Close Ups

Text Box: Menemsha Fishing Shacks

One summer in the 70’s we were on Cape Cod and noticed that there were no steamers to be found. How does one have a clambake without steamed clams? We thought there had been some ecological problem but eventually found out that the reason there were no clams was that all the Martha’s Vineyard clam boats had been hired for the movie “Jaws”. Jaws was set in the town of Amity but was shot in Menemsha, Martha’s Vineyard.

We have always loved Cape Cod, especially Wellfleet, but I wanted us to explore Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket too. We spent two or three vacations on the Vineyard and I did this drawing in 1980, five years after Jaws on our second visit to the island.

I think I could be led blindfolded to any spot in Menemsha, take the blindfold off and start a drawing. 

We were renting a house in Gay Head, it has called that since the early 17th century “to describe the gaily colored cliffs”, and I would drive the half hour to Menemsha every day to work on this drawing. We had a Fiat 124 Spyder convertible and the drive was amazing. One day Amy, who was 7, and I drove to Edgartown and, as we were getting back in the car two teenyboppers in bikinis asked us how they could get to the beach in Menemsha. I offered to drive them. Amy gave me a funny look as the two girls got in the small back seat. We dropped them off at the beach and as we started out Amy gave me another funny look and said; “Are we gonna tell mom about this?” Needless to say, we told Gerry.

This drawing took at least a week of three hour sessions. I would stop about every hour when I could tell my brain was getting tired of concentrating on little tiny details. There was a small rustic coffee shop next to an empty lot a little to the right of the scene, so I would leave my chair, take the drawing and get a cup of coffee. We were there in September and when I arrived to put the final touches on the drawing I was dismayed to see that the place had closed for the season. There were people inside cleaning up and boarding it up for the winter. 

After an hour or so I looked up and there was the cashier from the café with a cup of coffee for me. She saw me drawing and took pity on me.

I read a book about Jaws that had a great New England story. Representatives of Universal Pictures, and I guess Steven Spielberg, met with the people of Menemsha at a special town meeting. They announced that they were going to build the home of Quint, the shark hunter, in the empty lot. The plan was to build an actual building, not just a false front. The building had been designed to fit in perfectly and look like it had always been there. After the shooting wrapped the building would be a gift to the town and the people could use it for whatever they wanted. They suggested it might make a perfect Post Office or Library. Being crusty New Englanders the townspeople felt like Universal was trying to pull a fast one on them and after some heated debate decided that Universal had to clean up their garbage, including the building. 

Of course, by the time shooting was done everyone had gotten used to the structure and wanted to keep it. The movie company told the town; “You didn’t want it then, you can’t have it now” and tore it down.

I did another drawing of this scene from the other side of the channel on the left. It took a half hour to drive around Menemsha Pond to get to the other side of the narrow channel. You can see the other drawing by clicking on the “more” link.


All material copyright 2016 Neil Borrell

Text Box: Email