Late May on Cape Cod. The temperature has begun courting the upper digits but it's not sweltering. It feels wonderful to be outside.
There is a hum of activity in each of the small, coastal towns.
Windows are lifted open for the first time since September followed by the audible sigh of relief as a flood of fresh, salty air comes rushing into homes that had been shuttered -- seemingly indefinitely -- just minutes before, the insides cocooned from the effects of a long winter.
Fences are given a fresh coat of paint; beaches are swept of miscellany and debris. Store signs are dusted off and ones that say "closed for the season" are put away as if they were never there in the first place.
With the windows rolled down and not enough tourists on the road to cause any headaches or curses, we cross over the Sagamore Bridge, one of two bridges that connect Cape Cod to the rest of Massachusetts. We're welcoming the summer with our friends Sean Hotchkiss and Justin Bridges. Both New Yorkers and both passionate about classic, beautifully made things, Sean writes and Justin takes pictures. We invited them to come and spend the weekend with us. Sean is originally from New England, so Cape Cod memories already exist in his mind. But it's new territory for Justin, a native Georgian:
(Photos by Justin Bridges)
With our leather bags packed with the essentials for a weekend on Cape Cod, our first destination is Osterville, Massachusetts--a small coastal hamlet home to boat builders, sailors, and tycoons alike.
The main west-to-east drag is Sea View Avenue, a fitting name for a street that presents unobstructed views of Nantucket Sound.
Unlike other coastal Cape Cod villages, Osterville doesn't sit just on Nantucket Sound. It sits on four bays--North, East, West, and Cotuit (most famous for its oysters)--and a river--Eel. The sheer geography, from the bays and river to two small, isolated islands, allows for quiet, secluded beaches and docks.
(Justin takes a first peek at Osterville)
With the day still young and an open few hours tempting us with possibilities, we decide to board the Avery M--a C. Raymond Hunt-designed and E.M. Crosby-built 38-foot cruiser. The names Hunt and Crosby mean as much to boat enthusiasts as van der Rohe and Eames do to lovers of modern design.
(Joe Lotuff unties the Avery M as we prepare to leave Osterville.)
The destination is Martha's Vineyard, specifically Edgartown, the easternmost of the five towns on the island off the coast of Massachusetts. Edgartown is a tidy, formal, quaint town. Along its main streets lie perfectly kept Federal and Greek Revival wooden homes, many built by 19th century merchants, shipbuilders, and sea captains.
The first sight as we approach Edgartown Harbor is the Edgartown Harbor Light, a tall black-and-white lighthouse that sits on a thin strip of land on the edge of the downtown historic district. Once we reach the harbor and slow the boat down, the American flag comes out, an act both symbolic and necessary.
We caught a wedding underway at the Edgartown Yacht Club.
The harbor is still quiet. The influx of thousands of visitors and summer residents from around the world has yet to begin.
A weekend trip by land or sea calls for one of our leather duffles.
After a late-afternoon lunch of New England favorites by the water, we stroll through the main streets for ice cream and fudge. A quiet harbor allows for an edge-of-dock moment of reflection.
We depart from Edgartown and cruise across the sound back to mainland Cape Cod just in time to walk through the evening streets of Osterville. We see a few wooden staircases. The drop to the shore from grass to sand is so steep that standing on the top step gives the impression that the stairs lead directly into the water. Once below the dunes and on the shore, we are joined only by the footprints of earlier visitors.
The sunset is subtle and muted but still worthy of documentation. As we check in for the evening, we wonder why those chairs are facing land and not sea...