From the Pilothouse: Captaining the Sunbeam

by | Feb 28, 2023 | News

In 2001, when I learned there was a position available on the Sunbeam, I envisioned the romance of a career at sea. The fresh wind, the salt spray, the beautiful sunsets—sign me up! What does the boat do? As a local I knew it as “God’s Tugboat,” but really at that point the purpose was secondary to me: I wanted the lifestyle.  

Maybe I was young and selfish, but I did not expect that this would become one of the richest experiences of my life. The history of the boat among the islands, and the trust that has been developed, is astonishing. I am honored to play a part and this is why: 

We get out there: year-round we make twice-monthly visits to our regular islands in all but the worst weather. Other islands are visited several times a year. These range from Vinalhaven with a population of 1,250 to Eagle Island with a population of two. 

We offer a lot: the Sunbeam is relied on for a quick dash aboard to grab a cookie to longer visits for some conversation and maybe a game of cribbage. It is the coffee shop where there is no coffee shop as well as being an important resource for more complex medical and spiritual issues. 

We are neutral: given the nature of any small town, folks may come aboard with different points of view. We enjoy the company of each individual and make them feel welcome. On the Sunbeam differences are points of interest, not points of conflict. 

We operate as a team: Storey helps medical patients aboard, Douglas assists with lines, Jillian rides in the back of pickup trucks to deliver food, and I help maintain the medical equipment. This strengthens our morale and our impact. 

We are part of the Maine Seacoast Mission. Need I say more? If a true need arises, we don’t have to call the office, we don’t need to fill out forms. We act, and we are fully supported. I like that. 

It has been over 20 years for me.  What will the next years bring? The islands are changing, many of my friends have died, and some great, new folks have arrived. I look forward to the future and am certain that the Sunbeam will be there in its classic, understated manner. As for my original reasons for joining the crew? I do love the sunsets, but salt spray? It is a nuisance. 

Mike Johnson, Sunbeam Captain 

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