As reported in Island Tour 2022: Part 1 – Provincetown, we headed south for Martha’s Vineyard on Saturday morning.
Village #1 – Vineyard Haven
Since I cobbled this itinerary together at the last minute, when the weather outlook changed, I was delighted to land a Saturday and Sunday night slip at the Black Dog Wharf.
I had held on to the Monday night reservation in Menemsha, so we were well poised to visit all four villages of Martha’s Vineyard this August weekend.
Not The Black Dog Tavern’s Best Day
We tied up around 11:00 AM, and after washing down Relentless, Jake headed to the Tavern to get in line for the noon lunch opening. The Black Dog Tavern is a funny place in that it closes for an hour between breakfast and lunch to facilitate the menu change.
Although the one-hour shutdown makes sense, we learned it could be problematic. Although Jake got us an excellent table at noon, the rest of the group didn’t sit down until 12:15. As a result, our orders went in behind the surge of veteran diners who immediately placed their orders at noon. We’ve always received prompt service at the Black Dog, but not Saturday, and I chalk it up to poor timing.
Not to whine, but the Black Dog is also very hot on days like Saturday. Most seaside restaurants don’t have AC in New England, but they have a cross breeze. The Black Dog only has windows on the beach, so there is no cross breeze, and the kitchen is open to the dining room.
Nevertheless, after an hour, our lunch arrived, which was very good.
Aerial Video of Vineyard Haven
After lunch, I fired up the drone and created a four-minute video of the iconic port.
By late afternoon, the gale winds that would haunt the rest of our trip started building. Although the temperature was near ninety, the steady sea breeze turned the flybridge into a tropical paradise.
We were taking in the day when we spotted another Sabre 48 pulling in behind us.
She was the Imagine out of Newburyport, and they were coming in from Boston.
Village #2 – Oak Bluffs
I had recast the visit to Martha’s Vineyard on Wednesday, and thus, I could not get a dinner reservation for Saturday night. Both Oyster Bar 02557 and the Cardboard Box are excellent restaurants that don’t take reservations, so we hopped on the #13 Bus and went to Oak Bluffs.
The interior was renovated over the winter and felt far hipper than the old Oyster Bar. That said, the only windows are on Circuit Avenue, and there was no breeze to cool the rather warm dining room.
Chef Ben owns three restaurants on OB (the Oyster Bar, Cardboard Box, and the Red Cat Kitchen). The food is excellent in all three, but I rank Oyster Bar 02557 as #1 for both atmosphere and the breadth of the menu.
Our wonderful server alerted us that the Oyster Bar Happy Hour would close in five minutes, so we immediately ordered 18.
For dinner, we each ordered our appetizer and shared the special pasta bowl.
Mrs. Horne and Jake ordered the Poke Bowl.
It was unusual in that it was on rice rather than greens.
Miss Peggy and I indulged in the Fried Oysters.
I remembered from past visits that the pasta dishes are huge – big enough for two or more. So all four of us shared the Tomato, Basil, and Parmesan bowl.
It was fabulous; great Reggiano and the traditional tomato & basil flavors.
Sunday – Bike Day
We did 21 miles through the dunes of the National Seashore on Friday, and Jake was whining that he didn’t do enough. So I said, “Fine, we’ll do thirty on Sunday.”
Here’s the text I sent the crew on Sunday:
It’s great that you can now rent eBikes just about everywhere. Jake found very slick and powerful bikes in Vineyard Haven.
Getting out of downtown Vineyard Haven is a little dicey, but after about a half mile, you reach the bike trail on Vineyard Haven – Edgartown Road.
A few miles down the road, you hang a right on Barnes Road, and the State Forest trail is on the right
It’s quite different from other trails on the Southcoast. It’s a combination of a pasture trail and a forest trail.
As we entered a forested area, I flipped my iPhone and shot a short video of the trail.
After about fifteen miles, it was time for lunch. I pulled up the trail map and Google Maps on my iPhone and realized that we had actually entered the State Forest at the exit, and we needed to retrace the last ten miles.
By the time we got to Edgartown, we’d already booked 27 miles.
Village #3 – Edgartown
For a variety of reasons, we ate at the Seafood Shanty the last two times we were in Edgartown. It was fine, but I have really come to love The Atlantic.
Unlike the Black Dog or the Oyster Bar, the southwestern sea breeze flows nicely through the entire restaurant.
The last time we were here, Vlad had just started. He impressed us with his infectious personality and deep knowledge of the menu. Now he acted like he ran the place.
Lunch was off to a great start; ten thousand steps under the belt, sea breeze, and Vlad holding court. All that was left was great food!
Jake was being a good boy and ordered a salad.
Mrs. Horne and Miss Peggy both cashed out their morning exercise and went with the Atlantic Burger.
I split the difference and went for a semi-healthy combo; Char Broiled Oysters and Shishito Peppers.
Sure, it’s a bit heavy on the Parmesan and Sea Salt, but it can’t be more than 500 calories and tastes incredible.
A Man’s Gotta Know His Limits
Jake had rented the bikes for the entire day, and I wanted them to see as much of the island’s East End as possible. Given the extra ten miles we’d already added, I took a pass on the South Beach – Katama loop.
The Beach Road Trail from Edgartown to Oak Bluffs includes a stop at the iconic Jaws Bridge, but knowing Peggy doesn’t like riding on the side of the road, the ride from OB back to Vineyard Haven would be problematic.
It looked like there was a way to head west right after we hit Oak Bluffs and avoid the scary section of Beach Road, so we headed to OB.
When we headed down the country roads behind OB, my eBike showed a 50% battery. By the time we got to County road – 2 miles later, my battery was flashing ZERO.
Google Map showed 2.8 miles to the Black Dog Wharf, but “Mostly Flat,” so I shut off the pedal assist and went old-school biking.
I knew there was a sizable hill to get over the bridge on Beach Road, so I was hoping I had enough battery left to help me when we got there.
My battery came back just in time, and I made it over the hill and back to the boat in the sweltering (90°) heat.
Heartbreak Sunday at Garde East
I was really psyched to eat at Garde East Sunday night. I loved the place, and I had just seen that Obama celebrated his birthday there Thursday night.
As you probably know, I’m no fan of Obama’s politics, but when it comes to dining on Martha’s Vineyard, I will follow them anywhere!
Walking back to the boat, I noticed a missed call from a 508 Area Code, but the location appeared as The United States. While packing up the bikes, I was got a notification that the same number had left me a voice mail.
The message was from Garde East saying they were short-staffed and that our dinner reservation had been canceled!
I called and spoke to someone who said that they’d called everyone who had a reservation, and whoever answered the phone could still dine Sunday night. Since I didn’t answer the phone, they canceled our reservation.
As we say in Boston, I was wicked pissed, but I have plenty of friends with small businesses, and I know staff shortages are a real thing.
I still had two problems:
1. Why didn’t they leave a message on the first call explaining the problem and telling me that they’d honor reservations on a first-come-first-served basis based on who called back first? The only message I got was thirty minutes later canceling our reservation!
2. Why don’t they have a Vineyard Haven landline? By now, we’ve all gotten burned by spam calls that show our local Area Code but display it coming from The United States rather than our hometown. These are almost always some offshore scam, and I’ve stopped answering them. If I’d seen Vineyard Haven as the calling location, I probably would have called them right back.
An Evening Well Salvaged
As I started hunting for another restaurant, Mrs. Horne said: “Why don’t we just send out for pizza?”
I love pizza and haven’t had it in a while, so it was a great way to salvage dinner. It was a popular night for pizza. Porto Pizza quoted over an hour back up for takeout.
As we enjoyed the sea breeze from the Flybridge, we noticed a lot of people dining at Garde East.
Mrs. Horne devised a plot to check out Garde East’s story – we’d call in the pizza order and then go to Garde East for a drink while it was being prepared.
We sat down by the beach in a very comfortable set of upholstered club chairs.
After we had ordered our drinks, I snuck upstairs to see if the restaurant was full.
It was not, so the original Garde East labor shortage story checked out. I was still a little pissed.
Around 8:15, our pizzas were ready, and we enjoyed dinner and a quiet evening on the Flybridge as the winds continued to build.
Two Days of Gales
When I got up Monday morning, I knew I’d may the right decision to stay close to home rather than venture 100 miles south to Long Island.
The wind was howling from the south at 27 knots. Our voyage to Menemsha was a mere 16 miles. Under the original plan, we’d be in Greenport facing an 85-mile open ocean run up from Long Island Sound.
The Vineyard Haven outer harbor was relatively flat, but I could see white caps whipping around West Chop. I asked Mrs. Horne to close the salon door, but she was busy conducting a workshop on coiling lines for storage.
Unlike Peggy, who passed the course on Saturday, Jake was still coming up short. Oh well, maybe next year!
I plotted a route that hugged the western edge of Martha’s Vineyard, hoping to block some of the angry seas. It worked for the first 30 minutes, but around the time we passed James Pond, we started hitting 4-6 foot chop.
About 5 miles out, I could see Gay Head clearly blocking the southwest winds all the way into Menemsha, but the waves weren’t getting any smaller. If fact, they started getting bigger!
I dropped to 10 mph as we crashed over a few 8’ waves two miles from Menemsha and avoided pounding.
I shot some video as we crashed the waves off West Chop, but very quickly, I had my hands full steering and adjusting our speed to match the period of the waves.
Fortunately, everyone else was filming, and I created a short video compilation of the two days running to Menemsha and then home to Mattapoisett.
Docking In Menemsha’s Outer Channel
Just outside the breakwater, I called the Menemsha Harbormaster and told him I was five minutes out. I booked the slip a month ago and confirmed we’d be inside the well-protected boat basin.
While circling the tiny basin, the Harbormaster hailed me again to say, “You know you’re on the pilings in the outer channel behind the big Viking.”
Oh well. That spot put us in the middle of the five mph tidal current, with the 27-knot wind pushing us into the pilings.
Typically, when I’m docking Relentless, it’s just a matter of tapping the bow and stern thrusters, but not Monday. Not only did I have to engage the 1200 hp diesels every 30 seconds to fight the current, but I also went to the joystick to prevent draining the thruster batteries.
I was very proud of how Mrs. Horne and Jake worked with the Harbormaster to rig fender boards to protect Relentless from pounding the rough pilings.
Village #4 – Menemsha
With the dockage squared away, it was time to enjoy this little fishing village on the tip of Martha’s Vineyard.
While the washer all the salt off Relentless, I whipped up a rack of the Captain’s Rubens.
The Best Beach In Massachusetts
Perhaps the best attribute of docking in the Menemsha Boat Basin is the 300’ walk to the best beach in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, although our dockage on the channel was only 800’ from the beach, it was a half-mile walk through town to get there.
It was a pain but not a real problem. Last year I bought a backpack cooler, and the four of us lugged four chairs and two umbrellas through town, past the fishing wharf, and out to the beach.
Miss Peggy is way into playing cards and hosts a Canasta group in Texas. She turned Mrs. Horne on to an app that allows you to play Canasta with bots on your phone.
It’s called REAL CANASTA, and based on how Mrs. Horne clutched her iPhone while playing, I’d say it’s pretty addictive.
We left the beach around 4:00 and enjoyed the walk home past the Coast Guard Station.
As you may recall, we loved the old Homeport restaurant on Menemsha. Sadly, they did not reopen after the Covid lockdown because they couldn’t hire workers. I’ve maintained contact with the owners and learned that they’d be reopening in June of 2022.
Although much of the old charm remains, the restaurant has definitely undergone significant upgrades, including the outside Raw Bar.
And there is a whole new menu!
Some people may not like the Prix Fixe menu, but I think it’s okay. $75 for a 1 1/2 pound lobster is about $20 over the market, but that price includes some high-end appetizer options and dessert, so it’s pretty reasonable.
When you factor in the savings on wine from being a BYOB and just paying $15 for a wine setup, it’s actually a bargain for a seaside eatery.
Although the three-course meal was far more than we usually ate, Jake ordered the Smoked Bluefish Pate.
And we all went for the lobster…
The food was a little slow coming out of the kitchen, but we had nowhere to go, so it was fine.
We enjoyed the short walk home past the Coast Guard Station.
Final Day Run Home
I woke up Tuesday and checked the Buzzards Bay NOAA Buoy for wind speed.
24 knot, gusting to 26 – not much different than Monday. There appeared to be a brief window around 8:30 when it might dip below 20, so I told the crew that it would be our ETA.
Unlike Monday, when we took the wind straight over the bow, we’d generally run with a beam sea all the way to Mattapoisett.
I was able to take it up to 25 mph through the middle of Vineyard Sound, but as we approached Quicks Hole, we ran into 2-3 minutes of ten-foot swells coming up from Rhode Island Sound – probably more tidal than wind-driven.
Although the wind was still blowing 25 knots in Buzzards Bay, it felt calm compared to Vineyard Sound, and I ran at 26 mph all the way home.