06/15/2013 - 06/17/2013 66 °F
So, we waited. Waiting appears to be an important part of boating: waiting for weather, waiting for tides, waiting for bridges, waiting for parts, waiting for berths. The sun disappeared, the rains came but the wind took its own sweet time about arriving. In the interim the on board power miser, moi, watched as the batteries drooped from 14.00v to 12.60v, not a problem, but in the case battery charging, bigger is almost always better. Then the winds arrived and the batteries slowly clawed their way back over 13.00v, a number with which Carol, who knows nothing about batteries, was more comfortable. So was I.
It was cool and dank two days on the boat, a climate not much to my liking. The temperature didn't much break 60o but did manage, barely, to stay above 50o. This may be a summer trip where the winter clothes never get put away .... we're too busy wearing them all. I have on enough layers of fleece to do a passable imitation of the Pillsbury Doughboy. The heavy wool blanket, which had been folded away for a few nights, is back now, a regular part of the decor. Even the Nordic Princess has allowed that the sleeping cabin has been "coolish." Of the several weather locations on our desktop, Hot Springs is by far the warmest, by a 10o margin and the homestead is looking very appealing. Of course, Martha's Vineyard is closer and easier to reach by boat than is Hot Springs, so we went there instead.
The Friday evening before we left, the skies cleared, the sun shined and the winds died making for a beautiful evening after two pretty crummy days. That nice weather carried over to Saturday. The tide was running out, low tide at 0600, so we were up at 0430 and underway at 0450 to catch the current, which we did. Coming in to Newport we were much occupied with traffic; that morning only one boat left earlier than we did. On the way out the channel we saw some more "estates, " that we had not noticed on the way in. Several were older ones, a few contemporary, all aspirational .... just not for us. The sun started to show itself about 0515. There was no particular reason to feel patriotic that Saturday morning, it was the morning after Flag Day, but the American flag flying proudly at Ft. Adams against the backdrop of the sunrise looked pretty good to me. There are not so many benefits to being old but indulging in schmaltzy patriotism is one of them.
The trip was about 45 nm and we were in the mooring field shortly after noon, a little over seven hours. It was a wonderful day to be on the water as long as sailing wasn't important. We're cruisers with a sail boat; no wind, no problem. That's what motors are for. We saw several boats out today with limp dacron flapping pointlessly, content to go nowhere, patiently waiting on the wind's arrival, maybe, sometime.
Our trip took us past the mouth of Buzzards Bay, and then along a chain of islands to the north that separate Vineyard Sound from Buzzards Bay. I was noticing that several of those islands have indian sounding names which surprised me. Turns out that about 3,000 indians occupied this island when it was "discovered," that being an arrogant word since the indians already knew the island was there. No one seems to know who the eponymous Martha was, or even if there was one; don't know much about grape vines either. Those factoids have been lost in history. By conscious design the possessive apostrophe in place names is facing extinction; it's just not much used, Pikes now just a plural of something modifying Peak sans the apostrophe. This island, Martha's Vineyard, is one of only five US place names that still employs that grammatically correct punctuation mark, reason enough for me to like it here.
I'm starting to get exasperated with marina employees, especially those that work for a municipal government. These people seem quite capable of explaining how to do something for the 101st time if we've done that thing 100 times before. A rational, coherent explanation of how to do something the first time is just too hard, requires too much thought and too much originality. We must have spent 30 minutes in a mooring field not much larger, if larger, than our homestead trying to find the mooring ball needle in a mooring ball haystack. Having found it, the clearances were too tight and we moved to a new place, one of my choosing. The young man who located us, and also does pumpouts, boat septic tanks, has probably exceeded his reasonable career aspirations. I suppose that the world needs places for people like that; I just would like to be able to avoid them when trying to moor the boat, always a tense experience in crowded locations. But, it ended well enough.
Sunday morning was beautiful and a fitting time for firsts: we both slept well past 0600; when I got up it was warmer in the cockpit than in the cabin so breakfast was topside, the first such occasion for that in the 75 mornings of this cruise; Carol actually took the dinghy in by herself, easily more than a year since she has done that, probably not since her debacle in Hope Town in the Bahamas. We cleaned the boat, some parts at least: the cockpit and head seem to accumulate detritus at an amazing rate, probably from shoe bottoms. A lot of that detritus is, sadly, human hair. Since there are only two humans aboard, fortunately for me, some of that hair is a familiar chemical shade of red.
We might be getting better at this boating thing. I noticed that the wind had shifted, moving to the west and that some altocirrus clouds had moved in during the morning. Better check the weather! Sure enough ... rain and some wind tonight.
My endless fascination with sailboats has taken on a new direction: schooners. Since owning the boat we have only seen one, a working boat in the Bahamas. I watched the single masted boat underway on Saturday and it was interesting. Lots of sailing, no futzing with the sails. Want to go in another direction? Just turn the tiller, wheel, whatever and go. The sails flip to the other side and it's away. I suppose sloop rigged boats are faster on most, or all, points of sail. These have the weight of history on their side; they were the commercial backbone of the eastern seaboard.
This is the first place that we have seen schooners as personal, not business, boats. The problem with these as a boat to own is that most have wooden hulls, are very long due to the bowsprit and have little space and not much in the way of amenities below. So, I guess that unless I want to start gypsy marine freight business based on wind power we'll stay with what we have. I keep repeating: first, last and only boat!
The island is fairly large, about 25 miles east to west, and 88 sq. mi., roughly comparable to the Spring Creek Fire District at 90 sq. mi. This is by way of saying that it's way too big to cover on foot, especially if two of those feet are mine. So, we rented a car for the day, Monday, to explore the island. It was a fine day .... sunny and warm. I may have lost count but I think that this was the third summer day we have had.
There are three towns on the island and several other named places having little in the way of population: Tisbury, aka Vineyard Haven or vice versa where the boat is, Edgartown and Oak Bluff.
With no particular plan in mind, we set out for Edgartown early and got there before most things had opened; total trip, maybe 5 miles. What a wonderful place that was. I'd have much prefered to stay there than here. I was raised in New England until about the age of 12, and there must have been some strong impressions made. When I think of houses here two styles come to my mind: White Clapboards with black shutters, which my mother would have insisted have a red door, and cedar shakes. Those two styles just about covered all of Edgartown.
The houses were pretty dense in the neighborhood, at one time ample but not pretentious houses where regular folks lived. Most of these house we saw are now worth incredible amounts of money and, as such, most are immaculately maintained; those few that are not are ready to be rehabbed at considerable expense which will be recovered in spades.
Edgartown also has the oldest extant house on the island (bottom left), built in 1672, now part of a preservation project. There were several really neat churches in town, this being one of them. Whatever my Puritan, New England ancestors were doing, and I have about 400 years of them, condemning witches, trading slaves, or fomenting revolution, they had no doubt that it was all God's will and they had houses of worship where they made sure He was listening.
We got to talking with a young man, working at a gallery, about living on the island and he said that there were issues for regular folks like him. A place that might rent for $1,500 a month most of the year, would go to $3,500 a week when the tens of thousands of Bostonians descend on the island in July and August. The year round population of about 10,000 is said to go to 100,000 in those months. It's a big island, but not that big. There aren't even any 4-lane roads.
Edgartown is also the place from which the island of Chappaquiddick is accessed and the place where a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, met her untimely end as a result of a man who thought to be President in 1980. It's important to remember names like these so that facts trump myths.
The young man with whom we spoke said that we must go to Gay Head, I'm not making this name up .... it's on the map. So we did, but took a detour to see American Beach, just south of Edgartown. It was a wonderful beach, like that on Cape Cod .... white sand, dunes, sea grass, open ocean. The area around this beach had some mega-mansions .... huge! To their credit, the folks who built them used the cedar shake architecture so they actually seemed to blend with the landscape pretty well.
The etymology of the name Gay Head is: the location is the very western tip of the island, a headland. The cliffs which appear to be whitish gray were once, purportedly, red and orange, gay colors to sober Puritans and tired sea captains. The land's elevation is about 250-ft. above sea level so the lighthouse was fairly short by lighthouse standards. It was a little hazy that day; we were told that on a clear day the bridge at Newport, RI is visible.
We ate lunch there and Carol had her first lobster roll: chunked up cold lobster meat with mayonnaise on a hot dog bun. She was nice enough to share it with me .... very good! The park at Gay Head was a first for me: in Newport we had to pay for a shower, $1.75 for 7 minutes. At Gay Head we had to pay to pee, $0.50 each; no time or volume limit was specified.
A nice man at the park said that we should be sure to see Menemsha, so we did that too. It is a small village built around an inlet to a salt "pond." That's what they're called. There were several old sheds along the waterfront that put me in mind of Quint's shed in Jaws. The dunes at American Beach also fit the movie. So, I checked .... the movie was mostly filmed here on Martha's Vineyard although these buildings were not part of the film.
There was also a US Coast Guard station at Menemsha. I have seen many of these on our trip and they are always one of the coolest looking building around, pristine and immaculate as is this one.
The ride through the middle of the island was interesting and engaging, very different from the eastern side. There were hardwood forests, oaks, maples and ash although few were very large, probably due to wind from nor'easters, gales and hurricanes. Some of the land was state park but there was a lot of open space. Many of the homesteads had rock walls along their property lines which made Carol and I think that there had probably been farms here. We did see, actual count, four cows and two horses, not exactly Green Acres. Houses were well separated and many had some acreage, not of the estate kind. It was very flat but had a rural feel not unlike home. I have given Carol's Episcopalian faith fair blog credit. In Chilmark we saw this Congregational church, the faith of my New England childhood. If there ever were to be a prototype for a typical New England church, this one would do the job quite nicely. One of the reasons that I was struck by the church is quite personal. Carol and I renewed our vows (yes, she married me again) in 1997 in a church, rather like this, in Wayne, Il. If we had one of these in Spring Creek I'd probably haul myself to it on Sundays except during football season.
The last place we visited was Oak Bluff, another place that made me wish we had stayed there instead. It was a pretty place and I was busy taking pictures; Carol was busy, hard to guess, talking. In this case, as she often tells me, her talking benefits us. There were some unusual "gingerbread" houses overlooking the harbor, all dated from about 1867. The man Carol had engaged in conversation owned one of them and offered to show us his house and relate its history. His house was, at the time, one of about 600 all of a style but quite different in exterior execution. His in 1867 had no kitchen .... it was communal. He had expanded his by about a factor of 2X adding a kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms. The home is seasonal, no insulation but June is in season. He then allowed that we might be OK and told us that we should walk up a narrow lane and look for an tabernacle, so we did. What a place it was, something that we would never have found on our own. The 600 homes were built around the open air tabernacle, the site of camp meetings and revivals during the 3d and final "Great Awakening," vacation homes for the faithful while they heard the word.
This is a piece of history to which I would have been oblivious and am grateful that I got to see it. I had studied the Great Awakenings as part of college history courses; a place like this just seems to make that sterile history come alive in ways that are compelling.
These islands, bays and sounds are much ferry-ed places. We are right next to a ferry that runs from the island to Woods Hole, the southwestern extremity of Cape Cod. There are two other ferries to different parts of the island from several points of departure. We've been close to a few on the open water and they seem to fly, probably about 15 knots, and they don't seem inclined to want to dodge sailboats .... so we get out of the way. The ferry is not much bothersome; being mostly deaf we hear only the required sound of its horn as it gets underway.
This particular ferry has an unusual construction: two identical bridges, one at each end so they never have to turn around; they just walk to the other end of the boat, that becomes the bow, and they go. This sounded simple at the time but rudders and propellers have to be somewhere.
Martha's Vineyard has been the apogee of the trip, so far. It is a place to which we both can imagine returning, although probably not on a boat amd not between the 4th of July and Labor Day.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, we are off for Nantucket.