Gone Fishing. Nantucket Sound from the old wharf. All photos by Becky Cheang
Becky Cheang, Fathom's gregarious intern extraordinaire, decided to spend a weekend alone on the sleepy island of Nantucket. So what happened? She talked to strangers, took gorgeous pictures, and broke into at least one church. Here's the album.
NANTUCKET – Growing up in Singapore, I only heard Nantucket mentioned twice — once, in a limerick about the man who kept all his cash in a bucket. Then again in Moby Dick, which I never actually finished.
My pre-summer trip to the New England island was totally spontaneous: JetBlue had cheap flights, and I needed to get out of the city. I booked my ticket, did a quick round of pre-trip research via Fathom’s Nantucket guide, and made my way.
Whenever I fly to a new place, I must have a window seat.
Because of bad weather conditions, my flight from New York got delayed a good 45 minutes, longer than the flight to Nantucket itself. It was pouring when I arrived. The pilot announced that he landed in barely visible conditions. Perfect.
Fog shrouded the island, and I didn't realize this was normal until Jim, my cab driver, told me about it. Jim was born and raised on the island. He introduced me to Nantucket's nickname, the Grey Lady.
If it's your first time to Nantucket, and you are traveling solo, and you don't drive, it's wise to book a hotel in the center of town. I dropped off my bags, grabbed a paper map from the front desk (data service on the island is hard to come by), and ventured out with my umbrella intending to make good use of the afternoon.
Shopping on Main Street gave me a crash course in what everyone around here calls WASP 101. My final stop of the day was the incredibly decked out Ralph Lauren store.
I also dropped by the Atheneum library. With free Wi-Fi and an entire Nantucket book collection to get lost in, it's perfect for a rainy day.
I decided to try heading to Brant Point Lighthouse to catch the sunset. Along the way, Nantucket was adamant that I fully understood why she got the name Little Grey Lady of the Sea.
The rain made for gorgeous photos though. Nantucket is nothing if not picturesque.
I made it to Brant Point Lighthouse, but didn't stay till sunset. As the rain got heavier, I called it an early night.
It wasn't the best welcome — the rain, the wind, the lack of data on my phone, and getting caught in the splash of cars rushing over puddles, but it felt rather apt. I was starting to feel like the wrong demographic for this island — young, single, broke, and on foot.
What a difference a night makes! I woke up to glorious sunshine and headed to the wharf along the harbor. Many shops were just opening for the season.
There was nobody in line behind me at Nantucket Ice Cream, so I got to try as many flavors as I wanted, guilt-free. I settled on a double scoop of Lobster Trap and Madaket Mud, a very satisfying lunch for the day.
Post-ice cream, I headed inland to see the historical sites. I kept missing the turn for Old Gaol, the island's first jail (built in 1696), which is tucked behind two houses.
I also took a picture of what I thought was a really pretty field, only to find out later from a local shop owner that it was actually a Quaker cemetery. Loren from The Toy Boat told me about how the Quakers didn't believe in headstones. Local kids would go play on the field in the winter, much to the unease of older residents.
I found my way to the back door and wandered in to the main sanctuary where I startled a music student in the midst of composing.
The church has floor-to-ceiling windows on each side and rows upon rows of empty pews. The central chandelier added to the grandeur. It was gorgeous.
There was no one to ask permission about climbing the 80-odd steps to the tower, but I saw the door leading the way. It was unlocked. Heart beating fast, I made sure to wedge the door open, and prayed it wouldn't lock behind me. (Yes, I know the irony of praying to not get caught breaking into a church tower.)
The view from the top was fantastic. Windows faced all four points of a compass, and there was a pair of binoculars at each windowsill. I had the luxury of hogging the east-facing window that looked right in to Nantucket Harbor.
As I made my way out, I noticed a man outside taking pictures of the church. I thought he had caught me on film and would somehow tell the minister and get me banned from leaving the island.
Turns out, it was Reverand Gary Klingporn. And he wasn't taking a picture of me, but of the hawk hanging out on the church weathervane.
For a good view, he recommended Galley Beach at sunset. I made my way there, stopping by Cobblestone Hill along the way.
Want to enjoy a relatively affordable three-course meal while catching a beautiful sunset without having to worry about reservations? Try Galley Beach in the off season.
I was on my way to meet Dr. Michael West of the Maria Mitchell Observatory. The observatory was not yet open to the public, but when I met Michael earlier in the day, he invited me along on a field a trip he and six summer interns were taking to the nearby Loines Observatory that night.
I took a good look at Venus and Saturn through a powerful telescope, and felt a cosmic zing. It's pretty cool to catch a glimpse of something you only read about in books.
On my third day, I took a bus to Siaconset, the old village of Nantucket, only knowing that I wanted to get to the Sankaty Head Lighthouse.
Thanks to three kind gentlemen who saw me turning around aimlessly, I eventually found the beginning of what locals call the Rose Path. It's a path that runs along Sconset Bluff through several backyards. It was a magical walk through unkempt wild gardens, past rows of massive (and empty) summer homes.
After a long walk to the lighthouse and back to Sconset village via the beach, I headed to Cisco Brewers intending to catch a local bluegrass band that was playing there. And of course, sample the local beer! I treated myself to a Grey Lady and a treat from Nantucket Pasty Company.
I spent the rest of the evening on Nantucket dancing with a three-year-old girl from Minnesota who couldn't stop giggling at the cute double bassist. We share the same taste in guys.
I decided that I had to catch the sunrise.
On my last morning, I dragged myself out of bed and walked down to Brant Point Lighthouse. I nearly missed sunrise because I kept stopping to take photos along the way.
Except for one other photographer I ran into at Steamboat Wharf, I had the sunrise to myself. Just look at this ridiculous view!
I finally reached Brant Point Lighthouse just as the sun started to peek over the horizon.
I appreciated a last moment of solitude, and thanked Nantucket. She's a peculiar little island, and I think that's why I like her.