Letter from Cuttyhunk: Hello, Martha’s Vineyard

From your neighbors on “the Hidden Jewel” to your west.

When Cuttyhunkers look toward Martha's Vineyard, they see the north shore, and Aquinnah (and on a clear day, the Gay Head lighthouse). –Photo by Nancy Dunn

Readers responded so positively to our story about Cuttyhunk several weeks ago that we decided we’d like to hear from Cuttyhunk more often. Nancy Dunn, the teacher at the island’s one-room schoolhouse, will be sending us a Letter from Cuttyhunk each month. Cuttyhunkers: if you’d like to let Nancy know about anything you’d like posted here, contact her at: 774-327-7376; Nedunn22@gmail.com.

Welcome spring! There are signs all around us that the long-awaited spring equinox of 2015 has finally arrived. On Cuttyhunk Island, we are definitely noticing the longer daylight hours, the sun sitting higher in the sky, and plants like snowdrops budding and blooming in sheltered, protected hollows. Other visible signs are the large, honking flocks of migrating Canadian geese moving north after their island food stop, native animals shedding their heavy winter coats, and birds building nests and finding mates. Now if it would just stop snowing and temperatures would rise, it would really start to feel like spring!

If you haven’t yet visited neighboring Cuttyhunk Island, you may be wondering about how it compares with Martha’s Vineyard. Here’s a little background to start. Cuttyhunk is the outermost island in the Elizabeth Island chain, and part of the smallest town by population in the state, Gosnold. The island is three-quarters of a mile by one and one-half miles in size. The highest elevation is 154 feet above sea level. We have a current winter population of about 25 residents, with two children enrolled at the island’s one-room schoolhouse. Serving pre-K through 8th grade, Cuttyhunk Elementary was built in 1873, and is the smallest public school in the state, as well as the last operating one-room schoolhouse in Massachusetts. In winter, the ferry makes the one-hour trip from New Bedford to the island twice each week, on Fridays and Mondays. This is also when we receive our U.S. mail and packages from the mainland. Residents can also use the water taxi service or their private boats. There are no stores, restaurants, or Peapod deliveries on the island during winter, so meals require careful planning ahead and kind neighbors. We do have fresh eggs, and can obtain shellfish and lobster when the harbor is not iced over. The U.S. Coast Guard has been busy cutting through the ice this winter.

Some other ways that Cuttyhunk is unique are transportation, health care, and social life. Golf carts, both gas and electric, are a common way to get around the island, and there are some small trucks here for freight and business. The terrain is quite hilly, and this winter walking with Yaktrax on your boots was a wise choice! The town plow keeps our streets clear of snow, and is also utilized as the trash and recycling pick-up truck. For social life there are no bars, as the island is “dry.” Instead of movie theatres, there are many large-screen televisions, satellites, and streaming movies. High-speed Internet keeps us connected to all, with cell phone service often spotty. Potluck dinners are a popular choice for socializing. There is no hospital or walk-in clinic in the winter, but we are lucky to have a retired surgeon to provide stabilization for injuries before transport to the mainland. We have fast boats for medical emergencies, and a helipad for any needed Coast Guard evacuations. With so much tranquility and natural beauty on Cuttyhunk, it is the perfect place for birdwatchers, artists, and authors to experience the slow unfolding of the seasons and the renewal of spring.

For Cuttyhunkers

Ferry news

The Cuttyhunk Ferry Co. will begin its spring schedule by adding weekend trips beginning on Saturday, April 11. (This is also the last Seal Watch for this year, so times are adjusted for that day only, with a 9 am departure from New Bedford and leaving the island at 2 pm.) On Sunday and Monday, it will be the normal spring schedule of departing at 9 am from New Bedford and 3 pm from CTY. Also, as of April 1, please obtain a new parking-lot permit from the office. Call for details: 508-992-0200.

School news

Students will be taking their state MCAS exams. Testing dates: Grade 4 writing on March 24, Grade 4 and 5 reading on April 1 and 2.

School/Community Cinco de Mayo Potluck: Saturday, May 2, at 5:30 pm in the Town Hall.

Meeting dates

Next Board of Selectmen’s meeting, Friday, April 3.

Town of Gosnold annual town meeting, Monday, May 18.