Lines form at the Galley restaurant on warm summer evenings as people of all ages stand shoulder to shoulder for swordfish sandwiches and soft-serve ice cream cones. Around the corner at the Bite, the smell of fried clams hangs in the air. Down on the docks charter fishermen steam in from somewhere off Noman’s, their holds full of freshly caught striped bass and bluefish. And when the sun sinks into the western horizon, crowds form on the beach, as they have for so many years, to gaze across the water, look for the green flash and cheer the end of another day.
Three years ago today it was a dramatically different scene in Menemsha, the picture postcard fishing village that is Chilmark’s downtown. On that sunny July day, a devastating fire broke out in the historic Coast Guard boathouse and raced down the drive-on dock on the west side of the harbor. Firefighters from every Island town were called to the scene and Menemsha was evacuated while they battled the blaze in a stiff breeze. Thankfully no one was seriously injured. The cause of the fire was never determined and an investigation by the Coast Guard was officially closed.
Today a brand new drive-on dock is in place and sometime late this summer the Coast Guard plans to begin building a new boathouse. It won’t be the same as the old one, but then nothing could have exactly replaced what had been there for sixty-eight years. Plans now call for a building that will accommodate the needs of the Coast Guard for the next sixty years.
But Menemsha has her bustle back, and that’s nice to see.