Category Archives: Woods Hole Inn News

Professional Development Writers Workshop

December 29, 2013 by Beth Colt

Woods Hole —  long cherished as an epicenter of marine science — is growing in it’s reputation as a place for artists to gather as well.  This year, for the fourth time, the Woods Hole Inn and Woods Hole Film Festival unite with a weekend of professional development writers with exploration in screenwriting and a special focus on television, being held February 21-23 in Woods Hole.

Drama writer P.K. Simonds (Reign, Ghost Whisperer, Party of Five) joins comedy writer Ian Maxtone-Graham (Simpsons, Saturday Night Live) for two days of exploration in screenwriting.  Filled with helpful ideas about how to break in and what to do when the door opens a crack, veterans Simonds and Maxtone-Graham will regale the crowd with stories from the trenches.  How does an episode of TV get plotted, what is the “writers room,”  what kind of spec script should you write to get there?  Professional development for writers rarely takes place in such a beautiful spot, with great leaders and an intimate setting like this one.

The weekend kicks off with a wine and cheese reception Friday night at the Woods Hole Inn.  After breakfast at the inn the next morning, the TV writers gather for professional development writers workshops — with two sessions that day led by Simonds and Maxtone-Graham.  Most of the aspiring TV writers choose to attend “Dinner and a Movie” together on Saturday night at the Captain Kidd (additional fees for this element).  On Sunday, the writers gather once more for a morning session to wrap it all up.

The TV Writers Retreat Fee is $299 per person and applications are being accepted at the Woods Hole Film Festival website (biographical info and a writing sample is required).  The Woods Hole Inn is offering a deeply discounted two night package on this professional development writers retreat where $369 queen and $399 standard king includes the Retreat Fee AND two nights at the Inn.

Comments from previous TV Writer Guests: “I loved that after years of looking into the TV screen, I was brought into the inside and got a chance to see what it is to look out at the audience.”

“I am walking away with a new view on television writing, new contacts, new energy.  I am so thankful for that.”

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Six Reasons to Cycle Cape Cod MA starting in Woods Hole

November 5, 2013 by Beth Colt

bike tour of Falmouth and Martha's VIneyard, Cape Cod activities, cycle cape codCycling Cape Cod MA, especially in the crisp fall weather, is the best way to see the hidden vistas and back road treasures of this sandy peninsula.  But how to make it all happen seamlessly in one killer weekend?  Well, meet our our bike tour package, which answers the question — why cycle Cape Cod starting in Woods Hole?

1) Rail Trails.  The Shining Sea Bike Path — eleven miles of cycling fun each way, connecting Woods Hole to North Falmouth with everything in between — gorgeous vistas, Nobska Lighthouse, downtown Falmouth, Sippewisset Marsh and the cranberry bogs of Bourne Farm — voted one of the best bike paths in America.  Ride hard, feel safe.

2) Free Breakfast.  Enjoy a hearty breakfast, included with the room, to prepare for your Cape Cod cycling adventure.  At the Woods Hole Inn, that means all-you-can-eat quiche, bread-pudding, croissant, fresh fruit, Greek yoghurt and home-made sweet granola plus our fair-trade piping-hot coffee to slosh it all down.  Work hard, play harder.

3) Chillax.   Friday night, the sun sets over the water and you enjoy a wine and cheese reception to warm into your Martha’s Vineyard cycling adventure:  rice crackers, Spanish Manchego, Brie, Marconi almonds and a sprig of fresh rosemary artfully arranged on a recovered slate from the recent re-model of the Woods Hole Library rooftop.  Add your choice of red or chilled white wine?  Great way to start the weekend!

4) Never Get Lost.  Guide Rob Miceli of Cotuit Cycling Tours shares his secret routes,  back roads and amazing views as you explore cycling Falmouth and Martha’s Vineyard over two days.  Rob will tell you all about the area, and pace the bicycle ride to meet where you are.  He is great!

5) Escape to an Island.   Across the street from the Woods Hole Inn, the ferry takes you to Vineyard Haven and you cycle with Rob on the bike path past Oak Bluffs to Edgartown and beyond if the group is feeling confident.  Soak in the incredible views over State Beach, past the Jaws Bridge, over Vineyard Sound.  You are on island time now.

6) Lobster Tacos.  Don’t forget dinner at Quicks Hole (also included in the package!) our farm-to-table Taqueria with a water-view deck where the sun sets over the water every night.  If you’re lucky, the band is set up and locals have gathered for a sangria or draft Cape Cod beer.  Close your eyes and you are at one of any of the best end of the road hangouts — Todos Santos, Montauk, Key West, Carpenteria, Laguna, and yes, Woods Hole.

Last weekend, we hosted this special getaway inspired by travel writer Tim Jones, whose blog urges readers that “life isn’t a spectator sport.”   Taking the mystery out of enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the Cape from the seat of your bike, Tim Jones wrote the journey up for the Concord Monitor, and I urge you to read more about his experience here.

So for all you weekend warriors out there, consider joining us next time — we plan to keep the bike tours rolling in the spring and fall so stay posted here or “like” our Facebook page for updates, specials and sales.

View from Martha's Vineyard ferry looking over Woods Hole MBL, WHOI, red buoy Free wine and cheese reception at Woods Hole Inn on Cape Cod quiche, sweet bread pudding, real maple syrup, best breakfast on Cape Cod at the Woods Hole Inn cycling tour enjoys private dining at attractive bar height tables at the Woods Hole Inn waterviews Woods Hole Cape Cod weekend warriors gather on Cape Cod for adventure biking tour bikers gather for beautiful guided ride around Falmouth and Marthas Vineyard cyclists gather in from of Woods Hole Inn Cape Cod cycling tour, adventure tour Cape Cod, active Cape Cod


Starry Starry Night, a farm-to-table dinner in Woods Hole

August 13, 2013 by Beth Colt

Woods Hole harbor

We are hosting a James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef dinner tonight, raising money for Falmouth Hospital.  One hundred lucky guests will dine under a tent next to Quicks Hole (our farm-to-table restaurant) overlooking Woods Hole harbor and under the stars.

This will be a summer meal to remember…

The meal is being prepared by Chef Cal Peternell (of Chez Panisse, Berkeley CA), Anna Kovel (former food editor Martha Stewart Living) and our own Stephanie Mikolazyk (executive chef at Quicks Hole).  You can read more about the chefs here.  The guests come from Woods Hole and all over the world, foodies who unite in their passion for fine dining and a great cause.

Preparations for this special meal began over a year ago when I met the amazing and talented Cal Peternell, continued this winter when we went to cook with his crew at Chez Panisse, and heated up this spring with the help of many volunteers who came together to plan all the details for tonight.

Today, the parking lot next to the Inn will be transformed with a tent, shrubs, hydrangeas, long wooden farm tables, linen napkins, stylish rental chairs, flowers.  At the same time, the kitchen will bustle with a different energy as lobster tacos are put away for the day and our crew boils stock, shucks oysters, steams lobster, mixes chickpea flour panisses, prepares smoked blue fish pate and much more.

I am eternally grateful to our sponsors, local companies who understand partnership, ambitious food and creative friendship:  Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod, Bank of Martha’s Vineyard, Robert Paul Properties, and the Sea Crest Beach Hotel.

I am holding my breath, fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly….



James Cameron comes to Woods Hole

July 2, 2013 by Beth Colt

James Cameron loves Woods Hole.  He has been coming here for decades, first to meet with Bob Ballard and the team that discovered the Titanic for his hit film of the same title, later to research the underwater sequences for the international blockbuster Avatar.
When Cameron crossed the line from film-maker to explorer to built his own deep-sea submersible called the Deepsea Challenger, he became one with the scientists and engineers here, and his visits increased culminating in the donation of his incredible vessel to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

In Woods Hole last month with his whole team, Cameron talked about the team of engineers and his solo dive to the Mariana Trench, one at 11,000 meters one of the deepest places in the ocean.  His exciting journey to the bottom of the sea (think Abyss, literally)  gathered video and samples allowing for the identification of over 60 new species!

Cameron’s vessel Deepsea Challenger will live next door to us here in Woods Hole, where WHOI scientists can make the most of this incredible vehicle.   Here are a few photos of the donation ceremony, as well as a link to more information on the WHOI website.

We hope Cameron returns to Woods Hole to visit Deepsea Challenger, and that the legacy of this extraordinary gift to humankind continues it’s reach.  Woods Hole — a picture postcard village, postmarked around the world.

James Cameron and Susan Avery at WHOI Woods Hole, Cape Cod James Cameron donates vessel to WHOI, Cape Cod

5 ways Woods Hole is just like PARIS…

April 8, 2013 by Beth Colt


Last month, my family and I went on a week’s vacation in Paris.  That’s right, Paris, France, home of the Mona Lisa and birthplace of the croissant.   With its’ dramatic wide boulevards, miles of shops and restaurants, triumphant arches and epic churches, it’s fair to say that on the surface of things, Paris does not have much in common with our tiny fishing village on Cape Cod.

But scratch a little deeper and there are similarities, so many that I may start calling Woods Hole the Paris of Cape Cod.

So here we go, countdown style, starting with number five, the things Paris and Woods Hole have in common:

5) IT’S COLD, BUT NOT CROWDED IN MARCH.  Both Paris and Woods Hole are damp in March, prone to spring flurries of snow and dominated by people in rubber boots, blown backwards umbrellas and the scowl that comes from winter lasting longer than desired.  Endure the chilly weather, and visit both places without the crowds.  Here on Cape Cod that means empty beaches, crystal clear waters, open sky and views for miles.  In Paris, you can jostle into the Louvre in less than 10 minutes, and see the Mona Lisa with 100 people rather than 1,000.  Love it!

Woods Hole in March IMG_1397









4) KILLER PASTRY SHOPS.  OK, Paris has thousands of patisseries competing with each other for the finest tarte citron and mousse au chocolat.  But, here in Falmouth, we have Pie in the Sky bakery offering sweet treats all year long, and the new Maison Villatte, serving French delicacies like croissant au chocolat and palmiers.  Don your bakers hat and let the Parisian bake off begin!

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3) SCULPTURE GARDENS.  Sure, Paris boasts Rodin, Braque and Brancusi… but here in Woods Hole, we have a pretty cool collection of outdoor sculpture.  Check out the placement of simple mill stones in Spohr Gardens, which like the  famous Jardin des Tuileries, is not to be missed in spring plus the collection sprinkled around the MBL on Water and MBL Streets.   Coming soon?  A bronze of Rachel Carson, the famous environmentalist who wrote “Silent Spring,” expected in Waterfront Park.  Take that, Gay Paris!

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2) BIKES EVERYWHERE.  Paris has embraced the bicycle, offering municipal bike rental stations called velib, and creating bike lanes to green up the city.  This is also true here in Woods Hole, where the former train tracks into town have been converted to a dedicated bike path running along beaches, past cranberry bogs and though ancient forests.  Hear, hear to forward-thinking municipalities everywhere.

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Drumroll, please….The number one thing that Paris and Woods Hole have in common is:

1)   BATEAU MOUCHES.  The River Seine is packed with ferries and transport ships, called bateau mouches, some for tourists but many plying the river for trade as they have for eons.  Woods Hole is no different, with a deep water harbor that brought whaling ships here in the 18th century, scientific research vessels in the 19th and 20th.   Ferries also run constantly here, connecting Woods Hole like a tether to the island of Martha’s Vineyard.  The allure of pragmatic boat travel is central to both locales, and ties us to our sister city.

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So there you have it people… why Woods Hole is the Paris of Cape Cod.  If you are having trouble guessing which photo is which, you are not alone, because that is how similar the two places are!

What do you think?

In like Lion, Out like Lamb…

March 10, 2013 by Beth Colt

Spring is in the air, and despite a three day storm where Old Mother Nature huffed and puffed and tried to blow our house down, the crocuses are popping with longer sunnier days reminding me that summer is right around the corner.

I guess that blooming witch hazel in an inch of snow, followed by crazy high tides from our most recent two storms are pretty normal for March on Cape Cod, but sometimes the schizophrenia of season-shifting leaves me scratching my head and wondering … what coat should I wear?  Slushy rain, followed by freezing rain, followed by plain old rain, followed by plenty of mud is about how I would describe it from my shoes point of view.

I am enjoying getting out of the house on long walks with my “Weekend Wellness” guests — customers who bought a two night package including power walks and a wellness seminar.   This weekend, I walked three hours with people from the Inn, showing them all over Woods Hole from Penzance Point to Nobska Lighthouse.  I love the oohs and aahs of newcomers to the dinghy-cluttered yards in town, the massive lawns on the outskirts, and everywhere the vistas with ferries coming and going like toy boats out to entertain us.  Views + fresh air = a clear mind.  Add a camera in my hand and I am particularly happy.

Here is a photo essay of the many facets of weather I have seen just in the last two weeks.  I hope you enjoy it, and maybe consider joining us some day in the fabulously quiet off-season.

Snow on Cape Cod Romantic walks on Cape Cod Beach between storms in Woods Hole, MA Stoney Beach on a stormy day Flooding on Cape Cod, Woods Hole, March storm Extremely high tides in Woods Hole Nobska Light views to Martha's Vineyard Eel Pond after the storm, Woods Hole flowers coming up for spring largest Beech tree in Woods Hole Flotsam and jetsom on beach after storm in Woods Hole

Wellness Weekends

December 27, 2012 by Beth Colt

Beth Colt in lobby of Woods Hole InnStarting in January, as we all kick off those New Year’s resolutions, we are launching themed  “Wellness Weekends” here in Woods Hole.

Where better than Cape Cod to find peace, tranquility, and the quiet restorative power of nature with a walk on the beach, the exploration of a bird sanctuary, or just a few moments at the pier staring into the churning grey ocean as it meets a slate winter sky?

The wellness weekend includes a healthy snack welcome platter (hummus, almonds, fresh cut carrots & more), followed by healthy breakfast options — our private chef is working on gluten free quiche crusts, egg white omelettes and more — and a guided power walk each morning at 7.30 am.  Breathe in the salt air as you explore local beaches, hidden treasures and the stunning views from Nobska Lighthouse while starting the day with a brisk work-out.

On Saturday afternoon, we invite special guest and guru wellness coach Felicia Hilliard (of “Why Weight? Cape Cod”) in to share her nutrition and wellness secrets for one hour.  Felicia has transformed lives with her simple plans, and you will be inspired by what she shares in this seminar which starts promptly at 4 pm in the Inn.

Leave time Sunday to take advantage of our late parking deal, and hop the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard for a day of exploration.  Use this getaway to hit the reset button, move away from the glow of the computer screen and start the healthy habits that will put you on track for the whole year.

The Wellness Package is on sale starting today, only on Groupon.  Certain restrictions apply, and the offer is based on availability, and we expect it will sell out.  We look forward to welcoming you to Woods Hole!

Woods Hole Inn, Baby

December 13, 2012 by Beth Colt

Woods Hole Inn photo contestWoods Hole Inn guests Joe and Colleen Klinker had every intention of entering our annual photo contest by wearing their Woods Hole Inn t-shirt to the birth of their third baby.  Great idea!

But they could never have imagined that baby Noelle, born at Mass General Hospital yesterday on 12.12.12 at 12 minutes past 12 noon would end up on yesterday’s TV news and splashed all over the local papers with happy Mom proudly wearing her Woods Hole Inn t-shirt in every shot!

When guests check out of the inn, we encourage them to enter our annual photo contest and say “Wear it in an interesting or unusual location and the most interesting will win a two night stay at the Inn.”  You can see photos from prior years here.

Last year’s winner was on top of a mountain near McMurdo Station in Antarctica.  Another group of happy guests wore their t-shirts on the Times Square Jumbotron for their 15 seconds of fame — inventive, we thought and they received a prize.

Wow!  The Klingers have taken our contest to a whole new level.  Game on!  We are still accepting entries, and will do so until end of March 2013.  Keep the photos coming people, or check this link out to vote.   It’s not over til it’s over…

We are sending our very best to the Klinker family as they settle into their lives with this gorgeous new baby.

What a joyous way to ring in the holidays!

Woods Hole Inn

Trainman’s Lanterns

October 19, 2012 by Beth Colt

Morning light rakes over Woods Hole Inn near Martha's VIneyard ferry

Everyday, interesting people walk in the front door of the Inn — people from all over the world, coming to get a glimpse of the New England seashore, or experience first hand the heady smell of salty marsh air that comes up off the beach at low tide, or walk in the footsteps of Presidents by touring the island of Martha’s Vineyard.

Sometimes they make plans to come a year in advance, and other times they just walk in the door in the late afternoon looking for a place for the night.  In late September, a couple “walked in” (to use the innkeepers jargon) from upstate, New York.  They had been touring the area and taking their chances…we were happy to have one room left, which they booked.

As they wandered around the inn, they saw an antique kerosine lantern that sits on an old metal safe in one of our living rooms and they asked me a bunch of questions about it.  This lantern actually came out of my grandfather’s barn.  My grandparents lived most of their long lives on a farm in coastal Massachusetts, and they kept a herd of dairy cows there from the 1930s through the late 1960s.

My grandfather bred the cows, and had pictures of his winners hanging on the walls of his 1700’s-era house.  I remember the one called “Larches Pat” posing with her handler, all curried and groomed to perfection with a big ribbon on her halter at the Topsfield Fair.  My grandfather was committed to these cows, he really loved them, and he always said one of the saddest days of his life was in the late 1960’s after the milk distributor stopped coming (“you’re too small to warrant a stop,” they told him); after months of pouring the milk onto the fields, he realized he had to sell his prized herd.

WNew England antiques found at the Woodshole Inn, Cape Cod Lodginghen the barn was cleared out after his death (at the age of 97!), this lantern moved into my mother’s basement.  I liberated it a few years ago and it sits in one of the dining rooms at the Woods Hole Inn, reminding me of my wonderful grandparents and their beautiful farm, where I was lucky enough to spend holidays my whole childhood.

Now enter my walk in guests! (I bet you were wondering when I might get back to that:)   No one has ever asked me about this lantern before, but these guests were very curious, remarking on it’s size and style.  Very unusual, they said.  Don’t see them that large, they said.  Well, there were tons of them in my grandfather’s barn before it was wired for electricity, so they were common at some point, I explained.

Honestly did not think much more about this interaction until this week when this cool Trainman’s Lantern arrived in the mail, one for me and one for Amanda.  It came with a thank you letter from the above-mentioned lantern-curious guests, who it turns out own a lantern company in upstate New York.  The letter tells me that the Dietz Company went out of business many years ago (maker of my grandfather’s lanterns), but their company Star Headlight and Lanterns, has been around for 123 years and is still going strong.  In fact, the owner (our guest) is the fourth generation of his family to run this business!!

Here are some highlights from this delightful letter:

“Anne and I really loved staying at your lovely place.  It was the end of a memorable trip.  Your MapQuest got us perfectly to our sons house, where we saw our grand kids, then flew home.  The enclosed lanterns are used daily by all railroads.  Put one next to your Deitz.  Please see Amanda gets one, she was most helpful.  We look forward to seeing you again sometime.”


"David W. Jacobs" owner and CEO of Star Headlight Trainman's LanternWell, so do we!!  These lanterns are sure to be useful in a winter storm when the lights go out!  This is the fun of inn-keeping, meeting interesting people and continually learning things about our fascinating world.  And creating this dialogue between new people, and returning guests, where they can share with us the important things in their lives, while we can offer a restful place to return, hopefully year after year, to find peace and tranquility from the crazy buzz of modern life.

So thank you so much, David and Anne (and all the nice people at Star Headlight and Lanterns),  — we hope to see you soon.

My Summer on Cape Cod

August 17, 2012 by Beth Colt

Summer is always too short, and the days and weeks are as fleeting as signs of the season – beach days, blooming flowers, and warm midday rainstorms come and go as fast as they arrived. My summer in Cape Cod has been too short, but entirely fantastic and memorable.

Living in and becoming apart of the town of Woods Hole has been wonderful. Before my time on the Cape I have always lived in larger cities and I was originally unsure about spending three months in a “small, sleepy” town. However Woods Hole has surprised me again and again and kept me very busy for the last couple of months.

While the list is long, some things I will miss most about living here are,

The smell of the Inn breakfast in the morning and my hot cup of coffee.

Every morning a delicious, gourmet breakfast is prepared in the Woods Hole Inn for the guests and I love starting my day with the warm smells of freshly baked muffins and just brewed coffee. There is something inherently comforting about walking down the stairs to the heartening smells of a hot breakfast.


Being less than a five-minute bike ride away from the beach.

Coming from landlocked Minnesota, it’s been an extra special treat living near the ocean. I can see it out my bedroom window, smell it when I walk outside and whenever its sunny and I have an hour or two to spare I go for a quick midday swim. I haven’t swum this much in ages and being in the sun almost everyday makes me feel like a kid again.


The small-town charm of Woods Hole.

Coming from Minneapolis, and having attended large universities both there and in Copenhagen, I’ve never lived somewhere that had the same feeling and atmosphere as Woods Hole. I love that I can go almost anywhere and run into someone that I know. It’s been interesting to feel apart of a community so easily and I’ll miss the sense of familiarity and friendliness that Woods Hole now has for me.

I’ll miss living in Woods Hole, and working at the Woods Hole Inn. It really has become a home away from home for me. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my perspective on the Cape, and all the wonderful things there are to do, see and try here.


Thanks for reading and all my best to my friends in Woods Hole,


Queen of Versailles comes to Woods Hole

August 1, 2012 by Beth Colt

Great Harbor with Lauren Greenfield, director of Queen of Versailles

The Woods Hole film festival is in full swing this week.  Lauren Greenfield, director of the hot new documentary Queen of Versailles stayed with us at the Woods Hole Inn, and she screened her incredible movie to a stunned Woods Hole audience on Sunday night.

Lauren’s gift is capturing the zeitgeist, and she sure did it this time, chronicling the riches to rags tale of the extraordinary Siegel family of Orlando, Florida.  The movie opens as the Siegels are building the largest house in America, which they have aptly named “Versailles.”  The story turns dark when the crash of 2008 clobbers Siegel’s timeshare business, and we are rapt as these over-consumers are faced with what every American faced in the recession, writ very, very large.

A still from the movie Queen of Versailles

While tiny Woods Hole has it’s share of multi-million dollar waterfront spreads, the currency here tends to be less plastic surgery and more Phd’s, less private plane than leather-bound book, less limousine than yacht.  None the less, this cautionary tale hit home as locals talked about it’s themes and colorful imagery for days.

Patrons of the Woods Hole Film Festival were treated to a “master class” with Greenfield on Tuesday afternoon.  In a two-hour session, she traced the roots of her work back to her undergraduate years at Harvard, and made connections with images about beauty culture (the subject of a documentary of the same title), current youth obsession with money (kids + money a short documentary from 2008) and our relationship to celebrity and fame.  Greenfield also screened Thin – her 2006 documentary and book project for HBO chronicling the emotional reality of life within the halls of a residential treatment center for eating disorders.

Greenfield was joined by her husband Frank Evers (executive producer of Queen of Versailles as well as founder of the photo agency Institute for Artist’s Management) and their two kids for the week.  They were spotted at lunch at Quicks Hole, exploring Great Harbor in an outboard, and at dinner at both the Landfall and Fishmonger Café.

Waterfront dining at the Landfall in Woods Hole

Queen of Versailles director, Lauren Greenfield.

Our little village is a  mecca of the talented — we may have to start calling Lauren the Queen of Woods Hole.

Departure to a Gilded Age

July 25, 2012 by Beth Colt

Today the red chair left the Woods Hole Inn, departing on its latest journey across New England. Friend of the Woods Hole Inn, Kate Kavanagh, volunteered to help the Red Chair reach its destination. There were lots of photographs and a small goodbye as the chair made it’s way out of the inn.




The red chair will be traveling for the next six months to 40-plus inns in the most beautiful corner of America. For it’s first stop, the Red Chair will be visiting the Cliff Side Inn in Newport, Rhode Island. Surrounded by the mansions of the Gilded Age, a scenic cliff walk and ocean-side views, the Cliff Side Inn was the perfect choice for the start of an epic journey.


Warm Foggy Spring

March 26, 2012 by Beth Colt

Orange kayak on the edge of the beach in Woods HoleLast week was unseasonably warm, daffodils sprouting overnight everywhere you looked.  Last year at this time,  I took a picture of the witch hazel blooming with snow all around it.    As I drove around on errands yesterday, the car thermometer said 80 degrees.  What a difference a year makes.

All week, an Atlantic fog hovered just off shore, drifting in to fill the village streets and float over the Eel Pond each evening as the sun set.  In the mornings, I returned from my walks feeling as if I had marched through a cloud, eyebrows dripping with the thick humidity.

The construction is cruising along upstairs at the Woods Hole Inn.  This week, the painters finished up on the first floor, and we followed behind them spring cleaning.  Our guests return next weekend, so we are in the crazy push to get tidy — with the closets back in order, the breakfast recipes brushed up and the outdoor cushions on the porch.

Upstairs, the painters are done and the floors are finished.  The rooms look really great, all spit-polished and shined.  I am especially enamored of the floors.  We saved the old hardwoods, and patched where the walls used to be so that the floor is a crazy quilt of old and new.  It’s as if the bones of the old building are exposed, and along with the salvaged moldings, the vintage restored tubs and and the old-fashioned radiator system, I think it will make you feel that the heart of the place still beats with 1870’s joy.

Soon, exterior painting begins.  I look forward as the pale shingles — looking a bit like band-aids randomly placed — turn to a rich saturated blue to match the rest.  With that, the Woods Hole Inn will look much as it has since it was built over 130 years ago.

Woods Hole Inn, the best place to stay in FalmouthHere is the old grey lady on a foggy day last week, a bit lonely in the grey March streets.

Totally restored rooms at the Woods Hole Inn, near Martha's Vineyard.

A sander on the raw floors where we intentionally left some paint in the crevices to celebrate the marriage of the old with the new.

Shiny and new restored hardwood floors on Cape Cod.

A view of the final flooring, in the Nonamesset Room — a great spot to spend a few days with corner light, harbor views and your private deck.  These rooms will be furnished and open for guests by the end of April if all goes as planned.

Romantic walks in the fog on Cape Cod.

The ferry waits in the morning fog, its distinctive horns dancing and reverberating across Vineyard Sound.

Sunset over the Eel Pond in Woods Hole in the fog.

Finally, sunset this week over Eel Pond as the fog rolled in.  I am grateful for spring, especially this particular warm, foggy spring.

What are you grateful for?

Vintage Restoration

March 12, 2012 by Beth Colt

View into Great Harbor Woods Hole from the town dock, winter sunset 2012.

The winter months pass faster than you  might imagine, as you count the days for Cape Cod summer to return.  The sunsets are glamorous and this winter has been unusually warm — a mixed blessing for those of us so close to sea level.  If global warming is for real, then we are looking into the maw of the beast.  The silver lining? The mild weather makes it easier to dash out at sunset and catch this kind of panorama.

Construction continues at the Woods Hole Inn.  The second floor, where the new guest rooms are located, is almost done.  This week they put the finish paint on, and next week will be consumed with refinishing the amazing original hardwood floors.  Radiators went back in, the old school cast iron kind, and french doors were hung on the doors to the decks.  Deck railing comes next week as well.

On the third floor, where the staff of the Inn will live soon enough, the drywall and plastering is complete and carpenters are putting the trim on the windows and molding along the floor boards.  Sadly, the old wood floors up there were trashed, a cruel fate required for structural reasons by the Falmouth building department.  In it’s place, the sustainable cork tiles will look modern and clean.  The shapes of the rooms can finally be seen fully, and it’s odd to have such an intimate memory of the bones underneath the skin of the walls.

We are ordering a special wallpaper for the front hall, made from the piles of 1946-era check in cards we found stashed in the attic.  I am confident that it will look graphic and interesting, and also delight those who want to reminisce about Mrs Josiah Smith of Vineyard Haven who stayed at the inn in 1946 for $3 per night.  In addition, I found two incredible Russian ship lanterns, galvanized metal with red paint and old marine glass.  I am having them made into lights for the front porch.  You will tell me if you think they make the right “vintage restored” statement when they are finally hung in place.

I took my copy of building plans and wrote a love note to the person who will unearth all our work 50 years from now.  I tried to express the joy I found in the doing, but I secretly hope they will know my passions from the lines of the house before they ever find my rushed scribbles.

A few images for you:

Stairs in the Woods Hole Inn, under construction winter 2012.

View from the top of the stairs looking down.  The splattered wood you see in the middle will be removed so that you can experience three stories in the entrance.  These are the walls that will be wall-papered with the check in cards from 1946.

Amazing living room at the top of the Woods Hole Inn, under construction 2012.

Top floor, a lovely living room with private balcony and views to Martha’s Vineyard.  Grey from the fresh plaster, this will be painted white and all trimmed out.

Fresh plaster in the living room atop the Woods Hole Inn, Cape Cod MA

Another view of the same room, the light streaming in from the side of the building that faces the Martha’s Vineyard ferry.

Vintage restored floors in all new bathrooms at the Woods Hole Inn, March 2012.

New bathrooms with combo shower-tubs and the vintage floors brought back to their pre-paint glory.

Restored cast iron tib, wainscotting and Cape light combine at the Woods Hole Inn, under construction March 2012.

Cast iron tubs came from the tub doctor in New Bedford.  They look happy to be out of the showroom and back in the action.

Nobska Light from the water on an incredible summer's day.

Finally, the perfect image of the summer coming, from my friend Denise at the Sippewissett Campgrounds.  This is what we are all waiting for.  Thank you for sharing this, Denise — Nobska Lighthouse on an incredible summer day.

I can’t wait to be out on my boat looking up at that lighthouse, waiting for the fireflies to come out, basking in the last light of the day as the sun sets over Vineyard Sound.  See you all this summer.

Snow Day in Woods Hole

January 22, 2012 by Beth Colt

Snow on the beach near Penzance in Woods Hole MA

Even though it’s Sunday, I feel like today is a real snow day here in Woods Hole.  I mean who can pay bills or even watch football (OK, maybe by late in the day football is OK) when it looks like this outside?

My photo essay on the January 21, 2012 snow storm:

Woods Hole MADusk last night as I walked to the Captain Kidd for a lovely private party.

Captain Kidd in Woods Hole MAI appreciate that the Captain Kidd stays open in the winter, even if it’s only on the weekends…

Gardiner Road in Woods HoleA lone snowplow clears the MBL lot as dusk falls over Woods Hole the evening of the storm.

Woods Hole porch in winterThe next morning, the light was a bit flat but I found some interesting stuff anyway.

Light over the Eel Pond in Woods Hole, winter 2012I love the moment when the sky opens up just a tad and lets that amazing reflection through…

Landfall in Woods Hole…and the colorful buoys at the front of the Landfall Restaurant, closed now for the season, come alive in the snow.

WHOI research vessel in port Woods HoleA research vessel gleams on the ink black sea.

View of the Eel Pond, winter 2012The Eel Pond glistens, so quiet in the early morning air that you can hear the shush of the beach from here.

Bank of Woods Hole in snow.Ribbons and greenery, announcing our village’s name at the top of Water Street.

Woods Hole Inn in winterThe venerable  Woods Hole Inn, looking stately and a bit half-dressed while under-construction in the snow.

The Spenser Baird house on the corner of Gardiner Road, hydrangeas dormant and lights off.

A rustic cottage closed up and lonely looking out over Buzzards Bay …

and the house with sporty turquoise trim nestled in by the Eel Pond .

If you enjoyed this, I urge you to subscribe to my blog (see RSS Feed button at the top right of the page), and become a fan of the Woods Hole Inn on Facebook for daily pictures and updates from our little village at the edge of the world. If you feel there are other people who love Woods Hole who might also enjoy this, I urge you to mail them a link, or share the page with your friends on Facebook.

I really appreciate your help reaching a wider audience.

The Journey is Half the Fun

January 19, 2012 by Beth Colt

Vintage restored bathtubs headed soon to the Woods Hole Inn.

Figuring out how to restore stuff from a creaky old house is complicated.  Who can bring these aging beauties back to life?  Where do you have to go to find old-world craftsmen?  Who cares about worn and antique stuff anymore?

I am headed down to New Bedford to the workshop of the “Tub Doctor” this week.  For $500, the doctor will re-porcelain your worn cast iron tub, and sandblast the exterior to ready it for paint of any color.  He is a colorful fellow, the Tub Doctor, and you will learn all about his life when you visit him.  He prefers black feet on the tub to chrome, he wishes that women were more faithful, and he is looking for investors in a new business idea that will double your money in less than three months.  I am resisting calling his eccentric conversation style over-sharing…. how about peppered with interesting and specific information.

Just finding the studio is intense.  Imagine a series of abandoned brick factory buildings, sprawling over acres of empty asphalt behind chain link and razor wire with an old wooden door that might be in a travel blog about Moldova or Croatia.

The workshop is set in the middle of the largely-abandoned mill compound, and this section is littered with debris, broken tile, odd concrete.  When they say New Bedford never recovered from the collapse of the Industrial Revolution, they are talking about places like this.

On the inside, vast chambers disappear as far as the eye can see and you can feel the spirit of the mill girls from the 1890’s, giggling and laughing at their sewing tables, even in today’s dank and empty silence.

Once you get into the  Tub Doctor’s lair the heat is on, a radio plays and the smell of cigarettes mixed with paint fumes makes you feel like you are back in the 21st century.  The Doctor is friendly and chatty, telling me about his baby, his son’s landlord and the price of the lunch he plans to eat later today.

We debate the cast iron tub feet and I defer to his taste about the chrome  — never looks good,  he tells me,  chrome paint just looks like chrome paint.  I like how the feet look like chess pieces, pawns clustered in a corner for safety.  Maybe the ghostly mill girls play with them after dark, I think to myself.

I pay him cheerily, genuinely happy to have stumbled upon this odd corner of the world.  I look forward to seeing him again when he delivers the final product to the Woods Hole Inn in a month or so. I drive out of the compound, back in the sharp winter sunshine, and smile.

You can find the old tubs plus the Tub Doctor yourself by calling New England Demo and Salvage.   Leave a little extra time for the stories, because let’s face it … the journey is half the fun.

You Get What You Pay For

January 17, 2012 by Beth Colt

Winds blew hard from the north last week, bringing the cold down from Canada.

The winds blew so hard on Friday that I had to lean into the railing of the Woods Hole drawbridge as I took this photograph looking out towards Martha’s Vineyard.  By the weekend, the bitter Canadian winter had settled over our little village and I worried about pipes freezing on the construction site, not to mention my cheeks as I took my afternoon walks.

But that did not slow the pace of renovations at the Woods Hole Inn.  Oh no, we have our eye on the proverbial prize as reservations are rolling in for summer and beyond (book now if you want to be sure and get in summer 2012) .

The place is swarming on the inside with people.  One of the things you learn quickly as you renovate an old property is that the stuff required to make it “new” again is pretty high tech, read expensive.  I walk around the site and I see dollar signs:  ruby-red foam insulation, diamond-encrusted lighting and platinum sprinkler pipes.   Even the pipe fittings glitter in the sun like precious jewels.

One notable change is that in past winters when the wind howled (over 50 MPH this weekend I heard), the old Woods Hole Inn groaned and creaked, shuddering with the big blasts and swaying like a salsa dancer in the smaller gusts.

But up on the top floor on Friday,  I was struck by the stillness of new windows, and the hush of firm framing.   All those new connections — the spider web of wood and joinery which will be hidden by plaster  — makes the building sturdier.  As sad as I was to see the old lathe walls in dumpsters, this new development reminds me that a renovation of this magnitude will help the building survive another 130 years, well beyond my lifetime.

Ruby red insulation…

low-voltage, recessed lighting …

light fixtures going in

sprinkler pipe coated with platinum ….

and all the trimmings for sprinkler installation…

The parts that people can actually see look good too, all closed up from the winter winds with nothing needed but a coat of paint:

Which leaves me with this parting thought:  You get what you pay for.

High School Dating…

December 29, 2011 by Beth Colt

Construction blogging is like high school dating.  You flirt, you kiss for the first time, and then all of a sudden you have nothing to say to each other.  Yes, hard to imagine but I have run out of clever things to say about wood framing, Marvin windows and drywall.

In truth, quite a bit of drama unfurled at the Woods Hole Inn as we hurdled towards 2012.  But I can’t really go into it in any detail without hurting feelings or pissing people off.  There was the fight over an 8 foot hole in the roof (abated), the struggles with NStar (we gave up), the drama of the chimney flues (unnecessary) and the saga of crumbling masonry (ongoing).  There were highs and lows, and suffice it to say that so far, the highs have it. Could I really ask for more than that?

The sub trades came and went.  I met with the contractor and architect weekly.  The bills came monthly and I kept a difibrulator in the office in case of heart attack.  (Wow, stuff is expensive on Cape Cod! )  The bank visited to be sure we are actually spending the money they lend us for the building.  There are cautionary tales told, about borrowers who bough Ferrari’s instead (hmmm) and people over 90 days in default (oooh, that sounds uncomfortable).

But we plowed onward.  The wind blew yesterday, too hard for the roofers which was a disappointment as it was otherwise fortuitous :  clear, dry and not too cold.  We are gunning for the “rough framing, plumbing and electric inspection,”  the first big step toward completion.  After we pass that, then we can insulate, sprinkler and drywall.   It’s all downhill from there with finish carpentry, painting and decorating.  Sounds easy, huh.   And here is what you came for, the photos of progress and action as of late December 2012:

Construction at the Woods Hole Inn, December 2011

We struggled with Marvin Windows as their lead time is much longer than other companies, and they are pricey.  But they look really nice once installed.  If they last a nice long time in the salt spray, I will be happy.  Call me in fifteen years.

Woods Hole Inn windows installed, December 2011

And the views through those windows.   Wow…

View from the Woods Hole Inn as the ferry lands on a windy December day.By late afternoon yesterday the wind was howling and it was clear why the roofers decided to wait a day as this ferry was swept sideways trying to get into it’s slip.

Woods Hole Inn December 2011Taken from the street on Christmas Eve, here is the Woods Hole Inn in late afternoon light.

Thanks for following along and see you all this summer…

Tools of the Trades

December 11, 2011 by Beth Colt

There are some weeks when being the innkeeper at the Woods Hole Inn does not feel like work, when I look out at the view over the water and just have to pinch myself.

This was one of those weeks.  The new exterior stairs were completed, and I now have an easy way to walk up and gander at this view whenever I feel like it.  If only I had the time…

The crew works relentlessly onward, and the plumbers and electricians are getting the rough work in pronto.  A mason comes next week to repair the chimney, and then the roof will be re-done, removing three old layers of roofing and putting a fresh new one down.  Hopefully that means the leaks will stop for a while, although with an old house like this one you never know.

I am in love with the artistry in the tools that are used, the colors and the shapes.  Here is a photo essay on what I see:

Saws with long cords that cast shadows in the afternoon sun….

Electrical wiring coiled like a snake with a blue metal hue…

Sawhorses occupying hallways with dignity….

Tool belts with worn buckles tossed to the floor during coffee breaks….

Saws with bright red handles, dressed up like a miniskirt on a pretty girl…

And most importantly, the men who use these tools deftly, with confidence, putting an elaborate jigsaw puzzle together board by board.  They consult the plans that are staple-gunned to a piece of plywood on the wall, but more importantly, they use their experience to make the building whole again.  I am so appreciative of the care with which these dedicated individuals work each day.  It is only because of their focus and determination that the Woods Hole Inn will all come back together again, better than before.

The Second Dormer

December 2, 2011 by Beth Colt

As the walls come down at the Woods Hole Inn, new bright lumber is installed next to the aged, dark timbers of 140 years ago — marrying the old with the new.  Vintage, restored.

This week, they ripped the second dormer off the top of the building.  I always knew these roofs would need to be re-built (as the structure was compromised years ago with the addition of shed roofs improperly installed) but I will admit that when I approved of that concept, I never imagined that the whole thing would come off and look open to the sky like this.  It is exciting to watch, and makes one think (briefly) of making it a solarium with a glass roof.  And from so high up over the harbor, you really feel like one of the seagulls circling the ferry for scraps.

The feeling of flying is augmented by the steady breeze off the water, and significantly more pleasant on warmer sunny days like this one.  The crew looks frequently at the weather forecast, because rain at this delicate juncture would be a disaster for the rooms below.  But, knock wood, very sunny all this week with hopes that this will be closed up tight in three days.

I went to visit my next door neighbor Joyce yesterday, to say hello and make sure she was alright with the proximity of all the banging and hammering.  She has run the shop next door “Under the Sun” for decades and she lives above it, making most of what she sells in her fabulous workshop filled with lamp shades in progress, metal wire for jewelry making, wool for felting, paints for water coloring and so much more!  She bought the property in the 1960s from the McLean family who also owned the Woods Hole Inn at that time.

She said she loved the radio and the sound of the crew singing along (we have one particularly loud crooner on site).  She said the sound of those hammers was music to her ears: “I have been waiting for this for thirty years!”   She is excited to see what it will all look like when it’s done.  Me too!

More photos of progress this week:

And so we continue!  To remain sane, I enjoy walks at dusk around Woods Hole with my family.  The photo at the top is a panorama shot on Penzance Point where stately houses line the harbor looking out toward Martha’s Vineyard.  Divine at dusk.

Found Objects

December 1, 2011 by Beth Colt

Glowery day at the WH drawbridge in late November, 2011

I have been thinking quite a bit about the people who built the Woods Hole Inn back in the 1870’s.  They looked out over the same harbor, probably more big ships in it than now, but for sure ferry service plying Vineyard Sound in the same brisk and predictable fashion.  Like us, I imagine that they were happy with the way fall seems to never end on Cape Cod, enjoying the brisk wind that whistles up past the inn on sunny days and bemoaning the rain when it slowed them down.   Only about 140 years ago, these guys worked entirely with hand-tools — the grandparents of our grandparents.

So the renovation of the top two floors of the Woods Hole Inn moves relentlessly onward.  With each passing day, with every dormer rebuilt or ceiling gutted, we find clues about the people who came before us, the hardy souls who also lived here on the edge of the world.

Yesterday, a shingle was discovered.  Every chance this would have been tossed without a glance, but Bruce (one of the framing crew) noticed and nabbed it before it went to the dumpster.  Since we have no idea the exact year the building was built, this is a pretty huge clue — hard to imagine they would have re-shingled so soon, so I am going to guess August 11, 1887 is the completion date.

Shingle from restoration of the Woods Hole Inn.

I can’t wait to show this to my new friends at the Woods Hole Museum.  Other treasures emerged in the last few weeks.  One is a large piece of upholstered furniture, maybe the side of a chaise someone planned to repair?  I need to share this with Skinner to see if it has any “significance” then decide what the heck to do with it!

I particularly like this letter, part of it devoured by a nineteenth century mouse.  From what I can make out it is a super top secret, highly confidential sales pitch from a pencil vendor offering pencils at an excellent price — The Long Pencil Company of Chicago Illinois writing to Mr. Briggs (a former owner), dated September 11, 1894.  Long before email and Google Ad Words…

Another interesting scrap of newspaper was salvageable and dates from the Boston Globe in the late 1800’s:

And another interesting fragment — and we found many of these in the rafters along with the strong smell of fish as the wood was cut out:

I love that mackerel is a specialty and my clever friend Nick made me laugh by suggesting that “Stillman was easier to deal with than Griffin.”  I suspect the third floor of the inn may have been used by a wholesaler of salt-fish and he kept his labels in the attic.  He may even have stored or cured fish up there, as the smell was really strong when the beams were cut out.

And so the clues leave us with more questions than answers, but they are fascinating.  All of the building crew — from the plumber to the electrician to the framers — have gotten into the hunt.  I will let you know if we find more, and you can come next summer to see the highlights on display in the lobby of the Inn.  Here is the whole letter, in closing, in case you can make out more of it than I could.  Perhaps someone more accustomed to this old style of writing could write a translation into the comments?

Letter from pencil company 1894.

The Roof Comes Off…

November 21, 2011 by Beth Colt

Work continues at the Inn at a breakneck pace, as both my contractor and I are eager to get the place sealed up before the real cold socks in.  The Marvin custom windows take longer than you might think  — now they are saying early December.  Ergh.  But everything else seems to be going well, knock wood.  The weather has obliged, it is still a balmy 50 degrees in the daytime here.  Days are getting shorter and work starts early and finishes at dusk.

The views from the upper floors continue to astound me.  Last week the floors were still open allowing a two story view of the place:

Then in an instant (it seemed) down went the third floor, plus new stairs were installed.  I wasn’t keen on balancing the rafters like the boys, but now I can walk up there.  The structural engineer came by and liked the solid feeling that comes from all this re-enforcement.  “Stiff” he called it, while bouncing a bit on the new plywood.  I guess that’s good.

Today was a bit of a shocker as I arrived mid-morning to the roof open to the sky.   The front dormers had shed roofs added incorrectly decades ago.  No wonder the windows eventually blew out — the structure was totally compromised by hacking the roof rafters.  It had to be completely rebuilt to come up to code.  I guess the good news is that despite the expense, this part of the building will be like new.   OK, not just like new.  Actually ALL new.

It was a bit glower-y and at one point it started to sprinkle, but thankfully the weather report was accurate and there was no real rain.  By late in the afternoon, thanks to a hard-working framing crew, the roof was starting to come back together.  I love the way these guys work in concert, moving around and cooperating with so much grace.  I guess they study the architectural drawings the night before so that there is no time wasted on site.  They have a plan.  Best of all, they seem to always be smiling.  There is a joy in the work, singing and laughing.  I can feel it in the finished product.

And while our crew scurried around on our  little ant-hill, the ferries came and went carrying people to the Vineyard, many of whom didn’t notice that say, the roof is gone from that building over there.  Across the street at the coffee shop, they were serving lattes to customers who heard a bang but had no idea that a room up there was totally exposed to the harbor.   In the laboratories of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (aka “WHOI”) right next door, same thing.  Even my husband, back at his desk, totally unaware.  We are all in our own little worlds… Micro-climates…  Fishbowls…

This blog is about me sharing my small fishbowl with you:)  Happy Thanksgiving!  May your weekend be filled with the joy of a new roof successfully installed on a New England fall day.

Devil in the Details

November 2, 2011 by Beth Colt

What does “vintage” mean to you? And how do you renovate an old building without losing it’s soul?

The devil is in the details.

My goal in this renovation of the Woods Hole Inn is to dance on the fine line of “new-ish” — by which I mean modern, comfortable, functioning — without losing the soul.  As they tear out the horsehair plaster, am I robbing the building of something precious and irreplaceable?  Modernity (i.e. new bathrooms, electrical outlets that work without burning the place down and other small details like that) can not be achieved without some demolition.  But how much is enough?  And will next year’s guests appreciate it?

Honoring the small design details is important to me; check out this bulls eye door trim which I am fighting to keep upstairs.  Even an exact copy of this will never look the same as this original with it’s 20 coats of paint, each one a badge of honor in a long and useful life.

cape cod vacations, restoring old homes

Or how about this incredible floor in the front living room of the Inn.  People come into the inn, regularly, and ask me how I got this “effect”   …Ummm, let’s see.  Start with original growth hardwood, cut up on the hill right here and planed in a sawmill.  Paint it four or five times over the course of a century, walk on it a lot preferably with muddy quahog boots.  When you celebrate it’s 100th birthday, ask someone to sand it down but (this part is very important!) fire him about half way through the job.  Then, wait another 25 years, put one layer of polyurethane down, pour yourself a gin and tonic and enjoy.

These are the “vintage” parts of the inn that people come and admire. But not everything that I fight to save strikes a chord with guests.  Let me share a brief example with you.

I am a fan of old mirrors like the one in Room One (see below).   I very deliberately renovated around this, admiring the flowering mercury glass effect that is working it’s way up from the bottom.  For me, it is like a tangible reminder of many hot, sticky summer days where you throw yourself in the salt water for relief then come home for a nice cool shower before a dock-side dinner of ice-cold oysters, lobster claw drenched in salty butter, hot summer corn and hand-churned vanilla bean ice cream for dessert. This look only comes with years of exposure to salty ocean air.  It feels earned, like a stylish survivor.  When I look at myself in this aging mirror, I feel a bit like Glenn Close in Dangerous Liasons, like I have a period costume on and my day will surely be filled with love letters.

vintage restored

Look closely on the bottom of the mirror to see the mark of the ocean air on this vintage mirror cabinet.

But some guests disagree.  One recently wrote a review on TripAdvisor specifically calling this detail out as something that she did NOT value.  She is not the first!  Others have mentioned to me that they specifically did not like this feeling of age on this particular mirror.  And when I look at it in that light I think, what am I crazy!  Rip it out!  Who cares about my own likes and dislikes if it keeps guests happy.

And it doesn’t stop there.  The judgement calls, they come up every day.  Should we leave the old brick fireplace exposed or cover it up?  Can the wide-board floors be repaired, new wood inserted where the walls once were so that you will see the old layout, the bones of the building preserved?  Or will that look like we simply cut corners?  If the window trim can be saved, should it be at the expense of less insulation in the walls?  What is more “green” – saving the trim or making sure the building is more heat efficient?  Wow!  These are hard questions!!

There is a fine line between vintage and just old.  I was grappling with this today as I walked home and I passed these two guys outside the Marine Biological Labs (“MBL”) scrubbing rust out of 1970’s era radiators.  Another fellow stepped outside just as I walked by and said with disdain, “They gave it away.”  And one of the seated guys said incredulously, “Gave it away! Why would anyone do that?”  I don’t even know what “it” is, but I feel their pain.

"Why would anyone do that?"

Woods Hole is a thrifty, Yankee place where scrubbing out rusty radiators is preferable to buying new, where lathe is left in walls and mirrors with water-damage are cherished, where even in cutting edge scientific institutions it is not abnormal to see two guys huddled in the lea of a November north wind cursing the fool who didn’t see the value in an old piece of metal.

I strive to bring this spirit to the restoration of the Inn without losing the modern vibe.  The push pull of old vs new, the constant barrage of questions about what to keep and what to toss, the thrill of the new space and the sorrow as they cart off the old is at the core of why I love my job.  I just don’t want to hear “Why would anyone do that?” come April.

So….What do YOU think I should do about the mirror in Room One?

All About Irene

August 30, 2011 by Beth Colt

View from the second floor of the Inn, looking toward Juniper Point in the rainiest part of the storm.

Sunday is already a bit of a blur for me.  Mix exhaustion with adrenaline and too much caffeine and you get a solid forget-me drug.  I know I made it to the Inn to help with breakfast and there was a large crowd there enjoying the meal after several successful weddings (yes, we had guests with us attending THREE different Woods Hole affairs).

It was rainy, grey, still so very hot the air thick like in a movie but everything seemed normal — hot coffee flowing, baked goods fresh from the oven, halogen cutting the flat grey from outside.    Then the electricity flickered and died.  Wow, everyone could use a little makeup in the light of those camping lanterns.

By late morning, the wind was really howling, screaming into Woods Hole’s Great Harbor and the tide was high, lapping at the tops of the docks.  The Martha’s Vineyard ferries were bobbing visibly on the piers outside our windows.  Salt spray was washing over the building, covering the plants whipping in the 40-50 MPH winds.

Inside, many went back to bed, lulled to sleep by the roar of the winds and the dark light.  A group from one of the weddings gathered to watch a ten-month old baby crawl across the king size bed.  Little Susannah was adorable but I bet if the TV had been on with weather news, that would never have happened.  Someone broke out the Jenga and played a few distracted rounds before moving back to the hot tea and cookies.  Even the Sunday New York Times held little appeal — it was yesterday’s news and we were in the middle of the story of the week.  There really was nothing to do but wait it out.

By mid afternoon, it seemed to be tapering a bit.  It never hit the intensity of my memory of Hurricane Bob where the scream of the wind put your teeth on edge and the curvature of the glass windows threatened to bring the storm inside.  It didn’t rain a lot, which is a blessing as I watched roof tile whip past me to the street half the morning.  For us, several hundred miles from the eye, Irene was downgraded to a “tropical storm” and she was an entertaining but well-behaved actress, like a burlesque dancer from the roaring 1920’s (Irene) compared to a stripper on the “Sopranos.” (a stripper named Bob?  I guess on the Sopranos…)

I wandered out in the car.   The surf on Nobska Beach was intense, really churning in a way that we never see in Vineyard Sound (protected from the prevailing winds by Martha’s Vineyard.)  There was this bright yellow foam whipping off the top of the waves and oozing over the road in strips.  I heard that Surf Drive was impassable, covered with drifts of sand and seawater.  When I ventured from the car I felt small and vulnerable, the sound of the wind an overwhelming roar, and I struggled to keep my balance.

Crazy people frolic in the dangerous surf of Irene.

On the way home, I saw a power line bucking and sparking by the Sands of Time.  I later heard that when NStar tried to put our grid back online there was an explosion in a local house, burning it to the ground.  Terrible.  I hurried home, made a light dinner and collapsed.

Then it was just over.  A gorgeous day today, sunny and cool, the taste of fall in the air.  Except for the downed branches and the unusual smell of fresh green crushed leaves, you would never know there had been a storm.  The ducks were out on their favorite little dock, the only difference that a summer’s worth of duck poop was miraculously gone, fresh scrubbed, as if it was made new by some magic cobblers in the night.    I marveled at the small brown birds – so resilient! Where did they hide in all that wind?

Up way too early, I conquered the Inn’s generator system, managing to make warmish showers, hot coffee and freshly baked croissants with one plug and five gallons of gas.  I have to admit, I was pretty impressed with myself as mechanical tasks are amongst my most dreaded, and generally least successful.  Charlene took the sheets into Falmouth (can you say laundromat?) and Amanda and I cleaned rooms with brooms, dustpans and rags.  By three pm, we were still without power but miraculously ready to check in new guests.  We even managed a new batch of cookies.

When NStar showed up on the pole right outside the front door of the Inn I knew we were close.  Power was restored about 5.30 pm, my trusty generator put away for another day.  Irene was relatively sweet to us.  We we ready for worse, but so lucky we only got her simple side.  Our hearts go out to others out there not so lucky. We know first hand how scary it can be.  Now I hear there is a new tropical depression brewing out there…so we take our experience from this one and we wait for another battle.   Next time, less florescent camping lanterns and more battery operated candles!  I am gonna need that forgiving faux flicker to weather the next one.

Red Chair Diaries

June 18, 2011 by Beth Colt

The first red chair photo, January 2011

Becoming an innkeeper is a curious transition that starts with worrying about all the little details (do we have enough toilet paper?  Is the boiler working?) and eventually transforms to a place where the small interactions with one’s guests can make or break a year.  On that front, 2011 is a very good year.

Thus begins the tale of the red chair.  We moved to Woods Hole last year and made numerous trips to the swap shop (a wonderful institution at the town dump where you can drop off or pick up gently used stuff) and one day we found these two painted red wooden chairs.  Pretty solid, I said to my husband.  Yes, perfect for our new porch, he mused.  So into the trunk they went, paint peeling a bit, dirt crusted in the corners but a nice solid color, definitely worth cleaning up.

Six months later, in January, the small pond behind our house froze.   We decided to go skating one afternoon.   I grabbed one of the red chairs to help the kids get their skates on.  It was glowery and cold, with the light threatening to turn to actual darkness.  The pond was grey, silent, ringed with houses many of them dark in winter.  I stamped my feet to keep warm, listening to the skates whisk across the ice.  Cold and too dark now, I hustled the kids inside for dinner.  As we cleared the gear, I looked back and noticed we had forgotten the red chair.  There is sat, alone on the pond.  I snapped it’s portrait with my handy iPhone.

Later that evening, I posted the picture on Facebook as part of my photo project (“365” – I attempt a new picture every day).  The image of the red chair ignited my FB friends and fans — I have never received as many comments.  People wanted copies of the photo, poster size.  I explained that this picture was taken on my iPhone in low light — unlikely to look very good blown up beyond 5×7.

One day in March, I received an email from a prospective guest from Santa Barbara.  She was coming to Boston to see her boyfriend and they were looking for a good place to stay.  She had seen my photos of Woods Hole on Facebook and wanted to come to the Woods Hole Inn because Woods Hole looked so beautiful (which it is, BTW).  Wow, I thought, all the way from the west coast…it really is a small online world.  She booked the room.  As we got close to the date, she emailed again.  She was a photographer, she said, and she loved my picture with the red chair.  Could she borrow it over the weekend for a photo shoot?

Well, I have to admit my first reaction was, huh? Now that is an unusual request!  That’s MY chair.   Then I remembered the swap shop.  This is not my chair at all, it is a chair passing through my life and I need to share it, I reasoned.  It is meant to be shared.   I loaded the chair up in my Prius, drove it over and parked it on the front porch of the Inn.

The red chair comes to the Woods Hole Inn, March 2011.

We had a family obligation that weekend and I left the Inn in the hands of my very competent staff.  When I came back, on Monday, the chair was still on the porch and I asked — did our guest use the chair?  Oh, I told her where it was and I think she did.  Well, did she say anything about it?  Nope, said she had a good time, that was it.  Hmmm, not very satisfying after hauling the chair across town but I brought it home and forgot about it.

About a month later, the red chair guest emailed asking for our address.  She had taken a picture with the chair and wanted to send me a copy.  She said the red chair had opened a whole new place in her work and she wanted to thank me.  I emailed back that she could just send me a digital file or post it on Facebook but she said no, she had something to send me.

Turns out our red chair guest is a professional nature photographer.  And a really good one at that.

About two weeks later a huge package arrived — what is this, I thought, what have I ordered now?  I opened the package, and there was the most incredible shot of Nobska Beach in winter, with the red chair out on the beach before the crashing waves.   I was literally breathless looking at this image, tears welled.  It was such a simple composition, both the chair and the beach so familiar to me and yet a totally fresh and new juxtaposition.  The winter waves crashing toward the grey sand.  The snow fence perfectly framing it, inviting me in.  Breathtaking.

I carried it around the inn like a teenage girl with a Justin Bieber autograph.  Look at this!  This came from our guest!  Can you believe it #@*?!!   It’s the red chair!  I put it right up in a prominent place by our guest water cooler.  I put a little sign next to it with the photographer’s website.   I emailed her a love note of appreciation.

Red chair on Nobska Beach in winter now hangs in the front room of the Woods Hole Inn.

So now, whenever I pass this picture, I think about the dialogue we have with our guests.  Sometimes it’s as simple as can I have another towel, or where is the best place for dinner tonight?  Or repetitious, yes the Martha’s Vineyard ferry is right across the street.  Or even disappointing,  as when someone is tired or grumpy.

But this dialogue always involves the give and take between real people who come to the inn with the rich back stories of whole and interesting lives.  It reminds me that we mostly scratch the surface when there are oceans of personality, talent, life experience floating underneath the rote interactions (here is your room key, breakfast is served between 8 and 10, the parking lot is right behind the building).  I wonder if we added questions like, what is your favorite color, what does the ocean mean to you and have you ever read Sartre? —  would we learn more or just scare people?  Probably the latter.

For me, the metaphor of the red chair is the invitation to come explore yourself in a quiet and beautiful place.  It is an open seat at the table of relaxation.  It is the beckoning hand of civilization, marking the edge of the wildness of nature where you can lose and find yourself at the same time.  It is the dialogue between artists and innkeepers, dreamers and shop-girls, lost travelers and those that welcome them into warm beds.  We are all – on some level — lovers of destination, landscape, color.

What does the red chair mean to you?

To read an update on this story, check out this post.

Skating with the red chair, January 2011.