New Shoaler Guide
In the section below, resources are presented that will help you keep your new and old Shoalers in the loop. If you decide to use this guide for your conference, please credit the original authors, April Rosario and Nika Lopez.
Intentional Welcoming of New Shoalers
Welcoming new folks and making them feel that they are a part of the conference is one of the most important things you can do as a conference leader. Star Island can be a strange place at first, and it’s easy to feel excluded, especially when folks around them are so happy to see one another after a year apart.
Some conferences set up a buddy or new Shoaler/old Shoaler system where new members of the conference are paired up with older ones. It is good when the families or individuals have something in common, for examples, kids of similar age, or they are both ministers. You can pair single people with other single people and couples with couples. Some ideas to greet new Shoalers include:
- Old Shoaler/Buddy can send an email before the conference to introduce themselves to the new Shoaler and ask if they have any questions about Star Island or need any help with anything.
- Old Shoaler/Buddy can find and greet the new Shoaler at the dock in Portsmouth and make sure they are settled and oriented on the boat. They can also offer to help with luggage and finding their room.
- Some conferences have a new Shoaler Social Hour that is attended by conference leaders, new Shoalers and their greeters that starts 15 minutes ahead of regular Social Hour.
- Check in throughout the week with new Shoalers as needed.
Not Knowing the Lingo can Be Unwelcoming
Including a list or glossary of special Star words and phrases (Pel/Pelican; Fire & Water; Polar Bear; etc.) in an introduction letter or in a dock packet to help new conferees avoid confusion.
Review the “New Shoaler Guide” for helpful ideas to send to conferees before the conference starts. You may print and or/copy and paste these guides to send out on listservs, add to newsletters, or post on social media.
Using Social Media, Newsletters and/or Emails to Help New Shoalers Feel Welcome and Included Before Their Conference
Conference Facebook Pages, newsletters and/or direct emails can be an effective way for new conferees to learn more about their upcoming visit to Star Island and who they might meet there.
As longtime Shoalers and leadership, we may forget what it feels like to be a first timer (or someone returning after years away). Let us try and remember how easy it is to feel out of place as new Shoalers, just by not having as much information as the people around you.
The goal of this section is to provide a list of potential posts that can be used on conferences’ social media pages in the months and weeks leading up to the conference, as a way to help new conferees feel in-the-know. This is easily done by creating a “Fact of The Week” section on social media accounts and/or emailed newsletters from mid-spring through the conference.
Much of this information can be found on the Star Island website, however adding it to your social media make it more accessible to conferees. It is best if each post is accompanied by a picture or reference link.
Welcome post for each new person (after obtaining their permission/consent):
Let’s welcome our new member:___________ Please make sure you scroll through the page to see all the FAQ, info and tips about _______& Star Island and links to registration and discounts. (This is a great way for old Shoalers to connect with new Shoaler before they ever set foot on the dock)
Reminder for everyone new to Star Island this year! Don’t forget to fill out your discount application after you register [Add Link to Application].
Reminder for everyone to fill out Star Island’s Registration Raffle [Add Link to Raffle].
Reminder: Your luggage will be lifted, tossed, and passed by several people. Try to not use hard-sided suitcases or ones with wheels. A duffle bag style is best. All bags must be under 40 lbs – multiple small bags are preferable.
Wondering Question Posts
Are you wondering what the days will be like on Star Island during the _______ Conference? Check out this sample schedule! Things are happening from 6am to midnight!! As always people are encouraged to be as involved or uninvolved as they wish [Add picture of or link to schedule].
Have you been wondering what the accommodations/rooms are like on Star Island? [Add Link to Island Accommodations Page]
The Star lifestyle is based in part on our commitment to conservation of resources.
Although some bedrooms are accessible by ramp, most are located up at least one flight of stairs, or over a rocky path.
Most rooms do not lock, and keys are not available.
Bedrooms are furnished with platform beds made on the island, a dresser that you will need to share with your roommate(s), a wash stand, a small mirror, and a row of hooks for hanging anything that needs to be hung (some hangers are included).
There are no closets in most rooms.
Rooms have either shutters or curtains.
Bed linens, towels and washcloths, a pitcher of drinking water and a glass for each family member, a wash basin for sponge bathing, and a small bar of soap are all provided.
Towels and sheets can be replaced by request, and extra towels are available outside the shower rooms on shower days.
Frequently Asked Question Posts
FAQ: What happens after we get to Portsmouth?
You will be directed where to park in the Steamship Company dock, check in and unload your luggage. Finally board the ferry and you’re on your way! For more details check our Getting Here page. [Add Link to Getting Here Page]
FAQ: What do we do once we get off the ferry?
Once you have disembarked the boat, head up the road and up the steps of the Oceanic Hotel (main building, follow the crowd). Next, head into the hotel where you will confirm your room assignment at the lobby desk. Your luggage will be dropped off at living areas by island staff.
FAQ: What is a shared room?
A shared room simply means a room with more than one person. Families, couples, or two+ people who would like to room together. A shared room does not mean you will be sharing with someone you don’t know.
FAQ: How are the rooms laid out?
Different rooms offer different options. Some are the perfect size for singles or couples, others can accommodate a whole family. Most rooms can also fit a pack n play, and adjoining rooms are also an option. If you’re looking for a little bit more privacy then the cottages or motel rooms may be more to your liking. But there is always something for everyone!!! [Post picture of room layout]
FAQ: Can I apply for both a discount and a financial grant?
Yes You Can!!
FAQ: What is the hall monitoring service?
The island staff provides hall monitors every evening from 8 to 11 p.m. for families with children 8 and under. This is a group sitter service. Hall monitors are stationed in the hallways near the children’s rooms to listen, to see that the children are safe, and to see that the parents are sent for if their child/children need them. For more information, see the Youth and Families webpage. All families with children under 8 will be charged [~$25 or ~ $50 -depending on the length of your conference] for this service.
FAQ: How will I know my way around the island?
Click the link below to see a map of the island. [Link to Island Map]
FAQ: How will I know what to pack?
Please see the packing list in your welcome email.
FAQ: What kind of shoes should I bring?
It is best to bring a few different kinds. While flip-flops are great for the showers and in your rooms, they definitely won’t hold up outside. Closed toe sandals are best for kids! For adults, if you plan to stay on the paths the slip on sandals with thick soles are best. If you plan on adventuring off the path, or out on the rocks, you’ll want something that straps to your foot securely. It can be cold and rainy, so it’s good to have something waterproof and warm as well. If you plan on going swimming then water shoes are best, as the beach is very rocky.
FAQ: Can I bring a stroller to the island?
Strollers are not recommended on Star Island, as the island walkways are not paved and have very uneven terrain. However, baby carriers/backpacks work wonderfully.
FAQ: Does Star Island provide over-the-counter medicines (pain reliever, Pepto Bismol, etc.) if I get sick?
The best option is to bring a small first aid kit with everything you might need. However there is a small store in the lobby of the Oceanic Hotel, they will have a small array of personal care items. The First Aid station will also have medication in case of illness or injury.
FAQ: Are there curtains in the rooms?
Most rooms have curtains, others have roller shades or wooden shutters.
FAQ: Can I print something on the Island before or after a workshop?
Yes! There’s a business center with wireless internet access, computers, printing, and copying capabilities available for your use.
FAQ: Who are the Pels?
The Pels (short for Pelicans) are a crew of 100 or so employees (many are college students). They spend the summer on the island and do everything from housekeeping, maintenance, gardening, and cooking, to help ensure all guests have an amazing week!
FAQ: What About Taking Showers on Star Island?
Availability: 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (closed in the middle for cleaning) any day. Location: Men’s and women’s shower rooms, beneath the lobby. Gender-neutral and first-floor accessible showers are available for those who aren’t able to use the main showers. It is best to bring a bathrobe or cover up to get back and forth from the showers to your room. To conserve resources, conferees are asked to limit showers to roughly every other day. Towels and soap are available outside the shower rooms. There is also a rinse-off shower located at the end of the pier for conferees wishing to rinse off after a swim.
FAQ: What is the candlelight chapel service?
Experience some of the magic of Star Island! What could be more peaceful than a candlelight chapel service accompanied by the sound of waves crashing against the rocks and music? Candlelight services are a cherished Star Island tradition. At the close of each day, Shoalers gather at the foot of the hill and form a procession, carrying candle lanterns as the villagers of long ago carried their whale-oil lamps up the same winding path to the meetinghouse. Inside the chapel, the candle lanterns are hung on brackets from the walls, providing the only source of light. Whether you attend every night, make it to a few, or experience it only once it is not something you want to miss.
FAQ: I’m an early riser, what’s the best way to start my day?
Whatever your speed is, there is something for you. Maybe you’re the get up and go type…If so, take a run around the perimeter road, or the polar bear plunge. [mention if your conference offers morning yoga, communion, meditation etc.]. Or maybe a cup of coffee or tea on the front porch is more your style. Either way you’re bound to have a great day!!
FAQ: What is there to do for the rest of the day?
The short answer: It’s like summer camp for all ages!!!
The more detailed answer:
When people talk about Star Island, they talk about it as both a “place to unplug” and a “place where something is always going on.” As hard as it is to believe, both are completely true. The morning programming for adults will focus on _______________________ ….
While the adults are in their morning programs, children and youth 0-18 will get to enjoy__________________….
(These answers will be different and specific to each conference)
There are lots of other programs and activities on our schedule [give examples], and you may want to spend some of your time exploring the island, taking out a kayak, or creating some artwork. Check out the links below for more details:
[Add Link to Conference Website and https://starisland.org/faq-category/activities/]
FAQ: What’s for dinner?
Good food is a must for a great vacation! Check out these sample menus to see what the dining is like on Star. Vegan, vegetarian, gluten free and allergies can all be accommodated. Please speak with the registrar.
[Post picture of dining room and snack bar]
FAQ: I see on the schedule there is an Underworld Tour, what is that?
Underworld Tours (offered for both adults and kids/youth) offer a “behind the scenes look” through the kitchens, laundry, staff dining areas, and other areas of the island operation on these interactive tours! Ask questions and chat about how the island is run as you walk.
[For conferences June-August] FAQ: I see on the schedule there is a Botany Walk, what is that?
The Island Naturalist will conduct a tour of the vast island flora, including a discussion on edible and medicinal plants native to the Shoals.
FAQ: Are there games and/or sports equipment on the Island?
Of course!!! The following island equipment may be signed out at the Front Desk:
Frisbees, ping-pong paddles (table is in Brookfield attached to the marine lab), volleyballs, basketballs, horseshoes, corn hole, hula-hoops, kick balls, tennis rackets, softballs, bats & gloves. Keep in mind that children under 12 cannot use softball equipment without an adult present. Or feel free to bring your own!
FAQ: What is the swimming/beach like?
The beach is rocky so water shoes are a definite plus. You can also jump off the swim platform that is attached to the dock and go for a swim. Lifeguards are on duty during swim hours.
Fun Fact Posts
Fun Fact: Are you a runner, look no further!!
The perimeter road’s varying terrain provides a moderately challenging course for runners. Whether you take an early morning jog as the sun rises, or an afternoon run through front lawn games, the perimeter road engages you beyond just the physical. Terrain can be rocky, and sometimes muddy in parts during June, so please only run with proper gear and precaution.
How long is the perimeter road?
- Perimeter Rd: 2590 feet (.49 miles)
- w/ summer house path: 2720 feet (.51 miles)
- w/ pier: 3218 feet (.59 miles)
- w/ both: 3348 feet (.63 miles)
Fun Fact: No island vacation is complete without a massage!
Guests can enjoy a massage from a professional massage therapist during their stay on Star. Interested guests may request a 1-hour session through the front desk. The massage fee (~$80) can be added to individual room & board bills. Massage rooms are located on the third floor of the Oceanic Hotel. A large portion of the massage program proceeds go directly to Star Island.
Fun Fact: Star Island houses New England’s largest off grid solar array!
It provides the majority of the Island’s electricity.
Fun Fact: Recycling is just one of the many conservation methods used as part of the Green Gosport Initiative.
Fun Fact: There is nothing like starting your morning with a hot cup of coffee…or tea or hot chocolate!!
At morning coffee (6am -8am), early risers enjoy coffee, tea, and hot chocolate on the Oceanic Front Porch before breakfast is served. Need a pick me up through the day? Don’t worry, midday and evening coffee breaks are generally scheduled to coincide with an intermission in a conference event and activities.
[conferences June-August] Fun Fact: The Marine Lab is definitely a hotspot on the Island for kids and adults alike!! Located just behind the tennis courts.
The littlest conferees can come by the lab to hang out in the kids’ corner, which features age appropriate experiments, coloring books, reading materials and more! Children in the toddler program all the way through the senior teen program also enjoy the display tanks where they can get up close and personal with sea creatures of all varieties.
Fun Fact: Are you the creative type? If so then you definitely want to stop by the Art Barn!!
The Art Barn is a place to create anything your imagination brings to you? Arts and crafts supplies are provided, and people are also welcome to bring in their own projects. Spending time in the Art Barn is great fun for all ages
[If applicable] Fun Fact: Most conferences have some kind of Talent Show/Stunt Night/Variety Show that features the talents of your fellow conferees!!
Everyone is welcome to participate and show off any talent they have. Not quite ready yet to hop on stage and perform? No worries, watching the show is just as fun as performing in it. Either way it’s not something you want to miss!!!
Fun Fact: Star Island is one of the nine Isles of Shoals located seven miles off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine.
So how will we get there… The Thomas Laighton Ferry of course!!
***Fun Facts about the Thomas Laighton Ferry***
The Thomas Laighton is a 90-foot vessel with three decks- two fully heated and enclosed cabins and an open sundeck with seating and will hold up to 300 passengers.
There is a galley bar that includes hot dogs, candy, chips, drinks and alcoholic drinks for our 21 and over guests.
There are four bathrooms aboard the vessel.
Be sure to dress in layers. Remember that it is 10 to 15 degrees cooler on the water than it is on land. Also be aware that the sun is bright. Don’t forget your sunblock!
[for conferences June-August] Fun Fact: Softball is an Island Favorite!!!
One afternoon during our week, conferees will be pitted against the Pelican squad (employees) in this long-standing tradition. All games use low-flight softballs and are generally “slow pitch.” So bring your glove, borrow one from the island, or find a spot on the porch to watch the game. Not an afternoon you want to miss!!
Fun Fact: Star Chant
As the boat approaches the Star Island dock, there is a much-loved campy cheer that is initiated by the greeters on the dock. It goes like this:
Oceanic, Oceanic, Rah, rah, rah!
You DID come back, You DID come back, You DID come back!
And everyone on the boat cheers back:
Oceanic, Oceanic, Rah, rah, rah!
We DID come back, We DID come back, We DID come back!
It’s fun, you’ll get the hang of it, even if you are a newcomer.
Follow Up Emails
Has someone responded to a social media post or a newsletter blurb asking for more information about Star Island? In addition to pointing them to the website, you can use some of the text below for a useful explanation of what a New Shoaler can expect on their first visit.
Thank you for your interest in Star Island. It’s a special place for many people.
When planning a visit to Star Island, people have a few options: day tripping, personal retreating, or staying for a week-long conference. Each experience is slightly different, but all give you an idea of what makes Star so special. If you are headed out to Star for just a few hours, it’s easy to take in the immediate physical beauty of the island, the large green front lawn great for picnics and softball games, the ocean and views of the surrounding islands, and the historic Oceanic hotel. Even being here for only a few hours, you’re still able to participate in many activities such as: renting kayaks or row boats to visit Smuttynose Island, head over to the marine lab to visit with some sea creatures and grab a snack at the snack bar! People often love a historical tour of the island as well. By the time you’ve fit in enough activities, it’s time to get back on the boat.
Some people experience the day trip and realize they haven’t had enough! So, they plan an overnight stay. In addition to participating in activities available to day trippers, personal retreaters experience another aspect of the island, a glimpse of the tight knit community. As an overnight guest, you are able to experience family style dining, sleep over in the main hotel or surrounding cottages and even get the chance to participate in conference events if interested. If you in fact get to experience what happens at a conference, it is likely you may be inspired to take a look at what you can experience over a few nights or even a week long stay.
Staying a week on Star is always relaxing but there is always something to do, if you want to. All conferences have a different focus, and there are so many to choose from that many find themselves on Star a few times over during the season. Some come to enjoy time with their families and friends, and some come for conferences that have a specific purpose like yoga, creative exploration, connecting with nature and so much more. It is easy to be inspired to stay busy all day with conference activities, but everyone finds lots of time for the most beautiful and traditional activities at Star: porch sitting, photographing the beauty of Star, participating in lantern lit chapel services and taking long walks around the island.
Mornings are filled with sleepy conversations on the front porch while having a first cup of coffee and looking at the beautiful ocean scenery as you sit in a rocking chair to greet the day. Star is truly one of the best places to unplug and restore. The mainland and any of your troubles feels so far away and it really gives you time to think and just be human without the distractions of everyday living. The conference activities allow for uninterrupted time to fully engage with the topic that brought you to Star. Daily meals are shared in the community, and values are shared among both visitors and island staff. Evenings will bring starry skies, and you can sit on the porch with a Lime Rickey from the snack bar for a late night chat with new friends or just lay on the front lawn and drink in the night sky and all its beauty.
The amazing Pelicans and the fabulous Star Island team, are also such a great part of this experience. They take such amazing care of this special island, keep things running smoothly and offer so much insight to the important work that is done on Star. The pelicans also prepare an amazing show for the Star Island community to share together as the week comes to an end. When you have a great week on Star, you’ll leave feeling that you are in the beginnings of building lifelong friendships and being a part of a community that you will look forward to seeing every summer. It is our hope that you leave Star beginning the countdown to the day you will return and although your heart is already longing to stay, you undoubtedly know, you will come back!
Not everyone coming to Star has disposable income or the privilege of being able to put unplanned purchases on a credit card. It is imperative to be very clear on “hidden” costs. By providing conferees with a list of all the extras (and their prices) that can be enjoyed on Star, conferees can better budget and plan what is or is not doable without feeling caught off guard.
Here is a list of extras that should be sent to both new and returning Shoalers after they register. We also suggest sending a payment schedule as well detailing what and when everything is due.
The Bookstore has a wide variety of books on subjects related to conference topics, and the Isles of Shoals, as well as a smattering of novels and children’s books. Postcards, note cards, and stamps are also sold in the bookstore.
The Lobby Store does not have abundant stock, however, for its size, it does have an amazing array of personal care items including toiletries, small stationary, sunscreen, diapers, nail care items, batteries, shaving supplies, shoelaces, feminine hygiene supplies, sunglasses and more! No tobacco products are sold on the Island.
The Gift Shop, also for its size, has an impressive stock of clothing, jewelry, souvenirs and toys. Gift shop buyers do a great job of including both high end souvenirs/clothing/jewelry, and affordable, interesting small toys that children can easily buy with their own money.
Snack Bar & Grill
Oh, the snack bar! The snack bar is not open during meals. But in between meals, many Shoalers enjoy everything from the famed Lime Rickey to a cupful of Swedish fish. Beware if you are bringing children to the island – you can drop a lot of cash at the snack bar, even on day one! It is a wonderful place to park for a while and enjoy an ice cream cone. Also, on the menu are bagels, hot dogs, fruit, candy, coffee, tea and many other delights.
Wednesday evening is Lobster Night for those so inclined. Sign-up for Lobster Night happens on the island, and local rates prevail. ~$18/lobster (added to conferee room and board bills).
Appledore Island Visit
On Tuesday afternoon, we will have the opportunity to boat over to the largest shoal, Appledore Island, for a tour of the Shoals Marine lab and a chance to see Celia Thaxter’s splendid garden. We may also have the chance to circle Duck Island to see the seal population (500+ seals!). This trip is suitable for children over the age of 8 with a caregiver (or back-pack babies), and those who are able to walk on rough terrain (rougher than Star). Strollers and wheelchairs will not be able to navigate the rocks. Also, the boat trip is standing room only, and the waves do knock you around a bit! The cost is around $25/adult, $12/youth.
Monday night enjoy a spectacular Star Island sunset aboard the Shining Star while cruising around the Isles of Shoals. Cost is around $30/adult, $15/youth.
Enjoy a massage from a professional massage therapist during their stay on Star. Interested guests may request a 1-hour session through the front desk. The massage fee can be added to individual room & board bills. A large portion of the massage program proceeds go directly to Star Island. Massages cost ~$100 for an hour. Reservations are made at the front desk.
Hall Monitoring Service
As mentioned previously, families with one or more children under the age of eight are charged around $60 per family for full week conferences, and around $30 per family for short conferences for the hall monitoring service offered by the Pels from 8 pm to 11 pm. This charge will be included on your island bill.
The parking fee for the dock in Portsmouth is $16 per vehicle per night.
Let Shoalers know if your conference asks for donations at Fellowship Hour. You should also let them know if you sell tickets for a clams/mussels social, and roughly how much they cost.
If your conference puts on a fundraising auction, let Shoalers know in advance they may want to bring an item to contribute, and/or plan to spend money to bid on items.
Star Island is a nonprofit organization. The money guests spend on the island accounts for less than 70% of the annual budget. Star relies on charitable support to make up the remainder. Making donations is not required but Shoalers should expect to hear about it when they’re on the island, and may want to be prepared to make a donation should they choose to.
***The Island accepts Visa and MasterCard for hotel invoices (which will include the weekly parking fee, and ferry tickets) at the end of the week, and at the bookstore, lobby store and gift shop. Personal checks, credit cards, and cash are accepted for items purchased at the auction. You can also cash a personal check, if needed, at the front desk in the hotel.