Instead, there is an outdoor shower, a shanty of an outbuilding, and electricity produced by a “suitcase generator.” And seals – lots and lots of barking seals.
Then there was Milliken’s personal ban: no cell phones.
“They were going to spend some time out there on the island alone,” he said. “It should either make them or crack them.”
His daughter and her boyfriend survived and were married last year with Milliken’s blessing. He is expecting a grandchild in July.
Now all 1½ acres of the patient island can become yours. Milliken sells Duck Ledges Island “in its entirety” for $ 339,000. It’s a piece of land in Wohoa Bay topped with the 540 square foot cottage that Milliken built and not much else. For 15 years, the island has served as a haven, sanctuary, cottage, gathering place and recreation site when he would hop in his boat and escape from his office or home in nearby Jonesport. He loves the island for the awe it inspired when he was alone, and the community it helped create when he took others with him.
Over the last few years, however, Milliken has not gone there as much as he felt he should – “an injustice to the island” – and will now pass on its charm.
But not for anyone, which is how he came to own Duck Ledges Island in the first place.
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Milliken bought it in 2007 almost by accident. As a real estate agent, he actually tried to sell the island to the previous owner. While on his way there with a potential buyer on Milliken’s boat – the only way to access the island – the guy began to transfer a store with weapons from one of two duffel bags he had taken with him to a series of pockets on sin person.
Milliken looked in the guy’s other bag while he was on the island – a sniper rifle. On the way back, the guy unloaded the weapons from his pockets to store them back in the duffel, but not all of them. When they entered the marina, he boasted to Milliken that he could use one of his throwing stars to decapitate a duck that had come into view.
“He was just trying to be cool and like,” Milliken said.
The owner, who was afraid that the caste star guy would buy the island to kill a herd of wildlife, failed to sell to him even though he offered to pay the list price.
Then he threw out a suggestion to Milliken: Why not buy it?
He did so – by stealing, Milliken remarked, and fully intended to turn the property over for at least double what he paid. But then something happened that he did not expect. From 2007 to 2009, as he transformed a structure that had shaped the island for decades into the 540-square-foot cottage that stands today, Milliken fell in love with the island – with the solitude, the roaring waves, the barking seals, the water, that stretched far away. And then there was the love it nurtured when he brought people out for lobster baking or campfire nights.
Money problems forced Milliken to sell the island after a few years. Like his predecessor, he rejected buyers whose intentions or attitudes he thought were unworthy of the island, like the man who came up with a respectable offer but complained about all the things it did not have. The man who passed Milliken’s test had spent time on a similar island as a child and wanted to give that experience to others.
“He shared the same passion for the island that we did, and that was important to us,” Milliken said.
The man rejected the traditional concept of a property purchase and instead chose to become “partners in ownership” with Milliken, which has continued to maintain the property for more than a decade.
“Over the years, we have shared the island with his friends, our friends, random people,” Milliken said. “We have never taken a penny for it. It has really brought great good to our hearts to do so.”
In 2019, he bought the island back, but continued the joint management.
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Milliken has since devoted his efforts to another island he owns, an 11-acre property in Maine, where he hopes to build a home where he can live year-round – a project inspired by Duck Ledges. Since he no longer takes advantage of everything the island has to offer, he wants to sell it to someone who can.
“I hope the future owner gets a fraction of the joy I’ve had,” he said.
But it’s not for everyone, which is why Milliken, in addition to paying him a few hundred thousand dollars, has another requirement for any potential buyer: They must stay at least one night on the island to see if they can hack it. It has held up any possible sale as no one can go to the island from the last week of October to the end of May, not unless you want to die from freezing or getting injured where no one can hear you screaming for help, said Milliken. “It’s not going to be a good death.”
So he waits until he can show people what they would go in for.
“Sometimes you think you’re Davy Crockett, but you really are Betty Crocker,” he said.
The reward is worth it, Milliken said. There are few distractions for those who follow the Milliken rule and leave their cell phones on the mainland, 1¼ miles away. In today’s world, there are so many “red herrings” that distract us that keep us on our way from ourselves, he said.
“You will find yourself out there,” he said, adding, “There is nowhere to hide.”
Milliken tried to describe the experience to those who have never been: He has been out there in the dark, the waves beating, seals barking and the night sky stretched until it fell and surrounded him. He was just a little man on a small island in the middle of an ocean.
“It makes you feel small,” he said, “in the best way.”