59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum


late 1800s

Unknown maker

Wood, metal, paint

Gift of Ralph Wood

Dear Mr. Sheppard,
The boat is all ready any time you get ready to come up. You will have to get her at low tide which is a 2 o'clock on Wed. 18th.
Ralph Waldo Wood

The boat in question was Menemsha fisherman Albert Reed's Nomans Land boat. In 1936 she was one of the last of her kind, but it had not been long since these boats were common sights in the waters around Martha's Vineyard. She was retrieved from Menemsha Creek and has been part of the Museum's collection since 1936. Like most Nomans Land boats, this one never had a name, but she still carries the number: C7077.

Nomans Land boats were named after the small island just south of the western edge of Martha's Vineyard. Though separated by three miles of water, the island is part of Chilmark, and the boat is on the town's seal. Fishermen lived on Nomans seasonally and found that the sturdy craft suited their needs.

Built on the Vineyard and in New Bedford, Fairhaven, and Cape Cod from the mid-1800s until about 1920, they were beach boats, "double-enders." Their design allowed them to be pulled up onto the shore on greased skids with the aid of a team of oxen and easily pushed out again without needing to be turned around, an advantage on an island without a harbor. Originally fitted with two masts and also able to be rowed, most were eventually converted to power.

The donor of this boat, Ralph Wood, believed that these boats and their history should be preserved. He wrote "An Ode to the Nomansland Boat," which contained many stanzas, including a lament that the boats were no longer in use and their bones "on the shore are bleaching." He concluded,

Why don't some men get together, and send
One of these hulls to a museum.
And then years from now, the boys can see how
the Vineyarders fished and sailed them.

With thanks to the following individuals who have adopted this object for one year:
Richard and Barbara Couch