Letter From Cuttyhunk: Flying Santa and our lighthouse keepers

Seamond Ponsart and Flying Santa Edward Rowe Snow, taken in early 1940s. — Photo courtesy of Dolly Snow Bic

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all! In the midst of our pre-holiday shopping hustle and the escalating Santa excitement, it’s a perfect time to stop for a moment and wish for peace on Earth, love, and goodwill toward others. Island communities are not only unique tapestries of humanity, but can seem especially small at this time of the year. Author Margaret Wise Brown says this well in her beautiful children’s book “The Little Island” (1946): “Nights and days came and passed — and summer and winter and the rain. And it was good to be a little island. A part of the world and a world of its own. All surrounded by the bright blue sea.” Winter solstice is a time when these gorgeous deserted beaches and striking sunsets truly feel like they belong to us alone. Can you imagine what winter island life was like for the lighthouse keepers and their families some 75 years ago?

The local family of lighthouse keeper Octave Ponsart lived first at the Cuttyhunk Lighthouse, then later on the Vineyard at West Chop Light. Ponsart’s daughter, Seamond, tells her fascinating story in her memoir “Everyday Heroes — The True Story of a Lighthouse Family” (Ponsart Roberts, S. and D’Entremont, J. 2013). Edward Rowe Snow, the famous maritime historian and author of over 40 books, was the beloved Flying Santa to lighthouse children up and down the East Coast when Seamond was a child. He flew to lighthouses with his wife and later his own daughter, and dropped wrapped Christmas packages from the airplane as it flew over the light. Seamond recalls life as a 5-year-old on Cuttyhunk in the early 1940s eagerly waiting for Flying Santa’s arrival. “The plane came over and circled and we were ready. We had a dory ready for the ocean, and one for the pond, in case the bombardiering wasn’t too on-target and we had to fish the packages out. Even the soldiers from the Army post were all ready for the drop. One made the pond and Dad had to row out and get it. Two packages made the ground and one hit the huge boulders that are part of the Cuttyhunk landscape. We waved and waved to Santa and then we all rushed back to the house. It was extremely exciting! We knew Mr. Snow always included wonderful things in his packages: books, magazines, candy, cigarettes, and always one of his new books. And I knew in one of them would be my doll. There it was, in the last package, the one that hit the boulder. My doll. And there it was all in pieces. I was inconsolable. My father patched up the doll as best he could because after all, Daddy, being a lighthouse keeper, could fix anything.” Seamond’s disappointment had a happy ending the next Christmas after her father had taken command at West Chop Light. Upon hearing about her unfortunate doll tragedy, the Flying Santa, Mr. Snow, personally chartered a helicopter and lovingly hand-delivered a replacement doll to little Seamond in a memorable moment on the Vineyard. There is a wonderful children’s book written about this experience in “Love From the Sky: Seamond and the Flying Santa” (Perrow, A. 2013).

For more than 40 years (1936-1980), Edward Rowe Snow was the big-hearted Flying Santa for lighthouse families. There is a touching monument to this remarkable man on George’s Island in Boston Harbor. Flying Santa was a tradition that Mr. Snow carried on after following in the footsteps of pilot Bill Wincapaw and his son Bill, who had started the tradition in the late 1920s. Today the organization is called the Friends of Flying Santa and still delivers presents at Christmas by helicopter to Coast Guard stations and lights. You can donate to this great cause and learn more about their interesting and extensive history at their website, flyingsanta.com.

Happy New Year!


For Cuttyhunkers Only:

Cuttyhunk Marina News

Hello All,

As the song goes,” It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” and we at Cuttyhunk Marina wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

At this time I’d like to thank you for making the 2015 boating season a success for Cuttyhunk Marina, and also for making Cuttyhunk Marina your destination rather than just a place to visit. As you know, we have been updating the marina over the past few years, and we continue to do so. The power-post upgrade in the marina is now complete. As of this mailing, all ladders in the marina have been replaced. Unlike the old three-rung ladders, the new ladders have several rungs, which makes it easier and safer to exit the water if need be. For those of you who have kayaks, the small beach area just south of the first aid shack in the parking lot has been cleaned up and re-arranged, creating more room to store kayaks while you’re staying at the marina. It also provides easy access to the kayaks from the parking lot or the water. We have a few more projects in the works, and I’ll keep you posted as they progress.

Also, there will be something new on the marina website in the near future pertaining to reservations. There will be a link added to the site that will allow you to make reservations with the click of a button. You will still be able to make reservations via email, but I think the new system will be an improvement to the reservation process.

For the 2016 boating season we are offering special rates for the spring and fall. Beginning May 15th, 2016, the dockage rate will be $1.50 per ft. seven days a week thru June 20, 2016. The rate for shore power will remain the same: $20 per night for 30-amp service and $30 a night for 50-amp service. The reduced dockage rate will begin again on Sept. 15, 2016, through Oct. 15, 2016.

I’ve taken several reservations already, so if you are planning a lengthy stay or you’d like to be in a specific location, please feel free to contact me anytime to make plans. In anticipation of a busy and exciting 2016 season, we look forward to seeing you all, our boating family.


—Captain George Isabel, Harbormaster, Cuttyhunk Marina, P.O. Box 28, Cuttyhunk Island, MA 02713, VHF channel 09, cuttyhunkmarina.net

Board of Selectmen – Gosnold Meetings, Dec. 4 and 18 , 2015

Planning Board approved the Ridgeley Farm subdivision plan.

Selectmen reviewing public safety staffing. What’s the most cost-effective way to provide for public safety? Patrols, ferry landing crowd control, motor vehicle control, boaters, general law enforcement, emergency response, etc. Ideas welcome.

Water bills being issued on Dec. 11.

Public hearing to review and update the Community Development Strategy (part of a block grant proposal).

Long Range Planning meeting was held on Dec. 12 in New Bedford. Highlights: keeping ferry dock project work local, future of Winter House, land acquisition, low income/summer help housing.

Tax bills sent out on Nov. 25: real estate: $543,348.41; personal property: $2,513.32; CPA: $3,023.84.

Fire Chief job posted, applicants welcome, FinComm to consider increasing salary.

Upcoming meetings: BOS Jan. 8 and 22, Feb. 12 and 26 (with FinComm).

Happy New Year to all!

Electric Light Meeting Highlights

SPCC plan was reviewed.

The Electric Light passed the EPA inspection, reviewed by Sherry Banks August 2015.

New fuel tank fill enclosure.

2010 aboveground tank inspection report was accepted by EPA inspector Banks.

Lightning strikes destroyed four transformers.

Electrical engineer Kevin Black inspected and reviewed Wayne Perrier’s plan for

replacement and installation of new underground transmission lines to the Well

Pump house, and assured the commissioners that a 30 KVA mobile generator would be sufficient to power the well pumps in emergency. Paul discussed the progress on the Solar Project.

Cuttyhunk Ferry News

Both Christmas and New Year’s fall on Fridays, so we will be coming the Thursday before (December 24th and 31st), and will be back to the regular schedule on the following Mondays.

If the P.O. sends someone, we will also bring the mail on the Thursdays; if not, mail will be brought the following Mondays.

Cuttyhunk Elementary School News

Winter Concert and Potluck Luncheon was held Dec. 18 at Town Hall.

Next newsletter to be published on Jan. 22.

Save the date: Friday, Jan. 29, Community Game Night and Potluck Dinner.

School volunteers needed for a variety of projects — contact mcarvalho@gosnoldsd.org.

Save those BoxTops, and send to the school at P.O. Box 27.

New school colors — the votes are in: sky blue, green, and blue.

After School Enrichment Opportunities for Community: Jan. 7, 14, and 21, Thursdays 3:45 to 4:45. Join us to learn how to play the math game Krypto.


Deepest sympathy to the families of Charles W. Tilton Jr. (June 21, 1932 – Dec. 6, 2015) and

Lucien “Al” Couvillon (Oct. 3, 1940 — Dec. 8, 2015).