On the Island

Star Island Registration Opens


Your first steps on Star Island this summer are one step closer now that registration is open. From those first moments of conversation on the boat, to workshop discussions budging into lunch — your favorite Star Island moments are a handful of months away. We invite you to register now to help those volunteers planning and leading conferences prepare for you.

Our season opens in June with opportunities for people looking to deepen their knowledge about topics like natural history and the arts. You’ll find time to learn coupled with time to connect. All the while you’ll discover, maybe for the first time or the fiftieth time, that the simplicity of the island’s time, kept by lapping waves, provides the warmth you need to recharge.

As we move further into summer our traditional family conferences blossom on the island with playful energy. Theme talks about world issues entertain the minds of those gathered in rooms like Elliott Hall, while youth groups engage with Island staff to learn about history, the environment, and sustainability. The island community comes together for intergenerational activities like softball games on the front lawn, meals in the dining hall, and chapel services.

When September arrives with its earlier setting sun, Star Island plays host to a large number of conferences with varied topics. You can find yourself learning a new yoga position, or uncovering a new historical fact about New England, or delighting in the simple pleasures of a musical performance.

No matter your connection to the island, you belong here. We have a few months to get ready, but know that your arrival is meaningful to us. Registering today helps make our community stronger because you will be part of it.

Discover for yourself what conferences to attend by visiting our program list. We look forward to seeing you on Star Island this summer.

On the Island

Star Island Holiday Gift Guide

‘Tis the season to get all flustered by wrapping gifts and matching tissue paper to gift bags. Such a pain, right? Problem solved. ‘Tis the gift of Star Island.

This exquisitely curated gift catalog highlights the most sought after and hard to find gifts alongside classic gifts suitable for nearly anyone.

Once you’ve viewed the catalog, you can purchase your gift here.

Star Island Holiday Gift Guide

Click on the cover below to see the Star Island Gift Guide.

StarIslandHolidayGiftGuideCover

Purchase a Star Island Gift Certificate

There’s no need to wrap this piece of magic for the holiday season. Star Island is bursting with so much energy we’re surprised we can even contain that energy within a gift certificate. Yet contain it we have.

Need help purchasing a gift certificate? Here are some pointers:

With a Computer

  • Open your preferred web browser (even if you’re still using a dial-up connection — we don’t judge)
  • Type the following link into the address bar: https://starisland.thankyou4caring.org/star-island-corporation-gift-certificates (or copy and paste the link depending on your computer skill level). Alternatively, you may also click here and skip the next step.
  • Click enter
  • When the page loads type in the number of gift certificates you would like in the boxes next to the value(s) you would like.
  • Click on the “continue” button.
  • Enter your information into the appropriate boxes.
  • Click on the “continue” button.
  • Enter your credit card infomration into the appropriate boxes.
  • Click on the “pay now” button.
  • Wait by your mailbox until the gift certificate arrives (make sure to bring some hot coco or mulled cider with you, though).

With a Homing Pigeon

  • Acquire a homing pigeon if you do not already have one and provide it with directions to 30 Middle Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801
  • Write a note on parchment in your finest handwriting expressing your desire to procure a gift certificate. Please include the amount the gift certificate should be. Notes should be written in iambic pentameter.
  • The note should also include your credit card information including expiration date and the 3-digit number on the reverse of the card. You can alternatively write a phone number down for us to call you to receive the credit card information.
  • Place the note in the pigeon’s carrying case.
  • Set the pigeon on its course to the Star Island office.
  • Wait for the homing pigeon to return with the requested gift certificate.

Gift certifcates should be ordered by December 18 to be in the mail before Christmas.

On the Island

Starry Night 2019: a “How To” guide

Purchase your Starry Night tickets today

So you’ve heard that Star Island is holding an event called Starry Night on Saturday, November 23 at the Discover Portsmouth Center, but maybe you’re wondering, what exactly is Starry Night? Certainly you can look up at the sky during the evening and see your own starry night; why would you attend Star’s Starry Night? Here’s a brief description and suggested itinerary for how to spend your Starry Night with us.

Starry Night is, very simply, a fundraiser for Star Island. Through ticket sales and a silent auction, Star Island raises money to support our non-profit mission. Silent Auction? Yes, we have a number of outstanding offerings for Starry Night. Items include amazing pieces of art, gift certificates to local businesses and tickets to concerts and sporting events. You can even win yourself a night on the town with Star’s beloved CEO Joe Watts.

Suggested Itinerary

First thing: come to Portsmouth! Portsmouth will be buzzing this weekend, so thanks for choosing Starry Night. Now that you’re in Portsmouth:

Saturday, November 23

 

  • 9:00 AM – Enjoy breakfast at Colby’s Restaurant. There will probably be a line, but the food is delicious.
  • 10:30 AM – Take a drive along US RT 1-A through the town of Rye, NH and take a glimpse of the Isles of Shoals. Our winter caretaker is on-island tending to matters, so know that everything is safe. Stop at one of the turn-offs and take a picture. If you strike a pose just right, it could even look like you’re holding Star Island.
  • 11:30 AM – The Seacoast Science Center is open for visitors. Stop by and play in the touch tank to learn more about the Gulf of Maine — just as if you were visiting our Rutledge Marine Lab during the summer.
  • 1:00 PM – There are so many places to eat in Portsmouth you may want to explore a few. Then you’ll know a great place or two to return to before or after your summer 2020 Star Island visit.
  • 2:30 PM – Stroll the streets of Portsmouth. From independent booksellers to locally owned galleries, Portsmouth has a number of interesting and unique shops to pique your interest. And if you’re in need of something sweet, we suggest a stroll down the far end of State Street to visit either our favorite chocolate shop or ice cream parlor.
  • 5:00 PM – Stroll into Starry Night and schmooze, eat and drink while perusing the auction. You’ll be entertained by the music of local musician Seth Gooby. Eat some delicious food provided by our friends at the Kitchen. Peter Paul is donating wine for the event, and Chapel and Main is donating the beer.
  • 5:30 PM – Enjoy a brief fascinating talk by Eric Masterson about his adventures following the migration of the Broad-winged Hawk by bicycle to South America.
  • 6:00 PM – Continue to mingle, eat, drink and bid. The auction closes at 7!
  • 7:00 PM – Starry Night concludes until next year and you’re free to gallivant around Portsmouth. Go grab some dinner!

 

 

Thank you for spending the day with us!

Purchase your Starry Night tickets today

 

Thanks to our event sponsors!

Five Maples Development Communications

On the Island

7th Annual Veterans Raffle

Enter the Raffle!

We are inviting US military veterans to enter the 7th annual raffle for a chance to win a free Star Island getaway during the summer of 2020. The winning veteran is invited to bring along his or her family for the week-long stay. The raffle winner, along with members of his or her household, receives a free seven-night stay on Star Island during the summer of 2020. Boat transportation, meals, lodging, and tipping are all included. There is no charge to enter the raffle for valid US military veterans. The raffle opens on Veterans Day, Monday Nov. 11, 2019. 

“We see this raffle as a way to show our appreciation to those who have sacrificed so much to serve our country,” said Joe Watts, Star Island’s CEO. “Offering a wonderful respite on our unique island off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine is a way to say thank you. We also feel that it’s important to include the winning veteran’s immediate family.  A service member’s relatives feel the impact of duty and sacrifice heavily – we want to make sure our gratitude extends to them as well.” 

Last year’s winner was Pennsylvania veteran Lavonne Black, who spent eight years in the Army as a German linguist. She heard about the raffle from a friend who had spent time on Star Island as a child. Says Black, “I live in Pennsylvania with my husband of 29 years and have two grown children. I work at a factory for a major corporation and my husband is a nurse for the VA. My daughter and I were lucky enough to spend a week on Star Island last summer after winning the raffle. Since we are landlubbers, it was a brand new experience for us. We were enthralled with all the lighthouses and the history of the island. We loved being so close to nature in a non-commercial environment.  We were served three meals a day and my daughter said she would come back for the food alone! The people on the island were very friendly and accepting. It is now one of my favorite places, too.”

Enter the Raffle!

On the Island

Our 2019 Starry Night Theme Speaker – Eric Masterson

Register For Starry Night Here

We are pleased to announce Eric Masterson as our theme speaker, talking about “the one bird you won’t see on Star Island”.

Of more than 400 species of birds recorded in New Hampshire, 258 have been sighted from Star Island. That a 46-acre island boasts such a record is testament to the marvel of migration – Star, and other islands in the Gulf of Maine are migrant traps. And yet the Broad-winged Hawk, one of New Hampshire’s best known migrants, is almost unknown on Star Island. Despite a journey that spans two continents and delivers birds to winter quarters deep into South America, the seven mile journey to Star Island is a bridge too far. Eric will talk about their epic voyage through the perspective that he gained cycling a bicycle to the Panama Canal in 2016, following in the wake of several satellite-tagged birds, and his future plans involving a hang glider.

Eric Masterson studied zoology at University College Dublin before moving to the US in 1999. He works for the Harris Center in Hancock NH, where he manages the organization’s 23,000 acres of conservation land.

He is the author of Birdwatching in New Hampshire, a best-selling guide to birding in the Granite State, and is working on a second book about bird migration, as told through the journey of the Broad-winged Hawk.

Eric is a regular guest on New Hampshire Public Radio, serves on the New Hampshire Rare Bird Committee and is a seasonal editor for the quarterly journal New Hampshire Bird Records. He runs the spring and fall birding conferences to Star Island.

Please join us on Saturday, November 23 for another exciting gathering at this year’s Starry Night, Star Island’s annual fall fundraiser! 

Food & Drink – Live Music – Silent Auction

On the Island

2019 Council of Conferences Meeting

Come to the Council of Conferences!

Would you like to be more engaged with the wider Star Island community and to share and learn about best practices with other conferences? If so, please attend the Council of Conferences meeting!

October 19, 2019
South Church Unitarian Universalist, Portsmouth, NH
292 State St. Portsmouth NH 03801
10 am – 4:00 pm

Download the Meeting Agenda

As stated in its Charter, the mission of the Council of Conferences is:

  • To share ideas and best practices among the various conferences that meet on Star Island
  • To study issues and make recommendations to the full Star Island Board, at its request
  • To have members that are receptive and open to ideas, have perspective and vision, are familiar with the Star Island, can give the necessary time, and think in terms of Star Island citizenship.

The Fall 2019 meeting will offer opportunities to celebrate each conference’s strengths and discover new ways to address challenges. We hope that Shoalers from every conference – large and small; adult, youth, and multi-generational – will attend, so that our collective wisdom will be deep and mighty!

See you in There!

On the Island

Becoming a Shoaler

Becoming a Shoaler by Nelson Linscott

The winter months after my first visit to Star Island were cold and dreary. Baxter was not feeling himself again, but who does feel well trudging through slush and snow dreaming of warmer months ahead? As storms raced through, I thought of Alex de Steiguer, the longtime Star Island winter caretaker, out there on her watch. I thought of different areas of the island in snow and ice, aided by photographs by Alex. It had been months since I had stood on Star Island rock, yet I was still Starstruck. Star Island had changed me for the long term and wasn’t letting go. I wasn’t resisting. I love Star Island. I began thinking of the next trip. The tug of the island ebbed and flowed like the moon to the sea.

Winter held on into April, but when the last storm came and went and the first signs of spring were apparent, I started planning. More importantly, I came to the realization that Star Island is my Spirit’s Home. There was a reason I was being tugged back to the island. During my first visit, I realized that Star Island isn’t just the beauty of the island and the buildings, it was the love of the people. Now I realized it was more than that. Before I visited, I was not sure I realized I had a spirit. Now, not only do I realize I have a spirit, it resides on Star Island. “Whoa”, the old hippie said. “This is getting heavy!” Heavy it is. Let it be.

Planning began in earnest. I had specific photos I wanted to take. I already had them in my head. The iconic Oceanic stairway curtain shot was one. I realized with the numbers of visitors that have come to Star Island, with every phone there was a camera, and most every area had been photographed, but not every photograph had been taken. I was going to put on my magic glasses to see things that hadn’t been seen before and record it through the lens of my camera. That intimidated me for a few days, but I decided that I shouldn’t plan a thing. “I’ll just let it fly!”

June came very quickly, and unfortunately, Baxter began feeling sick. On the exact day the year before, Baxter became very ill. Money is always a problem for me and I began to worry. For days, Baxter didn’t eat and hardly drank water. I was desperate. I explain to the vet that I was broke and my dog may be dying. He agreed to see him. Baxter was prescribed antibiotics and an appetite stimulant. On the day we were heading to the island, it didn’t look good. The meds didn’t seem to work. Two hours before the boat was to depart, I had to make a decision.  I decided to stay at home. I was heartbroken and very concerned that Baxter wasn’t long for this world. A friend gave me the advice to go. I was suddenly struck by the epiphany that Star Island would save Baxter. We headed to Portsmouth and to the dock.

The day was clear and warm, I was very stressed out, and Baxter was feeling ill. In his stroller, he was panting in the heat, shade was hard to come by. A woman was sitting by the loading dock eating a bacon sandwich. I had placed Baxter on the ground so he could squeeze himself into a small spot of shade right beside the lady and her sandwich. Two pieces on bacon fell from the woman’s sandwich and Baxter jumped on them and devoured the bacon. I thought, “Oh NO!  He hasn’t eaten for days!” I was waiting for the eruption, but he held it down and started feeling a little better. I was still apprehensive as we boarded the boat, and within minutes we were on our way to our second visit to our Spirit’s Home.

Due to a change in rules, we didn’t take the Thomas Laighton – we took the work boat with the baggage and the Pelicans. Though I had seen the Pels the year before, I hadn’t been alone with them off duty. Oh to be young again, I thought as they talked, listened to music, overflowing with energy. I had to laugh. Some of the antics were hilarious. I could tell the one newcomer was a bit overwhelmed by the experienced Pels, but the time we hit the dock, he was joining in the festivities. We were about a half hour ahead of the Laighton. Baxter and I headed to our room for a little rest and relaxation before the all-important fire and water safety class. We were back! I had rejoined my spirit. It was time to explore. I felt much more relaxed than I did the year before. It was like I had never left. Baxter had other plans – he fell asleep. While Baxter slept, I went to supper, joining old friends and making new. I found that there was a veterinary tech in the house. I began to regain my confidence. When I returned to my room, Baxter peeked to make sure it was me and fell back to sleep. It’s OK, I thought, I am back at Star Island. I am among friends. What could go wrong!

On the Island

A Shoaler in the Making: Part 7

A Shoaler in the Making: Part 7 by Nelson Linscott

It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside
I’m not one of those who can easily hide
I don’t have much money but boy if I did
I’d buy a big house where we both could live
If I was a sculptor, but then again, no
Or a man who makes potions in a traveling show
I know it’s not much but it’s the best I can do
My gift is my story and this one’s for you
And you can tell everybody this is your Star Island Song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind
I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you’re in the world

Altered Version of Elton John “Your Song”

Here we are closing in on the month of June when Star Island comes alive for the summer season. I will be going June 15th and I am so thankful, exuberant, and emotional to be a part of this island and the the people who make it what it is. This will conclude the series of my 2018 trip to Star. I will be picking it back up after returning June 22nd. I hope you all enjoyed the series. It wouldn’t have happened without so many people at Star Island. I love you all. I will pick up the story in July.

As I have said before but I must emphasize even more today that Star Island is more than the  natural and man made beauty of this rise of rock in the Atlantic Ocean. It is the people – every visitor, volunteer, and employee. Every smile tells a story and smiles are as numerous as stars in the sky at Star Island. I have learned the power of a smile. Even on the darkest days, a smile – even a forced smile – changes your demeanor. Smiles are contagious. You can’t help but smile on Star Island! These smiles trigger more than happiness. Smiles trigger spirituality. The emotional and spiritual impact of smiling heals us. There is much healing at Star Island. I know this personally.

With the reassurance of multiple smiles, Baxter and I were welcomed with no preconceptions. These smiles gave me the feeling that, “We got this.” While most times we think that smiles are a sign of happiness, but that works in reverse too. Smiles make us happy! I had many worries before I stepped foot on Star. Health issues of both myself and Baxter worried me. Within minutes, the worries were gone. Star Island is an island of love. I gazed out from Star toward the mainland recognizing landmarks and thought, “We aren’t very far from home.” But we were. We were a million miles away.

As we were heading back home after a wonderful week at Star Island, I vowed to keep the Star Island aura about me. I have spread the Star Love to everyone I can. It’s been over 300 days since I have set foot on Star Island and I feel like I am still there. Writing this series, the Friends of Star Island Facebook site, and my photos I post are from the heart. Without the winning of the Veterans Raffle last year, this would never have happened. I am hooked. I am in love. I need to give back, and words, images, and love are my way. Thank you everyone. I will see you all soon. I will be back with help from my friends! Tell your friends about Star Island. Tell everyone. This story is yours. It is ours.

Peace and Love ॐ  Nelson and Baxter

Newsletter

Spring Newsletter 2019

Star Island had a wonderful year, full of fascinating programs, exciting projects, community building, reflection, intention setting, gratitude, and joy. The 2019 spring newsletter celebrates all we have accomplished together, and what we look forward to in the coming months. We hope you have enjoyed reading the spring 2019 newsletter. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out here!

On the Island

A Shoaler in the Making: Part 6

A Shoaler in the Making, Part 6 by Nelson Linscott

There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue, whence, depressed
By false opinion and contentious thought,
Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
In trivial occupations, and the round
Of ordinary intercourse, our minds
Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
A virtue, by which pleasure is enhanced,
That penetrates, enables us to mount,
When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen

– William Wordsworth, The Prelude. Book 12. 208-218 (1850 edition)

I woke slowly and gently, one eye opening at a time and the thin red flame cap of the sun broke the horizon, casting its light though my window painting pink and gold on the wall behind me. I looked down past my rumpled pillow to see Baxter looking up at me with a curious smile. I greeted Baxter and asked if he was hungry, a question I already knew the answer to. I struggled out of bed, my back was stiff as a board and the pain reminded me that I was still alive. I checked my watch. It was 4:12 am.

After feeding Baxter, I threw the curtains open to the glory of Star Island. I opened the door and like he had been living at the room in the motel for years, Baxter limped out of the room and down the stairs to relieve himself. I stood on the porch gazing at the new morning and started snapping photos. Baxter found a spot at the bottom of the stairs to nibble grass and look at his new surroundings.

It was time to explore! After Baxter finished his breakfast, I popped him in the stroller and headed toward the Oceanic. There were a few people, employees and visitors who greeted us as we looked around. Inside the Oceanic, I was amazed at the lobby. Behind the main desk, up on the wall in a prominent place, I spied a clock. It was definitely old and obvious to me it was a Chelsea Clock. Chelsea clocks are high quality clocks, are made to this day as they were in the late 1800’s in Chelsea, Massachusetts. The company is well know for their nautical clocks. I put my camera to my eye and using the zoom lens to it’s maximum, I could see engraving in the brass patina top and bottom of the outer ring.  In Memoriam was engraved around the upper radius and below was engraved Ellen Adams. I was instantly very interested. Here it was 4:30 a.m. and I began asking. “Do you know the history of the clock in the Oceanic Lobby?” I received several suggestions on who to ask but at 4:40 am I had only the internet to investigate. I couldn’t find a thing about that clock. I then started examining all the antiques, books and anything I could find. Being a watch collector and sometimes watch and clock repairman, I was still stuck on that clock, but there were people to meet, things to see and breakfast to eat. Breakfast was a ways off so we headed out, Baxter in the stroller and me pushing on rocks, sand and hills, a labor of love. I started taking photographs.

Though I come from poverty, I have always found a way to obtain a camera. I started taking photos in the late sixties on a Yashica TL Electro-X. I have taken hundreds of thousands of photos. I am told I have the knack. Photography, like poetry and writing have come to me by reading. I am a high school dropout. I had learned everything I needed by eighth grade. By reading, I became educated. I have amassed a library of over a thousand books. I hit the road at age sixteen, living in hotels and sometimes wrecked cars and dilapidated buildings. I love exploration, meeting new people, and spontaneity. Bohemian life was my way.

I knew before I won the trip to Star Island that it was a photographer’s dream. Documenting my trip photographically was going to be easy. Caring for a hurt dog and myself, keeping my anxiety, PTSD and other maladies would be a challenge. I also had the innate feeling that there was something uniquely beautiful about the people of Star Island. This feeling was already substantiated waiting to board the Thomas Laighton in Portsmouth.

Down the hill we rolled, heading for the dock to look back up toward the Oceanic as a summer sun rose behind me. A seagull swooped by. The lights of the grand hotel still blazed. I clicked off several photos, let Baxter out of the stroller to sit in the glass. Baxter snuggled against my leg. “I am the luckiest man in the world”, I thought.

Finally we were signaled that breakfast was being served. As I walked in with Baxter in tow on his leash, I scanned the tables to find my group. Every table was buzzing with excitement, every face had a smile. I knew Star Island was more than its man made and natural physical beauty. The people who guided me here despite Baxter’s handicaps and my own made us feel like I always imagined a family would be like. Shoalers are the family I never had. I became acutely aware of every moment, living and loving every minute. I didn’t think of the past or the future. I was busy with now, and now made every event, every new friend and every sky, a moment that stood as unforgettable to a Kittery boy and his dog whose solitary love was about to burst open to include everyone. My distrust of people, the result of being abuse as a child, was gone.

As I ate my oatmeal, I asked if anyone knew about the lobby clock. I knew the Chelsea clock had a story, and I like stories.

 

Photographs by Nelson Linscott