October Mystery Harbor: Woods Hole, Mass.

HOLY MOLY – You guessed it… the not-so-mystery harbor! WOODS HOLE, MASS.

A BIG thank you to everyone who responded. Woods Hole was more than the answer to a guessing game. From what’s been shared through so many responses, it is a place made of memories.

And the winner is… MARK PELLERIN!

Woods Hole full-on

Of course, the Mystery Harbor is Woods Hole (October/November 2022). I recognized it without glasses on and knew it at once, as pictured though the view is over “Red Ledge.” Then other clues came into focus: a ferry, WHOI and one of its research vessels.

Lo, I spent five years skippering a sailboat for a family with a home/mooring on Great Harbor and we’d round the far “R2” buoy whenever coming or going. We’d avoid “Broadway” unless we knew the time, tide and had “eyes” forward and aft. Sailing wise, it was wonderful there, as we could choose between Buzzard’s Bay or Vineyard Sound for day sails.

I was fascinated by WHOI’s vessels and buildings, and also private boats on both the harbor and the Eel Pond.

As a young fella, I was naturally fascinated by the ladies who sunbathed atop houseboats moored near but then worked in the cafés. I can still imagine the taste of yummy swordfish I had several times at the “Landfall” and the pies and goodies at “Pie in the Sky.”

The “Capt. Kidd” or “Leeside” were places I’d go for differing, yet usually rapidly changing, views. I loved being at Woods Hole so much that I’d pitch to my owners that we “really have NO need to leave” but we would leave for Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and in alternate years, Bermuda.

I was, however, always left aboard and alone each September and woe was not mine! I loved swimming and windsurfing there. I realized I wouldn’t, or couldn’t, do this watery job forever. So, I went into the stacks of the Woods Hole Library and found a new “alt career,” or at least one that fit with my current work.

I also loved riding a bike to and from Woods Hole and Falmouth. I’d see more skunks than one oughta. I wondered what I’d do if I had to find tomato juice, but quick. Would the little Woods Hole store be so nice?

 Mark Pellerin 

Royal Oak, Md.


A happy ending

I believe Woods Hole, Mass., is the Mystery Harbor shown in your October/November 2022 Points East edition. While I enjoy the harbor for the ferry access to the islands and visiting the WHOI lab occasionally, my most poignant memory dates back about 40 years while boating past the harbor.

We were heading home from a recent dry dock repair in Falmouth through the Woods Hole Channel on our 40-foot flybridge yacht, traversing against the height of the usually strong outgoing tide. In the middle of this narrow passage, we lost one engine, and the boat couldn’t progress forward.

Upon inspection down below, we saw that we were taking on water and flooding the main cabin. My father managed to call in an SOS to the Woods Hole Coast Guard Station while maneuvering the seemingly uncontrollable boat backward towards the harbor, avoiding the rocks and buoys.

The Coast Guard, having a base literally within sight, was there in minutes and lashed our boat to theirs, and brought us in to tie up to their dock. A sump pump was brought down to pump the boat out, but water was still entering the hull. The pump was then secured on the back deck and continued to run as they towed us back to Falmouth to be immediately hauled.

As it turns out, the boat yard had replaced the prop struts during the repair work but neglected to tighten and seal the fasteners. It was a happy ending to what could have been a maritime disaster had the event occurred any further from professional and expert assistance!

Kent Peterson

Naples, Fla.


The gift that keeps on giving

This one was a gift! After two months of a most mysterious Mystery Harbor, we get Woods Hole. Any boater in Southeastern New England should be able to recognize the passenger ferry, the freight ferry, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and what I believe is the R/V Atlantis. Another solid clue is the rock pile behind the can.

The only time I like “hanging out” in Woods Hole is having a cold beer at Captain Kidd Tavern. Otherwise, it’s often a white-knuckle ride down Broadway. One time we mis-read our Eldridge and arrived at peak current… in the wrong direction. Now, we double, and triple check, our dates and times and shoot for slack tide.

 Bob Hamel

Bristol, R.I.



Born and raised

I grew up here. I worked on both Steamship Authority and WHOI ships as a young man and motored my 13-foot Boston Whaler as a youngster around the various channels and islands that are connected to this very busy waterway that connects Vineyard Sound to Buzzard’s Bay.

Chris Wolseley

Winthrop, Mass.


Teachable moment

Few know Woods Hole Harbor the way I do. It was 1969, and I hung up on a rock marked by what was then a normal-sized red nun along the shortcut on the way from Vineyard Sound to Buzzards Bay. I was driving a handsome old 35-foot wooden yawl.

I mistook the red buoy in the picture for the buoy you turn west on to head out. I had to beach the boat in the sand on Nonamesset Island while the Coast Guard came over and put a huge pump on board and towed us over to Burr Brothers in Marion. A plank in the hull had sprung. Unfortunately, the boat never sailed the same, even after the repairs.

The tragedy was my brother had sailed that boat to Labrador, circumnavigating Newfoundland, just the year before. He was the first to have done so in a small boat, and his adventure is recorded in Samuel Eliot Morison’s “The Northern Voyages,” on page 200, I believe. So, the emotional loss was horrific.

As a result of my misadventure, the nun was replaced by the much larger buoy you see in the picture. I hope it has helped other mariners keep off the rocks of Woods Hole.

Henry Field

Framingham, Mass.


It’s infamous for a reason

The October/November Mystery Harbor is clearly Woods Hole, Great Harbor. On the left, you can see the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s buildings with two research vessels tied up to their docks. On the right, you can see two ferry boats tied up to the Woods Hole ferry docks.

In `65/66, I was in the Coast Guard stationed at the buoy depot in Woods Hole. I have been sailing and motoring through the infamous Woods Hole passage for 70 years. Infamous due to the treacherous six-knot current and a myriad of buoys marking the channels around massive rocks in the middle of the two channels, Straight and Broadway.

Navigating through the Hole demands the full attention of the captain. The Great Harbor to the left of the photo has numerous floating houses on large makeshift rafts moored there for the summer.

Howard Johnson 

Mattapoisett, Mass. S/V Arethusa


A very great harbor

Great harbor is easily recognized because the newly remodeled Steamship Authority’s terminal is there. It is large and very visible, with the white Island ferries docked up.

Surrounded by that area is the Woods Hole Oceanographic facility, usually with large research vessels tied up adjacent to the steamship boats. As you enter the harbor from the south, you pass Nobska Lighthouse, another highly visible landmark for boaters and tourists day and night. We choose to cruise through that area in a 35-foot power boat about once a week all season and occasionally in the offseason through Christmas because it is so attractive navigating between the mainland and the beginning of the Elizabethan Islands chain. The Landfall restaurant is accessible by boat, and a few other restaurants adjacent to the Woods Hole draw bridge if you are up for dinner or drinks. A draw bridge goes up and down periodically for anchored boats to access the protected Eel Pond. This is also a great place to people watch.

This harbor has a few channels surrounded by dangerous rocks. It is a very dangerous but attractive boating course for us because there is always something moving and beautiful to see. It could be crossing ferries to and from the Vineyard, sailboats trying to navigate the treacherous currents, or draggers heading out to sea. We always have the locals in their small boats trying to catch a schoolie bass or a trophy striper. The currents, wind and tides are unknown until most people get there. Things may be running north to south or south to north with very heavy currents, or they may be going against heavy winds that move the anchored buoys sometimes to a 45-degree angle or more.

Occasionally, we see a poor boater that ends up on the wrong side of a navigation buoy where either SeaTow or BoatUS is on scene trying to get the boat off the rocks. Great harbor is one of the most interesting and attractive places I have ever seen, with floating homes tied to harbor moorings and some of the nicest homes on Cape Cod surrounding it.

 Ralph Cataldo

Cuttyhunk Island


Pay attention

You are looking East Northeast from Broadway in Woods Hole Passage towards Great Harbor and Woods Hole. This is the home location of the steamship authority base for ferries headed to Martha’s Vineyard.

The tall white vessel is the Island Home, and to the left are the research vessels for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. What is unusual about this photo is how calm the water is, very unusual — looking at the buoys in the passage, they are frequently laid over by the strong current that rips through there. It can be tricky to navigate, and it behooves fellow boaters new to the area to pay attention to the buoys and channel markers.

Tom Noonan

Falmouth, Mass.


In case you missed it

In your Oct/Nov issue the Mystery Harbor is the location of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, aka WHOI.

From R to L, here are the clues,

Two of the Woods Hole ferries are shown in the photo

Photographed is the freight ferry, and the dock is the Woods Hole/Martha’s Vineyard Steamship Authority

At the left is the private Eliz Island ferry

Then the Dyer’s dock

The latest edition addition to the WHOI fleet is shown and named: Neil Armstrong

To the left of that are the WHOI Dock and the Smith research building

To the left of that is the Bigelow building for WHOI engineering

The Crane is the rebuilding of the new dock currently being built.

Richard Lmeburner, WHOI emeritus

Beverly Dammin, Secretary


Nun number four

Well, this is an easy one! We’re looking at the southern approach to Woods Hole, Mass. Center right is the ferry terminal to Martha’s Vineyard, and beyond it, to the left, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. It appears to be around high tide, as none of the Hole’s fearsome currents is evident around nun number four, marking the northeastern margins of “the Straight,” the channel providing the most direct route north and south through the Hole. Speaking of nun number four, only a month ago, my friend Nick and I spent a happy couple of hours in practically this same exact spot, almost within reach of the buoy, while he cast for false albacore in the nearby shallows and I tried to keep his boat, the Kingfisher, in position against a strong current. No joy that day, but we finished our trip with the obligatory tour of nearby Hadley’s Harbor, one of the most unique and beautiful harbors on the east coast of the U.S. All in all, a beautiful late summer day in a beautiful place.

Art Watson

Washington, DC

Mostly good memories

Woods Hole, of course! That’s the Oceanographic pier on the left and the Martha’s Vineyard & Nantucket ferry dock on the right. I worked at WHOI for 32 years and kept a succession of cruising sailboats in Great Harbor. Way back in the ’70s, when I was fearless (and clueless), I sailed a 10-foot O’Day Sprite, engineless, to and from through Woods Hole. In ’91, we lost our Allied Seawind ketch during Hurricane Bob. The mooring and an array of anchors all lifted right off the bottom during the tidal surge and fetched up on Penzance Point.

Woods Hole is a great port to cruise from. One can easily head off to all four points of the compass, and indeed we did most summer weekends. Now cruising out of Brooklin, Maine, we have so many memories, mostly good, of our life on the Cape.

George & Cynthy Knapp

Brooklin, Maine, 32’ Nordic Tug, ELLIE BELLE


The Dyers Dock downlow

I believe the Mystery Harbor is Woods Hole, Mass. The wooden dock between the blue-hulled R/V Neil Armstrong and the white-hulled Steamship Authority ferry Island Home is known as Dyers Dock. This dock hosts the tall ship SSV Corwith Cramer in the summer months, which is a vessel used in the Sea Semester program. Dyers dock was also used to service seaplanes in the `60s, and the building at the head of the dock is known as the airplane hangar. I currently work as captain of the RV Gemma at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole and enjoy the year-round activity of this waterfront village.

David Bank

Woods Hole, Mass.


Dead giveaway

It’s Woods Hole!! When I first glanced at the picture and saw the ferry, my initial thought was the terminal at Hyannis, as, up until recently, my family and I had taken the boat from there to Nantucket every summer for 35 years. However, the blue hull of the R/V Neil Armstrong was a dead giveaway as she was docked there at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. My wife and I celebrated our anniversary this year with a trip to Martha’s Vineyard this past August and had a fantastic time.

I hope that I am in the running for a Points East cap as I recall seeing a fellow woodworker donning one at a convention in Rhode Island about ten years ago and have seethed with jealousy ever since. The nice thing was that I commented on it, and we proceeded to have a wonderful conversation about wooden boats that likely would not have occurred were it not for Points East.

Noel Costantino 

Boston, Mass.


Born and raised

I grew up here. I worked on both Steamship Authority and WHOI ships as a young man and motored my 13-foot Boston Whaler as a youngster around the various channels and islands that are connected to this very busy waterway that connects Vineyard Sound to Buzzard’s Bay.

Chris Wolseley

Winthrop, Mass.


“The Hole”

My first trip to Woods Hole was in 1979 as a 10-year-old. A true jumping-off spot for the large island just south of there, the Wampanoags called Noepe. My family would return there via Woods Hole for the next 25 years before settling again just up the road from the village pictured. Years ago, I sailed with a close friend through “The Hole” on a cruise from Falmouth, Mass., to Cuttyhunk. Lately, I watch the boats come and go from the Landfall Restaurant, which sits between the blue hulled WHOI research boat on the left and one of the SSA ferries on the right (as seen in the image).

Doug Lankow

Cohasset, Mass.  



Ahhhh! I know Woods Hole Harbor well, having been a captain with the Woods Hole Steamship Authority for 30 years. The double-ended ferry in SSA slip #1 is the Island Home with one of the “freight” vessels in Slip #2 to the southeast. I was the owner’s onsite rep during Island Home’s year and a half-construction at VT Halter in Mississippi. The blue vessel at the Oceanographic (WHOI) pier, I believe, is the Neil Armstrong with a “visitor” berthed on the northwest side. The photographer must be at work during a very brief slack water as there is no noticeable wake on nun buoy “4.” The tide rips through Strait and Broadway, and mariners are well advised to look carefully at their chart BEFORE making a transit through “the Hole.”

Captain Ed Jackson

Falmouth, Mass.


Easy does it

You followed a hard one with an easy one. That’s Woods Hole Mass., with Island Home in her berth, the freight boat to Martha’s Vineyard on the right and the WHOI research vessel on the left. We have sailed our Nonsuch 36 through there many times.

Jay Burke

Somerset, Mass.


Eye spy

In the image, you see the research vessel from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. It’s Great Harbor at Woods Hole in Falmouth, Mass.

Timothy Shanahan

Green Harbor, Mass.


Hadley Harbor

The harbor is at the Woods Hole ferry terminal. I used to go through there on my way to Vineyard Haven through Buzzards Bay when I kept my boat in Wareham. I used to pull into Hadley Harbor to rest and have a swim on hot days. The brick building on the left in front of the channel marker is part of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

Barry Shangold

Bridgewater, Mass.

You can’t beat the thrill

This view is of the eastern side of Great Harbor, Woods Hole, taken from Broadway, the southeastern leg of the channel. You can see WHOI’s newest vessel, the R/V Armstrong, as well as the Vineyard ferries, the M/V Island Home and the M/V Katama. The rocks at the extreme left are part of Red Ledge, almost but not quite hidden.

I grew up here racing Knockabouts every week in summer and fall, as well as tooling around in a Sunfish, learning exactly where the rocks are and getting a feel for the flows, eddies, and back-eddies of current (knowledge that came in handy during racing)! Though I work on larger vessels now, it’s hard to beat screaming up the channel, close-hauled and against the tide during a late summer race for a thrill!

Tomasz Dvorak

Woods Hole, Mass.


A test for the best

Your Mystery Harbor is Woods Hole in Massachusetts. The ferry looks like one of Martha’s Vineyard boats, and the large commercial boats are from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. I spent many a summer there, taking the ferry to Nantucket. By the way, the currents outside the harbor will test the mettle of the most experienced skipper.

Leeds Mitchell

Bristol, R.I.


At last

Finally, one I recognize.

Woods Hole.

Jim Sullivan

Cataumet, Mass.


A quiet time

Great Harbor, Woods Hole. The view from near Red Ledge of WHOI and Steamship Authority. On the far right of the photo is the oldest geodesic dome in the world, built-in 1953 by Buckminster Fuller and Gunnar Peterson. A quiet time in the Hole at slack tide.

Joel Peterson

Falmouth, Mass.


View from the Vineyard Sound

The Oct/Nov Mystery Harbor is Great Harbor, Woods Hole, Mass., identified by the ferries and two research vessels of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. The view is from the Vineyard Sound entry. I am sure the skipper kept nun “4” to starboard to avoid Great Ledge. Currents run strong both in Vineyard Sound and especially through the Woods Hole Passage. We always transit Woods Hole with extra vigilance. The village of Woods Hole is a rewarding stop. WHOI, the Marine Biological Labs, and the National Fisheries have museums and restaurants are plentiful. Rental moorings are available in Eel Pond or a short distance away in Quissett harbor.

Don Kaplan

Marblehead, Mass.


The cutting-edge

This is Great Harbor in Woods Hole. A great gateway to the Vineyard and a great place to experience great food and culture and cutting-edge marine science!

Michael Dio

Worcester, Mass.

Where it all began

Woods Hole, where history has always started from.

T.M. Burke

Snug Harbor, Duxbury, Mass.


Watch for curves

The ferry terminal is next to the Woods Hole Institute research ship. Also, the sharp curve in the channel as shown by markers.

John Galbraith

Holbrook, Mass.


Math 101

Mystery Harbor = Woods Hole

John Snyder

South Thomaston, Maine


A worthy cause

I have cruised past Woods Hole many times since the ’70s but only stopped once. I do not remember the year, but we tied up next to Pete Seger’s Clearwater, which was on a cruise to bring attention to his cause to clean up the Hudson River.

Tom Egan

Lynn, Mass.


Ebb and flow

I’m sure you’ll be flooded with the correct answer, but I believe it is Woods Hole with the Martha’s Vineyard ferry at her dock.

Peter Dragonas

Marblehead, Mass.

Fifty-five years and counting

The Woods Hole Steam Ship Authority Dock with ferries is on the right, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic research vessels are on the left. The Landfall restaurant is a wonderful local family-owned restaurant situated central to the picture. I’ve enjoyed that harbor for 55 years!

Estelle Cowie-Bryan

Falmouth, Mass.


Always a pleasure

I’m pretty sure I’m looking at the Woods Hole, MA harbor – I’ve day-sailed in and out of there over the years and have also taken the ferry (seen docked) out to Martha’s Vineyard on many occasions. Always a pleasure to have a glimpse of this special part of the world!

Dave Chase

Brooklin, Maine


Tread lightly

The Mystery Harbor is Woods Hole, Mass. Over the years I made many trips to the local watering holes – Captain Kidd, Lee Side, Landfall and Shuckers. It was a nice easy trip from Mattapoisett. Although, crossing the shipping channel with the poorly lit barges at night… could be trying. We never had anything but a compass for navigation equipment.

Fred Klein

Mattapoisett, Mass.

The current runs the show

It is Woods Hole. We sail through their a few times a year, depending on the current, of course.

Alan Desrosiers

East Greenwich, R.I.


Both sides of the pond

My guess is that it is Woods Hole, Mass., and the home of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. We spent a bit of time there, both outside at a mooring and then inside the Pond on a mooring during some pretty stiff weather in late-ish July of this year.

A devoted and admiring subscriber,

Chris Roosevelt

Lyme, Conn.

A great place to be, by land or sea

Looks like Woods Hole research/training ships and the M.V. ferries. I’ve been to Woods Hole many times, by land and sea, while traveling to and from Martha’s Vineyard. My wife, Judy, and I love spending time on Cape Cod and have visited Falmouth and Woods Hole several times.

Dan Raycroft

Ipswich, Mass.