2014 Memorial Day weekend
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Letting down through the clouds into The Vineyard just prior to sunset was spectacular. The overcast muted much of the color, but tour guide Amanda pointed out the clay cliffs on the westernmost edge of the island, near the town of Aquinnah... our interest was piqued and we decided to visit this area first.
After a good night's sleep, Amber and I set out on our own to explore the island. We started by driving west to the clay cliffs Amanda pointed out on our arrival. The Gayhead lighthouse is located close to these cliffs- we learned that as the cliffs erode, the lighthouse is now in fact too close to the cliffs and one of the island's historical societies has raised half of the $3M required to move the structure. They are hoping to make the move in the Spring of 2015, if the remaining $1.5M is generated in the remaining time.
|The Gayhead lighthouse near the town of Aquinnah. I'm fairly certain that the "pay-per-use" restrooms, complete with attendant, were a first for me.... don't worry, we each got our $0.50 worth (hence, the big smiles)!|
We soon found out the answer to that question. We literally walked in during shift change and the OIC, Mr Gary Kovac was issuing weapons to his men. But the Coasties were very polite, and once I explained that I am also on active duty (yes, they checked my ID to confirm) and were interested in their facility because of the connection to Amber's grandparents, they were very eager to show us around...after weapons issue, of course.
Gary explained that the former facility, which was closer to the water, had burned about three earlier and a new building was under construction. He took us to the cupola of their current building, which was immaculately clean and tidy.
We thanked Mr. Kovac for his hospitality and proceeded to our desired lunch destination on the eastern shore of the island- Edgartown.
If you weren't really paying attention during the flying portion of this blog so far, start reading more carefully now... what I am about to describe in the next 7 or 8 paragraphs is almost unbelievable!
The 2010 US Census counted 4,067 residents in Edgartown, MA. That sure seems like a low-ball estimate to me... this may be because my only data point was on a holiday weekend but the town was very congested. So congested that we drove around multiple streets and alleys looking for any available parking. After 5 or 6 streets, we finally found an empty spot on Morse Street and I carefully parallel parked our rental car. We walked southeast towards the harbor and the intersection of Water Street. Just as we reached the intersection, Amber looked at me and said "That's it! Those steps are where the picture of Nan (what she calls her grandmother) was taken!" We stopped, looked at the picture on our phone, and after a few minutes I decided that she was correct. We thought it was quite the coincidence that we parked within a couple hundred feet of where the Thanksgiving photo was taken, and wondered how hard it was going to be to find any more historical ties to Amber's grandparents island experience 70+ years ago.
The bronze plaque on the south corner of the home identified the beautiful, large home as the "Capt Morse House." Here's more info on the house, if you'd like to read about it (of note, check out the picture of the stoop in 1912): www.captainmorsehouse.com/about/history/
Red pin denotes Capt Morse House
We continued southwest on Water street and found a place to enjoy a late lunch. Amber was very much looking forward to eating lobster and the lobster roll at Among the Flowers cafe exceeded her expectations. We chatted about how sure we were that we found the house from the picture (labeled- "Thanksgiving 1943 at the Dinsmore's") and the luck of parking on the same street as the house. Once we finished lunch, I called Ms. Fisher to see if she was still interested in meeting with us and possibly trying to find the house the grandparents had rented.
Madeline said that she contacted her cousin, Tom Fisher, and that he had some information that would be of interest to us. She told me that Tom was the little boy in the picture with the caption "Mr & Mrs Fisher, Landlords - Edgartown" and that the adults were his parents. Wow- this was a huge help in our search! I told Madeline that we were fairly certain that we had found the stoop in the Thanksgiving picture, and explained to her where we believed the picture was taken. She said- "Yes! you are correct!" and that she and Tom would meet us in a couple of minutes to walk around the neighborhood.
We walked with Madeline and Tom to the Capt Morse house while Tom told us of his recollection of growing up in the area and of Ms. Dinsmore. But he had a lot more information for us and asked us to follow him northwest up Morse Street towards our car. We stopped at our rental car to pick up our camera, and he pointed across the street, "I grew up in this house, and my parents had a small cottage in the backyard. Your grandparents lived in it." Yes, after searching many streets for a parking space, we parked almost directly across the street from the place we hoped to find!
The Fisher house is now is disrepair and the cottage is long gone, but it was very gratifying to find the place we were looking for. Unintentionally parking AT THE HOUSE was just too coincidental.
Tom led us further northwest on Morse Street and pointed out the place where the photo of him and his parents was taken. He estimates that he was 2-years old in the photo (in 1943) and does not recall the actual taking of the photo. I asked him to stand in the same place so I could take a similar photo. Looking at the photos side-by-side, I certainly see a resemblence between the elder Tom and his father.
|The young boy in the picture on the left is Tom Fisher. Mr Fisher posed for this picture in front of the same house 71 years after the original was taken.|
We once again walked the length of Morse Street, back towards the Capt Morse House. This time Madeline took the photos as Amber and I attempted to stand in the exact place Ralph and May stood all those years earlier.
|Our re-creation of Ralph and May's photo.|
Ralph was 24 and May 20 in the photo above, and we are both 37 years old in our reenactment. But one more coincidence- Ralph and May welcomed their first child (Gary Lynn Howser) into the world on 7 Jul 1944, making May approximately 8-weeks pregnant in this photo. Amber is a little further along at 23-weeks with our first child in our photo, also a boy!
As you can imagine, Saturday was a full day and after parting ways with Madeline and Tom, we decided to go check in at Lambert's Cove Inn, relax and think about the day's unbelievable events.
Lambert's Cove Inn is located on 7.5 acres on the north central part of The Vineyard. It is secluded and meticulously maintained. Even with it being the "kickoff to summer" weekend there were only 2 or 3 of the 15 rooms on the property rented. But given the personal touch and attention to detail of proprietors Scott and Kell, I'm sure they make everyone's visit amazing, even when they are at max capacity.
We finished off the day back in Menemsha, this time on the harbor beach enjoying a beautiful sunset. Amber enjoyed (another, this one hot and on a toasted bun!) lobster roll and a bowl of lobster bisque while we spent an hour waiting for sunset and relaxing on the beach.
We enjoyed another great breakfast at Lambert's Cove. On this morning we were the only guests, so we spent about an hour after we ate chatting with Scott about the Inn, flying, and their hobby- sailing.
The weather steadily improved throughout Monday morning. We made our way to the airport, returned the rental car, and took off around 2PM under visual flight rules (VFR) so we could circle the island once and look at all of the places we explored from a new perspective. I then contacted Providence Control and picked up my IFR clearance back to 2W5 airport.
New York City was spectacular as we approached from the east. My flight plan included a turn to the south that took us directly over JFK airport and we could see the skyscrapers and the Statue of Liberty off the right wing. I asked JFK Approach if they'd let me deviate 5 or 10 miles to the east for some photos, but they responded that they preferred I maintain the filed course.
Over New Jersey the Dakota’s intercom system developed a loud squeal. After cycling the avionics "master switch" a couple of times to attempt to "reset" any malfunction, I noticed the OFF flag in the turn coordinator and realized we were losing electrical power. Sure enough, the needle on the ammeter gauge was deflected full left. I attempted to reset the alternator switch, but that did not fix the problem. And now the radios were powering down. With seperate electrical systems for engine ignition and the other various airframe accessories, a general aviation aircraft is not reliant upon alternator or battery power to keep the propeller spinning.
I've had many emergency situations / malfunctions in the B-1, so losing electrical power in clear air with the sun high in the sky was a nuisance at worst.. in fact, if it weren't for having to penetrate the Washington DC Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA), I may have even considered continuing to our destination. I set 7600 (the signal from aircraft to ATC for radio failure) into the transponder realizing that with few electrons flowing, this action was likely in vain and pointed the nose towards the closest airfield-- Millville NJ. I think ATC observed at least one 7600 reply light before the transponder lost power, as I was later told that a Mooney in the traffic pattern at Millville was asked by ATC if they saw us. We landed uneventfully and coordinated with a mechanic on the field to repair the airplane.
Even with the aircraft trouble on the return flight, Memorial Day weekend 2014 will be remembered as a great experience! Amber and I hope to return to the island many more times over the years. Do you wanna go along?