It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

Of the changes one must adapt to while living on an island like Martha’s Vineyard, the isolation ranks right up there at the top. While I do enjoy the isolation for the most part, it is the accessibility that tends to irk me every so often. Once you decide to go off island, it is a commitment that sometimes lasts longer than you initially planned on. Such was the case recently, when a classic Nor’easter descended on the East Coast.

This past Saturday was the Eastern Athletic Conference League meet for Cross County at Borderland Park in Massachusetts. As one of the coaches, I usually accompany the thirty team members to their off island meets, and this was no exception. While the forecast had predicted nasty weather for later in the day, it was pretty calm in the morning and it remained so until the early afternoon. By the end of the first race, the rain had begun to fall. By the end of the final race, it was getting pretty windy to boot.

The bus started back to the ferry under a steady rain and increasing winds. As every islander knows, it’s the wind that will stop the ferries from running. With this in mind, I kept checking the Steamship Authority website and my twitter feed for updates on the status of the boats. At just after 3:30 there were grumblings of trouble. Possible cancellations of boats due to the weather echoed from a few sources. Just before 4 PM there was word the 5 PM boat had been cancelled. That was the boat we had been shooting for.

As the bus pulled into the lot just after 4 o’clock, the lot attendants in the shack said the 5 o’clock boat was on time. Further confirmation inside the ticket office proved that information to be bogus; the 5 o’clock had definitely been cancelled. Now as soon as I heard of the cancellation, we had started to explore the options open to us, should the remaining boats also be canceled. The high school athletics director had been calling around to the motels and hotels in Falmouth, but there were limited accommodations available. Seems the Cape Cod Marathon was scheduled for the next morning. Go figure.

Shortly after 4:30, it was decided that the remaining boat crossings for the day would be cancelled. So there we were, with thirty soggy, hungry teenagers, looking for lodging for the night. Long story short, we get seven rooms at a local inn; three for the boys, three for the girls, one for the two coaches. Dinner consisted of thirteen pizzas. Luckily the kids were too tired to get into any mischief and the night went without incident. Well, almost.

Being an insomniac provides one with opportunities missed by most, like seeing rain turn to snow at 2:30 AM, then back to rain at 3:30. By the time 5 AM rolled around, it was time to start calling the Steamship office and getting updates from the internet about conditions and forecasts. Since the “ghetto” inn gave us a bum television, our BlackBerry devices were working overtime the entire time. While the kids slept we called several office numbers, tweeted a few contacts on island, and hoped for the best.

It was not until a few minutes before 8 AM that we confirmed the first boats would leave the docks at 8:15. Rushing to catch the 9:30 AM boat, we rousted the kids, arranged for the bus to pick us up, and packed up our still wet gear. The boat was packed with those who had suffered the same fate as us and they looked just as weary.

The boat ride back was rather calm, the skies had cleared, and we were all going home. The minor inconvenience is always diminished by the beauty of the island as you round the chop and enter the harbor. Yes, some might simply call it Martha’s Vineyard, but it is the island I definitely call my home.



  1. Dabodog –

    Great post. Although I am only a seasonal resident of Martha’s Vineyard, your description of the horrowing experience attempting to get your crew back home illustrates just how far away the Island can seem to be at times, particularly on inclement days or nights.

    When I was young, (I’ve been spending time on the Vineyard during summers for over 50 years) we used to board the Islander in Woods Hole for the trip to the Vineyard in all kinds of bad weather, and she never failed to safely get us there every time. Rain, wind, sleet, snow, fog, the dark of night – none of that mattered – she sailed anyway. Mind you, this was before GPS, tracking devices and night-vision technology was available. We were at the mercy of the vessel’s integrity and the skill of a daring crew…but by the grace of God, the trip always ended without incident.

    I was touched by your description of when you rounded the bend of West Chop. There is a certain amount of comfort you must feel in knowing that you’re almost home. Yes, I concur that any and all inconveniences are minimized when you stop and consider how lucky you are to live on that gem of an Island.

    To me, a non-Islander, Martha’s Vineyard has been, is, and will forever be a special place; one to be cherished and enjoyed for the beauty and serenity that is there for all to experience.

    Thanks for sharing your story!


  2. dabodog said


    Thanks for your kind words. I’ll always be a “wash-ashore”, but at least I can say that I’m a barnacle of a resident. They fewer days I leave the island, the better, IMO.


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