Getting Off (The Island)
Ingenious Ways of Vamoosing From Martha’s Vineyard After The Ferries Have Shut Down
No way around it: Luscious as our rock happens to be, it triggers panic in people who haven’t learned to trust that this is where it’s at, never mind that it is surrounded by water, and the mainland is inaccessible from 9:30 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. When you evolve to the point where you regard the Atlantic Ocean as a precious moat, well, then you’ve arrived, and you never want to leave.
But we learn in life that some people are more neurotic than others.
Some visitors are alarmed that there’s nothing to do past two o’clock in the morning. After Cumby’s closes.
True story: An old friend of mine, a beautiful and intelligent and surprisingly well-read actress (it happens!) from Manhattan, inherited the odd dab of money, and bought herself a cottage in the Tiah’s Cove area. Her first thoughts were along the lines of, “What if I find myself jonesing for a hot pastrami sandwich at three in the morning? What if I speed-read a script past midnight, and I need a new highlighter for marking my lines? What if I get an anxiety attack that only a cab ride over the 59th Street Bridge can quell?!”
So what did she do? She formed a romantic liaison with an Island fisherman (hint: he had a Boston whaler.) He was also cute and sexy (granted, all our Island fishermen are cute and sexy.) So the actress tested his willingness to motor her across the water by suggesting lunch in New Bedford. Midway across, he stopped the boat and cuddled up on the gunwale. She wouldn’t have minded on terra firma.
“I get seasick when a boat stops,” she said.
“Put out or get out.”
It was a joke.
They had a nice lunch in New Bedford.
A lot of folks, year-rounders and seasonals alike, keep boats or small planes for that quick skedaddle. And a lot of other folks know the folks with boats and small planes. They make an effort to stay on good terms with them (fresh-caught bluefish delivered in The Community Section of the MV Times, bags of zucchini, beachplum jam straight from the kitchen stove.)
My friend, Capt. J. Santos, always a source of good stories, once planned a winter getaway with his cousin, George of Oak Bluffs: Flight out of Boston to Chicago, hook up with an 8-seater to Texas, then down to the east coast of Baja. Only problem was, it was “blowing down a blizzard” here on the Vineyard. The captain latched on to a private jet due to take off in half an hour. The cousins boarded, and found themselves in the company of a Massachusetts senator.
“We’re flying with God,” Capt. Santos told cousin George. “We’ll be okay.”
And they were, cruising under I.F.R., Instrument Flight Rules (Capt. Santos, among many other professions, once dabbled in a career in Air Traffic Control.) “Different pilots are licensed for various minimum visibilities.”
Island author, John Hough (most recent book, Seen The Glory), is known to occasionally kayak to the mainland. Aquatic challengers have tried the seven-mile hell-ride, but it wasn’t until 1982 that a man named Dave McGillivray actually swam the full distance from Martha’s Vineyard to Falmouth.
Further back, in February of 1905, the weather was so cold for so long – zero degrees, but who’s counting? -- the Sound froze over – completely! – solid! -- and people skated, sledded, and walked across (presumably with many layers of socks and rubber boots.)
And nowadays, when a president of the United States is en suite on Island, Air Force One is fully loaded and ready to rock, helicopters are standing by, and the Secret Service has shuttles running nonstop from here to Cartagena (oops! that just slipped out!)
Point being, if you know somebody who knows somebody who knows the prez, you might be able to hitch a ride, provided you’re fully vetted by the F.B.I.: no arrests, no misdemeanors, no tax audits, no psycho-rant letters to the editor of your local paper; too bad! that leaves out most of us.
And there’s always The Patriot – the crazy bastard of a fishing boat (think George Clooney’s craft in The Perfect Storm) that putters from Oak Bluffs to Falmouth every day except Federal holidays, in gales reaching hurricane force. Seriously, I’ve seen passengers, two-hours debarked from The Patriot, who are still dashing to the nearest sink, and grimacing anytime anyone slams the door. Conventional Island wisdom: If the Patriot ain’t runnin’, you ain’t runnin’.
Truly, for those in residence born to many generations of Island seaman, all along the spectrum to those who washed ashore last winter and are hanging on with bare bloodied knuckles, we’re fine holding tight. It would take a plenty big emergency to cut us loose.
May Day! May Day!
Let us not forget that the first of May also celebrates the May Pole in olde England cultures. Start gathering your rosebuds. And don’t forget that ancient ditty: “Hey! Hey! Month of May, outdoor [tea-bagging? apple-seed scattering? I forget what] starts today!”