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Old 19-03-2013, 14:00   #1
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Info on Penikese, Elizabeth Islands?

One of our family cruises this summer will be to Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands. I'm curious about Penikese. Have any of you been ashore there?

Here's the gist of what I've been able find online, from Wikipedia:

"The island remains under the ownership of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and is primarily a bird sanctuary. There is no permanent population on the island. A residential school for special-needs juvenile boys located on the island, opened in 1973, so at any time there could be found school staff and some students on the island. There may also be visitors and researchers on island from time to time, as the island is publicly owned and is still used at times for biological research."

but further down, "The school suspended operations in February 2011 due to funding cuts by the state of Massachusetts. . . ."

I looked for information online to see if the school had opened back up, but didn't find anything. If it's all clear, I would like to spend a day walking around there.

Any advice appreciated!
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Old 19-03-2013, 14:08   #2
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Re: Info on Penikese, Elizabeth Islands?

I went to Penikese in my dinghy from Cutty a couple of years ago. At that time the island was up and functioning. IF IT IS NO LONGER fully operated by the the state, it would be a nice place to go. When I was there ....I went to try to find quahogs, they had a small dock. I did not go for a tour although many that I know did.

That small island could be a jewel for camping. Its harbor is pretty well protected except for a southern breeze. OH, the quahogs were limited to the area around the dock but the water there is about 5' at low tide so there is little fun going after them.
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Old 19-03-2013, 14:10   #3
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Re: Info on Penikese, Elizabeth Islands?

I'll contact someone on Cuttyhunk to see what the latest is, but I'm pretty sure the school is closed. You can still find a lot of their old website here, and it is interesting. Bottom line is that the island is public property and you are welcome to go ashore and explore. There used to be some areas off-limits due to school activities and environmental reasons, but you are free to wander about mostly. Needless to say, there are a fair number of rocks and shoals in the harbor, so take care going in there.

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So far it is open for visiting. No dogs allowed though because it has a bird sanctuary. People have stayed on the island off and on if they sign up to do so. Not sure if it will change any time soon. I went there to visit a few times last fall. It is certainly worth doing.
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Old 19-03-2013, 15:07   #4
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Re: Info on Penikese, Elizabeth Islands?

Sound promising. Thanks, guys.

BTW, for deeper quahogs, I recommend snorkeling. I've collected them to the point that I nearly sank myself. Had to go back to the boat to offload.
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Old 20-03-2013, 23:05   #5
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Re: Info on Penikese, Elizabeth Islands?

Dear Cormorant,

Penikese is a great place to visit. I lived there, on and off, for five years. I was a teacher and shift leader at the school. The island is still owned by the state, and is administered by the Mass. Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife, meaning that it is not okay to just walk anywhere anytime. There are areas of the island that are common tern colonies, areas that are roseate tern colonies, and areas that are set aside for other vulnerable populations, and this should be borne in mind when walking on the island. Dogs should never be on the island unless leashed.

The island is 75 acres in extent, and was a leper colony from 1903-1921 (approx.), and has a great deal of history, as the site of an early school of biology (headed up by Louis Agassiz in the late 1800s), among other things. There are native american structures on the island, the ruins of the leper colony's buildings, as well as the buildings of the school for troubled boys, which are current, and maintained.

The school plans to resume operation in the summer of 2013, and will continue to have a caretaking staff on the island until that time. This should not deter you from visiting, as the school is open to having visitors - indeed, the presence of the school on the island, with its staff and students serving as the caretakers of the island, safeguards the island against those who would damage it.

Camping is permitted on the island, but only in certain places. Though it is technically public property, the Dept. of Fish & Wildlife regulates the island's use, and the public (and the school) must abide by their standards of use. This means that one is welcome to visit, but not to walk just anywhere.

The anchorage in the cove is deep but small, and quickly becomes shoal. As long as one stays roughly N-NE of the dock (straight out from it), all is well. But to enter too deeply into the cove will run one aground, even in a shoal draft vessel.

The approach from the North of Buzzards Bay is complicated by the reef known as Gulls, and requires one to remain alert.

Currents alongside the island are often swift.

It takes about an hour walking steadily to circumnavigate the island.

I would not hesitate to visit the island. Good luck with your cruise.
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Old 21-03-2013, 05:36   #6
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Re: Info on Penikese, Elizabeth Islands?

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Mainsail.

Thanks for sharing your local knowledge.
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Old 21-03-2013, 07:39   #7
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Re: Info on Penikese, Elizabeth Islands?

Thanks, Mainsail. Great info.
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