After two weeks on Martha’s Vineyard and three days on Nantucket we are now anchored at Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Our plan to go to Maine to avoid the east coast summer heat and hurricanes is working so far. We also had the added benefit of exploring Martha’s Vineyard before the summer population explosion.
The explorer Bart Gosnold named the island Martha's Vineyard in 1602 after his eldest daughter and the wild grapes growing there. Great Harbour where the first white settlement was established in 1642 was renamed Edgartown to honor the new Royal heir apparent who subsequently died at the tender age of four (which explains why there are not many Edgartowns). Under the leadership of Pastor Thomas Mayhew the settlers dealt fairly with and respected the indigenous Wampanoag and there was not the typical bloodshed. This area became the global epicenter of the whaling industry which was first developed here when the Wampanoag taught the settlers how to kill and render whales. Whale oil and blubber lubed and fueled the early industrial revolution until petroleum was discovered in Pennsylvania and all the ships left on a one way trip to San Francisco hauling (18)49ers. The subsequent depression led to a halt on construction and renovation (similar to what we learned about in Charleston). Eventually discovered by summer holiday makers and preservationists, authentic Cape Cod style colonial architecture dominates throughout the islands with some structures built by whaling captains in their heyday sporting Greek Revival elements to show off their wealth. Local ordinances strictly limit architectural design choices and almost all buildings are painted white with natural or grey shingles. The seafaring tradition here is still apparent with junior sailing camps in full swing everywhere sporting Optis and 420’s. The adults are into classic Sheilds, Herreshoff 12.5s, all manner of gaff rigged catboats as well as modern racing sloops.
Our first day ashore on Martha’s Vineyard we took advantage of the excellent bus system and rode from Vineyard Haven to Edgartown to see the well preserved whaling captains homes and Old Whaling Church. Fish and chips on the Seafood Shanty’s upstairs deck offered a nice view of the hundreds of yachts in the harbor. Next door we presented ourselves to the friendly staff at the Edgartown Yacht Club who offered us reciprocal privileges. The return bus via Oak Bluffs allowed a circumambulation of the historical town center with its quaint shops and Flying Horses carousel, the oldest continually operated carousel in the States. A must see are the gingerbread cottages. In 1835 Martha’s Vineyard’s first annual Methodist Church meeting attracted more than 12,000 attendees to this site where attendees camped in tents. Over the subsequent yearly meetings family camp sites evolved into summer cottages with elaborate Victorian scroll and bead work painted in colorful and whimsical themes. Today the town is also known as a summer resort for many wealthy African Americans and depicted in the movie 'The Inkwell' (as the local beach is referred to). We were told the large power boat with helicopter anchored next to us belonged to Oprah Winefrey who frequents the area.
On day two we rented bicycles and headed for John Belushi's final resting place: Abel Hill Cemetery near Chilmark. Taking care not to make it our final destination we dodged the trucks and busses on the winding road and after some searching we found a headstone near the entrance stating: Here Lies Buried The Body of John Belushi, I may be gone but rock & roll lives on. For TV aboard ship these days we are rerunning the first five seasons of Saturday Night Live on DVD and felt compelled to honor John with the following original poem inspired by Blues Brother's lyrics inscribed on the brim of a black plastic party hat.
You forever brightened our lives
during your brief stay,
making us laugh
in your own crazy way.
Coming to us
on a dusty road,
you gave us a truck load.
Taking pills & cheap whiskey
to ease the pain,
the blues poured down
on you like rain.
We hope you are in heaven
with good souls near
Singin’: “Hey bartender
gimme some beer.”
Stopping at the farmer's market at Grange Hall in West Tisbury we bought two orchids from a local grower who was kind enough to deliver them to the bike rental shop. We continued on for a well deserved lunch of New England clam chowder while sitting on the rugged beach in Mememsha. This small fishing harbor was immortalized in the movie 'JAWS' as well as Edgartown (renamed Amity). That evening the local TV news reported a great white had been spotted off Chatham, a Cape Cod beach reminding us that Spielberg was quite correct in choosing this area to film Benchley’s novel set on Long Island.
On our third day of touring we biked to the orchid grower's farm to buy another orchid but only after the owner promised the captain that three was the limit. A picnic lunch by the harbor was followed by sampling some homemade ice cream at the many parlors in Oak Bluffs.
Two days of bike riding was enough for us sailors so the following day we walked around Vineyard Haven and special ordered some things including a Waterway Cruising Guide at West Marine Express. For lunch we dined at the Black Dog Pub, made famous by various celebrities wearing their T-shirts including Bill Clinton who purchased items for Monica. Black Dog also owns two tall ships which we saw taking guests for sails every day.
After five nights we moved the boat to the Edgartown outer harbor to secure a front row seat for the 4th of July fireworks. We were the first boat there but within a couple days our spot off the Chappaquiddick Beach filled up with dozens of other yachts with the same intent. With a few days to kill before the festivities, some alternative touring methods were employed: A dinghy ride to Cape Pogue Pond with kayak in tow allowed exploration further afield yet up close and personal. We hiked past wild roses on the east coast sand dunes to watch the local fisherman surf cast and kayaked Poucha Pond. A dinghy ride past the inner harbor to Katama Bay was also worthwhile to get a look at the many stately mansions along the shore. The ferry from Oak Bluffs to Falmouth on Cape Cod took us to some long time friends who spend summers at their lovely home nearby.
The Independence Day festivities started around five o’clock with a quaint small town parade, consumption of 'lobster rolls' and concluded with an hour long fireworks display from a barge a few hundred yards from the boat. With the arrival of our West Marine special order items and the demeanor of the island changing from laid back local to hurried hoards it was time to move on.
The ‘Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book’ is a must for this area due to the nature of the numerous shoals. The current charts are very accurate and after consulting it we decided on a mid morning departure for the twenty mile trip to Nantucket. With as much as three knots of current possible, variable winds and ubiquitous sand bars, our respect for the old whaling captains continued to grow. Entering the well protected harbor we found most of the anchorage area filled with moorings and turned left to drop the hook next to a big sailing yacht anchored in the navigational channel leading to the next bay. We paid the price for cheap seats however and had to put up with strong currents and wakes in the channel.
Over the next four days we visited the Whaling Museum (reopened in 2005 with a complete right whale skeleton), the Old Gaol (jail), the Old Wind Mill (1749), the Oldest House (1659) and climbed the restored First Congregational Church steeple for a bird’s eye view of the harbor. We strolled the cobblestone streets lined with the stately colonial homes of whaling merchants dating from the early 1800’s when the island had the highest per capita income in the world. With a new lease on life, the island’s residents again claim the highest per capita income on the east coast of the US. A two percent transfer tax on all property sales funds a land trust to purchase open space which is now over 50% of the land mass and ringed by white beaches and laced with hiking and biking trails. The overall result is a quaint historic town filled with upscale shops and restaurants where a 200 year old cottage in need of major repair sells for $2 million. In addition to the wealthy summer home owners, thousands of well healed twenty-something year olds swarm the streets and beaches (depending on the weather) for summertime fun.
Consulting Eldridge again, we departed Nantucket on July 10 and motored to Butler Hole, thru Pollock Rip (you can’t make names up this funny with Gay Head taking the cake) and around Cape Cod with 1-3 knots of current in our favor the whole way to Provincetown. With boat speeds up to 11 kn at times, dodging the thousands of lobster pots for hours became quite tedious. Rewarding were the numerous wildlife sightings which included dolphins, whales and seals.
We arrived in P-Town just in time for Bears Week with burley gay men from ‘sugar bears’ to ‘cubs’ milling about and filling every inn, bar, restaurant and fudge parlor in town. P-Town is known to host festival weeks catering to the LGBT community as well as having a large gay population. We had fun browsing the many art galleries and shops and were entertained by friends with summer homes there. The view from the 252 ft high Pilgrim Monument is worth the climb and the Provincetown Museum there at the Monument is also worthwhile.
We plan to be underway soon, bound for the wild Maine coast.
Guides: Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book, Dozier’s Waterway Guide – Northern 2012
Ferries: Vineyard Haven to Woods Hole, Hyannis to Nantucket (Steamship Authority 508-477-8600), Oak Bluffs to Falmouth (Island Queen 508-548-4800)
Bus: Ask for day or week passes for savings.
Outer harbour anchorage: 41d27.87’N, 70d35.65’W, 15 ft HW
Free Dinghy Landing: head for beach side of harbour breakwater and continue on to first pier with floating dock.
Restrooms and trash: near pier.
Chandlery: West Marine Express
Outer harbor anchorage: 41d23.26’N, 70d30.05’W, 17 ft HW
Free Dinghy Landing: left side of the Edgartown Yacht Club pier all the way in (red piling floating dock)
Trash: Designated dumpster in street near the front of the EYC
Anchorage: 41d17.43’N, 70d04.94’W, 25 ft on edge of buoyed channel
Free Dinghy Landing: Floating dock on Town Pier (last one on left, right side, all the way in to the beach)
Restrooms, showers and trash: near pier
Anchorage: 42d02.20’N, 70d11.10’W, 60 ft (10 ft tides possible!)
Dinghy Landing: Fisherman’s Wharf (right side, call harbormaster to OK) or Flyers dock $10.00/day (near right side of USCG pier, dock on south side, all the way in to the beach. Do not lock.
Restrooms: Commercial Street near Fisherman’s Wharf
Chandlery: Land’s End Marine Supply, 337 Commercial St. 508-487-0784 or Conwell Hardware, 21 Conwell 508-487-0150 off Bradford
Propane: Days Propane, 9 Shank Painter Road 508-487-0041