Most of the island's 2,400 people are exceptionally hard-working, a generalization supported by a scarcity of the untidy shacks and yards one sees so often on the mainland, and by the hard fact that Grand Manan is New Brunswick's wealthiest county. Almost all this money is made in fishing. There is no lobster fishing off Grand Manan in the summer and early fall, the Canadians having learned to leave the lobsters alone during the breeding and shedding seasons (a lesson Yankee fishermen, moaning over declining catches, refuse to accept). The slack during the summer is taken up by herring, which Grand Manan fishermen pursue relentlessly. Though most of the old smokehouses on the island are unused or have been torn down because of the decline in the smoked-herring market, the smaller fish are now canned as sardines, while the larger ones are converted into fertilizer and shipped to Europe. Inland, some spruce is cut and carried by barge to pulp mills on the mainland.
Motor vehicles provide the islanders with an outlet for both their energy and their earnings. The younger set inclines toward motorcycles, their elders toward late-model automobiles. One Grand Manan fisherman we talked to had never taken his car off the island, yet had put 51,000 miles on it in 15 months. Perhaps more frustrated are the owners of new cars among the 40-odd families that live on White Head, a nearby island. Only three miles of paved road are available to them. In leisure hours they load their cars aboard the little ferry headed for "the main," meaning Grand Manan, and spend the day cruising up and down the road between North and Southwest Heads.
No, it isn't Palm Beach, but there is enough here for those with eyes to see. One never forgets a walk along the rim of the great cliffs, through patches of wind-stunted shrubs, and the view to distant islands and the Nova Scotia shore. Nor the spectacularly sinister wooded ravine at Dark Harbor, into whose depths an elderly man slid from an icy road to his destruction not long ago with his horses and a log-laden sled. Nor the light on the water at Whale Cove, where Willa Cather retired to write some of her last books.
A day later J. C. Strout sailed the Eugenia II out of the breakwater at Grand Harbor and away from the island. Into the setting sun? Hardly. All we could see, as J. C. began to grumble, was the dense bank of fog that shortly would envelop us.