I am always awake early and I love the quiet from around five to six in the morning. Early one day this summer, on the island of Cuttyhunk, I jotted down a few notes.
Looking east up the Elizabeth Island chain, the sunrise over Nashawena was a reddish and pink line extending sideways in both directions peeking out below a fairly solid cloud cover. In the distance the silhouette of Nashawena’s high hillside shore was awash in the sun’s reflection on rolling and breaking waves, mist and haze. The clouds above the line of dawn light graduated from pink to white, then grey and mackerel with a few holes showing blue sky overhead.
Vineyard Sound was very calm for Vineyard Sound, Cuttyhunk Harbor was perfectly still, and Buzzards Bay was very flat also. The only boat moving was the dark outline of a fishing boat making its way up Vineyard Sound a few miles off shore.
The only constant sound was that of small waves surfing over rocks and up the shore and then washing and tumbling small stones over each other and back down the beach. Then, in the distance a tall-masted sail boat exited the harbor with ghostly quiet progress, passing close by the red bell buoy marking the channel. The boat’s wake rocked the bell buoy and the resounding clang echoed over all the surrounding still waters.
Looking southeast in the early morning light I could still see the Gay Head Lighthouse flashing on Martha’s Vineyard, about seven or eight miles away. High on the cliffs the light alternates red and white, red and white. To the left, the coastline of the Vineyard drops down to meet the sea at the entrance to Menemsha Harbor and fishing village, with its seemingly endless tidal coves, ponds, and creeks. Looking to the right of Martha’s Vineyard, just south of the Gay Head Lighthouse, the island of No Man’s Land is visible on the horizon. This tiny island has its own fascinating history of fishermen, explorers, and pirates.
Meanwhile, back here on Cuttyhunk, folks are beginning to stir. Comprising a Rockwellean sort of village image, the mostly modest, mostly summer, homes all with decks and porches are sprinkled from the shore up the hill, all facing the water. On the road along the shore an early dog walker startles and scares away a deer. A few minutes later a couple out for a walk linger by the wild blackberry bushes; they chat and help themselves to a snack. The houses all seem quiet, very few people up and about. In almost perfect unison, all the sailboats in the harbor gently turn on their moorings and point into a slight, but developing southwesternly breeze.
Soon my wife Judy will be awake and we will walk up to the Cuttyhunk Bass Fishing Club Bed and Breakfast. Just a few minutes away, this charmingly historic (late 1800’s) establishment serves delicious breakfasts on its open air porch, perched high on a bluff overlooking Vineyard Sound. The surf is constantly rushing and rumbling on the rocks along the shore below the bluff. Lawn chars invite guests to savor the scene. A little later, we will walk the shore out to the Canapitsit Channel, collecting beach glass with Judy’s best friend, Sam, our black Labrador.
I know that today, Max, our thirteen-year-old is taking the boat and a few friends over to Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard. We do need to be careful to keep an eye on the weather, but Max is a very competent skipper. Joshua, our sixteen-year-old, is working for the MV Cuttyhunk, the ferry back and forth to the island from New Bedford. Being a Saturday, there are two runs, making for a long day in the summer sun. When not working, Josh will take the boat the length of Buzzards Bay and pick up one or more fiends in Marion. Josh also is a very competent skipper.
Never a dull moment on Cuttyhunk. But my favorite time of day will always be dawn. A friend once suggested to me that “the ability to sleep late is a sign of a clean conscience.”
Brian Shortsleeve, President & Publisher