23 – 30 Sep: Saquish Neck to Cuttyhunk Pond – 41 25N 70 55W
The time had come to leave Boston, we dropped our mooring ball and headed out of Boston Harbour. We had had a great time but September was coming to a close, leaves were starting to fall, geese and whales were migrating south – and we needed to follow their time tested instincts! With winds of 15 –20 knots from behind we had a steady sail south, the sun was out and it was almost warm.
We rounded the headland that leads to Plymouth Harbour, but Plymouth is several miles up a channel so we dropped anchor late afternoon at Saquish Neck, just inside the headland off a beautiful long sandy beach. On a warm sunny day a shore excursion along the beach would have been compulsory the following morning before departure, but with cooler temperatures it just didn’t seem so appealing.
We left late morning to time our arrival at the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal with slack water and then the ebbing tide and current with us, all the way through and down Buzzards Bay. The forecast light winds never eventuated so we motored all day.
We listened to the first of the days Americas Cup racing while underway, another loss to Team New Zealand, the cup’s return to New Zealand was slipping from our grasp. The 2nd race started just as we closed in on Woods Hole and Hadley Harbour, with severe currents and rocks aplenty we decided that negotiating the narrow and shallow harbour entrance while concentrating on Americas Cup racing was not good seamanship. So we motored around in circles in clear water, listening as yet another win went Oracles way, they had transformed their boat and now seemed unbeatable.
We safely entered Hadley Harbour in sombre moods, the dreams and hopes of our tiny nation now rested on the last “winner takes all” race, it was more than we could take. We picked up a free mooring, skipper poured us a couple of stiff drinks, we toasted Team New Zealand’s mammoth effort so far and sat back and soaked up the truly lovely surroundings.
Naushon Island is one of many islands in this area privately owned by the very wealthy Forbes Family. They are very generous in providing free moorings in this superb land locked tiny harbour, cows and horses grazed in the waterfront paddocks, evening birdsong accompanied our sundowners - it was a wonderful rural farmyard scene, seldom one we get to enjoy from the boat.
Next morning we left at slack water, negotiated the short cut at Woods Hole (probably quite an interesting half mile stretch with howling winds over springtides, a little like running a grade 5 rapid I expect), but we had benign conditions so just encountered a few whirlpools and soon we were spat out into Vineyard Sound. Then it was just a short hop across to Vineyard Haven on the very affluent and popular “summer home’’ island of Martha’s Vineyard, nicknamed “The Vineyard”.
There were strong northerlies forecast so we really needed to slot behind the breakwater so we could stay in Vineyard Haven. There was absolutely nowhere to anchor but we saw a vacant town mooring, however we weren’t able to raise the Harbour Master to confirm we could take it so tied up anyway – hoping for the best. Shortly afterwards the Harbour Master headed in our direction and we awaited the news of possible eviction, but no, it was Welcome to Vineyard Haven – yes you are fine here – and no, there’s no charge weekdays now that it’s off season. Excellent, what a great welcome.
That afternoon we listened to the final race in the 34th Americas Cup, hopes were extremely high when we won the start and led at the first mark, but Oracle passed us upwind and they never looked back, our boys could do no more – they had done us extremely proud but the Americas Cup was not to be New Zealand’s Cup. It was such a disappointing outcome after the huge lead Team New Zealand had amassed, but, as we tried to convince ourselves, it was just a boat race, life would go on without the Americas Cup.
Next day we took our bikes ashore and cycled along the coastal cycle path to Oak Bluffs. Originally settled as a summer retreat for a church movement over 200 holiday cottages were built and many are still standing, all very cute, colourful and rather whimsical. Nowadays Oak Bluffs is a busy summer harbour fringed with waterside restaurants.
We kept pedalling on to Edgartown, the main town and by far the most upmarket. Hidden away down one of the tree lined driveways is the property where the Obamas spent their summer vacation – following in the footsteps of the Clintons. We stopped in a harbourside restaurant for lunch, enjoying the sun which was finally bursting out from behind the clouds. Then we took the inland cycle path back to Vineyard Haven, such a great way to explore the island and get some exercise.
Martha’s Vineyard was first discovered by Europeans in the early 1600’s. There was a large Indian population already there and although unfortunately their number diminished hugely with the arrival of white mans diseases they stayed and integrated well with the new arrivals. They were accepted by the Europeans, given equal education and were proud to have the first Native American accepted into Harvard University.
But why is it called a Vineyard?, well I’ve Googled and Wikipediaed it and still don’t know. Martha was the grandmothers and daughters name of the man who discovered the island but I can see no record of any vineyards until the 20th century. The irony is that most of the island is “dry”, liquor can not be purchased in any stores, there are few bars (none in Vineyard Haven), alcohol must be accompanied by food. Good way to keep away the summertime partiers!
Next day we were going to explore the more rugged western end of the island and visit Menemsha the tiny harbour village where “Jaws” was filmed. The weather decided otherwise, we had seen all of the Vineyard we were going to.
The New England Sailing Season is Ending
With clear skies again we took the chance to move along to Cuttyhunk Island, the forecast was good for a couple more days so we headed out into Vineyard Sound, raised the sails and had a pleasant downwind trip in light winds the 20 miles westwards to Cuttyhunk, the furthermost west of the Elizabeth Islands.
Cuttyhunk had been on our list of places to visit since meeting the New Zealand yacht Cuttyhunk back in the Canary Islands in 2011. We shared several anchorages through the Caribbean with Irene and Chris onboard Cuttyhunk and finally farewelled them in Grenada as they headed for the Panama Canal , Pacific and back to New Zealand.
We edged our way slowly in through the shallow channel and arrived into Cuttyhunk Pond, another wonderfully protected landlocked harbour. It’s not big in there but the entrepreneurial locals have installed around 60 moorings buoys which go for $45 each a night in summer, great income for this tiny community. They did leave a small space for anchoring as well and we slotted in there happily. We were there for really the last weekend of the summer cruising season for the locals, on Saturday night there would have been 30 boats, Sunday just 2 of us remained.
We enjoyed a walk ashore through this sleepy little settlement on Saturday afternoon, it was pretty much closed, but to be honest it didn’t look like there was normally much to be open!! The guidebook talks of an excellent grocery, must have been camouflaged as someone’s house, but the Raw Bar Oyster Shack was open for an hour so we did what you must do on Cuttyhunk – buy some oysters.
Cuttyhunk Oysters, buy on the dock or they deliver – just had to try some
Sunday provided more sunshine, we just couldn’t leave this beautiful sheltered spot. We sat back and watched as a procession of boats emptied out of the anchorage, heading in all directions back to their home ports, probably to be winterized for another year.
We had another walk ashore, found a lovely small sandy beach to enjoy a picnic lunch and had a lazy day. This will be our last remote island getaway until we reach the Caribbean again, we were in no hurry to leave.
As the Sunday afternoon ferry sat at the wharf, golf cart after golf cart made the trip down, dropping bags, boxes and chilly bins – many of the summer home owners were shutting up for the season too. The golf carts all got lined up nearby, left exposed to the elements until spring arrives we guess.
the cute Harbourmasters Office at Cuttyhunk Wharf
Monday morning we left our little island paradise. There was a great weather window to head 200 miles south to the Delaware River and into the Chesapeake but we had our new headsail waiting for us in Newport, Rhode Island so it was westbound for Balvenie.
Shortly after clearing the island we had our closet ever visit by a whale, it was enormous, easily the length of Balvenie, it rose out of the water just metres off our port beam – we both just gasped in awe, a totally magnificent sight, one that will never be forgotten.
Time To Return to One of our Favourites – Newport