On Cuttyhunk, Sight of Godspeed Brings Joy

Gazette Senior Writer

CUTTYHUNK - Late Monday afternoon, Cuttyhunk residents were sitting around, a popular Island pursuit, when they spied the sails of a 1600s sailing vessel nearing Penikese.

It was the Godspeed!

Residents raced down to the harbor for their boats in unCuttyhunk-like haste.

They had heard that the Godspeed, a replica of the vessel that Bartholomew Gosnold had commanded on the founding voyage to Jamestown in 1606-07, had been heading north on a voyage from Jamestown to Boston to help celebrate the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, American's first permanent English colony.

And they knew that Cuttyhunkers had sought, without success, to persuade the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation in Virginia to include Cuttyhunk among the stops on the Godspeed's voyage, whose ports of call included Philadelphia, New York city, and Newport, R.I.

But here was the Godspeed, the wind in her sails, bearing down on Cuttyhunk, the westernmost of the Elizabeth Islands.

Islanders set off to give the vessel - an 88-foot-long, 40-ton wooden ship with a 71 1/2-foot high mainmast - a greeting from sea. They were thrilled that the vessel had decided to travel by Cuttyhunk, the site of an outpost established by Captain Gosnold on his 1602 voyage to New England waters.

Gosnold was the English explorer who, four centuries ago, had come across and named Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and the Elizabeth Islands. He also is the namesake of Gosnold, the town on the Elizabeth Islands carved out of Chilmark in 1864.

But the Godspeed, it turned out, wasn't passing by Cuttyhunk. Instead, in an impromptu move, the vessel was heading for Cuttyhunk.

"It was really wonderful to see," Gail Blout, the chairman of the Gosnold selectmen, recounted Wednesday. "It's the most beautiful and graceful vessel."

The vessel - launched earlier this year, and powered not only by sail but, as need arises, by two Caterpillar engines - tied up at a dock near the former Coast Guard boat house.

Word raced over the Internet.

"Just got word that the Godspeed just came to Cuttyhunk," Shelly Meriam reported in an e-mail sent at 5:01 p.m. from her mainland home in Uxbridge. "The island is abuzz! They are taking photographs galore."

"Let's invite them up for a dinner," Paula DiMare remembers saying.

Cuttyhunkers, well-trained by years of unexpected guests showing up at their door with no idea of where to eat, sprang into action, thinking both speed and volume.

Soprano's (motto: "People Die to Eat Our Pizza"), an establishment next to the Frog Pond near the harbor, was tapped to provide pizza. Individuals stepped forward with salads and brownies. Mrs. DiMare and her husband, Dr. Seymour DiMare, decided to host the dinner at their home on Tower Hill, and provided beer, wine, drinks and hors d'oeuvres.

About 50 Cuttyhunkers came to the DiMares to fete the 13 crew members.

"We were delighted to have them," said Mrs. DiMare, a native of England who grew up near Gosnold's birthplace in East Anglia. "They were just delighted to be here."

The members of the Godspeed's crew, it turns out, had three main wishes.

They wanted to visit the Museum of the Elizabeth Islands, which was opened after hours for their perusal.

They wanted T-shirts that said Cuttyhunk, thoughtfully provided by the Corner Store.

And they wanted to take showers. After the party, they peeled off in ones and twos for showers, courtesy of Cuttyhunk residents.

The crew of the Godspeed had come ashore on an island steeped in the crucial yet oddly obscure life of Bartholomew Gosnold, to attend a party hosted by Dr. and Mrs. DiMare, who know the explorer's history cold.

Dr. DiMare said that it is largely through Gosnold's seminal influence - first as an entrepreneurial explorer of New England, and later as a founder of a royal court-sponsored colony in Virginia - that the United States today speaks English rather than French or Spanish or Dutch.

Following Monday's festivities, the crew returned to the vessel to sleep. At 6:30 the following morning, the vessel left the dock and headed for open water.

Safely outside the harbor, she dropped her sails and headed north. "It was spectacular," Dr. DiMare said.

He watched as the Godspeed, with remarkable speed, flew toward and then over the horizon.

"It was just like magic," Dr. DiMare said. "She whisked off as if it just were an illusion, as if she never had been here."