study was completed, a Request for Qualifications and later a Request for Proposals were sent out, resulting in Revolution Energy as Star Island’s partner to design and construct a solar array to power Star Island.


Over several summers, Revolution Energy met consistently with the Solar Project Ad-Hoc Committee to review and refine plans, trouble shoot and collect data. While this work was going on, Revolution Energy also looked for project funding. The financial hurdle for this project brought everything to a near halt in early 2014. Deadline extensions did not result in a funding source, and hopes were seemingly dashed when a bank pulled out of the plan due to a conflict of taking on the debt and the equity of the solar project.
But that’s when the story turns around. Years of work, meetings, conversations, and planning – and Farrell, an Island Manager pushing for this project to succeed – finally came into funding through Ayer Electric. This local contractor, already knowledgeable about Star’s solar goals, stepped in.

But a new funding source meant the need for an entirely new funding plan. This change resulted in Star Island taking on more of an up-front cost while receiving a steady and reliable energy source.

This project is a large investment, approved by the Board of Directors and Solar Project Ad-Hoc Committee, to be paid out over 13 years. Star Island is also working to secure more grant funding beyond several gifts from last year to support the project.

Star Island entered into an agreement with Ayer Electric at the beginning of the summer in 2014, and construction started in August. The project is now online. As the project neared completion in November, Farrell looked back and thought on the process: “It was about to die. Just to see the project – see these rows and rows and rows of panels and realize, wow, this is really happening.”

The move to solar power involves much more than solar panels. Only one supplier of diesel is able to serve Star Island; the reduction in diesel usage will mean fewer trips to coordinate. Changes in equipment further reduce energy demand and byproducts like waste water. Equipment changes include higher quality and more efficient diesel generators to support the solar array.

Located in the shadow of the Tucke Monument towards the top of the rock line, the solar array consists of south facing panels mounted on concrete ballasts. No trails were changed, nor historic landmarks altered. The project is designed to withstand 130 mph winds. And the array has an expected lifespan of 25 years; the batteries about half that. The panels are very durable and can be wiped clean as needed. The Shoals Marine Lab on Appledore Island uses the same model of solar panels and reports that maintenance is not time consuming.

Winter 2015 Newsletter

Star Island's Winter 2015 newsletter explores the theme of sustainability through several avenues including our solar project, being a Star steward, and the output of the island gardens

Forty Years of Star Island Newsletters

January 8th, 2015

Before the recent holiday break we sent our latest winter newsletter to the printer. This newsletter will be arriving in your mailboxes before the end of the month. As we prepared the masthead of this latest newsletter, which involves figuring out roman numerals once a year, we discovered that we’ve hit a milestone — 40 years of the Star Island newsletter. To celebrate this achievement, we’re providing you a look back at our newsletters from the very first one in 1975 to our soon to be mailed one of 2015. The newsletters have changed visually over the years, but each represents the same island we all hold so dear.


Fall 1975

Click here to view

The first newsletter starts with a welcome from Board President Roland Greeley and this remark: “We sincerely hope that the content will prove to be so informative and interesting that you can overlook the informal appearance.”

The newsletter also includes information about the new music building, a report on sewage disposal, gifts received, registration rules, and conference news among several other topics.


Fall 1977

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The Fall 1997 newsletter opens with a eulogy for the recently passed Lyman Rutledge. The essay includes this sentiment: “And the miracle was that, even as the decades passed, he remained as young in spirit as those young people with whom he had shared his inspiration.” Fred McGill wrote those words.

The newsletter also includes information about recent gifts, the new Star Arts conference, and construction updates.


Winter 1984-85

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News of Anthony Codding succeeding Jim Smith as Manager of Star Island opens this newsletter. Minutes from recent Board Meetings include the news that the bookstore had another banner year. And Canadians can donate to Star Island.

A few pages into this newsletter is the excitement of Star Island’s first computer — an IBM-XT. The article, written by Executive Secretary Brenda Kaubin, is not without its emotion, but the hurdle of a new peice of technology is something understandable.

We can’t pass the opportunity to encourage you to read the rather suggestive call for Pelican applications found on page 5.

This may be our favorite old newsletter


Fall 1988

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The first page of this newsletter includes words from Board President Bob Hargrove who writes of many accomplisments from the recently concluded summer season. Of particular note is a sprinkler system completed under the guidance of Dick Case and the Technical Committee.

More news includes a Celia Thaxter vase donated to Vaughn, a profile of Mel Gulbrandsen, and remembering Ginny McGill.


Fall 1993

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Lindy Anderson’s Letter from the Board President starts by exclaiming about the new tennis courts, and concludes with news that Dave and Edith Pierson will be cutting back on their responsibilities.

This newsletter includes several eulogies, including one for Robert “Bobby” Wharem who served as the Island Engineer and Winter Caretaker before the Piersons. Wharem was remembered for his bravery including saving a youth swept out to sea and rescuing a minister from drowning.


Winter 1995

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The front page of this newsletter is full of information, a departure from past newsletters which generally only held a note from the Board President. News on the front page includes information about three winter caretakers sharing time throughout the 1995 winter, a lease agreement with Cornell University for the Shoals Marine Laboratory, and the need to purchase a new incinerator.

The second page of this newsletter features the usual letter from the Board President. Richard Howe was then serving in that position. He writes of the importance of supporting the Star Island Annual Fund, and how such support is able to provide Star Island with the capital to complete projects like the installation of a waste water treatment facility and other needed facility upgrades.

And, in announcing Memorial Day Weekend day visits, we find out that boat fares were once $5 per adult.


Fall 2011

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This newsletter features a quite different look and feel to it. When the first newsletter was printed, the Board President remarked on its “informal appearance,” but now the newsletter displays hallmarks of a professional publication. Clearly the beneficiary of a style guide, this and later newsletters tend to rely more on stories and annecdotes than just the news. Also a departure from past newsletters, this one features a note from our Chief Executive Officer.


Winter 2015

Click Here to View

Our latest newsletter again offers a dramatic change in appearnce. Now printed in full color, and on a glossy stock, the newsletter continues to provide important news and annecdotes. This newsletter delivers the first official news of Star Island’s working solar array, which is currently providing power to the island. The theme for this newsletter was sustainability, and it’s highlighted in several ways: the solar project, the island gardens, the commitment of a Shoaler departing our staff, and the work of one particular committee working to sustain the island’s facilities.

Next Page »

Star Island is one of the rocky, wind-swept Isles of Shoals, located off the coast of Rye, New Hampshire. For over 100 years, summers here have provided individuals and families with a welcome respite from their busy mainland lives.

Star Island Corporation is a nonprofit organization which maintains the island and its facilities and provides hospitality services for visitors.

Contact Star Island

Phone: (603) 430-6272
Fax: (603) 430-6270
Island Phone: (603) 601-0832
Staff Email Address List

Star Island Corporation
Morton-Benedict House
30 Middle Street
Portsmouth, NH 03801

Get directions to the office

Content © 1999–2015 Star Island Corporation. Clouds photo © Axel Rouvin.
Other photos © their respective owners.