After refuelling, we dashed across Newport entrance to Cuttyhunk in the Elizabeth islands in poor visibility. When we arrived early evening we anchored next to two boats we knew and settled in for an early night. In the morning we were completely fog bound and couldn’t even see Cuttyhunk which was only a few hundred feet away!
It was a ‘full English breakfast’ type of morning so after our brunch and a morning of catching up with work we were ready to explore.
The island only has about 35 permanent residents and the small museum depicts the basic lifestyle over the years. The nearby 75 acre Penikese island, has had a variety of uses. In 1904 it was purchased by the state of Massachusetts for $25000 to use as a leprosy hospital then closed in 1921 when the state burnt and dynamited the buildings! It was also briefly considered as an isolation island for people with AIDS and from 1973 to 2011 a private residential school on the island was used for juvenile detention of troubled boys and operated a substance abuse treatment programme.
We decided to leave late afternoon as the visibility was adequate and we had no wish to be fog bound again. This is a fairly typical weather pattern for the area. We had a pleasant sail, passing some of the other islands on route to Hadley harbour in convoy with two other boats, and on arrival even managed to russell up a meal for six. It was a beautiful setting with a few grand isolated and very private holiday homes. As the sun set a deer came down to explore the small sandy cove.
We moved from the outer harbour to the inner lagoon for the next night and explored the shallow creeks in the dinghy, deciding to leave the next afternoon for Martha’s Vineyard as the weather was benign and settled.
Martha’s Vineyard, a Massachusetts island, sits in the Atlantic just south of Cape Cod. A longtime New England summer colony, it encompasses harbor towns and lighthouses, sandy beaches and farmland. It’s accessible only by boat or air. Vineyard Haven, on the eastern end, is a ferry port and the island’s commercial centre. Another village, Oak Bluffs has Carpenter Gothic cottages and an iconic carousel.
We arrived mid afternoon and anchored in Vineyard Haven. We took a quick trip ashore to get our bearings and decided to eat ashore. We had a good meal in the Black Dog pub. The story is that Robert Douglas, born in Chicago in 1932 spent his childhood summers escaping the hustle and bustle of the city at his parents’ summer home in West Chop. He watched the Vineyard ferries traversing the waters between the island and the mainland and in 1960 he left the Air Force and built a topsail schooner for himself, using early construction techniques and materials wherever possible. He later acquired a black Labrador dog and the inn.
Out of his love for the sea, his island home, and of course, his dog, The Black Dog brand was born. So says their website!
We decide to sail the next day to Edgartown on the east side of the island to get a more protected spot away from the passing ferries.
We went up the river but found there was no anchoring allowed so returned to the outer harbour. Boats of all shapes and sizes, traditional and modern were here. Including one of the worlds largest super yachts called Le Grande Bleu. She is 113 m long, 18m wide and comes complete with a helicopter pad, 72 foot sailing yacht and 68 foot motor boat, both of which can be winched into the water! Originally owned by Roman Abramovich, he reputedly gifted it to a colleague, when he bought a larger one!
We met up with some fellow ARC sailors on Supertramp who were planning to sail north to Maine. We swapped details on experiences so far and plans for the future, including potentially getting our boat wrapped and updating equipment over the remainder of the summer.
We enjoyed the facilities at The Edgartown Yacht Club which perpetuates the maritime traditions of Martha’s Vineyard and Edgartown and encourages friendly competition on the waters around the Island and ashore which was founded in 1905. The social life of the Club – so creative and active today – began in these earliest years with clambakes and old-fashioned ice cream socials.
Those first few years of the twentieth century were a time of great change in the town of Edgartown. The whaling era, which had come to a sudden end after the Civil War, still animated the memories of the oldest inhabitants, and family vacationing through the summer season, as we know it now, was some years away.
We took the bus to explore the island because apparently cycling can be a little risky on the island! We went to the Gay Head light, which had had to be moved to stop it falling into the sea from the eroding Aquinnah Cliffs — the clay cliffs, formerly known as Gay Head — were carved by glaciers millions of years ago. From the top we could see the Elizabeth islands we had previously been to. The Aquinnah Cliffs are part of the island’s Wampanoag reservation.
The Wampanoag are one of many Nations of people all over North America who were here long before any Europeans arrived, and have survived until today. Wampanoag, means People of the First Light.
In the 1600s, there were as many as 40,000 people in the 67 villages that made up the Wampanoag Nation. These villages covered the territory along the east coast as far as Wessagusset (today called Weymouth), all of what is now Cape Cod and the islands of Natocket and Noepe (now called Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, pursuing a traditional economy based on fishing and agriculture.