Of the many magical and enlightening experiences that I have had at Menemsha, a fishing village that sits on Chilmark Harbor of Martha's Vineyard island, one of them stands out in my memory.
I had arrived at the island by boat to be wed on the beach of Menemsha at sunset. The harbor here is renown for its Key West like sunsets.
As we were all getting ready for the ceremony a lobster boat pulled up along side us and docked. The captain was a handsome, bearded man in his early thirties, though he had the laugh lines and crows feet of an older man. Fisherman often do.
My German Shepherd was onboard as we wouldn’t dream of leaving her home while we spent a week-long honeymoon fluke fishing out at Menemsha. I was pulling out her favorite treat; a large, leathery pig ear shortly after the fisherman pulled up. I held it up in the air above her head and said, “ You want a pig ear Hillary?”
The fisherman immediately began gibbering the words “GIP GIP GIP GIP GIP”. I looked over at him, noticing how the creases in his face deepened as he chirped the words out. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, so in typically polite New England fashion, I just ignored the whole outburst and turned my attention back to the dog, again asking her if she wanted a pig ear.
Again, immediately, and louder this time, the man frantically began chirping the words “GIP, GIP, GIP, GIP”.
I looked at him with a shocked expression that won me the favor of his wide grin. He pointed at the pig ear in my hand and said in that Boston accent that we all have here, “ You ought not say that word aboard any vessel. It’s bad luck and if you say it, you better say it backwards to undo the curse ”.
"What curse?” I asked nervously.
“Pigs GIP GIP GIP GIP” he said, “They’s bad luck ”.
" Why are pigs bad luck?” I asked.
“GIP, GIP, GIP, because they have very sharp, pointy toes and when they try to swim, their back hooves cut their front legs all up. Blood draws the sharks. Always bad luck to have em onboard and we don’t say their name.”
Magical. I will never forget it.
If you come to Menemsha during the tourist season of April to September, you will see a busy tourist destination and a harbor full of Yachts. Visit in the off-season and it is a quiet place that you can explore in the peace and tranquility that Cape Cod is less known for.
The pond here at Menemsha is where the movie Jaws was filmed. I am told by the former harbormaster that they had the big mechanical shark set up in the salt pond during the filming of Jaws. This alone is reason enough to visit but you will find many other magical moments to reward you for a stay here.
A few photos of that special day.
This is one of my favorite books in the whole world, full of local lore and legends of Cape Cod’s mysterious past.
The Narrow Land: Folk Chronicles of Old Cape Cod