SAIL NEW ENGLAND - Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, Elizabeth Islands

The Islands

From the head of Buzzards Bay the string of islands known as The Elizabeth Islands lie southeast.

But before taking a closer look at The Elizabeth Islands our first stop will be Nantucket Island, taking the cut through Woods Hole, home of the world-renowned Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

This is the largest independent oceanographic research facility in the US, with staff of about 1,000 and with an exhibit center and summer tours available to visitors.

Brant Point lighthouse

From Woods Hole, a long reach to the southeast brings the yachtsman to the entrance channel to Nantucket leading directly to the harbor round Brant Point Light, the second lighthouse built in America.

Nantucket Island was originally inhabited by the Wampanoag Indians but (amazingly for such a small island) became the whaling capital of the world for nearly 100 years from the mid-1700s to the late 1830s with as many as 150 ships making port in Nantucket during its peak.

Ultimately, the silting up of the harbor prevented the large whaling ships from entering and leaving the port, the development of railroads made mainland whaling ports more attractive and as a final blow to Nantucket, the town was partly destroyed in the "Great Fire" of 1846.

Nantucket High Street

Subsequent depopulation left the island under-developed and isolated until the mid-20th century, the benefit for visitors today being that the isolation kept many of the pre-Civil War buildings intact awaiting later restoration in the 1950s.

This most recent development was very strictly controlled and has retained all the charm of the old whaling town.

The Nantucket Whaling Museum is an absolute "must see".

Heading back towards the mainland is Martha's Vineyard, famous as the island used for the filming of the movie "Jaws".

Oak Bluffs

Martha's Vineyard offers rather different flavors in its main towns - bustling Vineyard Haven with ferry services to the mainland, neighboring Oak Bluffs with its gingerbread cottages, and Edgartown with its picture-book setting and grand mansions built by successful captain's houses, its inner harbor well sheltered and with an extensive mooring field.

To the northwest of Martha's Vineyard, stretching from Woods Hole southwest for 15 miles, is the chain of Elizabeth Islands.

Hadley Harbor

All of the islands except Penikese and Cuttyhunk are owned by the Forbes Family, but access is permitted to the beaches trails on Naushon Island and to several good anchorages there - Tarpaulin Cove with its lighthouse on the southern shore and the well protected Hadley Harbor at the northeast end.


Farthest southwest in the chain is Cuttyhunk, with less than 100 year-round residents and only a few dozen houses but enjoying a loyal influx of summer visitors looking to share the quiet and relaxation of a small island with no cars.

For the yachtsman, there is the attraction of a sheltered outer bay for anchoring and totally enclosed inner harbor with a marina and moorings - and freshly-caught seafood deliveries from local skiffs right to your cockpit.

For a more personalized itinerary for the cruising grounds of these unique New England islands, please contact us.

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