Introduction

yawl under sail
Geoff Rand
The lovely double-ended yawl Slipper heads out of Vineyard Haven with East Chop just visible in the background. Vineyard Haven has become something of a mecca for traditional boats in Massachusetts.

In the age of sail, Vineyard Sound was among the world's busiest sea lanes. Traffic from the whole eastern seaboard passed between the Cape and the Islands en route to Boston or Maine. Samuel Eliot Morison asserts that "On a fine westerly day in the seventeen-nineties, fifty or sixty sail could be seen from any point in this great ocean fairway." {SEM/MHM p.162}

When those vessels needed shelter from hard weather or a foul current, Vineyard Haven was an obvious choice - easy to enter and close to their route. George W. Eldridge conceived his still-famous Tide and Pilot Book while selling charts here in the 1870s to the "frequently more than 100 schooners [anchoring] to await a fair current." {ET&P p 2} Even as late as 1898, the harbor was busy enough that a November gale wrecked over fifty vessels. {HFN/tisbury}

A sailor arriving in Vineyard Haven these days is most likely doing so in July or August, maybe after a short trip across the Sound from Woods Hole. The harbor still serves as a "haven" for sailors on their way to Nantucket or Edgartown, but should not be overlooked as a pleasant and convenient destination in its own right.

more on Vineyard Haven. . .