Monday, July 21, 2014 (Martha's Vineyard): We have been plagued by a stationary front since we left Newport on the 14th. The result is periods of sun and overcast punctuated by rain, heavy at times. The overcast looked downright threatening but all of our weather sources confirmed that the front wasn't moving and the winds would be light. As we cleared Point Judith (right), the western horizon looked frightful but we had faith in the weather gods.
Out to sea there was heavy mist with perhaps a half-mile visibility. Nevertheless, we set our course for Cuttyhunk, the southernmost of the Elizabeth Island chain and the southern sentinel of Vineyard Sound. The murk got worse but our radar helped us see through it. NOAA weather called for clearing as we headed to the east.
Ten miles south of Cuttyhunk radar and AIS picked up a tug and long tow on a crossing course about two miles away. We had plenty of room to pass ahead. We hailed him to confirm that he had us and he did. He warned us of a blip on his radar in our vicinity that came and went. He wasn't sure what it was. All of a sudden we discovered the blip. A 40-foot catamaran appeared out of the gloom running a course parallel to ours about twenty yards to port. Nothing on radar! We slowed and passed him. The vessel was one of those modern carbon fiber jobs with nothing to ping radar. He did not hoist a radar reflector and did not answer our calls on VHF. As we passed close aboard, the skipper waved and I pointed to my ears as if to say "listen to your radio." He waved us off. I warned the tugboat captain to mark our position on ARPA because we were abeam of his ghostly blip.
The curtain lifted as we rounded Cuttyhunk into the sound. Vineyard Sound was a sheet of glass and we were early. We slowed our progress and moseyed northward past Aquinnah and Gayhead and the western bluffs of the Vineyard. We called the Black Dog Wharf and they were ready for us.
We had tried several harbor facilities on the island. None but the Black Dog had room. Mooring balls were first-come and the fields were crowded. The Black Dog Wharf doesn't look like much from the water side but it was ideal, only steps to Main Street and a few more to a supermarket and the central bus station. Every dock and marina on Martha's Vineyard is very pricey. We thought about riding a hook on Lake Tashimoo in West Tisbury but feared the narrow and shallow inlet. We opted for the convenience of the wharf complete with black dog.
Main Street of Vineyard Haven is at the top of the Black Dog Tavern (good for breakfast and lunch) driveway. Main Street is crowded with island shops, ice cream parlors, and eateries. Every parking place is occupied. We soon discover that this is summertime and every person who can fit on the island is here. The ferry from Woods Hole comes on the hour during the day but stops at night. It brings throngs, cars, and trucks.
We discover that the bus system covers the island and is very user friendly. For seven dollars, we had 24-hour passes on and off as many times as we wanted. Service is frequent. Moreover, the drivers dovetailed transfers by calling ahead for folks who needed to transfer bus routes. The buses were never crowded and we saw no reason to rent a vehicle. Notice that there is no line at ten in the morning to get on the ferry to Woods Hole.
Today, we opted to take the bus to Oak Bluffs. Sure enough the harbor at Oak Bluffs is jammed with boats, bars, and eateries on the water and accommodation across the street. Not so picturesque as in the photos. We walk to the end of the main drag-more bars and restaurants teeming with vacationers. Despite the gray weather folks are partying before lunch.
We come upon a war memorial on the front road as it turns south to Edgartown. What is a Confederate War Memorial doing in the heart of the old union! The plaque reads:
"The chasm is closed"
In memory of the restored Union this tablet is dedicated by
Union veterans of the Civil War and patriotic citizens of Martha's Vineyard
in honor of the Confederate soldiers.
This memorial is the first town site that visitors see when disembarking the ferry from Vineyard Haven or Woods Hole. The meaning is apparent to us. Americans on both sides of the conflict died in droves, more than 500,000. Today, it tells us that continued racial bickering is regressive.
Edgartown on the southeastern tip of the Vineyard is sedate and picturesque. The "downtown" is spread out along several streets but most of life seems to happen on the waterfront. There is a boathouse with an observation deck from which one can see Chappaquidick and the tandem ferries "bridging" the two islands. I guess you could miss the bridge at night if you are driving under the influence!
Friends Joann and Myron want to dine here tonight at the Atlantic Fish and Chop House. Their house is across the island on the Sound side. In the meantime we poke around and find some interesting art and sculptures. Below is a reclining figure in the courtyard of an inn.
We find the bus stop and head back to Vineyard Haven. Tomorrow is another day. We plan to take the bus down to Chilmark, Aquinnah, and Gayhead.
Wednesday, July 16th, dawned like the previous days, warm, damp, and overcast. The air smells of rain. We had a good time with friends in Edgartown last night but we are determined not to let the weather hold us up. Nobody is on the bus to West Tisbury where we transfer to the bus that will take us to Gayhead. Just a few miles away from Vineyard Haven rain has fallen. The bus driver waits at the transfer point for the next bus, due any minute. We climb aboard, again the only riders to Gay Head. By the time we arrive rain is coming in torrents. Our jackets keep us reasonably dry as we climb up to the lighthouse and the overlook. Photographing is a chore keeping the lens front from getting wet. I put my hat over the lens hood and it works as long as I don't face the wind but the Admiral is getting her face washed.
We are are properly wet from the butt down and the seams in our jackets are starting to leak. We walk down the hill to a snack bar at a gift shop by the entrance to the Gayhead overlook for a hot cup of tea.
When the rain lets up we keep our eye open for the bus. We would have walked to Menemsha but our sandals are squishy. One comes and we bolt for it. Menemsha isn't much-old Cape Cod style houses, a few beach shops, and snack shacks. The Coast Guard station is high and dry on the promontory of the town. One makes a fish sandwich that we go for. We watch a crabber battling the current flowing out of Menemsha Pond. The tide is so ferocious that he has trouble getting to the dock and the red nun buoy in the background is almost lying down.
The rain has let up. We sit on the deck of the adjacent restaurant to share our lunch. The restaurant is open only for dinner. The proprietor sees that we are soaked and trying to eat. He invites us in. We make a reservation for dinner but we know we can't keep it. We'll call back later. We thanked him for his hospitality anyway. Afterward, we walk out to the mouth of the harbor. The temperature has dropped and the rain has stopped. Some brave souls are swimming. We stroll around until the bus comes. Tomorrow, the buds fly into Vineyard Haven. We will have a gathering with friends Joann and Myron. A hot shower back at the boat is well earned.
Thursday, July 17th, turns out to be a pretty day, breezy and pleasant. We head out to the airport with our friends and collect more. Then, the party is on. We are gathered on the bluff overlooking Vineyard Sound. We have had a tough planning session for the long weekend. In the midst we are celebrating significant anniversary and the outdoor shower. What is it that makes an outdoor shower so attractive and sought after. Ten adults wanted to shower at once with room for one at a time!
Buses are too mundane for our crowd. Organizing car transport gets a little complex. We were the probes for the group, where to go, what to see, and the ubiquitous craft fairs that materialize over the weekend.
We returned to Gayhead the following day with the crowd. The lighthouse and the bluffs formed the backdrop to many photos for the kids and folks back home. We take lunch of fresh fish at one of the outdoor restaurants in Menemsha. The tables consisted of empty cable spools and a wood bench along the back of the fish co-op facing the dock. Then, we took the opportunity to walk the Aquinnah Public Beach. This stretch of the south shore is isolated and a nude beach for those who need a suntan on their parts. However, there are more interesting sites to see.
We return to the house in West Tisbury via Oak Bluffs. The gingerbread houses fascinate the buds. They remind us of the odd fieldstone architecture of the homes in Charlevoix, MI, a couple of years ago when we were cruising the western shore of Michigan.
Friday night supper on the bluffs overlooking Vineyard Sound was not without natural splendor. The day had become hot enough to boil up the atmosphere. We heard rumblings of thunder but no rain fell. As the afternoon cooled we were treated to a display of storm lighting and a crimson sunset.
We might have stayed longer on the Vineyard but the island seemed to become more crowded by the hour as August approached. Also, our president has decreed that his summer vacation will occur a few days hence, here. The Secret Service swooped in to make him safe from Americans and hoards of interlopers and sycophants hoping to stand in the shadow of the Great One! We could imagine the traffic jams with the closure of roads. We took that as our cue to plan our departure. In the morning we depart from Block Island, RI.