Solo Swim to Nantucket from Cape Cod to Benefit Nantucket Cottage Hospital Cancer Fund

by Jason Graziadei

No one has attempted a solo swim across the 30 miles of open water between Nantucket and Cape Cod in nearly three decades. The only man known to have successfully completed a solo crossing is Paul Asmuth, an International Swimming Hall of Famer who swam from Nantucket to Hyannis in just over 12 hours back in 1986.

This summer Grant Wentworth wants to match Asmuth’s incredible feat.
In July, the 28-year-old Nantucket summer resident will attempt a solo swim from Cape Cod to Nantucket—the opposite direction of Asmuth’s crossing in ’86—in what will be an incredible test of his stamina, willpower, and mental toughness.

“I’ve been looking out at this body of water my whole life,” Wentworth said, “and I think the idea was always in my mind: is this something that’s possible?”

Last Monday, June 22, Nantucket Cottage Hospital announced that an anonymous donor has stepped forward with a $25,000 challenge grant toward Grant Wentworth’s solo swim from Cape Cod to Nantucket to benefit the hospital’s cancer care program.
The challenge grant means that every dollar contributed to Wentworth’s swim up to $25,000 will be matched by this anonymous donor.  Through the Swim Across America charitable organization, Grant has already raised more than $105,000 to benefit Nantucket Cottage Hospital’s oncology program, which provides on-island care for Nantucket cancer patients and brings oncologists from the Mass General Cancer Center to the island.
And he will need all the motivation and goodwill he can get. The swim will be a crucible of endurance as Wentworth navigates miles of shark-infested open water over the course of 12 to 15 hours.

“Initially there were a lot of people who thought it was a crazy idea, but once that initial shock wore off, it’s been really incredible to see the amount of support that I’ve received both emotionally and fiscally,” Wentworth said. “It resonates with a lot of people for a lot of reasons, but mainly because all of us have had someone close to us who has cancer, or had cancer. It’s touched all our lives.”

Grant Wentworth

Grant Wentworth

The sheer logistics of the swim are imposing. Wentworth plans to embark from Cape Cod’s Seagull Beach in West Yarmouth around 1 a.m., swimming for the first few hours in the dark before sunrise. Ensuring his safety during the trek across Nantucket Sound will be a team of supporters aboard two boats and kayaks who will follow him along the way. Wentworth’s goal is to finish at Great Point—the northern tip of the island closest to Cape Cod—but given the uncertainty of the winds and tides, he knows his landing point could be anywhere along Nantucket’s north shore.

Rather than set an arbitrary date for the swim, Wentworth has targeted a weeklong window of July 24 to July 31 in order to take advantage of the most ideal conditions in which to embark from Cape Cod. “There are things you can control and things you can’t control, and the weather is the biggest wildcard in this,” Wentworth said. “Anyone who knows Nantucket knows the winds can change several times in a day.”

But what about the sharks?

“That’s really something outside of our control,” Wentworth says with a laugh. “It pops in your mind and there are precautions you can take and we are taking. I’ll have kayakers with an electromagnetic device called a ‘shark shield’ which hopefully acts as something of a deterrent. It’s something we all think about but not something you can train for.”
Wentworth was an athlete growing up, participating in a number of different sports, but he didn’t get into open water swimming until after he suffered a back injury following his college years. Swimming became part of his rehabilitation, and Wentworth eventually worked his way onto a Swim Across America team that completed a relay across the English Channel last year.

To prepare for the Cape Cod-to-Nantucket swim, Wentworth is training with the assistance of Chloë McCardel, one of the world’s most accomplished open water swimmers who has completed seven solo crossings of the English Channel, and won the 28.5 mile Manhattan Island Marathon Swim in 2010. McCardel set a world record in 2014 for the longest unassisted ocean swim when she covered 77.3 miles from South Eleuthera Island to Nassau, Bahamas in 41 hours, 21 minutes. “When I mentioned to her last summer that I was thinking about this, she was really excited to get behind it,” Wentworth said of McCardel. “She’s been coaching me through the winter.”

Wentworth is now training by swimming about 40 kilometers every week and preparing his body for the open water conditions—what he calls core climatization.
“I’m confident my body will hold up at this point,” he said. “Now it’s the mental challenge of working through various conditions in that 12- to 15-hour window.”

And even as he prepares for the swim and considers all the factors and conditions necessary to make it a success, Wentworth is still hoping to raise even more money on top of the $100,000 he has already solicited for Nantucket Cottage Hospital’s cancer care program. Through a partnership with the Mass General Cancer Center, NCH is now bringing a team of world-class oncologists to Nantucket to see island cancer patients, allowing them to stay close to home for as much of their oncology care as possible.
“Cancer has touched all our lives, and there are a lot of cancer charities out there, but the Nantucket community is something I feel close to from my time there,” Wentworth said. “So for a swim in the water up there, I couldn’t think of a better cause to be the recipient of this.”

To donate to Wentworth’s swim, visit his Swim Across America page at

Book Fest Authors Write about Setting a Novel on Nantucket Island…

This weekend nationally- and internationally-acclaimed authors and hundreds of book-lovers will gather on Nantucket Island to share their love of books, their enthusiasm for writing, and their insights on the written word during the fourth annual Nantucket Book Festival.

More than 70 published writers participating in the three-day event will give talks, sign books, and discuss their work with readers and other authors, often in fun and conversational gatherings designed to foster personal relationships.  Invited authors, chosen by the Book Festival committee, represent a diverse range of genres and styles: novels, memoirs, poetry, children’s books, young adult fiction, history, cookbooks, and more.  We asked a few of them why they decided to participate…

Author Rosalyn Berne

Author Rosalyn Berne

Rosalyn Berne, author of Creating Life from Life – A Biotechnology and Science Fiction and When the Horses Whisper:  “I am participating because my novel was inspired by, and is set on Nantucket. What a wonderful opportunity to share my book with others who are physically right there, who will have walked past the buildings described, and along the streets where my main characters are living and moving around. Waiting in the Silence is a near term, historic science fiction novel, so the Nantucket Book Festival gives me an eerily delightful chance to go from from the historic, to the imaginative future, to present day reality. How surreal!”

Charles Soule, author of A Biker Undone, In the Same Space, Whaler’s Gold, andmore:  “My novels are set on Nantucket, and I’ve found it is an important event to promote the books.  Also, it is a great opportunity to visit and discuss writing with other authors.”

Author Daintry Jensen

Author Daintry Jensen on Nantucket Book Festival


Daintry Jensen, author of The Hidden Forest:  “I was really thrilled to get an invitation from Amy Jenness.  I think this is a wonderful event because there’s such a diverse group of people participating with one purpose – to celebrate books and the creative spirits behind them.  And of course, it’s on Nantucket, the place I think of as home.”


Author Scott Turow

Author Scott Turow

Scott Turow, author of Identical:  “Because it is summer on Nantucket!”

John Thompson, author of Salem VI: “Why am I participating in the Nantucket Book Festival? Are you kidding? First, it’s probably the most beautiful spot I know of that has a book festival. Second, I am absolutely a fan of so many of the great writers who will be attending. I am humbled and pleased beyond words to be included, and so excited I can’t stand it. Thank you, Nantucket Book Festival!!”

We also asked these featured authors about the importance of place in their novels…

Rosalyn Berne:  “I suppose that given the novel’s general subject of technology in the future, and how it affect human lives and communities, it could be set almost anywhere on earth. But I wanted to be able to use the history of the Island, especially the presence of Quakers  and the whaling industry, drawing heavily from the past to spin a tale of the future. The other reason why is that Nantucket is relatively pristine, environmentally speaking. The novel touches on the potentially devastating effects of climate change. Because of its wild beauty and also its environmental vulnerability, Nantucket is a really good setting to dramatize such.

“I honeymooned on Nantucket 35 years ago.  Dear friends live and work there year-round, so I visit when I am able. The island is a gem that I hold in my heart. I never actually planned to write a novel set on Nantucket. It just came up, actually in the middle of the night; the idea woke and I sat up and wrote until dawn a short story that eventually became the novel. Perhaps Nantucket was stored somewhere in my subconscious, as a representative of “the way that things use to be.” In my teaching and research on the emergence and convergence of newly developing technologies, my concern is that we may soon lose some very important elements of that “way” of living. Science fiction is the best means I have personally,  to express those concerns in ways that others may be able to relate to.”

Author Charles Soule

Author Charles Soule on Nantucket as a setting

Charles Soule:  “The settings of my novels on Nantucket has played a central role in my creative approach to the plots of my books. Being familiar with the island for more than thirty years allows me to select scenes that will be recognized by the reader and allows the reader to picture him or herself as a participant in the story.”

Daintry Jensen:  “I see setting almost as another character in the story – so very important.  Nantucket adds a whole other heightened element to this because it’s such a changeable place – from the weather, to the people, to the different areas – many of them hidden, off the beaten path.  There’s a real mystique and magic to the island.  With such dramatic history, realms of the unseen (how many ghost story collections do we have?), unparalleled natural beauty – it’s all here.  How lucky are we?  I actually didn’t even realize I was setting so many of my stories here until a good friend of mine pointed it out.  I guess you could say it’s in my blood.”

Scott Turow:  “The setting is often another character in a good novel.  Nantucket certainly has the charm and atmosphere to be that prominent.”

Author John Thompson

Author John Thompson

John Thompson: “Is setting important? Heck yes! It can be so important, so rich, so full of life and mystery and intensity in some stories that it becomes a virtual character. In others stories a unique setting provides the possibility for a story to exist that would simply not be able to take place in any other place. Think about Jaws and the sea, Huckleberry Finn and the river, Robinson Crusoe and the deserted island, or Dorothy in Oz. Think about Tolkien and Middle Earth, Robert Heinlein and space, George R. R. Martin and the Wall in Game of Thrones. Setting defines what can happen, how it can happen, who the players will be, and setting is often the ultimate source of a story’s conflict. In that sense Nantucket would be a great setting for a novel, a place that is small and contained with lots of big characters, perhaps something in the vein of Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, or Tom McGuane’s The Sporting Club.”

Strange Visitors on Nantucket that Are Not Here for Figawi

by Dr. Sarah D. Oktay
Director, University of Massachusetts Nantucket Field Station

Tyler Bradbury and Mike Strazzula were in Madaket enjoying the sunset on a warm spring evening when they saw this giant white thing flapping in the surf. What they were looking at was a rare oarfish, the longest bony fish in the ocean.  Also known as King of the Herrings, oarfish have ribbon-like bodies that can grow up to 50 feet in length.  The fish is found worldwide, but is most common in cooler waters at latitudes greater than 15° and in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.  It normally ranges as deep in the ocean as 3000 feet but they occasionally venture into shallower waters, especially after storms.  Its scaleless body is covered with a silver to silvery-blue skin and is topped with an ornate, red dorsal fin that resembles a decorative headdress.  This dorsal fin runs the entire length of the fish, with a tiny spine projecting above each of over 400 individual fin rays.  The pelvic fins of this fish are elongated and similarly colored.  They swim vertically, heads up, with their bodies stiff and undulating only the dorsal fin.  Large adults have been known to kill themselves by swimming onto beaches.

It has a small mouth with no visible teeth.  Their diet consists mainly of plankton, small crustaceans, and small squid that they strain from the water using specially formed gill rakes in their mouth.  In turn, the oarfish may be a food source for larger ocean carnivores such as sharks.  They normally stay in very deep water and rarely venture near shore.
Little is known about the reproductive habits of the oarfish, although they have been observed spawning off the coast of Mexico between July and December.  After spawning, the eggs are abandoned by the adults to float on the ocean surface until hatching. Once hatched, the tiny larvae feed mainly on plankton until they mature. Adult oarfish are thought to live solitary lives.

Big kudos go to Mike Strazzula, Tyler Bradbury, and Chris Kinch who shared this discovery and returned the oarfish safely to the ocean.  They also quickly alerted the Maria Mitchell Association and, through the magic of Facebook, the image made the rounds of the island so that all of us could be on the lookout for it.  If you find an oarfish alive, please get it back to the water.  If found on the beach dead, the Maria Mitchell Association asks you to call 508-228-9198 or bring it to the Maria Mitchell Association on 4 Vestal Street so that it can be studied and recorded.

If that wasn’t enough excitement for the month, apparently some white beluga whales got wind of a gathering around Nantucket and decided to make a very rare appearance in our local waters.  Also on May 4, Jesse Dutra reported to me via Facebook that he saw white beluga whales near the jetties in Nantucket Harbor.

For the full article and photos, visit

Giant Oarfish on Nantucket. Photo courtesy of Maria Mitchell Association

Giant Oarfish on Nantucket. Photo courtesy of Maria Mitchell Association

Confessions of a Whiskey Drinker at Nantucket Wine Fest – Top Three

With the exception of a bottle of extraordinary burgundy that Wine Fest Founder Denis Toner shared with me one February evening at Fifty-Six Union, the joys of wine are lost on me.  Given the choice, I’ll take whiskey over wine every time.

There, I said it.

This week on Nantucket, with the annual Wine Festival in full swing, a confession like this could be deemed traitorous.  But I can’t fake it any longer, and I’ve recently discovered that I am not alone.  So here are my top three ideas on where a whiskey drinker can come out of the cellar and enjoy Nantucket Island during Wine Festival weekend.

Brant Point Grill is in the heart of the action during Wine Fest, but they also offer a selection of nine different premium whiskeys and have nearly as many bourbons in their repertoire that are perfect served neat.  If you prefer yours in a cocktail, then it’s hard to find anything better than their Barrel Aged Manhattan that is mixed and aged in an oak barrel with medium char and emerges smoother than the newly mixed version, with a tinge of smokiness.

I was a whiskey virgin before Orla Murphy-LaScola introduced me years ago to the variety she and Chef Michael LaScola offered at American Seasons.  Now co-owners of The Proprietors bar & table on India Street, Orla has brought to this new location a superb selection of 21 imported and 15 American whiskeys.  Cocktails of choice for whiskey drinkers here are the No. 3: “Calming, Bright, Serendipitous” and the No. 5: “Clean, Sparkling, and Quixotic.”

Notch 10 year at Cisco Brewers on Nantucket

Notch 10 year at Cisco Brewers on Nantucket

For a heady mix of music and spirits, head out to the open air bar at Cisco Brewers on Bartlett Farm Road for a glass of award-winning Notch by master distiller Randy Hudson of Triple Eight.  The Notch (10-year-old and 12-year-old) has been racking up accolades including a Gold Medal, Double Gold, and Best in Category from the American Distilling Institute, a Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirit Competition, and American Single Malt Distillery of the year by the Berlin International Spirits Competition — and those are just from 2015 (so far)!

So forget red and white, and savor the golden nectar.