Ernie Boch asks boat builder to seek a new home for scow

Ernie Boch asks boat builder to seek a new home for scow

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Carpenter Ted Box's boatbuilding shed and his partially built scow schooner Seeker have to be off the Boch property on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven by the end of September. What to do next? Time and money are short. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

For more than two years Islanders and passersby have watched boat builder Theodore “Ted” Box construct the wooden skow “Seeker” under an open shed on a lot off Beach Road within an oar toss of Vineyard Haven harbor. Ernie Boch Jr., the lot’s owner, has asked Mr. Box to either set sail or find a new home for his boat project by the end of September. Mr. Boch told The Times he wants to clean up and develop the long vacant waterfront lot, starting with the demolition of the derelict Entwistle building.

In a telephone conversation Monday, Mr. Boch said he does not have anything specific in mind but wants to do something that will benefit the town and be good looking. “I wouldn’t mind putting some condos, and some marine use, something nice that we can all be proud of,” he said. “I really don’t know yet what they’ll let me put there.”

The Seeker’s open boatshed is located on the Beach Road lot Mr. Boch owns across from the Citgo Station and adjacent to Five Corners. Mr. Box leased the lot from Mr. Boch in April 2011, with the expectation it would take him and his son Jake about a year to construct and launch the wooden scow.

“Ted was there a lot longer than he planned, and we came up with a date we both agreed would be okay for both of us,” Mr. Boch said. “So he’s going to move the boat into the water, so the lot will be clear.”

Once the Entwistle building is demolished, Mr. Boch plans to ask consultants to walk the property with him and strategize about what to build there, and then sketch something out to propose to the town. He said the town previously told him the old building, which has housed a lumber business and Sturgis Entwistle’s woodworking shop, was historic and refused his request to take it down.

“Now, they’re ordering me to take it down,” he said with a laugh. “So I’m glad, because it’s an eyesore. Once that’s down, that will give me a clearer view of exactly what the lot’s like, and I would like to do something that’s acceptable to the town so that it will make it nice.”

An Edgartown seasonal resident, Mr. Boch is president and CEO of Boch Enterprises, which operates automobile dealerships. He is also a well-known philanthropist who has funded an Island police K-9 unit and outfitted a new police rescue boat in Edgartown.

Mr. Boch’s talk about redeveloping the long disused lot comes at the same time that two projects around the corner on Water Street have begun to move through the regulatory process.

The Stop & Shop Company wants to build a new, two-story, 23,800-square-foot market with parking for 42 vehicles on the site of its existing properties.

And the Island Housing Trust (IHT) plans to turn a dilapidated house between Stop & Shop and A-A Island Auto Rental, near Five Corners, into affordable housing. Cronig’s Market owner Steve Bernier bought the house and donated it to IHT.

Launch or not?

Last week, Mr. Box placed a chalkboard sign in front of the lot advertising the availability of the shed free for the taking. With a September deadline looming, Mr. Box said he is weighing his options for wrapping up the 100-foot scow’s construction, moving it or launching it, and removing the boatshed. He said the simplest solution for him, which he proposed in an email to Mr. Boch, would be to move the boat onto a cradle on the beach, finish it over the winter, and launch it in the spring.

“He [Mr. Boch] may or may not give permission, based on how he sees it affecting his plans,” Mr. Box said, adding that he understands that Mr. Boch has to do what’s best for him.

“Whether the scow continues its journey into the water will be determined by Ernie’s response to my email,” he said. “If it does go into the water, it will go in on September 21.”

If the scow is launched, Mr. Box has to find a place to put it where he can continue to work on it. But he would prefer it to remain high and dry.

“I’m still not comfortable with putting it in the water without a deck on it,” he said. “It could be done, but that’s not the way you want to do it. We’re in the process of caulking the bottom; we have one side done and the other will be done in two or three weeks. If worse comes to worst, I’ll have to do something with it, because it’s too big to move down the street.”

Mr. Box said that Ralph M. Packer Jr., owner of R.M. Packer Company and Tisbury Towing, has offered to help roll the scow into the water “Egyptian style.”

“We will make a cradle for it, put planks down, and use a piece of equipment to pull it into the water over rollers made of metal pipes, laid on the ground,” he explained.

It may not be that simple. Any path to the sea would first need approval by the Tisbury conservation commission. Jane Varkonda, Tisbury conservation commission agent, said the beach is a coastal dune. Asked if Mr. Box would need approval for any plan to roll the boat, Ms. Varkonda said, “Absolutely.”

Fundraising is key

“My whole reason for doing this is to work with at-risk kids.” he said. “Once it’s in the water, I think it will be self-sufficient, it will earn money.”

Mr. Box, who is also a driftwood furniture artisan, envisions the scow being used as a platform for the arts, corporate seminars, and a distant learning campus for universities.

He said he has put about $90,000 of his own money into the scow and expects he will need an additional $150,000 to finish and outfit it. Mr. Box said the Seeker project is going through the process of obtaining 501(c)(3) non-profit status.

“I don’t mind if I have to earn every one of those dollars; it wouldn’t bother me,” Mr. Box said. “My driftwood furniture does well, I can find ways. I’ve been working with some of the Island’s most talented fundraisers, too, and I think that it’s attracting that kind of attention.”

About $3,000 has been collected through a donation box on-site this summer, bringing total donations up to around $11,000, including gifts and proceeds from an Internet fundraising campaign. Several Island businesses have given him large discounts on supplies.

The project’s website, has also provided a source of donations. Mr. Box said he also has applied for grants and received his first one from the Martha’s Vineyard Arts Council.

Most of the work on the scow has been done by Mr. Box and a cadre of volunteer laborers, including high school students, friends, and a group of senior carpenters and woodworkers.

Mr. Box said Mr. Packer and Black Dog owner Bob Douglas have given invaluable support and advice, along with wooden boat builders and experts Ross Gannon and Nat Benjamin next door at Gannon and Benjamin Marine Railway.

Mr. Box praised Mr. Boch for his generosity — and patience — with the project in a phone conversation with The Times on Monday.

“It would not be fair to paint him as being unsympathetic; I think he’s been wonderful,” Mr. Box said. He firmly denied Island rumors that he was evicted.

“It was just an agreement we came to, that Mr. Boch extended the lease until the end of September,” Mr. Box said. “I originally had a six- or nine-month lease and then it went month to month.”

Parking lot, not

Once the scow is removed, Mr. Boch can expect to navigate through the Island’s often tricky regulatory and permitting process before anything is built on the lot that has remained vacant since 1999.

Mr. Boch’s father, automobile dealership mogul Ernest J. Boch Sr., who died in 2003, purchased the property in 1987 for $600,000. His plan to build a 99-car valet parking lot ultimately lead to a long running regulatory battle between Mr. Boch, the Tisbury planning board, and zoning and building inspector Ken Barwick, who said it could not be used for parking cars. Ultimately, Mr. Boch shut the lot.

The property is subject to an overlay of zoning regulations. It sits within the town’s waterfront/commercial district and the Vineyard Haven Harbor District designated by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. Various permitted uses would include retail, wholesale, service, office, public utility, fish processing, and marinas. A restaurant or outdoor café also could be built on the Boch Park site with a special permit from the planning board. Any use would also require the approval of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

In February 2002, a group of Tisbury residents proposed the town acquire the property to create a public park. In January, 2003, Kathryn Roessel, then Vineyard Steamship Authority member, asked boatline management to explore the possibility of a purchase to use the Boch lot for SSA employee parking. In April 2008, a group of voters asked the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank to purchase the property. Land Bank officials said it would not be a good use of funds to purchase small in-town parcels.

The unused property has contributed one benefit for the town. In fiscal 2013, the Boch family paid $15,256 in property taxes, according to the Tisbury tax collector/treasurer’s office.


  1. Regarding Mr. Boch’s Vineyard Haven site: Having chatted with Mr. Boch several times in my neighborhood west of Boston I know him to be a generous and creative dude The Times article noted that Mr. Boch’s site has been considered for a public park. I wonder if he would consider creating an awesome park and donating it to the island, in honor of his late dad: “Come on down” Park.

    1. I knew Ernie Jr.’s father well. Though he could be cantankerous, he was among the most generous men I have ever known. Without fanfare, he helped many in need, never asking for anything in return.

  2. This lot should never be allowed to develop. Any establishment built on it will certainly be underwater in the next 50years. An unwise investment indeed.

        1. You could probably get some scrapings for DNA samples from the stuffed heath hens up in Cambridge, and then just whip up a pair of those critters in your home basement cloning lab….

  3. One would hope that any future use would be a contribution to a legitimate, working waterfront but I know I’m dreaming. The idea that the waterfront would continue to have any maritime significance is sadly anachronistic at this point but wouldn’t be wonderful if there were several large and small wooden boats under construction on the property?That it will become a parking lot, a public park or a tacky condo-arcade are all equally repugnant images, all for different reasons. Perhaps Mr. Boch will consider turning it into a maritime museum and working boatyard along the lines of Plimoth Plantation. I bet he would get a huge amount of support from the Island community.

  4. At least someone put the property to good use the last couple of years. Nothing wrong with students helping someone build a boat. At least let the guy work on his boat while Mr. Boch and the town explore their options.

  5. My husband is one of the “senior … woodworkers” who has worked with Ted on building Seeker . It is a project that has brought interest to original forms of boat building and to Vineyard Haven itself. There have been hundreds of people who have stopped by the boat, asked many good questions, expressed admiration and support, and, in some, cases, have returned to help . Those of us who have helped by being “tour guides” have also answered questions about what to do and where to go in Vineyard Haven and elsewhere on the island. Good will ambassadors, perhaps . The interest in actually seeing an original form of boat building is high on the visitors’ comments list.
    I very much like and second the comments by “farmer5″ and
    “RedSoxPatriotsCelticsBruinsFan”. The idea of yet another large commercial building, especially a condo, is not my idea of adding to the location and the spirit of the area. Blocking the view of the harbor and boats and taking away from the general nautical history is not what I would label as contributing to the town. I would hope that Mr. Boch’s undeniable generosity and philanthropy would also extend to his sense of community and history. Might there not be some compromise position that would be a win-win for all ?

  6. Sorry to see so much disruption of OUR community. How can you take away a historical landmark and think nothing of it. We do not need Condo’s there. Traffic is already hard to bare during the summer months, never mind you wanting housing in a commercial development. I say NO to your plans Mr. Boch. A public park, he never did anything to make it a park- a parking LOT yes, but no park.

    1. You almost have to knock down these historical buildings. With the new building codes and making them handicap accessible its impossible to renovate them. Im afraid alot of historical buildings will have to meet the wrecking ball because of costs.The Hall family owns quite a few, just walk down main street in Edgartown.Im glad the town is now willing to talk to Mr Boch about improvements.

  7. “Mr. Boch said he does not have anything specific in mind but wants to do something that will benefit the town and be good looking…” Condos wasn’t my first thought, but as a family man, a public park would be a welcome site to the area. I wish Mr. Box and his crew all the best and look forward to bringing my kids aboard the Seeker one day.

  8. I seem to remember commenting that this boat will not be done for years and I was accused of being a sad sack. The boat should never have been allowed/. the place is a mess.

    1. Hey Semmelt,
      Looks like a wooden boat under construction to me and thank heavens there are still people around like Ted Box and his son who turn their dreams into a beautiful reality. I also can’t believe that some of the people posting here have denigrated Mr. Box for taking ample time to show them around and talk to them about his project. Thank you Ted for demonstrating what is possible when one puts their wholehearted and uncompromised effort into a dream. I guess Semmelt thought the vacant gravel lot dotted with weeds and litter was a better and more attractive use.
      Forge on Ted!

      1. To be fair, I believe Shlemmeil did say the boat will not be done for years. When a sad sack is right, he’s right, and we all know that it takes a special person to make sure he says ‘I told you so’.

      2. It was also being used to sell a car or two while ted was building the boat. It’s an eyesore until someone tells him to clean it then a month later it’s an eyesore again. Semmelt, I agree with you.

    2. I think it’s a great project, and it has been very interesting to watch the progress of a large wooden boat being built. I think it fits perfectly with the area. We all have our opinions about what looks good and appropriate. I hope Mr Boch doesn’t decide to put a 20,000 sq ft trophy house there..

      You also thought the roundabout would take years. I guess if you predict worse case scenarios often enough you will be right once in a while. Congratulations..

  9. You’ve got town sewer and potential beer licenses. He’s gonna make it into a pedestrian mall with quaint shops and watering holes(with food, of course).

    1. The waterfront commercial bylaw works on a case by case basis. Anything is possible or impossible. It certainly seems that some people think that Mr. Boch has no say in what he should do with his property though.

  10. Public park….really? How about we take your property and let people trample it and punk kids deface it? He owns it and that makes it his. I do think condos are a terrible idea, and he should and will be held to the strict and impossible guidelines this town makes up as they go along. I think a park sounds great. A private park therefore it is private property. Also Mr. Box is doing an incredible job half of you people couldn’t build a birdhouse in his timeframe. Go get em Ted and Ernie!!!

  11. All you romantics swooning about this project. This is an ill advised dream. He has 90k in it and needs another 150k and he collects money from passers by. If you want to spend your own money on your own land and subsidize it yourself fine. Go ahead. You are putting yourself out there and buying sympathy and cash from the general public in the hopes of supporting your hobby. You are destroying economic value and you will never get a return on your investment. Waste your own money not someone else’s. He hasn’t met his own timetable and he doesn’t have any money and you folks think this is great. I know, I am a mean spirited fuddy duddy.

    1. Semmelt, it doesn’t take a romantic to admire the hard work and immense determination of an individual in pursuit of a dream. Mr. Box hasn’t tried to cadge sympathy or bucks from the general public in any way that I can see and accepting donations from people who in a small way appreciate his effort and admire his enthusiasm has nothing to do with return on investment or economic value. The fact that Ted hasn’t ‘met his own timetable’ as you put it says more about you than Ted.
      After reading several of the comments in this thread I decided to finally pull over and see the project up close for the first time in two years. The glimpses from the road don’t nearly due it justice and I was bowled over by the magnitude of what Ted has accomplished. I made a donation on the spot and felt good about helping out in some small way. I’m sure I’ll feel good about my decision every time I spot the Seeker floating in the harbor in the years to come regardless of your views on economic value and return on investment. Come to think of it- it was comments like yours, LocalOpine and Larche that finally got me down there!
      Maybe you three should spend some time together.

      1. You should re read your comments. You say he hasn’t tried to cadge sympathy and bucks but then he accepts donations and he has a sign up. Dissonance Farmer5? As for hard work, I respect it and there should be more of it, but dreams subsidized by others in a locations subsidized by another and not on schedule shows disrespect. Magnitude yes, a huge project and perhaps a worthwhile one but he couldn’t do it himself without someone else’s voluntary support. Too many people are trying to do things here on MV with someone else’s money rather than trying to be independent of anyone for financial resources.

        1. There are many, many worthwhile causes that don’t follow your narrow and misapplied definition of business soundness and exist in part, largely or even solely by virtue of donations from other people and groups. And many people gladly, freely and enthusiastically donate their efforts and money to things they believe in. Accepting donations seems to really rattle your cage Semmelt. Because the Seeker couldn’t be built entirely out of the builder’s pockets has nothing to do with anything that warrants discussion. Maybe I am just a romantic at heart Semmelt, but it sure beats the daylights out of being miserable.

          1. Farmer5 you still don’t understand or don’t want to. I am not talking abut worthwhile causes. I support many with my time and treasure. I am talking about coercive deficiency. Putting oneself into a situation that you cannot manage alone and hoping and relying on support from others. Later failing in the venture due to money and timetable, and therefore making yourself a ward of others or forcing someone else to now be manifestly incapable of anything other than bailing you out. That is what I am talking about.. If Farmer5 wants to start a project that he thinks is worthwhile, he can gather amongst his family and friends and say the project will take 10k, will you join me in making this work. will you commit and if you cannot commit and I cant raise the money, I will not begin the project. This island has an integrity deficit and a mindset that someone else will pay, whether it be bad debt left at a hardware store or lived in homes owned by the bank, or personal loans from friends never paid back. The mindset is one of others have means and they need to share with me for equal redistribution.

          2. Because the cost of boat timber doubled during the last two years does not equal ‘coercive deficiency’.
            A quick scan of your comments above turns up, ‘ill-advised dream’, ‘destroyer of economic value’ and ‘return on investment’. I think the portrait drawn from your words is fairly clear, Semmelt.
            Mr. Box is building a very large wooden boat on a piece of unused property that was generously donated for that purpose. He hasn’t coerced anyone into helping him or donating their money. I think your tax dollars are safe, Semmelt. Probably time to move on.

          3. I found it hard to believe they sent $100,000.00 building that whaleboat. I bet theY spent less than that to build Liberty Ships.

          4. Don’t forget that Liberty ships were basically built as ‘disposable’ ships. The Merchant Marine lost more men on a percentage basis than any branch of the armed forces yet weren’t granted veteran status until the mid 1980’s. Those losses include crews lost when ships routinely broke in half (usually due to metal fatigue brought on by the cold water of the North Atlantic).
            But what does this have to do with Seeker and Ted Box?

          5. Don’t know whether thus project was ill advised but the last boat Ted Box moved he basically destroyed. This one is larger. If allowed on the sand dune how long would it be there and who is responsible if it is impacted by a hurricane or storm surge in that vulnerable spot? These are questions the Con Com will surely ask. And if launched without engine or sails and no mooring then what? The last boat he had sank at its mooring. Perhaps not his fault, but still, it is a huge responsibility. Cash is needed to maintain a vessel on the water and clearly cash to complete the project is not there. An angel is needed. Perhaps one will be found. Let’s hope so for the sake of this project.

          6. At last, an intelligent post from someone named anodyne99.. so Box has some history that isn’t all good. Interesting.

          7. And speaking of lending a helping hand, Semmelt…
            Years ago when the nearby G & B shop burned to the ground I joined the large group of unpaid volunteers who gathered to help rebuild it in an old fashioned barn raising. I wasn’t a carpenter and I didn’t have any money but I nailed decking all day. Maybe you could calculate my return on investment.

          8. you offered it, you volunteered a helping hand. It wasn’t asked of you and you were not placed in a situation whereby you must do it. Are MV people all so slow in understanding distinctions?

          9. Sorry Semmelt-
            I didn’t know that Ted Box was conscripting labor and donations. I must have missed that in the fine print. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.

          10. I can only imagine what you think of Kickstarter and Indie Gogo. You probably don’t even know what they do. I understand what you are saying about a certain Vineyard mindset among some, but you need to know that for those who support true innovators who bring wonder into our day to day world, your thinking is going the way of the dinosaurs. Thank goodness for those who think outside the “box”.

          11. MVCatz, this isnt an innovation that results in entrepreneurial success and a boost for others. This is a hobby that cannot be fulfilled without someone else’s financial assistance. what is going the way of dinosaurs is hard work and economic activity and self reliance.

  12. That’s part of the problem. Ted came down the stairs to talk to everyone. That’s why the work has been so slow. Do you think it takes years to become a 501(C)3? No. The Rotary Club could have helped do that from day one getting you up and running with tax free status help.

    Let Boch do what he wants within current zoning. It’s his property. If he wants a park fine, no park, fine. I love how everyone determines what HIS property should be.

  13. I would like to respectfully ask how many times you have visited the Seeker site all through the year. Most of the time it is others who speak with visitors and allow Ted to continue working. I am also not aware that anyone even offered the information about help from Rotary Club. Until you know the exact reasons for the time that you label as “so slow”, and until you are the one building a 70+ foot wooden boat in the traditional way and have walked that mile in Ted Box’s shoes, please reserve such harsh judgement.

    I don’t think that people would have a problem with a choice to eventually use the property for a park. It’s the possibility of the maritime and boat building history, and a harbor/boats view being buried by such as a condo that seems unnecessary.

  14. I sincerely appreciate my roots. Guess you are not from here. Sorry you feel that way.

  15. Ted is generous and does occasionally take time off from hard work to show consideration for those who come by. I stand by my previous reply, however. You seem to be taking on full responsibility for any perceived delays ! Quite magnanimous of you, but truly unnecessary !

  16. I will really take issue with that comment, Jonathan.. I have been building houses on this island for the last 25 years. On my own experiences dealing with him , he has always been completely across the board fair, and unbiased.. Every other carpenter and contractor I have ever spoken to about him has said the same thing. There are other inspectors that are prone to letting their mood or personal biases interfere with their judgment, but not Mr. Barwick.. I hope Doug Cabral takes your comment down out of
    fairness and respect to one of the best, fairest, and honest building inspectors this island has ever seen.

  17. I actually am from here. Born and raised actually with 4 kids all born here too. I appreciate my roots and the ancestors that left their mark here. It’s not Ted property. He was a tenant and the landlord asked him to leave. Vacate. It took ted much longer by his own admissions to build it due to lack of funds, not space. The boat building nature continues on the harbor front in the form of G and B. It’s alive all over the island actually.

    As far as rotary help. Did ted ever ask? He certainly is not shy about giving interviews, asking for money or overstaying his time on Boch’s lot. He could have asked many of the people that stop by or posted a note as to who and how he could form a 501 C 3.