4 Days on Martha’s Vineyard, Part 3: Mythological Sharks and Missing Whales

A monument "dedicated to the whales and to the people who pursued them." / Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts / Image copyright 2014, Mark Bousquet.
A monument “dedicated to the whales and to the people who pursued them.” / Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts / Image copyright 2014, Mark Bousquet.

Previous installments:
Prologue: The Lonely Biscuits
Part 1: 3 Planes, 2 Automobiles, 1 Ferry
Part 2: Sleep Waits for Shower, Lobster, Bourbon

The first full morning on Martha’s Vineyard started when I awoke on a couch at 8 AM. I was starting to worry that this entire trip was going to be defined by my not being ever able to get a decent sleep, but if there’s no rest for the wicked, there’s also no rest for the traveler. I wanted to sleep on the plane because I didn’t care if I missed out on the United drink cart, or any potentially scintillating conversation with the other sardines in the flying tin can. But now that I was on the island and had achieved at least a 4-hour nap, sleep was far less important than experiencing whatever it was the island had to offer.

Which, first and foremost, meant breakfast.

Well, first and foremost, meant shower and change of clothes, but then breakfast.

My parents were already out and about getting their own breakfast by the time I cracked the door to leave the living room. (The “suite” was three rooms of a converted house: bedroom, living room/kitchen, and bathroom. It’s a perfect place to stay on the Edgartown part of the island.) My dad always gets up (to me) ridiculously early, quite often starting his today when I was just finishing up his yesterday. Even as a kid, when we would vacation in York Beach, Maine every single year, I remember him getting up early to walk down to Short Sands to grab a coffee and, if we were lucky, bring donuts back to the room or cabin.

His early morning coffee was a pre-breakfast, because the Goldenrod was the main breakfast and he wouldn’t dare go there without the rest of the family, unless it was to bring back some of the world’s best saltwater taffy.

Early morning walks are, indeed, awesome, as there is something special about walking through a nearly empty place that hours later will be full of people, but do you know what else is awesome?

Sleeping in.

My parents were back before I was ready to leave, so they joined me for a still-relatively-early morning walk through Edgartown. Thinking of what happened with the decision regarding the dining location the previous night, I asked them where they had their breakfast and was determined to go anywhere else. Being more than a functional zombie this morning, I had no problem playing alpha dog on deciding where to eat, and the first place I saw that looked like it served breakfast was Murdick’s Cafe. Murdick’s also has a much more renowned fudge shop right next door and the cafe can get a little lost in the middle of all the doorways, but just because it has a small entrance doesn’t mean it doesn’t have big food. I ordered an egg and bacon on multigrain bread and it was delicious. The bread was thick cut, fresh, and doughy, and the egg and bacon were cooked breakfast-perfect.

And know I knew who made all that delicious peanut brittle I had inhaled the night before. (I think I’ll be ordering some soon.)

When you travel for a destination wedding, it’s not really a pure vacation as you’ve got business to attend to. I was a groomsman so I had to be at the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner and then the post-rehearsal dinner drink fest. None of this is a bad thing, of course, but it doesn’t leave a lot of time for sitting around, doing nothing. If I was going to do any sight-seeing, Friday was the time to do it, so we took a walk down to the docks, with the ultimate goal of visiting the Edgartown Lighthouse, which was located on the beach in view of the Harbor View Hotel, where the wedding would take place on Saturday.

Edgartown Docks by the Chappaquiddick ferry / Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts / June 20, 2014 / Image Copyright 2014, Mark Bousquet
Edgartown Docks by the Chappaquiddick ferry / Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts / June 20, 2014 / Image Copyright 2014, Mark Bousquet
Looking Back at Town from the Edgartown Docks by the Chappaquiddick Ferry / Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts / June 20, 2014 / Image Copyright 2014, Mark Bousquet
Looking Back at Town from the Edgartown Docks by the Chappaquiddick Ferry / Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts / June 20, 2014 / Image Copyright 2014, Mark Bousquet

We made our way to the docks that rested next to the Chappaquiddick ferry. This ferry could only take three cars at a time, and a robust line of cars backed up and wound its way through this part of Edgartown. (There’s a special lane reserved for ferry traffic to sit patiently as they wait.) There’s a bustle of energy by these docks. When you stand by the stairs that lead up to a viewing deck and do a 360, you see people fishing, small shops, a monument to whales and whalemen, a taxi stand, and the Chappaquiddick ferry.

Even if you have never been to Martha’s Vineyard before, chances are you know the Chappy ferry thanks to its use in Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic, Jaws. (Check out all of the Jaws Martha’s Vineyard locations at the excellent website, Then and Now Movie Locations.) You might think that a ferry that can only take six cars at a time would create some aggravated travelers, but almost everyone we saw driving onto the ferry was cool and calm. Martha’s Vineyard is a hard place to stay angry at the world, and the folks who run the ferry (ferries, actually, as they run one going in each direction at a time) do a professional job getting the cars onto the ferry and secured with a heavy, angled block (it looked rubber, from a distance) on a stick.

We moved upstairs to the upper viewing platform to get a better look and it was a beautiful location and a beautiful day. It was warm without being hot, and the sun was just intense enough for me to wish I’d brought some sunscreen. We had a great view of the docks, of the town behind it, and both the sail-boat filled ocean and Chappaquiddick before it.

This viewing platform also led to a funny incident with my dad. I asked him to take a picture of me standing at the edge without bothering to explain exactly how the camera on the iPhone worked. I saw him push the screen, then saw him push it again, then again, and then I got nervous as it looked like he was trying to jam his entire finger directly through my screen.

When I finally got the iPhone back from him, he’d taken about nine “different” pictures that were all essentially the same shot – at least until the end of the roll when I started demanding the phone instead of just asking for it.

"Give me the phone. No, you took the picture, now give me the phone. Just give it to me." / June 20, 2014 / Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts / Image Copyright 2014, Mark Bousquet
“Give me the phone. No, you took the picture, now give me the phone. Just give it to me.” / June 20, 2014 / Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts / Image Copyright 2014, Mark Bousquet

On the way away from the docks, we stopped by the monument to whales and whalemen. Martha’s Vineyard doesn’t occupy the same place in whaling history as either fellow island, Nantucket, or the coastal port of New Bedford, but it was important to the development of the island’s economy in the 19th century. As someone who studies and has published on whales in literature (it was also the subject of my American Studies dissertation from Purdue), what was striking to me was the placard, dedicating this monument to “the whales and to the people who pursued them,” honoring both the hunter and the hunted. Whaling helped to make the United States an international power, but at the cost of the whaling population in the coastal waters of New England.

Our next stop was the Edgartown Lighthouse, and to get there we moved back to Water Street and hung a right. (Check out that Then & Now Movie Locations sight for a lot of great images of Water Street – note that in one image you can see the same tree on the right hand side of Roy Scheider.) I love the houses on Water Street. Even though I’d only ever been on Martha’s Vineyard once before (as part of a 9th grade Student Council trip), this section of Water Street feels like home to me. It reeks of Massachusetts. I live in the west now and love it, but strolling down Water Street made me realize I’ll always be a New England kid.

We turned right to head towards the beach and in between the street and the lighthouse the terrain undertook a transition from grass to soft sand. Granted, wearing Nikes isn’t the best way to navigate a beach, but it took a few minutes to find my sand legs, again.

The lighthouse itself is rather small, but $5 will allow you to climb up to the top and I paid for my dad and I to make the trek up. It’s an easy stairway climb until the top, when you’ve got a small ladder and then a small, below-the-waist opening to get out onto the platform. The cost and tricky ending is well worth it, however, as you get a great view of the ocean, Chappaquiddick, and the town. I tried out the panoramic option on the iPhone a few times, but mostly just enjoyed the view. As much as you want to experience as much as possible on a vacation, there are moments when it’s good to just stop and soak it in, and this was one of them.

What else are you going to do at the top of a lighthouse?

Edgartown Lighthouse / June 20, 2014 / Image Copyright 2014, Mark Bousquet
Edgartown Lighthouse / June 20, 2014 / Image Copyright 2014, Mark Bousquet
View of Edgartown from Edgartown Lighthouse / June 20, 2014 / Image Copyright 2014, Mark Bousquet
View of Edgartown from Edgartown Lighthouse / June 20, 2014 / Image Copyright 2014, Mark Bousquet

After the lighthouse, it was back to the Lightkeeper’s Inn, where we quickly learned that much of the rest of the family had arrived in town. I was staying about a half-mile away at the Clarion on Friday and Saturday nights, so I gathered up my stuff and made the trek. I was greeted by a welcome horde of family, and it was great to see everyone. I quickly checked in to the room, then led them back to the center of downtown Edgartown, where more family awaited and lunch was to be had. Some more downtown sightseeing followed, and I made my first of two visits to the Black Dog General Store so I could be a tourist and pick up a t-shirt and coffee mug.

I don’t even drink coffee but it’s good to have a coffee mug on hand.

Or something.

It looks cool, at least.

After this, I had to head back to the Lightkeeper’s Inn to meet up with the parents and sister, so we could make our way to the Harbor View for the rehearsal, and then across town to Atria for the dinner and post-dinner festivities. I proved my liquor bonafides by noting the presence of St-Germain in the delicious drink the restaurant had at the ready for everyone. It was called the Sputnik Spritzer or something and it was made primarily of St-German, Tito’s vodka, and watermelon. There were other things in it, too, but I was more interested in chatting up friends and family than reverse engineering the drink.

The night ended relatively early around midnight (give or take) and from Atria it was a short walk back up to the Clarion. I was sharing the room with one of my cousins, but he hadn’t yet arrived on the island (which was a good thing as one of the groomsmen had forgot his pants back in Winchendon). This meant I had the hotel room to myself for the night.

And what a night it was.

It was a lazy, peaceful hour of catching up on some Formula 1, drinking Coke Zero, and grumbling about how the grocery store didn’t have any Tri-Sum potato chips in stock. I fly all the way across the country and I get totally chip-blocked in my attempt to score the best (and allegedly first) potato chips in the country.

I did finally get a good night’s sleep, however, and all things considered, I needed the rest more than I needed the chips.


Next up: Wedding Day

For my fiction writing, please check out my Bibliography and for my travel writing, please visit this site’s Travel Writing page.

The Haunting of Kraken Moor / Written by Mark Bousquet.

Written by Mark Bousquet

“The castle, a massive singular structure of grey, surrounded by high walls that hold three towers, is called Kraken Moor, named by the seafaring captain who made a fortune and lost his mind in the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean.” -Beatrice Sharper, 31 December 1864 In 1863, a wealthy girl of the American South runs away from her family’s plantatation to chart her own course in life. A tough eighteen months later, 19-year old Beatrice Sharper takes a job at a housekeeper in Kraken Moor, an ancient castle in the east of England. From her first moments in the house’s employ, strange happenings abound, and Beatrice finds herself embroiled in a supernatural plot by an ancient evil to return to Earth and destroy all in its path. This is the journal of Beatrice Sharper, written as the nightmarish events unfolded for two harrowing months at the beginning of 1865.

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