Hell or High Water; or, Winter on Nantucket


Steps Beach in winter, Jan 4, 2018


I fought it for as long as I could, but sometime around the middle of December I caved in and realized it was indeed winter. I still travel with my bathing suit stashed in the car, but now the ice scraper and snow shovel are taking up residence, too.

The last couple days have been pretty brutal–extremely frigid temperatures, high winds, rain, and relative warmth, then back to freezing. This all took a toll on our aging sewer system, and for the last 48 hours it’s been discharging into the harbor. Over a million gallons.

Nantucket prides itself on our historic downtown, but we do not want to relive the smells of the past.


Frozen harbor west of the jetty, Jan 1, 2018

Today, it took a steamship upwards of three hours from Hyannis to travel behind the Coast Guard ice cutter. It brought over food, islanders stuck on the other side, and huge lengths of pipe. I know the town is working is hard as it can to clean up the streets and the harbor, but the weather is working against them. Monday promises a relative reprieve, a balmy 40 degrees.

By summer, this will all be a memory. Just another tale from the front lines of life in winter, traded for supper at fancy cocktail parties.

But the old timers are quick to remind me that there are still places on Nantucket that reek of whale oil, when the temperature is high and the wind is still.