Recently, you will recall, the worldwide merchant marine had to line up and wait while a huge container ship was pried loose from the Suez Canal. This had to get done so the astronauts aboard the International Space Station would stop gawking out the window and go back to work. The newsman said that 13% of worldwide freight goes through that canal, but it looked to me like easily 14% of the world’s multimodal boxes were aboard that particular ship. The cargo vessel Ever Given was finally dislodged a week ago by — if you follow social media — a pack of Siberian huskies, a lot of WD-40, a bathtub-toy sort of tugboat with a British accent, and one very intrepid backhoe operator. High tide helped.

Worldwide logistics is a complex puzzle, with every detail dependent on every other moving part, like a great machine with rusty gears. Local transportation issues aren’t much simpler.

Last week on Matinicus Island the Department of Public Works — a respected fraternal voluntary society which occasionally gathers to entertain small children or enjoy a few hot dogs — rounded up some help from friend Bill, who made the trip from the mainland to coax our old road grader into action in mind to improve the somewhat weather-beaten surface of the gravel airstrip (speaking of rusty gears). The blistered yellow paint and completely rocked-out windows make the 1947 machine look like something a retired heavy equipment geek might plant petunias in, but with experience and a little love she (according to Bill) was urged into service, and the 1,600' island strip is the better for it. Bill is a local writer — if you read my stuff, you likely read his — and he got a bit sentimental about the old iron, christening our well-oxidized relic of a highway maintenance fleet “Greta.” Bill recalled his duty exactly 50 years prior, grading an airstrip on the island of Diego Garcia when he was in the SeaBees.

This grader was purchased by the island out of a muddy strawberry field in Dresden to replace the “old” 1952 grader five years her junior. Some remember the unit having been military surplus, so we’re thinking it was probably the exact same grader Bill used on Diego Garcia in 1971. That’s our story and we’re sticking with it.

While the guys were having Antique Motor Day at the airstrip I was trying to get the annual Household Hazardous Waste collection pulled together for this summer. That meant finding out the exact bumper-to-bumper length of whatever truck Environmental Projects, Inc., the chemical collection outfit, was planning to send and securing a round-trip ferry reservation — and a place to sleep — spanning a couple of days. They need at least a full day on the island to set up their impervious surface and collect our hydrocarbons and other oddments. With the 36-trip-per-year limit, Matinicus ferries are infrequent enough, but we need two trips close together, with a day or two between, and neither voyage on a Friday. EPI need their truck to be squarely on the mainland on summer Fridays because they’ll typically be expected in Jackman or Caribou or some such distant place early Saturday morning. But most other summer ferry riders prefer pairs of trips that span weekends, because they’re thinking vacation, and the port captain tries to accommodate.

Ferry reservations for truck spaces get snapped up fast. I had to get this nailed down before anybody else could or we wouldn’t have an HHW collection — meaning a clean way to get rid of used motor oil, all those rusty half-cans of toxic antifouling paint, and that brain in a jar on the shelf in the back of the cellar.

With several properties changing hands lately, everybody’s eager to get those brains in jars disposed of properly. We bring in the experts these days. Times have changed.

Last Thursday was also the date scheduled for most winter islanders to get their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The crew from the Maine Seacoast Mission and the public health nurses were scheduled to fly out to administer the vaccine, but with a rainstorm expected on the planned day, that was a no-go. They scrambled to contact the whole list of people and move the event ahead a day. This change required they get to and from Monhegan by boat Wednesday morning, up the peninsula and over to the airport in Owls Head, and to then make the trip to Matinicus by air to vaccinate roughly 30 grateful people in the afternoon — and to get off the island before being stuck here by weather.

There were jokes online about every mode of transportation being required for that trip except perhaps a train. I’m just as happy we’re not operating a railroad. In Minnesota, the molasses train exploded last week.