Going Ashore

Lacking a deepwater harbor until the entrance was first dredged in 1899, the town of Chilmark, including Menemsha village, evolved quite differently than her larger maritime neighbors of Vineyard Haven and Edgartown. Farmers outnumbered fishermen by 2:1 in late nineteenth century Chilmark, with only a handful of men employed as sailors. In fact the town experienced a nearly uninterrupted decline in population from the late 18th century until the 1950's. The Hurricane of 1938 obliterated most of the village's structures.

Tranquility and open space proved irresistible in the late 20th century, though, with year-round population growing by a factor of five. (Now just under 1000, it finally exceeded pre-American Revolution levels around 1990!) Summer residents multiply that severalfold. Even as the land around Menemsha has become some of the most desired in the region, the town has largely avoided both crowding and sprawl. Big lots, tight zoning, agricultural covenants and significant tracts of conservation land have transformed the old farms and forests into an appealing, if staggeringly expensive, post-rural landscape.

Fishermen are decisively more prevalent than farmers these days. The harbor has an active commercial fishery, plus a vibrant charter fleet. And just about every private boat in the harbor carries some kind of fishing gear. Walking along the wharves and breakwaters in the evening, you'd swear that everyone has a fishing rod in their hands.

menemsha beach
Geoff Rand
End of summer. Residents gather on the town beach at the fall equinox to watch as the sun sets just beyond Gay Head.
white cape
Geoff Rand

One Hour Ashore

Cocktails on the town beach at sunset. Bring your own wine and hors d'oeuvres or get takeout steamers from one of the nearby fish markets.

Off the Beaten Path

Dinghy exploration of Menemsha and Squibnocket Ponds offers glimpses of the island's largely undeveloped interior. The current runs at several knots in and out of the ponds with the tide, requiring an outboard - or careful timing if you're oars-only.

If you'd rather explore by land, the Trustees of Reservations' 211 acre property Menemsha Hills is about 2 miles from the harbor.

Facilities

  • Dinghy
  • Showers
  • Restrooms
  • Trash

The dinghy dock is in the northern corner of the basin, between the slips and the breakwater. If you're anchored or moored outside, remember that at its peak, the current in the entrance can fight a small outboard to a draw.

Showers and restrooms are across the street from the fuel dock. Showers are partially solar-heated, operate with quarters and are open 24 hours.