I tried so hard to see whales, or at least catch a glimpse of a Great White Shark, while crossing from Hyannis to Nantucket. No such luck! We did, however, have a smooth ride to a large anchorage in the calm Nantucket Harbor where the tide currents are fierce and the Atlantic Sea Nettles (jellyfish) abound. Up until a couple of months ago I didn’t even know that Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard were islands! Now I am so thankful for having the opportunity to visit this area of the USA and learn about the rich maritime history.
We immersed ourselves in the golden era of whaling by visiting the Whaling Museum and the Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum. The Quakers spearheaded Nantucket into the whaling capitol with such famous ships as the Essex, the ship that was sunk by a sperm whale and inspired the Herman Melville novel, Moby Dick. We learned how candles were made in the only spermaceti lever press left in the world. Sperm whales’ large heads have very few bones because they are filled with the spermaceti organ which holds high quality waxy oil. The head of the whale makes up one third of it’s body. This oil was highly prized because it did not go rancid and was used for cosmetics, lubrication, candles, and pharmaceuticals. The sperm whale gets its name from the large organ and uses it for echolocation and for diving/ascending. It feeds on large squid in the deepest of waters and dives for an hour at a time.
The beautiful Shipwreck and Life Saving Museum demonstrated the determination and bravery of the tough Nantucketers who risked their lives to save others. Many ships wrecked in the waters surrounding Nantucket due to shallow waters, strong tides and dense fog. We were amazed by their advanced techniques used to rescue sailors from ships that were quite far from shore and in dangerous conditions.
Although Nantucket is a tourist destination it is not highly commercial. Homes and businesses alike are mostly grayed cedar shingled buildings. The entire island is clean, orderly, and neat, even in the downtown area. We saw no fences because privacy is maintained by neatly manicured privets. There are no billboards or commercial signs or high rises. In fact, some businesses’ signs were barely discernible. Despite being only 30 mi. from Cape Cod it feels rather isolated and quiet. Heaven fog often blankets the island, hence the nickname “The Gray Lady.”
The island’s small buses took us to the village of Siasconset where we strolled the ‘Sconset Bluff Walk. The walk is a public pathway that took us amongst the charming homes on the cliff. We felt like we were eavesdropping and trespassing as the homes’ yards were quite small and we were often right next to their windows.
Two days were spent catching up on chores on board due to rain and winds. The remaining days were quite lovely. But in our humble opinion, not lovely enough to get in the water nor surf as we observed others doing at Madaket Beach! There were dedicated bike trails around the island so we rented a bike and enjoyed a 12 mile round trip bike ride to Madaket Beach and watched some nice rollers come in.
Finally, we experienced some glorious sunsets where the reds, yellows, pinks, and oranges displayed quite nicely against the “Gray Lady.” We rose early to catch a gorgeous sunrise as Scott removed the snubber to raise the anchor as we left this quiet and peaceful island.
Next comes another opportunity to see a whale as we travel west to Newport, RI.