Winter on Vineyard Haven Harbor


Our only companions today are sea gulls.

Territorial, dozens of these birds are engaged in ferocious theatre, a truly scary fight over a half-eaten fish. They charge, they retreat, watching for their next move. Loud screeches and defensive scurrying warn us to keep our distance from these strong, yet graceful birds.

Yesterday’s sun melted some of the snow, and more was removed by last night’s fierce wind and rain. With the temperature this morning only 30 degrees, we are watchful for any icy patches as we go downhill on the wooded, grassy path. It’s a good day to be at the narrow Owen Park Beach.

The beach is still and quiet. The only sound is the crunching of boots on broken shells and gravel. Broken branches from deciduous trees lie here and there. Up the hill on the left, smoke trails from chimneys of the great houses there.

Where we are now, the beach turns into a flattened landscape, more seclusion. Underfoot, is a wide flat area of stubborn gravel and shells. The jetty, a picturesque buttress jutting out into the water, is an invitation to climb and sit. But, today, it is too cold.

On the other side of the buttress, we can see a part of the beach reaching out toward West Chop past the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club. The chilly weather turns us back toward the busy part of Vineyard Haven. We see the ferry terminal in the distance.

Looking out towards the water, we see four lonely sailboats rock gently in the harbor. Summer will bring back hundreds of boats, but for now most are waiting in storage on land. Some are in backyards, others in sheds, while many wait out the cold weather in local boatyards. A few are now off in southern ports.

Turning right, we are headed back up the hill through Owen Park, past the bandstand, completing the loop that was begun on the downhill wooded path.

Early evening the same day, we wholeheartedly settle for a view of the harbor through a large picture window, from snug recliners and with warming edibles. The temperature has dropped to twenty-four degrees.

Newly minted snowflakes begin to fall, merging with the shimmering water of the harbor. As the moon rises over East Chop, its light bounces off the boats, and mixes with the light from windows of neighboring houses, and with the lights that have just come on at Lagoon Bridge.

As the ferry comes and goes, the sailboats rock themselves to sleep.

Maxine Bell, a freelance writer, lives in Vineyard Haven.