There is something magical about Menemsha, the small and picturesque harbor tucked into the western end of Martha’s Vineyard. The village, part of the town of Chilmark, seems a world away from the more bustling island ports of Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown—and Menemsha fans are happy to keep it that way.
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A thriving commercial fishing village from the late 1600s through the 1970s, Menemsha now hosts but a handful of commercial boats—mainly lobster boats and a few draggers. It also serves as the home to Coast Guard Station Menemsha, which suffered a major fire in 2010 that destroyed the historic boathouse and adjacent pier. The latter has since been replaced and the former is being rebuilt (2012).
Menemsha was once famous for its landings of harpoon-caught swordfish, which could be found in relative abundance in the nearshore waters off Martha’s Vineyard. A large, bronze statue near the harbor entrance commemorates the harpoon swordfishery and its fishermen.
Today, Menemsha still exudes a quiet, laidback atmosphere. It’s the perfect place for independent, nature-loving boaters seeking escape from the crowds. Protected Menemsha Pond, accessible via shallow Menemsha Creek, is a wonderful spot to explore in a kayak or dinghy. Do not try to access the pond in any vessel drawing more than 3’, however, as the creek is extremely shallow. The southern end of the pond, however, offers depths of 13’ to 20’, and makes a fine, protected anchorage if you can get there.
The harbor basin is confined, yet can accommodate surprisingly large commercial vessels. Anchoring inside the basin is prohibited, but the town reserves 16 slips and 2 guest moorings for transient vessels up to 40’, available on a first-come, first-served basis. Good holding ground and more public moorings are available for larger vessels outside the harbor in Menemsha Bight. This area is exposed to winds from the north and west, but makes an ideal location during prevailing summer southwesterlies. Beachgoers can dinghy, swim or wade ashore and enjoy the wonderful beaches east and west of the inlet.
As mentioned, the delights of Menemsha are mostly of the laidback kind. Boaters may be able to tie up at along Dutcher Dock or the bulkhead near the fuel dock (check with the harbormaster first) and enjoy a cup of chowder, steamers, clam cakes or a lobster roll at Larsen’s Fish Market, or some grilled fare, fries and ice cream at The Bite or the Menemsha Galley. A short stroll brings you to several interesting shops and boutiques, including Menemsha Blues, Pandora’s Box and Copperworks. If you need provisions, the Menemsha Market carries basic groceries in-season.