TEXT BY SARA ANNE DONNELLY
On a sleepless night in 2021, New Jerseyan Charlotte Gale was searching the internet for a house to buy. She wanted a modest place with land to garden, virtually anywhere, but preferably in Maine, which she’d visited as a teenager. But weeks of looking had turned up nothing of note. “My assessment was you could buy a little cottage in every state, and they all seemed like the same thing,” she says. That was, until she saw a listing for Duck Ledges Island. “I was like, ‘Now this doesn’t come around that much.’”
Tiny, treeless, and frequented by seabirds and seals, Duck Ledges, in Wohoa Bay, off Addison, is one and a half acres of tide-worn rock with a small patch of hardy grass. At its north end sits a two-room shingled cabin with a pickled-pine interior and no running water or electricity, and a weather-beaten outhouse. Otherwise, there’s nothing to stop the wind but your own resolute body. “I’m the type of person who has faith in the untraveled road,” Gale says. “And I thought, gee, this would be a different type of garden!”
However, before she, or anyone, could buy the island, they had to spend a night there, according to terms issued by Jonesport real-estate agent Billy Milliken, who’d owned the property off and on since 2005. “I wanted to make sure people were not getting themselves into a situation they couldn’t handle,” says Milliken, noting the location’s wild weather and extreme isolation. “What’s deep inside of you, whatever emotions you feel, they will catch you on that island.” Stephen King had a more sinister take on Duck Ledges (naturally), tweeting, “There’s a novel here, just waiting to be written.” A novel, he seemed to imply, that would not end well.
But Gale’s first trip was blissfully uneventful. She spent the day gathering seaglass, exploring the rocks, and walking the narrow sand beach. In the evening, she cooked dinner on the cabin’s Coleman stove and watched the sunset while listening to the lapping tide and distant clatter of seabirds. “There’s a real harmony out there, like a perfect tuning fork,” she says. “I thought, this is the most peaceful place I’ve ever been.” When Milliken came to pick her up, he found her asleep on a sunny rock.
In the end, Milliken fielded several bids, some for more than the $339,000 asking price. But Gale was the only one who stayed on the island overnight. Since purchasing it last July, she’s started renting it out for up to four-night stretches, which is about how long the cabin’s Yeti coolers keep food chilled. She also makes frequent trips there herself. She even went during a storm, just to see if she’d be scared. (She wasn’t.) “I never had any apprehension about being on the island by myself,” Gale says. “The universe dropped it in my lap, and I simply followed my heart.”