The water at East Beach was so clear over the weekend. Usually, the visibility is obscured by some seaweed or silt, but this weekend, the sandy ocean bottom, all sifted into ridges, could be clearly seen from the water’s surface. Fish darted under kicking toes and a jellyfish floated quietly by one swimmer who spotted it and quickly went the other way. A group of terns arrived, careening into the water at top speed and coming up with small prey. Beach-goers lazed under umbrellas, transitioning seamlessly between ocean dips and sun soaking.

With a water temperature of 73 degrees and a cloudless sky overhead, East Beach felt like it had transported itself to an island somewhere in the tropics. “It’s like the end of the world out here,” commented one passerby.

These late summer days have a particular sweetness about them; the light has begun to shift, offering longer angles and shorter days. Evenings become cooler with the subtle bite of autumn. The humidity lessens. The knowing of summer’s end, the nearness of fall, makes these final summer days feel precious, like each moment needs to be savored and lived to its absolute fullest.

Many of our summer visitors have packed up their cars and headed back to the mainland, sunkissed skin a souvenir of their vacations. I always feel that the Island breathes a giant sigh at this parting. The hecticness of summer is coming to a close, the Island is shifting gears. Although the shoulder seasons remain surprisingly busy (and seemingly longer with each passing year), there is a different pace to things.

Many Islanders savor the off-season months. There is time for visits to empty, windswept beaches and narrow moss-covered trails. There is time for projects, all those things left undone during the busy summer months. There are often second jobs, off-season positions that perhaps look very different than summer-time ones. All the while, the energy is brewing, building, climbing bit-by-bit, so that next spring, when the crowds return, the Island is ready once again.

Like the rest of the Island, Chappy will become significantly quieter this week as school starts for many kids. But the little island will stay at least a bit busy for a while longer thanks to the striped bass and bluefish derby from Sept. 9 to Oct. 13. People travel from near and far to participate, loading coolers and rods onto four-wheel vehicles to drive out to Cape Pogue or Norton Point. If they catch a fish, they’ll be vague and evasive about where it was caught; a good fisherman never reveals his secrets.

It is fairly common to see a fisherman strutting proudly off the Chappy ferry, huge striper in hand, headed to the weigh-in in Edgartown.

If you visit the derby’s website, you can see pictures of past winners dating back to the 1940s. There, in black and white, are fishermen from history grinning with catch in hand. You can also find audio archives from the Martha’s Vineyard Museum interviewing past Derby participants.

One of these interviews is one with Janet Messineo, one of the first women to become involved with the derby. One evening, early on in her fishing experience as she was still learning the ropes, Janet met another woman out at Wasque. The woman had a truck and a sandwich and was headed out to spend the night fishing alone at Cape Pogue. Janet says that became her goal. She thought, “That is the best thing. That is what I want to be able to do. To just have a sandwich and go out to the other end of Chappaquiddick by myself.”

My friend Tom Dunlop tells me that in the first year of the derby in 1946, under the category of special prize, first place was an all-expense paid trip to the Vineyard for two which included a round-trip flight from Boston or New York and week at the Harborside Inn. Second place, sponsored by Henry Cronig, was “a lot of land on Martha’s Vineyard suitable for a sportsman’s camp.” I think I would have preferred to lose.

That is all the news for this week in late August. I’ll see you again the week after next. In the meantime, please feel free to email me with any Chappy news at