Rediscovering the Delights of Vineyard Sound

Rediscovering Cape Cod from the water is one of my favorite parts of summer. As the days have started to get shorter recently, and the crispness of autumn snuck into the air, I rushed to take my boat out onto Vineyard Sound. The warmth of the summer water made me feel bold, and we packed the boat with kids and set off in our small vessel last week.

We departed from Woods Hole in the late morning with the goal of visiting Lake Tashmoo, on Martha’s Vineyard, and making it up to Menemsha to get fresh fish for dinner at Larsen’s Fish Market. Some people would take that time to go fishing themselves — I would rather buzz around with a boatload of kids, see the sights, and purchase my fresh catch from one of the world’s best fish markets.

So off we set with sunscreen, bathing suits, beach towels, and plenty of cash to buy our fabulous fish. First stop, Lake Tashmoo, just about twenty minutes across Vineyard Sound on a clear calm day like this one. Storm clouds hovered over this part of the Vineyard, and I am usually the first to wimp out in the face of real weather, but the rest of the sky seemed bright enough and we pushed on. Brave!

Lake Tashmoo was once a pond and the entrance has been opened to a small channel that then lets you into a rather large protected harbor. We slowed way down to avoid leaving a wake (waves would disturb the other boaters moored and anchored about) so it took the better part of half an hour to putt-putt all the way in and see the whole thing. There were scads of lovely boats, and houses with great green lawns yawning down to the sandy shore below. It was exciting to peek in the back yards of the valuable waterfront real estate on Martha’s Vineyard — and we were not the only ones snooping along the shore. At the entrance to Lake Tashmoo, there is a barrier beach that was packed with people enjoying a lovely day in the sun.

Onward we traveled to Menemsha! The Vineyard is not small (eighteen miles long) so we powered at full speed for about twenty minutes along the coastline to get to this tiny little town at the very end of the island. A channel with a strong current flowing lets you into a beautiful protected harbor packed with real fishing vessels.

We struggled to get a spot to tie up, then found one along the pier and ran to get our fresh fish from Larsen’s. The kids clambered along the island road to the local ice cream shop, and the day was so hot that it was a challenge to eat the ice cream before it melted all down your arm. The smarter members of our crew bought “frappes” which is the New England way of asking for an ice cream shake. Yum.

Larsen’s Fish Market is an institution up island on the Vineyard. I have seen Larsen’s t-shirts proudly worn in Los Angeles and New York, a way insiders telegraph to each other that they are “in the know” about what is cool on the Vineyard. It was lunchtime when we got there and people were clustered around lobster trap tables enjoying the fresh fare and harbor views.

We explored Menemsha Harbor a wee bit more, then read a few days later of a shark sighting right near there. I guess they come for the same reason the fisherman like these waters — plenty of fresh fish!

I love my annual peregrination to Menemsha, and I will be back soon, before the weather turns the water cool again. You simply cannot beat a day on the waters of Vineyard Sound. You can re-create this journey with one of many local charter boat captains. Book a room at the Woods Hole Inn and with a little advance notice we would be happy to set a day trip just like this one up for you. Sharks, lobster and all:)

— by Beth Colt