Edgartown & Aquinnah, While Keeping an Eye on “Lee”

It was an easy ride from Vineyard Haven to Edgartown.

Such an easy ride that Al did some exterior cleaning while underway.

It doesn’t matter that we have entered Edgartown Harbor many times over many years, there is still a thrill at the familiar and loved sights.

The little Edgartown Lighthouse welcomed us back.
The waterfront with the church steeples rising over above.
The Federated Church and the Whaling Church. I could hear the bells from one of them every morning at 9:00 am. Such a sweet sound to celebrate another morning.
We almost always have to pause and wait for the Chappaquiddick ferries to cross the channel.
The Edgartown Yacht Club, founded in 1905. The current building was constructed on the dock over the water in 1927. In 1940, the commodore discovered an old sailing ship figurehead in Honolulu and had it shipped to Edgartown where it was mounted on the clubhouse gable overlooking the harbor. It became known as “the White Lady” to sailors from all over the world. In 1957 she had to be taken down to be preserved, and was donated to the Mystic Seaport Museum for inside display in exchange for an accurate weatherproof copy created by their staff sculptor.
Al and I had a good laugh when we looked at the screen of our chartplotter. The thin red curving line is our track entering the harbor on the right side, rounding Chappaquiddick Point and then doing loops all through the harbor as we wait for a spot at the water dock and check out the mooring assigned to us.

The weather was very warm and humid, even out here on the islands. Not as hot as back home where schools were dismissed early due to the heat, but plenty warm enough for me to complain. On September 2nd the weather and news reports began the warnings about a potential hurricane birthing off Africa. On September 5th it was upgraded to Tropical Storm Lee and reached hurricane status 24 hours later. The forecasts were somewhat alarming (aren’t they always?) as Lee became a huge and threatening storm for the Mid-Atlantic to Canadian coasts.

The forecasts at this stage were all over the place, with one thing in common. Lee was huge and potentially dangerous. Although our eyes became bleary looking at spaghetti models and possible winds and waves, we knew that it is better to be cautious than to have serious regrets afterwards. There was still plenty of time to enjoy Edgartown for a few days and then change our cruising plans to head westward and closer to safety.
An Edgartown sunset.

Both Limerick and Kindred Spirit make good use of their custom-designed bow shades, “Shades by Al” or “Al Shades” as they are affectionately called. They keep the master staterooms cooler by providing shade from the harsh sun and allowing the hatch to be open for a breeze, even in the rain.

Different configurations because the boats are designed differently.
We started enjoying happy hours on Limerick’s bow where the shade was high enough to have chairs in addition to the built-in bench seating. Al made adjustments to the shade on Kindred Spirit so that it could be held high enough to allow us to sit on our (former) sailboat portable seats on our cabin top.

Maybe it was the heat and humidity, maybe (just a little maybe) it is our slowing down with age, but for whatever the reason, we all found contentment in just enjoying the views, relaxing on our boats, and spending time with good friends. No one feels the need to maintain a frenetic pace of go-go-go.

Cooling off in the water was a must-do this week. Except for Don who is not an in-the-water person. His lifeguard duties were easier this time because there were no jellyfish.
Al got in the water, too, but to clean the waterlines on the boats. Yes, that is him between our rafted boats. 😳😲
Finished the weaving project I brought along! Two cotton burp cloths for a friend’s expected baby.
The necessary tasks of boating life, pump-out time. The pump-out boat is new with a fancy patriotic bow. We missed seeing Mike this year.

One thing on my DO list for this trip was to take Don and Cindy to the Aquinnah Cliffs. It’s been quite a few years since we were there, certainly before writing this blog, so over 10 years? In good weather we have dinghied form the anchorage in Menemsha around to the beaches below the cliffs. I would like to do that again someday.

We hopped on the bus to ride out to the southwest corner of Martha’s Vineyard to the town of Aquinnah, formerly known as Gay Head. English settlers, long before the town was incorporated in 1870, saw the colored cliffs from Vineyard Sound and thought them “gay,” a term that meant something much different back then. In 1965, the Gay Head Cliffs were designated as a National Landmark by the National Park Service.

In 1997, the name of the town was officially changed from Gay Head back to its former Wampanoag name of “Aquinnah” by a vote of 79-76, representing recognition of Wampanoag history in the region.  “Aquinnah” means “land under the hill” in the Wampanoag language.

The transition to the name was not without challenges, but I think it was the right decision for the right reasons. Two quotes in an interesting article in the Vineyard Gazette in 2018, Aquinnah Officially Turns 20, But Gay Head Name Endures:

~~ “I think if you want to give proper recognition to the Native American history, the area should have a Native American name,” Mr. Widdiss told the Gazette in the run-up to the 1997 vote.

~~“It was hard to get used to, but I think the name is beautiful and appropriate,” said Vera Dello Russo, an Aquinnah librarian who has lived in the town for years.

The view of the clay cliffs and the lighthouse. My memory tells me that the cliffs are not as colored as they once were. They seem to be losing the brighter shades of red clay.
The folklore of how the cliffs got its colors, is that the mythical giant, Moshup, would walk into the ocean and grab a whale by the tail and throw it against the cliffs. It is said that the blood of the whale colored the cliffs. Moshup would then feed his people with the meat of the whale.
Looking east down at Moshup Beach, a hazy view.
In the water down below this large bird sat on the exposed rock spreading his wings, for the longest time.
The Gay Head Light, completed in 1799, is the only working lighthouse of the five on Martha’s Vineyard. Through the years, storms have taken a toll on the cliffs. In order to save the lighthouse from falling into the water, it was moved back by 150 feet in 2015. They are hoping to get at least 150 more years at the new location. 
Don and Al looking out towards Cuttyhunk across Vineyard Sound.
No surprise that after the trip out to Aquinnah there had to be ice cream. This time we stopped at “Scoops” in Edgartown. Check out the signs posted next to the cow head.
Main Street shops. The guys appreciated the bookstore’s chairs on the porch.
Edgartown is always brimming with blooms.
A favorite sight in the harbor is to watch the catboat Tigress sailing by with her iconic sail.
Before our departure from Edgartown we had breakfast at Espresso Love replacing our 20+ year tradition of breakfast at Among the Flowers, an utterly charming place, that disappointed us last year.
So long, Edgartown, until next year, hopefully.

After more study of the inconclusive weather forecasts for Lee, we made the hard decision that it would be best to head back and away from the islands. There would be no visit to Nantucket, Oak Bluffs, Menemsha….. this year. We settled on a long day straight to Block Island from Edgartown. (We now know that Lee was not as serious for us in southern New England as it might have been, but that is hindsight.)

2 Responses

  1. Cindy Dahl

    A beautiful post from a very beautiful friend both inside and out…. not to mention talented..the latest weaving is just lovely… that is one lucky baby!!

  2. Ellen Seltzer

    beautiful pictures…i can understand why your travels bring you so much pleasure…glad LEE didn’t interfere with your plans…your burping cloths are beautiful…how about making me one only longer that i can wear as a scarf…just beautiful…you should sell them!
    glad to have you back on land…the season is almost over…enjoy it while you can!

    see you soon…


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