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FOPPI Member finds "Death's Door" in an unlikely place

Updated: May 28

FOPPI member and emeritus board member Scott Nelson has a deep connection to the waters of the Northern Door, including the infamous Porte des Morts - Death's Door Passage. Recently, Nelson spotted a bit of "home," more than 2,200 miles away!

Working on fishing tugs in high school, Nelson spent countless hours in the waters around Death's Door. Citing excited curiosity, Nelson said he called up US Coast Guard Station Plum Island one day and was invited out for a tour. He met the rescue boat at Washington Island and was taken across to the Plum Island station for the day. Nelson decided that very day he would join the Coast Guard Reserves.

Several years later, Nelson found himself back on Plum Island as a member of the US Coast Guard Reserves - a dream come true!

Scott Nelson on-duty in Plum Island's radio room

Various photos from the 1970s/80s on Plum Island - FOPPI Archives

While interviewing Nelson a couple years ago in the boathouse, Nelson described to me what life was like on Plum Island when he was stationed there - when it wasn't time for work.

A summer on Plum Island was referred to as “Camp Snoopy” or “Station Vacation.” It was one of the slowest Coast Guard stations in the Coast Guard service, so there was plenty of time to do more fun activities than painting and scraping and running all the search and rescues that many of the busier stations did. We did our share of snorkeling and fishing and swimming, that sort of thing. We also had a set of hot tubs out here - It was made from a large tank that was cut in half, and they built a foundation around it with a firebox below it, with a chimney or stove stack. Then they put decking inside so your feet wouldn’t get hot. And they filled the tanks or the hot tubs with lake water with the big fire pump that was right outside the boathouse. - Scott Nelson

Photos of the hot tubs. Only the stone bases remain today - FOPPI Archives

"Station Vacation" was closed in 1991, and the Coast Guard operations shifted to Washington Island. Scott Nelson had moved on from Plum Island by this point - but it would call him back soon.

Nelson attended a reunion of Plum Island Coasties during FOPPI's 2012 annual meeting on Plum Island - and fell in love with the island all over. He became a volunteer on the islands, and has since served on FOPPI's board of directors. Nelson's current "emeritus" status on the board is far from honorary - Nelson still plays an active role in the management of FOPPI and the preservation work on the islands.

On a recent vacation to the Caribbean, Nelson walked into a small store on the island of Vieques. While walking the aisles, he was stunned to find bottles of "Death's Door" gin and vodka for sale!

Emeritus board member Scott Nelson recently found these bottles of Death's Door gin and vodka in a small store on the island of Vieques in the Caribbean

Sometimes that part of who we are never ceases to escape us. Sometimes, life comes full circle and you're reminded of your roots and where you are meant to be.


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