Written by Missy Johnston

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Sunset Across the Elizabeth Islands

Stretching southwest from the southern side of Cape Cod across from Woods Hole, the Elizabeth Islands are made up of a series of islands and island groups, with Cuttyhunk the further island on the southern end of the island chain. Flanked on the northern side by Buzzard’s Bay and the southern side by Vineyard Sound, the Elizabeth Islands are between the mainland and Martha’s Vineyard and are to reckoned with when passing either to the north or south of these islands, as passing to the north requires navigating through the strong current of Wood’s Hole, and passing to the south requires navigating around the Sow and Pigs Reef. However another option is to op in for a visit of these islands while on a yacht charter of the southern islands of New England.

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The Elizabeth Islands on the Horizon

Of the eight islands or island groups that make up the Elizabeth Islands, all but two are owned by the Forbes families, which are Cuttyhunk and Penikese. The rest of these Forbes family island holdings are private, except for Weepeckets, which can be visited. And yachtsmen are welcome to anchor in the various anchorages of these islands, even if stepping foot ashore is not encouraged. Following are the islands that make up The Elizabeth Islands. Naushon Island: owned by the Forbes family trust.

Weepeckets: a series of small islands owned by the Forbes family, but open to the public. These islands were used as targets to practice with bombs, rockets, and machine guns from 1941 to 1957.

Pasque Island: owned by a subset of the Forbes family and covered in poison ivy, so rarely visited.

Nashawena Island: is owned by a different subset of the Forbes family and is used for grazing livestock.

Penikese Island: formerly home to a leper colony; today it houses a reform school.

Nonamesset Island is the island nearest the mainland. In the northern end of the island, is the lovely natural anchorage known as Hadley’s Harbor

Uncatena Island lies just northeast of Naushon Island

Cuttyhunk: is a public island with approximately 80 people living there year around and a natural harbor for visiting by yacht.

On the privately owned islands, several of the owning families have established summer compounds, which are tucked away and unknown, even though the size of these compounds makes this group of islands one of the wealthiest set of resort islands in New England.

With the tide between Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound rushing through the gaps of land between islands, navigating in this area requires strong skills, but worth the time and effort to visit on yacht charter, as one of the few visitors per year.

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