On My Way: Poking around the pilings

An up-close look at the work going on in Vineyard Haven.


I paddled out from the shore. A seagull swooped down in front me. I heard the wash in the water. I had made the right decision.

A few days earlier I had the idea of putting the kayak in the water. The weather looked perfect. Sunny skies and de minimis wind. The pond would be glass. It was a nice thought.

On the planned day, driving home from work, I noticed the gusts on the water, and flags snapping briskly at the top of their poles. For a moment, I thought maybe a bike ride would be the better option. But I have learned that if you wait on the weather, you will never go kayaking.

I was ready. I had put my gear together the prior night. All I had to do was put the kayak in the back of the truck. I wanted to take a look at the marine construction underway for the new wind farm facility.

I went past a newly constructed dock. I admired the craftsmanship of the marine engineer. The new wood pilings looked well-driven.

Past the dock, I headed out toward the center of the pond. A beach that takes the shape of a crescent sticks out from the shore. I felt the salt breeze and the moisture in the wind. I pushed the kayak through the water.

One hundred feet or so off the shore, I went through empty mooring fields. They will be full soon, I told myself. The breeze buffeted my beam. Some water sprayed into the cockpit. I did not mind.

The wind on the pond was easterly. It would be against me on my way out, and would be against me again on my way back. Figures!

I crossed to the Beach Road side of the Lagoon. I stopped to drift and rest every now and then. My kayaking muscles were not in shape. I felt the ocean all around me. I did not stop for too long, as the wind pushed me backwards.

Near the Lagoon Bridge, I looked up to see a line of waiting traffic. The line began to move. I was glad I was on the kayak looking up, and not the other way around. I paddled forward. I felt the pull of the current.

I stroked through one of the passages underneath the bridge, keeping away from the truss, and came out into a different world. The water was calm, and the wind no longer noticeable. The way forward was easier. I was surprised. Usually, one thinks the pond side will be more protected. I turned toward Packer’s — the location of the new marine construction.

Beach Road’s cracked concrete seawall ran along the shore. I was in its lee. And in the easterly wind, I had shelter from East Chop. The conditions were lovely. I enjoyed the small swell of the following sea.

I heard the cautionary beeping. I looked ahead. I did not see any activity on the work barge. No steel pilings were being driven today for the new wind farm facilities. I coasted along. In not too long, I was passing a safe distance off the work barge. Beep, beep. The sound was louder. I saw the source of the industrious noise. A front-loader was busy emptying a different barge, with its end docked to the Tisbury marine terminal, of some material.

I would have liked to have continued onward — passing along the wharf, the various docks, and the Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway — to the interior of Vineyard Haven Harbor, between the Black Dog and the ferry terminal. But it was a late Friday afternoon. I turned back.

I kept my distance off the work barge, and then came around on the inside. I wanted a look at the steel pilings that had been driven. I stroked a hard 180. I felt the industry all around me.

The driven steel pilings danced in the fading light. The tall crane with its mallet stood idle on the barge. The front-loader continued its work. The Woods Hole was steaming into the harbor.

I went back off the shores of Beach Road. I climbed up and over the hills and valleys of the little swells. I made my way through the passageway of the bridge. I came back to the storm, by comparison, that was taking place on the pond.

I decided to cross the pond at an angle over to the east side, directly in the wind. Then I would cross back over to my starting point with the wind behind me. I thought this would be more favorable than the wind on my beam the entire way. I went bow-first into the little waves.

I pressed for the other side. The horrors of war for some reason came to mind. If only, I thought, more people kayaked. I came to an empty mooring field with one derelict-looking sailboat.

I kept on towards the shore. I was not ready to cross back over. I was enjoying myself. My paddles propelled my boat through the water. The pond was quiet and peaceful. Finally, though, it was time to head home.

I had the pond to myself. I do not think there was one other vessel of any kind in motion. I heard in the distance the faint ringing of the front-loader. The sun was 20° over Hines Point. The last rays of light reflected over the water.

Soon, I was back to the other side. I had undershot my destination by a considerable distance. I would again have to go around the crescent beach. The wind again buffeted my beam. Again, I did not mind.