23 Jan 2018

The Big Chill (on Nantucket)

In the 1983 cult classic film, “The Big Chill,” a group of college friends discover that the secret to enduring life’s difficulties is to face them together. The tag line for the movie is “in a cold world you need your friends to keep you warm.” Although the theme of the movie has nothing to do with the actual temperature outside, the lessons learned from it can certainly be applied when a literal “big chill” casts its frigid spell over the region.
The good people of Nantucket clearly understand the importance of relying on friends and neighbors during all seasons, but perhaps never more than during the winter months. This year, Old Man Winter slid into Nantucket early and it’s safe to say he was in a frosty mood. He hit us broad side with an early winter storm with pounding wind and rain that caused significant flooding throughout Brant Point, the boat basin and multiple downtown streets. This was followed by a cold snap that saw temperatures plummeting into the single digits for days on end. The fall-out wasn’t pretty as the island faced broken water pipes, sewer lines and days of cancelled boats and planes.
It’s been said the most challenging part of the journey off Nantucket is the first 30 miles. Boy, has this rung true these past few weeks. The long-time locals tell us it’s been years…maybe decades…since they’ve seen the harbors in Hyannis and Nantucket frozen solid for such an extended period of time. It required real teamwork between the Steamship and the Coast Guard to cut a path through the ice for the freight and car ferries to run. It also required a whole lot of patience from all of us who need to travel to “America” once in awhile during these frozen days. We huddle together in the long lines and then we huddle together again once we’re on the boat. A gentle reminder that we’re all in the same boat – literally.
My husband and I snagged two of the coveted seats on one of the first boats to return to Nantucket after the storm a couple weeks ago. I must confess it was a bizarre but amazing experience making our way across the ice-covered ocean. Led by the Coast Guard cutter, the SSA Nantucket sliced her way gracefully through the ice and if you didn’t look outside you would have thought it was an average summer crossing. The scene as we sailed…the Nantucket Sound sparkling with ice chunks and crystals as far as the eye could see…reminded us how lucky we are to live in a place where Mother Nature finds so many ways to reveal her glory.
The harbor has thawed now, but another winter cold snap will likely have it frozen over again. If you’ve never experienced a visit to Nantucket via an ice-covered ocean, you should definitely consider a visit this winter. No, really. You’ll be awe inspired by the methods used to keep Nantucket and its people provisioned and accommodated. Plus, you’ll have some great stories to tell and some amazing photos to share. Once on island, you can dine fireside at Atlas or The Brotherhood and take advantage of winter specials at The Nantucket Hotel or Union Street Inn. It may be a few years (or even a few decades!) before we experience another “Big Chill” like this one. Bundle up and come join the fun.
Chill Out.
Shellie Dunlap  
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