Nantucket (1981)

After the great pickle quest, we continue our road trip. Next stop, Nantucket, where we had a couple of friends to visit. I’d never been on this island before, but it has a famous history (which you can learn about here).


Take the ferry from Hyannis Port to the town of Nantucket, which is just inside the entrance to Nantucket Harbor. The actual harbor, where ships dock, is just a small outlet of the Harbor, a long lagoon with beautiful wild beaches for miles. Our friends, Mark and Shirard, live at the far end of the Harbor, in a little hamlet called Polpis (see map). It’s about 40 minutes from the port by car.


Having grown up here, Mark is an avid sailor, with two small boats. Either can easily be manned by one person (and yes, I know how to sail!). The larger one, a Sunfish, can carry two people easily. The smaller one is probably 10-12’ long, little more than a bucket with a sail on it. (Let’s call this “the Dinghy”). You wouldn’t take such boats out to sea, but in the protected waters of the Harbor they work quite well.


We do a bit of recreational sailing, swim in the mild water of the lagoon, dig on the beach for clams (which magically become a New England clam chowder at dinner time); what an idyllic life!


After a couple of days, we’re ready to travel on to our next visit. Mark says, “we could drive you to town, but if the weather is good, it’s more fun to sail there.” I’m all for sailing!


The next day’s weather is fine, so we pack our bags and head for the beach. There’s the photo of me carrying the sail to prepare one of the boats for launching, ready for a little adventure. Me, Nan, and baby Malila, with luggage, fill the Sunfish. Mark and Shirard escort us in the Dinghy. The wind is from the northwest, so we’ll have to beat against it a bit; that’s not a problem, but the best strategy is to beat across to the north shore of the Harbor, and then sail the beam reach (a much easier and more efficient way to cross the wind) toward town.


We complete the first leg, and are close to the beach on the outer bank. The wind is getting stronger. Mark signals that we should land on the beach. With our boats beached, he says, this wind is too strong. These little boats are heavily loaded, I don’t think we should try to reach town in these conditions. So we’re going to turn back. Mark, being the best sailor, will take Nan, the baby, and the luggage back in the Sunfish. Shirard and I can manage the Dinghy.


The Sunfish heads toward Polpis, our home beach, which is now directly downwind. We set the Dinghy’s sail for a flat-out run, and follow.

Dinghy sailing


Or, we try. With its single sail catching too much wind—which is now blowing about gale-force—the bucket has no stability. The only thing keeping it in balance is our keen sense of body-weight control. So it was not surprising when we lost that balance, and the boat capsized. This is not a serious problem, really, with such a small boat; we knew how to get it upright again and resume sailing. Of course, it happens a second time, and a third, and … well, maybe I lost count at five. The wind could have carried us straight back in 10-15 minutes, but we spend another 10-15 minutes in the water, righting the dinghy.


Fortunately, the Sunfish, with Mark at the helm, has no such trouble; our family and our gear is all safe.


The next day, the weather is again fine. Mark drives us to the ferry terminal.


A great little adventure!

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