Menemsha, Martha’s Vineyard

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41°24 N  70°37 W  (published December 2013)

Martha’s Vineyard, which lies only a few miles off the southern coast of Cape Cod, Machusetts, is one of the most famous summer colonies in America. Presidents Clinton and Obama have both spent summer vacations there and many literary lions and lionesses, Broadway stars, pop music legends and media magnates have summer homes on the island. For cruisers, Edgartown and Vineyard Haven are Meccas for sailors who love traditional New England settings, classic wooden yachts and great sailing conditions.

At the far western end of the island, the little fishing village at Menemsha has to be one of the prettiest, quaintest and most fun anchorages on the Vineyard. Situated in Menemsha Bight, the little harbor is just inside stone jetties and fronted by beautiful white sand beaches. The tidal flow through the jetties can be up to five knots so we try to time entrances and exits for slack water.

IMG_0329On calm summer nights, you can anchor off the beach and then dinghy into the harbor where you can tie up at the free dinghy dock. Or, if you make a reservation you can either go into the marina or raft up on the mooring floats in the middle of the harbor. Small boats can even go all the way into Menemsha Pond and anchor for the night.

Ashore you will find several excellent fresh fish shops. The Vineyard is famous for being the sword fishing capital of New England and Menemsha is one of the island’s busiest fishing harbors where families like the Poole’s and Larsens have been bringing in a fresh catch for many generations. Not far from the waterfront you can stop by the famous Beach Plum Inn for a sundowner or an excellent dinner.

You never know who you might run into in Menemsha on a summer evening. Last summer when we were there President Obama was staying nearby, which had the local Coast Guard pretty twitchy. And years ago, when we were exploring Menemsha Pond in the dinghy we encountered none other than Jackie Kennedy Onassis water skiing topless.

IMG_0334This little village is also the backdrop for a lot of the on-the-water scenes in the original movie Jaws, but that doesn’t keep us from swimming in the clear cool water of Menemsha Bight.