I post a lot of photographs of sunny days on the beaches of Martha’s Vineyard. My characters in my novels are always watching yellow and white light dance through summer leaves. I have written of sailing across Vineyard Sound with my friend Ryan Peterson on a quintessential summer day, and I have recapped the thrill of being out on Chappaquiddick, with The Martha’s Vineyard Surfcasters, until I got so much sun that I had the chills! Those are the days that we live for up here in the north. Those are the days that get us through our long winters. We dream of the days of sailboats, beaches, and patios. However, I would be lying if I said that every time I go to the island, I’m not hoping to find myself, for just one day, enveloped in a Martha’s Vineyard fog.
Martha’s Vineyard Fog
If you’re already a fog lover then this is something you probably already know, but if you like the look of a Vineyard fog and it’s something you want to experience, then know this: you’re probably going to have to get up early. Fogs roll in and fogs roll out, and more often than not, fog on Martha’s Vineyard curls around every tree and every corner in the wee, small hours of the morning, but it will burn off before lunch.
I love getting up and looking out the window to discover that I can only see a few metres in front of me. I throw on my clothes, grab my yellow slicker, and I’m out the door. The Vineyard is always quiet first thing in the morning. People are barely stirring in their homes and inns. Foggy mornings are even quieter. They’re silent. Whether I start my morning at 1720 House in Vineyard Haven, followed by a Black Dog Breakfast and a walk around West Chop, or a walk from Edgartown Village out to South Beach, more often than not—I see no one. Okay, I might see Katie Dawson, from Point B Realty, and her doodle (who’s name escapes me) on Lighthouse Beach, but other than that…
So, early is the time. What about the place? The truth is, I don’t think that I could pick a specific place that was most beautiful on Martha’s Vineyard on a foggy morning. Of course, I always love watching the boats go in and out, sitting at a wooden table on a wobbly bench, sipping coffee at The Black Dog, but foggy mornings are even more ethereal. There’s something awe-inspiring about seeing something as big as a Steamship Authority Ferry just appear out of the fog and then, moments later, disappear once more.
Sailboats are moored to long docks that fade into the distance, and fog horns call from heads of land that are far out of sight. Foghorns are another romantic citizen of Martha’s Vineyard. They’re one of those things that only exist in movies to a lot of people. Of course, the islanders don’t know what it’s like to be lulled to sleep by the rumble of subways and the soothing squawk of belligerent cab drivers, but somehow, I don’t see this as a fair trade.
Up-island is quite often foggy when down-island is not. This works for everyone’s best interest as there are few things more beautiful than Menemsha in a Martha’s Vineyard fog. The fog might not be the best thing for your afternoon lunch at Aquinnah Shops Restaurant, but as I wrote previously, more often than not, fog burns off in the morning. An early morning walk on Moshup Beach and/or a stroll through Menemsha fishing village is a great way to while away a foggy morning.
I’m not sure why—maybe it’s the “only in movies” vibe again—but there’s something about Menemsha in the fog that really brings out its inner Amity—if you know what I mean. Somehow, it’s easier to hear Quint yelling and cursing about the inefficiency of his first mate (RIP Hershel West), or boasting about killing a particularly large shark—”I had to stick two barrels in him! Two to slow him down!”—when there is a thick fog coiling its way through the shacks. If there was anything that Menemsha already had in excess it was atmosphere. Covering it in a blanket of fog, makes it almost too much to bear.
Oak Bluffs is my least favourite town on Martha’s Vineyard to start my day. The only business that’s open when I seem to be making my way through is Mocha Mott’s. I love Mocha Mott’s and on a bright and sunny day, I’ll grab a coffee and be on my way. It’s usually only a pit stop between my Vineyard Haven breakfast and my final destination of Edgartown. If I start in Edgartown, it’s usually on the bus, and I’m heading to Vineyard Haven for breakfast and then up to Aquinnah or some other exotic locale!
Having said that, there is a tonic to be found in sitting in Ocean Park during a Martha’s Vineyard fog, with a coffee and an apple fritter. The only soundtrack to a morning in the park is the waves hitting the beach behind the wall. I’m not even sure that you’d be able to see them if there wasn’t a barrier wall. I have sat on my favourite bench, with my doughnut and coffee, and been unable to see the end of the park. It’s quite something to be surrounded by soft, white, stillness, wondering if the rest of the world was gone.
Like Menemsha, Edgartown doesn’t need more atmosphere. Edgartown doesn’t need more charm and beauty. When the fog comes in and it’s so thick that I can’t see Chappaquiddick across the harbour, when I can’t make out Tigress of Catboat Charters at her mooring, I know I’m home. There’s no one on the streets except for the occasional running group (which I will scan for my friend Kathy and her friend Brenda, in the hopes of a sweaty hug and kiss), and of course, Katie and her dog (is it Bo? I think it’s Bo), the rest of the town has been set out just for me, my coffee, and my camera.
I probably spend just as much time looking for somewhere to set down my coffee cup as I do taking pictures. Sometimes, I can see the mist swirl around the columns on the Old Whaling Church. If you’re standing by Edgartown Diner, you can’t see as far as Water Street. The old style lanterns and the absence of overhead wires show you exactly what Water Street looked like two-hundred years ago except, of course, it was ‘paved’ with clam shells.
One of my favourite things to do, on a foggy Edgartown morning, is to take The Chappy Ferry. Sometimes, it’s to get a shot of the lighthouse in the fog, sometimes it’s to walk the beach and take photos of the sun burning off the early morning mist, but more often than not, it’s just a good way to say hello to an old friend.