Chappaquiddick was deep into a freeze by midweek with temperatures in the single digits. Those people who deserted Chappy for warmer climates in the past few weeks were finally vindicated as the temperature plunged downward from the fifties after Sunday and a mild January thus far. Those who blamed global warming for the unseasonably warm winter changed to blaming it for the freezing cold, both of which may be true.
On Tuesday morning as I skied out to check on our road for drifts after the snow on Monday night, I was reminded of past years’ big storms. The last really snowy year, maybe eight years ago, the drifts were so deep that Dick Dimond’s plow truck completely disappeared inside a drift on the road to Wasque. He had to get another vehicle to pull it out. At my house we were snowed in for five days until we could get a front-end loader to dig out the road. The drifts were so deep and packed solid that a plow couldn’t make headway where the road was worn down a foot or two between the banks.
In the 1970s and 1980s I remember being snowed in many times, digging the car out of a particularly deep drift in the road, or if we had planned ahead, skiing out to reach our car parked at the main road. When the kids were little, we pulled them home through the woods on a toboggan loaded with groceries. I think we had more energy then.
Nowadays, I wonder about living down such a long dirt road, susceptible to drifting, as we get older. My aunt and uncle, Margaret and Peter Pinney, used to live out at Wasque in their later years, and every year we’d help them move to town for the winter. They’d rent a small house so they could walk everywhere. My aunt still drove a VW bug, but she was so small you could hardly see her head above the steering wheel. All the stores, post office, etc. that were needed were still located downtown.
It must have been a hardship for my uncle, though, who spent summers on Chappy as a kid, starting in 1898, during which they almost never went to town. In his later years, he became a bit of a curmudgeon, and is quoted in the Chappy recollections book saying, “I see absolutely no reason why people today go to Edgartown so often.” When he was a kid, they’d go to the Flying Horses and take a day trip to Gay Head by horse and wagon once a year, but otherwise they spent most of their time out getting about in their catboat.
We’re fortunate now to have Bob Fynbo plowing the main road and the town coming to sand when it turns icy. And we’re lucky the Chappy firefighters and EMTs keep pretty good track of who’s living alone or down barely-accessible roads.
Peter Wells and Erik Gilley have been busy making sure we have reliable ferry service. The On Time II has been covering the route across the harbor recently while they’ve been acquiring exactly the right hydraulic pump for the III. The III, while not in use, has always been available if needed. When the hydraulic pump broke, they replaced it with another one, but that one turned out to be over-sized. Peter said they took it for a spin after replacing the pump, and the boat charged around the harbor, putting unnecessary strain on the boat.
Brad was captain when the pump broke as he was leaving the slip last week. It was a calm tide and wind, and he tossed a line to someone on the dock. Peter and Erik came right down and got the II going. When Nancy Hugger came across, she asked Brad what was wrong with the other boat and he told her the hydraulic pump had broken. Evidently Peter, who’s a perfectionist about taking care of the boats and likes to stay ahead of any breakage, told Brad he should have said, “We weren’t happy with the speed of the boat, so we’re adjusting it.” The speed at that point was zero. But now Peter has two correctly-sized pumps for the III, so we should be set for the next 50 years.
Peter, who also keeps track of ice safety on Brine’s Pond, thinks the skating should be good on Saturday. So dig out the skates, and get the hot chocolate warming.