Winter Island Boat Yard is wedged onto a patch of land along the causeway connecting Winter Island to downtown Salem. While Salem is best known for the “Salem Witch Trials” of 1692, its history starts with British immigrants coming from Cape Ann first settling there in 1626. Winter Island once housed a British fort. New England loves its historic eminence. Some places have friendly sayings or list their populations on their welcome signs, New England towns like to post the year they were incorporated. Along the coast, the competition for being oldest is right up there with who has the best lobster roll. Maine sits atop the rest in terms of lobster in general but the lobster roll is always a source of rivalry.
I’d never been to Salem so I was looking forward to seeing the town as well. When we got to Winter Island Boat Yard, there was an eight-foot fence surrounding it and all its apparatus; boat lifts, boat stands, tools, arched boat sheds and of course boats tucked into any spot they would fit. It had an industrial feel to it, with everything being oversized to accommodate boat repairs. Across Juniper Cove were fine old houses with widows’ walks perched on the rooftops. I tried to imagined what it was like when the area was inhabited with merchants and traders that made their living from the sea, ladies in long dresses waiting for their men to return from the sea, and horses and carriages rumbling down the narrow streets. This was an old seafaring town, transformed into a modern city and yet, still we were here to buy a boat. The traditions live on. It was low tide when we arrived. The cove was mud flats, there were boats across the way resting on the bottom, hulls fully exposed, waiting for Massachusetts Bay to fill it back up with the next tide. It seemed a curious place for a boat yard, with water being present only half of the time, but it’s been there for almost 100 years so it’s safe to say it works.
Tim pulled the car into a spot alongside the house/office that we hoped would not interfere with the boatyard’s activities. To the right, across the yard, alongside several other boats was a dark blue 31’ Ranger Tug. It looked enormous sitting suspended in the air atop stanchions with a large ladder at the stern. Before going over to see the boat, we went up the outside staircase to the office. The stairs were sturdy but aged and in need of a coat of paint. As we entered the office Peter, the owner of the yard was expecting us. He was tall and trim, short dirty blond hair and dressed in workman’s clothes and topsiders. He had the look of a man who spent a lot of time outside, without looking weathered. As we walked over to the boat he told us a bit about the boat and her owner. He lived in Falmouth, Massachusetts and worked for the Boston Red Sox. The boat’s name was “Extra Innings”. This information was particularly amusing because our house was in Falmouth, Maine and Tim is a lifelong Yankees fan.