Our 25th wedding anniversary is this month, August 6th. For many years our anniversary would fall during our summer cruising weeks and we would celebrate with dinner at a restaurant on Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Block Island or wherever we happened to be on that special date. This year, we weren’t able to make any special plans ahead of time because dates and commitments were changing at a quick pace over the past month. My sweet husband of 25 years decided to fulfill a dream I had and surprised me with a plan, conceived and executed in about 48 hours.
Why will it be a part of the blog? #1 – Al introduced me to boating and it has been a big part of our marriage. #2 – We will be celebrating in Newport, Rhode Island, home of the America’s Cup Sailing Race for over 50 years from 1930 to 1983 and a harbor filled with boats of all sizes and types. #3 – We will be on a boat, briefly. #4 – Nearly everything we do seems to be boat-related…………….. #5 – Because I want to record and remember it! Indulge me, please.
Al’s son, Tim, married his wife, Amanda, on our anniversary in 2011 so we share August 6th as a special day. They temporarily suspended their RV travels for the past 6 months and have been in Connecticut. We invited them to join us on our impulsive Newport trip. Magnolia was anchored in Newport Harbor so you can be sure we asked them to join us.
We checked into the Newport Harbor Inn and Marina (Note the word “marina” attached. I told you there were boats…..)
Anthony picked us up at the dock in “Blossom,” Magnolia’s dinghy, for a ride out to Magnolia, anchored near Ida Lewis Yacht Club.
After that delightful beginning, Anthony shuttled us back to the hotel so that we could freshen up for our ceremony. We are going to renew our vows.
We all regrouped in the lobby of the hotel. Anthony, now chief photographer, snapped a few shots.
Where were we going?
Years ago, on our first visit to Newport, we were walking about and exploring the harbor. Curious, we checked out a building called The Seamen’s Church Institute, a large brick, Georgian-styled building. The Institute was originally formed in 1919 to “provide work for the moral and mental improvement exclusively of all of those who are employed upon or in connection with the sea in any part of the world or upon the inland waters of the United States, including men in the service of the United States…”. To this day, the organization continues to offer services and support to those working on the waterfront, to visiting and local mariners, and to those in need in the community.
Inside of the Seaman’s Church Institute, on the top floor, is a tiny chapel, the “Chapel of the Sea.” It has become a tradition for us to stop in here whenever we are in Newport, for a little quiet repose in a chapel that feels as though it were made for us. The chapel was designed and painted by Durr Freedley, an artist living in Newport in the early 1900’s. The chapel’s artwork honors Christian saints associated with the sea. Whenever we visit I would think, what a perfect place to renew our vows……..and here we were.
With hydrangeas from home and our original vows in hand, we pledged our love for each other again.
We strolled down Thames Street, slowly, in the heat, before our dinner reservation.
Another place we repeatedly explore in Newport is IYRS, the International Yacht Restoration School. We first found it back in its early years, around 1995-1998. At that time, students were taught the craftsmanship and restoration skills necessary to preserve classic wooden boats. We have watched IYRS evolve and grow over the past 20 years into the post-secondary non-profit experiential learning institution that it is now. IYRS School of Technology & Trades offers four full-time, accredited programs: Boatbuilding & Restoration, Composites Technology, Digital Modeling & Fabrication, Marine Systems. Students range in age from 18-78. Don’t you love that?
Visitors can walk up a staircase and view the students at work down below from a walkway.
The BIG (and that is meant literally) restoration project acquired by IYRS is the 1885 133-foot luxury schooner yacht, Coronet. The Coronet is a rare survivor of that time, the Gilded Age. Most of her contemporaries have vanished due to sinking, grounding, neglect, or old age. Throughout her active lifetime, the various owners used the yacht for different purposes – pleasure cruising, scientific exploration, and prayer missions.
The Coronet. 133 feet in length, a beam of 27 feet, with a draft of 12 feet. She is known for five years of transatlantic racing and a circumnavigation of the globe. Coronet was one of the first US yachts to round Cape Horn.
The Coronet was brought to IYRS in 1995, which is around the time we first saw the yacht, before the restoration began. Back then she sat outdoors at a dock and we were able to go aboard and wander around at will. I wish I had photos from that! The real restoration work didn’t begin until 2006. IYRS now houses the Coronet in an enormous building. There is a balcony along the edge of the work area for viewing the progress.
Original items salvaged from the Coronet line the walkway.
After our meandering walk down Thames Street, we worked up an appetite and were ready for dinner when we reached our destination, Mamma Luisa’s.
What a wonderful and special day it was! The next morning began with a splash of saltwater —-
You would think there was enough celebrating, but we carried on for one more day. Back at Shennecossett Yacht Club, I kayaked with Mary Jo and Annette, and then had a nice dip in the water, which was much colder than expected!
We all gathered for another dinner on Magnolia who was now back on our mooring.
The sun set on another lovely day. We are such fortunate people.
Good weather is back! We departed Oak Bluffs with promise of a sunshine soon to come, although the winds were still brisk.
Our next, and last harbor on Martha’s Vineyard, was Vineyard Haven, just 3.6 nautical miles around the corner from Oak Bluffs. Vineyard Haven has a year-round population of 2,000 people and is the main port of entry to Martha’s Vineyard.
The area was called “Nobnocket” by the Wampanoag people and then “Homes Hole” by the 19th century. “Hole” meaning a sheltered inlet which it certainly can be in the right winds. The village officially changed its name to Vineyard Haven in 1871. It is also in the Town of Tisbury. Sometimes I find the Vineyard Haven/Tisbury name a bit confusing because they are used interchangeably.
In the past, we never stayed in Vineyard Haven. (Oops, no, not true! We spent our honeymoon here at a bed and breakfast in 1994 during a brief boat-less period.) By boat we have stayed in other harbors and walked, biked, or bussed to Vineyard Haven. Last year we anchored overnight in Vineyard Haven Harbor and found it secure with easy access to the town.
We anchored near the bridge that separates Lagoon Pond from the harbor. Lagoon Pond is a very sheltered anchorage that limits stays to 3 days. We explored it by dinghy and might try that someday in the future, especially if the wind is from the north.
Another of my favorite things to do on Martha’s Vineyard is the West Tisbury Farmers Market , on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. “Founded in 1974 by a ragtag group of hippies, yankees and retired English teachers, the West Tisbury Farmers Market is Martha’s Vineyard’s oldest, largest, and finest open air market. ” It was Wednesday morning and a bus ride was the mode of transportation for Annette and me.
Thursday was a quieter day for us, but since it was our last day, Al and I went into Vineyard Haven for one last walk.
The pizza party was a special event to get together with two other boats, Second Sally and Pegasus. Like Magnolia’s crew, Greg and Marie (SecondSally) and Rod and Mary (Pegasus) are live-aboard cruisers. Another great Magnolia party!
And so our trip came to a close. I never tire of visiting these islands and their towns. Each one, from Nantucket to the Vineyard, has its own character and flavor to enjoy. Nantucket feels far away and has a sense of history with the cobblestone streets. Edgartown is classy and expensive like Nantucket, Oak Bluffs is known for “fun” and also history with the Trinity Park cottages; and Vineyard Haven is considered more of the business center although it also has a lovely main street of shops, homes with character, and several nice restaurants. I don’t think I could choose one place over the other; I love them all. We regretfully skipped Menemsha this year due to time and wind direction, but there’s alway another year around the bend!
We know we are close to home when we pass these three structures along the Rhode Island coast at Watch Hill.
Kindred Spirit averaged 8 knots for the 71 nautical miles over the 9-hour trip catching the current most of the way. Always nice when it works out that way. 😉
We left Edgartown on July 22nd under a shining sun but decided to tuck into Oak Bluffs, just 8 nautical miles away, for a day or two because the weather forecast was for stronger winds and rains. We haven’t stayed in Oak Bluffs for many years so it would be another “semi-new” experience on this trip.
The shoreline of Oak Bluffs is lined with old beach front homes.
Oak Bluffs is a tiny harbor with a lot of moorings, packed fairly close together. The rule is that there can be up to four boats on a mooring and not necessarily by choice. You are told that you may have to raft with other boats but should stick to the same size and type (sail to sail and power to power.) That day there were plenty of open moorings for Magnolia and Kindred Spiritto choose from.
With the threat of bad weather, we wasted no time and dinghied the very short distance to the town dock. Walking up Circuit Avenue we took the side street into the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association (MVCMA) in Trinity Park. It is one of my favorite places on the Vineyard and we wanted to show the cottages to Anthony and Annette. On our 2017 trip I wrote about Grand Illumination Night in mid-August which was spectacular.
Walking around Trinity Park among the cottages one can’t help but feel how special the place is.
We continued our walk around Oak Bluffs checking out shops while stretching our legs.
The rain began after lunch and continued on and off for the rest of Monday.
Tuesday brought more rain and the predicted higher winds. When we awoke we discovered we were very close to a smaller power boat on a nearby mooring. OB’s mooring field is a tight one. The rule is “no more than 4 boats on a mooring” and I cannot even imagine that! Hopefully only for boats under 20 feet.
A look at the radar indicated there would be a short break in the morning showers. The guys went into town for much needed haircuts, taking a chance on Benito’s Barber Shop.
There was another break in the rain late in the afternoon, so we all got off the boats for a walk.
It might have been a rainy two days here in Oak Bluffs but we still enjoyed our stay. Vineyard Haven tomorrow.
We left Nantucket later in the morning on July 18, allowing the fog to lift. It was an overcast and dreary morning.
Edgartown is always a stop on our travels out this way. Nice harbor, beautiful architecture of a classic New England whaling town, steeped in history and now tourism. 😉 I’ve written about our stays here in 2016 and 2017 so once again I will try not to be overly repetitious. It’s getting harder because we have our favorite things that we enjoy doing over and over.
We already had plans for our first evening in Edgartown, continuing a tradition Al and I began many years ago – a Vineyard Sound concert. “Vineyard Sound” is an all-male acapella college group that began in 1992 as a group of ten friends from Connecticut College, Skidmore College and Wesleyan University who all loved music and the island.
This group is special to me. I first heard them back in 1993 when they sang at Silas Deane Middle School in Wethersfield where I was then teaching 7thgrade mathematics. Two of the founding members had attended the middle school so they did a concert there for the kids. When we honeymooned on Martha’s Vineyard in 1994, we looked them up and have tried to catch a concert every time we have been here since then. Naturally the members change over the years, but I must admit, with chagrin, that I was caught off guard when I realized the current singers were not even alive when we heard the first Vineyard Sound concerts back in 1993. Feeling old……………
They perform 5 evenings per week in various locations around the island so we were able to see their Thursday evening Edgartown concert at the Federated Church.
All of us thoroughly enjoyed the concert. The songs were a nice mix of old and current, appealing to everyone. And afterwards we stopped at Scoops for ice cream……….. Yikes! No pictures???? Have to take my word for this.
On Friday morning, we played the “Dockwa game” for a mooring again. Now that you need to go through Dockwa for a mooring reservation in Edgartown, you can only get one night at a time. Once you are there, you spend each morning requesting anther night, sometimes in person and sometimes on the VHF. It is interesting to listen to the VHF as people call in to request another night’s stay. Sometimes they get one and sometimes they don’t. I haven’t quite figured out the why’s for that although I have theories.
Our big event(s) for this Friday was to take a bus to Vineyard Haven using the MVTA, Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority. It’s a great system for getting around the island. An all-day pass is $5 for senior citizens. Isn’t it nice to be that old?
Why did we leave Edgartown and head to Vineyard Haven? Because Friday nights are lobster roll night at the Grace Episcopal Church. Dan Pashman’s Sporkful podcast about these lobster rolls was very motivating. This would be a first for us and Anthony and Annette were all in, too. If you are near Vineyard Haven on a Friday evening in the summer, we highly recommend going to Grace Episcopal Church.
We had tickets for a 7:30 pm movie and had time to squander with a walk around Vineyard Haven. Our walk brought us to the Black Dog Tavern, another must-do tourist thing to share with the crew of Magnolia .
Weather dictates boating travels and activities. Saturday and Sunday were just too hot to do anything on shore. The heat wave that arrived on the east coast affected the islands as well as the mainland. At 90 degrees, this became one of our quieter stays in Edgartown. We mostly stayed on the boats, reading, blogging, and weaving, and swimming off the boat.
Sunday was our last day in Edgartown so we dragged Anthony and Annette along to share another of our MV traditions – breakfast at Among the Flowers. (hmmm…. food sure seems to be a major part of our boating.)
Sunday became another lazy day on the boats, which was just fine because it was another hot one. Our Edgartown buddy, Mike, stopped by to say hi and give us a pump out. Mike runs the pump-out boat during the day and the launch in the evening, and he never fails to visit for a spell. Now pump-outs may not be a pleasant topic for a blog, but it is certainly a necessary and vital part of boating. Pump-out boats = clean harbors!!!
Monday morning began with a very early stop at Edgartown’s water dock before departing for the next harbor. We do love that water dock – so easy to refill the tanks.
We were last here in 2016 when our trip was abruptly shortened due to a threatening tropical storm that never materialized in the end. I have some pretty nice photos from then, so I need switch it up a bit and find some new things to blog. Sharing Nantucket with Anthony and Annette made it feel newer, too. I estimate that we have sailed around these southern New England islands at least 12-15 times over the last 20 years, and have included Nantucket as a stop at least a half dozen times.
We anchored in our usual place near the southeast shore of the harbor, well beyond the moorings. Yes, it is a long ride to the town dinghy dock, but the price is right.
A bit of Nantucket history, for you history buffs – Nantucket was discovered in 1602 by Bartholomew Gosnold, an Englishman who sailed from England in a small ship with 32 persons onboard, with Virginia as the intended destination.
In 1966, The National Park Service designated Nantucket as a National Historic Landmark District, calling it the “finest surviving architectural and environmental example of a late 18th- and early 19th-century New England seaport town.” From the mid-1700s to the late 1830s the island was the whaling capital of the world, with as many as 150 ships making port in Nantucket during its peak. Source
Random tidbits of information:
Nantucket is a town, a county, and an island.
Located about 26 miles from Cape Cod, Massachusetts
16 miles long, 6 miles wide, just under 50 square miles with 82 miles of beach.
Nantucket’s proximity to the Gulf Stream makes the island 10˚ degrees warmer in the winter and 10˚ degrees cooler in the summer than the mainland.
Nearly half of Nantucket Island is preserved as open space.
Estimated year-round population is 11,270 in 2019 with a summer population of over 50,000.
Estimated median house value in 2013 was $873,954, but Zillow now states it as $1,601,100.
Median gross monthly rent in 2013: $1,458.
There are no traffic lights on Nantucket.
Nantucket probably takes its name from a Wampanoag (Eastern Algonquian language of Southern New England) word, pronounced variously as natocke, nantaticu, nantican, nautica or natockete, likely meaning “faraway land or island.”
Nantucket was given the name “The Gray Lady of the Sea” by sailors because of the thick fogs that roll in from the sea and blankets the island.
You will also see “ACK” as a common abbreviated nickname for Nantucket. Why is that? ACK is the Federal Aviation Administration’s official 3-letter code for Nantucket Memorial Airport, taken from letters in the word Nantucket.
The 32-nautical mile journey from Lake Tashmoo to Nantucket took us just over 4 hours, not bad. Brandt Point Lighthouse greets us as we enter the harbor.
After settling into our anchorage locations, we wasted no time! We had the whole afternoon!
We took a bus tour around the island. Yes, we did. We were tourists because it is the easiest way to show the island in a short amount of time. The downside of a bus tour is that it is a tease because you don’t have the opportunity to get out and explore.
The bus tour took us out to Siasconset, a separate town with its own post office, about 7 miles from the Nantucket harbor. ‘Sconset is quite charming. Al and I haven’t been out here in years and I think I would like to come back for a longer visit again.
Sankaty Lighthouse, built in 1850, automated in 1965, and still in operation. It is located at the easternmost point of the island overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in the village of Siasconset. The tower is 60 feet (18 m) high; its lower portion is constructed of brick, and its upper part is granite. It was one of the first lighthouses in the United States to receive a Fresnel lens.
“In the 19th Century, hundreds of ships passed by Nantucket Island each day, all navigating without the benefit of modern nautical technology. Unpredictable storms, dense fog and strong currents often caught even the most experienced sailors off guard. Treacherous shoals and inclement weather led to over 700 shipwrecks in the surrounding waters of Nantucket, causing the area to be dubbed “a graveyard of the Atlantic.”
The next day, July 16th, was Annette’s birthday. We began the celebrations with a breakfast on Kindred Spirit. How did we not take a photo of that??
After cleaning up and a rest, we went to shore for a special dinner. Anthony made reservations for Oran Mór Bistro. Oh my, what a dinner it was! Absolutely upscale delicious!
After that edible feast at Oran Mór, we walked around the town so that our eyes could also feast on the amazing floral displays. Every building has a window box or or some other beautiful display.
Whenever we stroll around the streets of Nantucket, mostly window shopping, we stop into Nantucket Looms. Nantucket Looms sells items from local artisans, including painters, potters, wood carvers, basket weavers and jewelry makers that represent the beauty and simplicity of cottage-style living.
In 2009 we visited the shop and were captivated by a framed woven piece under glass with “sea glass” nestled among the threads. It was a wonderful way to display the glass, but alas, that glass was not true sea glass. We inquired about a custom piece sometime in the future. Fast forward to the next summer, 2010. We carried our most favorite sea glass finds (at that time) with us on our sailboat and met with the weaver to create a custom display. She chose specific pieces from our collection and created our own unique and very special weaving of sea glass. One of my treasures.
Every morning there were sailing classes for little people and bigger folks. We were close enough to easily hear the instructors on their megaphone, calling out directions, cautions and encouragement.
Our third day was another fully packed day. Annette and I decided to visit the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum.
The Lightship Basket Museum is dedicated to preserving Nantucket’s rich history of basket making as an art form and to provide a permanent home for an exhibit of Nantucket Lightship Baskets, both historic and contemporary. I don’t think I ever realized that these baskets were related to “lightships.”
From the museum – “Lightships were first commissioned in Massachusetts in 1856. These ships functioned as floating lighthouses, providing light to passing ships in dark waters. With so little to do and so much time on their hands, the lightship crews tried their hands at weaving baskets and achieved great skill. The wooden bases were made on shore and the weaving and assembly took place on the ships. The baskets, which became known as “Lightship Baskets,” for obvious reasons, were widely sought after. Most collectors and historians agree that the finest lightship baskets ever made were those made by lighthouse crews in the late 1800s.”
“There is simply nothing more “uniquely Nantucket” than Nantucket Lightship Baskets.” That is certainly true. Original authentic baskets are one-of-a-kind, handed down through generations, and very, very, very expensive. The Four Winds Craft Guild sells contemporary handmade Nantucket baskets, although not all are baskets. I stopped in there to look. And think. About how much I would like to have this very authentic memento of Nantucket. And I thought. We have wonderful memories of visits to the island, and I adore traditional hand-crafted items that have special meaning. Decision? Why not?
Off to the next event – a visit to Cisco Brewery. While we waiting for the free shuttle that takes you out there, the skies opened up earlier than we expected, much earlier.
This business venture began as a winery, Nantucket Vineyard, in 1981, next added Cisco Brewery in 1995, and finally distilled spirits at the Triple Eight Distillery in 2000. The three are actually separate businesses, each with its own building set around an outdoor picnic plaza, with food trucks.
We opted for a tasting tour.
Last thoughts for this much too long blog post about our three days on Nantucket — Everyone has heard the first line of the infamous limerick, “ThereoncewasamanfromNantucket,” but most of the versions aren’t suitable for normal conversations. The series of original limerick exchanges began in 1924 with a published (and cuter) version in the PrincetonTiger:
There once was a man from Nantucket Who kept all his cash in a bucket. But his daughter, named Nan, Ran away with a man And as for the bucket, Nan tuck it.
We crammed a lot into those three days, and still left much to be explored and enjoyed. As it should be.