“Let us first, last, and all the time keep in mind that the Baxendale Memorial Foundation is a sacred trust. The island is the resting place of the Baxendales and failure to live up to the desires of the Baxendales, to divert it to cross purposes, would be desecration of a tomb.” Animal Rescue League of Boston publication ~1944
When Thomas A. Baxendale and his wife purchased Amrita Island in the late 1890s, they must have envisioned erecting their own little principality. Crossing the stone-pillared bridge to the island, one half expects to find a medieval fortress on the other side. The ivy-covered towers more closely resemble the entrance to an English castle than the gateway to an island on Buzzards Bay in Cataumet. The ivy hides inscriptions that allude to the island’s history. At the first pillar on the left of the bridge, a panel reads “Amrita Island, 1893” and the name “Baxendale,” while the right-side pillar bears a carving of a great blue heron and the declaration, “Safe from Snares.” The Baxendales created their own version of a kingdom at the turn of the century, but their shared love for wildlife meant that the island was, and hopefully always will be, a safe domain for the area’s birds and animals. Read more…
The Beachmoor Inn & Restaurant
11 Buttermilk Way, Buzzards Bay
Besides its picturesque sunset views from a wonderful waterfront dining room, The Beachmoor Inn & Restaurant in Buzzards Bay has another especially attractive feature for party planners: its locale is easily accessible from both on and off Cape. But that’s just the starting point for this 150-capacity destination: the inn’s holiday menu includes specialties like herb-crusted sirloin roast with creamy horseradish chive sauce, seven-fish stew, maple mustard glazed turkey, and delectable desserts including apple cranberry crisp and chocolate bread pudding. Even if you have no plans for a celebration of your own, swing by the inn on the Sunday after Thanksgiving for a Christmas Tea and a wreath-making workshop led by experts from Ivies Flowers in Falmouth.
311 Gifford Street, Falmouth
Past the decorations like a poinsettia-adorned Christmas tree and an oversized gingerbread house in the lobby, the Coonamessett Inn in Falmouth has three rooms on its grounds to suit functions of any size, from the intimate Mermaid Room to the Cape Cod Room, a perfect spot for huge company gatherings. Parties can be tailored with different budgets in mind, from an elaborate company dinner with prime rib to an afternoon cocktail party with a raw bar and chocolate fountain. Make your reservations for Christmas Eve dinner at the inn, an often sold-out, a la carte meal with seatings beginning at 4 p.m.
Chatham Bars Inn
297 Shore Road, Chatham
Overnight guests at Chatham Bars Inn wake up to a surprise the day after Thanksgiving: The inn is a winter wonderland, transformed by Christmas decorations lining the halls and strung across all of its 25 acres. It’s a festive backdrop for a holiday function, which organizers can choose to hold in one of the inn’s private dining rooms or in its Monomoy Ballroom, which holds up to 200 people. In addition to its year-round menu, the kitchen staff marks the start of the holiday season by rolling out a selection of creative seafood dishes—many of which are made with catches pulled from the ocean just outside. Before checkout, make sure to snap a photo in the resort 15-foot tall Santa’s chair.
The Red Inn
15 Commercial Street, Provincetown
There’s a certain getting-away-from-it-all appeal to visiting Provincetown in winter, but make no mistake: The Red Inn is alive all the way through Holly Folly Weekend. Located on Commercial Street, the inn is festively dressed in white lights and wreaths and fully equipped for holiday get-togethers. Special events are held in the inn’s main dining area, and the kitchen staff serves a menu ranging from simple hors d’oeuvres to extravagant dinners. On Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the inn dishes out elegant four-course prix fixe meals. Stay a while in one of the Red Inn’s eight waterfront guest rooms that look out over Provincetown Harbor. And while the inn is closed from December 12-29, it opens for a five-night stretch just in time for New Year’s.
Wequassett Resort and Golf Club
On Pleasant Bay
Whether it’s a low-key cocktail hour with a sushi bar and carving stations or a sit-down dinner, every holiday function at the Wequassett Resort and Golf Club on Pleasant Bay’s waterfront is customized down to the last detail. While most merrymakers gather in the resort’s Twenty-eight Atlantic restaurant, folks booking larger holiday functions should consider the resort’s 200-person event room, The Pavilion. Bill Brodsky, chef at Twenty-eight Atlantic, creates several signature dishes including a combination plate of filet mignon and de-shelled lobster tail, which has proven especially popular around the holidays. On request, the resort can arrange transportation, and if you want to stay a little longer, guest room packages are available.
Steve and Todd Jones fondly remember growing up in Centerville. But more than Four Seas Ice Cream, they fondly remember the adventure—loading up their Boston Whaler and tearing out for the Vineyard. “We’d stop halfway, take a swim,” Todd says. “You know, load up the cooler, grab your friends, follow the compass heading on 240’. Even today, when I visit, I don’t take [Route] 28. I go on back roads so I can drive by Craigville Beach. That’s where it really started for us. That spirit of exploration.” Read more…
Three Cavalier King Charles spaniels burst through the screen door of Pleasant Bay Animal Hospital in East Harwich, straining at leashes gripped by slightly out-of-breath owners. Hannah and Lily, the two larger dogs, are in for their annual physicals and shots; Brigitte, the puppy, has come along for a grooming. Hannah is first up on the shiny steel examination table. Her tail is between her legs, and the loving strokes from her owner do little to ease her anxiety. Read more…
“Maps are artifacts of their time, and, as such, they are windows, not only on the world of the past that they represent, but on the worldview or the mind of the time that produced them.”—Robert Finch, The 1858 Map of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, & Nantucket
Robert Finch’s commentary, “Two Windows,” which appears in The 1858 Map of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, & Nantucket, tells us about the two views the map presents. One is “a wide-angle or macroview of its time,” he writes, while the other is a closer look at the people who lived then, including their individual stories. The broader view gives us town borders and bodies of water, village centers and back roads. The deeper, more penetrating look reveals, for example, that many of the listed heads of household in Truro Village—no fewer than 17—begin with “Mrs.”, which denotes a widow. “The explanation lies in the tragic gale of October 3, 1841,” Finch writes in his commentary, “in which the lives of fifty-seven Truro men were lost at sea.” Read more…
The invitation was unexpected and intriguing: Did I want to spend the night in a dune shack just yards away from the Atlantic in Provincetown?
For those unversed in Cape Cod lore, the dune shacks are the bare-bones dwellings that run along a two-mile stretch of dune ridges and valleys between Race Point in Provincetown and High Head in North Truro. The earliest shacks housed sailors who shipwrecked during the 19th century on the treacherous Peaked Hill Bars just off the beach. Others were constructed to provide a getaway from nearby bustling Provincetown center. Today, 19 rough-hewn shacks remain, and like the rest of the Provincetown community, they are steeped in history, culture, stories, and legend. Read more…
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
There is no sign of life beyond a lone lighthouse on the barren, moon-like expanse of Monomoy Island in 2010. All you can see are dunes, ponds, waves, and marshland. Monomoy is officially considered wilderness by the United States Government, yet rare evidence of Cape Cod’s past remains. It is hard to imagine that over a century ago, the fishermen’s village of Whitewash on Powder Hole Harbor graced these shores. Once known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” Monomoy is rich with stories of shipwrecks, U.S. Military exercises, and even wild and wooly mooncusser legends.
When asked what I wanted for Father’s Day, I said, “Thank you, but I really don’t need anything.” I don’t have room in my closet for another shirt. Of course, my wife Judy loves to suggest we make room in the closet by throwing away my favorite old clothes. Our sons, Josh and Max, agree with Judy on the subject.
So I said, “I know what I want. Let’s all spend one afternoon together hanging the lobster trap buoys back up on the boathouse where they belong.” Judy liked the idea, but the boys looked at me as if I were about as much fun as a barrel of monkeys.
Our collection of lobster trap buoys had been sitting in a heap since they were removed in order to paint the outside of the boathouse. We call it the boathouse because that is where we store our life jackets, anchor lines, boat soap, flairs, whistles, horns, you name it. The “Lady Carline” life saving ring, from our former motor-sailer, hangs prominently on the back wall.
We have called the lobster trap markers, “beach treasures,” ever since Josh and Max have been old enough to walk the beach and help find them. For years family vacations regularly included beach walks on Cuttyhunk and shoreline searches of nearby islands in a small motor skiff. Right after a storm was always the best time for collecting. How fondly I recall the peopleless, rock-strewn shorelines with the constant rushing and crushing sounds of the surf. We would respond with delight to come across a lobster trap buoy, not tied to a trap, and yet in good enough shape to be worth bringing home. We were heedless, heartfelt, and headstrong.
Technically speaking, existing regulations indicated that any wash-a-shore or otherwise found fishing gear should be left alone, in hopes the original owner might find it. I say, “What are the chances of that happening?” Well, in fact, one lobsterman I met a few years back told me he had seen our boathouse collection from his boat and that I had one of his buoys hanging up there. Knowing the regulations, I immediately offered to return it to him if he would tell me which one it was. He said, “Oh, no thanks, I like seeing my buoy hanging in your collection.”
To me the lobster trap buoys represent more than fond memories of family times at the shore. They are symbols of Cape Cod’s proud sea-faring heritage. They remind me of the hard working men and women who have fished and shell-fished New England waters for centuries, that we might enjoy the bounty of the sea. I have done just enough lobstering to appreciate the work involved. I feel that if I am lucky enough to live by the water, it is appropriate to pay this symbolic respect to the Cape’s seafaring way of life.
So, we did spend the afternoon on Father’s Day, just the four of us, hanging our beach treasures all around the boathouse. It was a fun-loving project, after which Joshua photographed the boathouse for me. As the boys get older, now 13 and 16, family time becomes ever more precious.
Also, I did receive a few small gifts for Father’s Day. I am hard to shop for, but they know I enjoy books of quips and quotes. So they found one for me entitled Are You A Miserable Old Bastard? Thus far, I am enjoying reading it. Tells me something.
P.S. “The memories we collect and give
brighten our lives as long as we live.” -Unknown