Monday, June 14, 2010


Menemsha, 2003

I first saw Menemsha, Massachusetts, in a magazine advertisement for Polaroid film some time in the 1960s. The ad didn’t identify the location. But the image of a quaint New England fishing village stuck with me.

Menemsha’s one of several places in New England that are commonly used in films and advertising when you want an authentic “New England fishing village” motif. It’s a quite small place, no more than a few blocks long. Fishermen’s shacks and a few cottages line the steep shoreline around the narrow little harbor near the northeast end of the island of Martha’s Vineyard. (Thomas Hart Benton painted this nearby.)

Help a Poor Fisherman, 2005

We started visiting the Vineyard in the late 1970s. On that first trip we were introduced to Menemsha and some of its more colorful inhabitants, like Everett Poole, whose family had been fishing out of Menemsha for several generations. Poole’s Fish, the family business, was a Vineyard institution. Everett’s a wonderfully warm guy with a flinty New England accent that brings to mind a line I read this morning in Paul Harding’s book, Tinkers:

“[Ezra] talked with a strange accent George had never heard before and would never hear again, and who seemed to have stepped out of a bank of mist on the other side of which was, perfectly preserved—or, not even preserved, but still actual—the previous century.”

Poole's Fish, 2005

As you can imagine, Menemsha suffers a flood of tourists, mostly daytrippers over from the mainland. But since there’s not actually much to do in Menemsha, most daytrippers step off their tour bus, snap a few pictures and move on to towns where there is better t-shirt shopping.

Menemsha Shack, 2005

If you stick around a little longer, though, especially in the fall and winter, Menemsha will work its way into your soul. You’re become aware of the birds overhead, the fish swimming in and out of the harbor, the burbling and chug-chug-chug of old commercial fishing boats and the swift flow of water in the channel leading to the Menemsha Pond. You might even notice the few jagged metal pieces of one of the “Bruces,” the mechanical great white sharks used in “Jaws,” sticking out of the sand on the side of the channel. If you have time, you can get a lobster roll from Larsen’s and sit beside the harbor and watch the fishermen work. If it’s late in the day, you bring some wine or beer and enjoy that lobster roll while the sun sets over Vineyard Sound.

Al Fresco, 2005


  1. Beautiful images. I was listening to NPR's discussion about the Bruces a week or so ago, so I smiled to read this. Sounds like a lovely spot.

  2. Great'll also find a Nobel Laureate or two rubbing shoulders with the fishermen.......

  3. You wrote a very nice and warm picture of Menemsha