If you’ve been following My Buzzards Bay for awhile, you know that we love to tour our local islands the third weekend in July.
The mainland is usually in a heat wave and the steady southwest breeze provides natural air conditioning. Cuttyhunk and Menemsha are also relative bargains despite it being peak season.
The itinerary is always the same:
- Friday – Menemsha
- Saturday- Cuttyhunk
- Sunday – Oak Bluffs
SURPRISE – 2021 Is Different…
In the past, I usually booked slips in June. MBB Flotilla Captain Ben alerted me to the Summer Crunch of 2021 impacting slip availability in early May, so I immediately tried to book our tour.
And just like that I discovered we had a problem…
Same story at Oak Bluffs, so I went to the drawing board and came up with Cuttyhunk – Saturday, Vineyard Haven – Sunday, and Menemsha – Monday.
It was a good plan, but as our day-of-departure approached, Friday started looking like a great day for boating and Monday looked lousy. So we grabbed a slip in Newport Friday and canceled Menemsha.
Day 1 – Newport
Newport is probably as busy a port as you’ll find on the New England coast in July, but it has so many slips that you can almost always find a spot.
The Newport Folk Festival at Fort Adams was on the weekend and all the top downtown marinas were sold out. I went with one of my old standbys – West Wind Marina and got confirmed in less than two hours the Sunday before.
Our guests for the weekend were our old friends and Westford Neighbors Gary and Amy…
They are long time boaters on Lake Winnipesaukee and both love spending time at sea. Although they’ve probably been on our boats a hundred times, we’d never taken them to my favorite Rhode Island gunk hole – Gooseberry Island, so our trip began there.
We had an unusual northwest wind, but that meant the cove was even more protected than usual…
Introducing The Captain’s Panini
I’ve been making the classic Captain’s Rubens quite a bit this summer so I decided to shake things up. Rather than grilling the Ruben on well buttered Tuscan Pane White bread, I bought a beautiful Ciabatta Roll with Garlic at Market Basket.
Although the thicker bread took longer to cook, the absence of all that butter probably made it lighter…
The panini is definitely easier to cook. I cut it into six servings and had one left. Next time I’ll work more on portion size.
West Wind Marina
The West Wind Marina is located on the south end of town. There are fewer iconic Newport restaurants in this area, but I prefer the shopping. Most stores are one-offs whereas the northern end of town has more of the major chains.
Once we arrived and washed down Relentless, we lounged on the Flybridge and watched the thunder storm brush by us…
And we wrapped up the day with another great meal at The Reef…
West Wind Marina
West Wind is a funny little Marina. It’s actually an enclosed boat basin with walls around the inner slips…
The walls keep the sea still, which is nice for sleeping, but it does limit the views of Newport Harbor.
The other problem is that it’s a very tight Marina. Every boat enters through a 25’ entry…
On the plus side, The Deck is a nice little seaside eatery that sits a few steps out of the Marina. They have live music on weekend afternoons. The drinks and food are okay, but the reason people flock there is the view…
Across the path from The Deck is Newport’s biggest Dance Bar. It’s opens at 9:00 PM and pounds out Hip Hop music until 2:00 AM. The crowd of rowdy partiers is so large that they employ a team of over 40 security guards just to break up fights and keep the peace.
Knowing this, I requested a slip as far from the dance club as possible and they fully accommodated my request…
Running The Gauntlet
We were happy to get a slip at the last minute during a festival weekend, so we didn’t mind that we were packed in like sardines, that is until it came to leave Saturday morning…
Leaving required me to back out through a gauntlet of over twenty boats with a mere 18” of clearance on either side. To make matters worse, most of the boats sported bow mounted Danforth Anchors with rusty rods holding their flukes.
This is why I bought Thrusters!
After a few months of maneuvering Relentless in tight quarters with her new thrusters, I had no fear of this gauntlet. On the other hand, Mrs. Horne felt differently. And having been closest to past hull scratching events, she spoke up.
“I think you should call the dockmaster and get some dockhands to help us get out of here” she said.
“I’m not worried, but okay…” I said.
I was a little worried, but I knew it was my job to pilot us out of here and I wasn’t exactly sure what the dockhands would do to help.
I did have a premonition of a great video coming out of the whole affair and asked Amy to take my iPhone and video everything she could in landscape mode.
As I started to pull out, Amy was no where to be found, but thankfully Mrs. Horne found her, handed her an iPhone, and the gauntlet run was captured for all eternity…
Although I got within 6” of other boats several times, no one standing along the gauntlet laid a finger on Relentless nor did my crew touch any other boat.
Day 2 – Cuttyhunk Bound
The only traditional leg of the 2021 Island Tour ended up being Cuttyhunk on Saturday. The charm of Cuttyhunk is the lack of activity, but if anything is happening on the tiny island, it’s happening on a Saturday night – so that’s when we visit…
The plan was to get Tacos at Isla Taco, take our eBikes to the wee corners of the island, get steamed lobsters on the Fisherman’s Wharf, and dine at sunset on Relentless.
Visit From The Hanzl’s
As I was connecting the power I heard someone say “Hi Dave.” I turned and looked to see John and Amy Hanzl on Stand Up Boards…
No More Isla Tacos
Sadly, like many food spots on Cuttyhunk, Isla Tacos is no more. This didn’t mean we couldn’t get lunch, it just meant no tacos. As a good captain, I headed off with my iPhone to photograph our lunch options and send them back to the crew to decide.
As tempted as I was to try one of spots I’d never tried before, we ended up at the market deli ordering custom Italian Subs. They were great!
Don’t Bother Biking on Cuttyhunk 😩
As soon as we planned to visit Cuttyhunk this year, my first thought was “We can take our eBikes and see the rest of the island!”
This seemed like a good idea “on paper,” but once we turned down a road to the southwest, I realized the flaw in my plan. The poorly paved road quickly turned to dirt, then rocks, then beach sand. Although the road stunk, the view was spectacular…
Mrs. Horne and I persevered and walked our bikes up the sand road. We could see that it eventually turned back to a dirt road so we dug in.
Eventually we came to a decent wooded road…
Although the biking wasn’t very good, the scenery made up for it. We backtracked to the southeast with an eye toward reaching the southern tip of the island.
Eventually we hit private land and honored the NO TRESPASSING signs. I looked around and saw we were just south of the top of the island and we took off up a trail in the hopes of reaching that iconic view.
The road kept getting steeper and rocks kept getting bigger. I decided it was time to dismount and walk the rest of the way, and suddenly the front wheel hit a rock and I lost my balance.
I fell to the right into what I thought was a brush. It turned that the bush hid a ravine and I fell down about six feet and landed on a rock.
As a veteran Downhill Ski racer, I’ve taken some bad spills, but this one was really bad. I tried to get up, but my feet were above my body and I was surrounded by brush. Mrs. Horne came to my rescue and pulled me out. As I got up I looked back and saw a big ole rock right where my “love handles” landed.
We managed to walk the rest of the way to the top of the island and ride our bikes home, but I knew I was one hurting buckeroo (more on my injury in the Postscript).
I can tell that I will never take my bike off the boat again!
Everyone deals with pain differently. I try to pretend everything is fine and just power through it, but this time I was having a tough go of it.
A Cuttyhunk Wedding
Cuttyhunk is a very small island and it’s not hard to discover everything that’s happening on any given day. After lunch a Palm Beach 65 pulled in next to us and the Captain told us they were there for a Wedding at The Avalon.
As I tried (unsuccessfully) to shake off the injury to my swelling love handles, we decided to keep riding and headed over to the Avalon to check out the wedding…
If you’re looking for a truly special and private spot for an intimate destination wedding, it’s hard to beat The Avalon.
We retired to Relentless’s fly bridge and enjoyed Cuttyhunk’s pure tranquility…
Around 6:00 John and Amy Hanzl joined us for a glass of wine…
Needless to say, at this point I was having a tough time running back and forth up the spiral staircase with drinks to the Flybridge and down the stairs to the Galley to check on my roasted potatoes for the lobster feast.
Sadly, with my broken body and racing brain, I forgot to take any photos of the lobster feast. I did take a video of the lobsters before hitting the pot over at the Seafood Market…
The four lobsters weighed 5.65 lbs, so they were pretty small. The sea captain charged us $121 for the lobster and the steaming.
Day 3 – Vineyard Haven
As bad as the weekend weather has been this season, the forecasting has been even worse. In the case of Sunday, the forecast was for occasional showers and near gale force winds starting at 15+ knots at dawn.
I wasn’t super concerned about the threat of gale force winds since they were coming from dead south. I knew I could hug the lee side of Nashawena Island to block the wind up to Quick’s Hole. I could then turn south – dead into the gale winds toward Menemsha and turn northwest on the leeside of Martha’s Vineyard, staying in relatively flat seas. Worst case might be 15 minutes of head on 6’ seas.
I had advised the crew to be prepared for an early wake up call and departure based on the conditions I saw at 5:00 AM.
Sunrise on Sunday wasn’t bad at all…
As nice as the view north looked, the southern skies were getting dark. The other thing I noticed at dawn was how fast the full Marina had emptied out by 6:00 AM…
I watched the weather on Boston 25 and they were no help. In fact the weather lady was talking about 60 knot gusts. That was all I had to hear. I started the generator, disconnected the shore power, and told the crew that the kitchen would be closing in 20 minutes.
We shoved off around 8:00 and made the 20 mile run to Vineyard Haven in near flat seas…
About 8:30 it struck me that we were likely to arrive at the Black Dog Wharf around 9:00 AM on a Sunday morning following a pristine Saturday. I started thinking we might be sitting on the anchor for a couple of hours so I messaged the Marina.
Just as I pulled in past the breakwater my iPad chirped and saw their response…
I called – no answer. I tried to hail them on channel 9 – no answer. I saw about 75’ of open dock and alerted the crew we were going to try to tie up…
The folks who run Black Dog Wharf are very nice and very competent. A young man with a dog in tow came out to meet us and told us we were going to be tied up at the straight wharf directly in front of us as soon as the 44’ Searay left for Nantucket. He let us stay where we were until they left and we washed down Relentless while we waited.
The Dearth of Dining in Vineyard Haven
Having been a dry port until very recently, the restaurant landscape in Vineyard Haven is rather barren. Thanks in large part the pandemic related government mandates, both The Copper Wok and Beach Road are now only doing take-out.
We hoped to grab brunch at The Black Dog Tavern once we got settled into our overnight dockage, but they close from noon to 1:00 on Sundays and there was a long line of people waiting to get in.
After a short discussion, we decided to call Tabitha at Cottage Cabs (508 693-3500) for a ride to that culinary oasis know as Edgartown.
Gary was the one who discovered The Seafood Shanty when we first visited Edgartown on Mean Kitty in 2008. That said, I was anxious to introduce them to our two new Edgartown favorites – Raw 19 or The Atlantic, but Gary had his heart set on Whole Belly Fried Clams, so we hit up The Shanty for the 51st time…
The weather was still off and on drizzle when we got back to Relentless, so we settled in and watched the Sox stage an incredible comeback against the Yankees – their last great game before the recent slide.
Fine Dining in Vineyard Haven
I was excited to try a new restaurant in Vineyard Haven – Garde East…
You can read my full review here, but let me just say that Garde East is great news for Vineyard Haven. It’s fine dining right on the beach, a few hundred yards from Black Dog Wharf, with great food and service…
After a couple of glasses of wine, Gary and I decided to take the shortcut home and we walked back to Relentless on the beach. It wasn’t a bad walk and it made for some great nighttime photos on iPhone 12 Pro Max..
At this point it had stopped raining. There was street concert downtown that must have been “Rain or Shine” and it sounded incredibly clear from the fly bridge. We went up top and listened to their encore (kind of sounded like Santana).
Just before we turned in, Mrs. Horne and Any went out back and just as they settled in, the skies opened up and the ran came pouring down
Postscript One: Island Tour 2022
Although the 2021 tour wasn’t quite what we hoped for, it was great nevertheless. There is really no reason to get shut out of Menemsha on a Friday or Oak Bluffs on a Sunday. Both have reasonable cancellation policies (Menemsha is 24 hours and Oak Bluffs gives Rain Checks).
I really think this is a great four day weekend for a Flotilla and I plan to do a better job recruiting all of the MBB Flotilla to book early in 2022.
Postscript Two: My Injury
When I woke up on Monday, I saw that I had a huge deep red bruise where I landed on the rock on Cuttyhunk. As soon as we bid Gary and Amy adieu, I told Mrs. Horne I was heading to Urgent Care.
“Oh, just wait a few days, it’ll get better” she said.
I lifted my shirt and show her my deep red bruise and she gasped. In fact, both my doctor and her 60 year old nurse did too. They both said it was the worst bruise they’d ever seen. Mr doctor couldn’t believe I didn’t rupture a kidney or my spleen. I clearly dodged a bullet, but I know it willtake months to heal.