Tisbury building inspector nixes scow Seeker’s next stop

Tisbury building inspector nixes scow Seeker’s next stop

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The 32-ton partially finished scow "Seeker." — Photo by Ralph Stewart

For the past month, Ted Box had been preparing to move Seeker, the 90-foot wooden scow schooner that’s been under construction for the past two and a half years in a lot on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven, to a vacant lot owned by Ralph Packer behind the Shell gas station, a stone’s throw from the sea, where he hoped to finish construction. But he’s run into a bureaucratic squall.

Tisbury building and zoning inspector Kenneth Barwick told Mr. Box that moving the boat to the lot by the sea would create a safety hazard and that the lot is too small to allow for the necessary setbacks.

Mr. Box started building the vessel in the spring of 2011, on the lot where the boat now sits, which is owned by Ernie Boch, a seasonal Edgartown resident and the chief executive of Subaru of New England. The lot had been vacant since 1999.

In September, Mr. Boch asked Mr. Box to either set sail or find a new home for his project by the end of the month. Mr. Boch told The Times he wants to clean up and develop the long vacant waterfront lot, beginning with the demolition of the derelict Entwistle building. Mr. Boch later gave Mr. Box more time.

Mr. Packer, owner of the nearby fuel depot and wharfs, agreed to let the boatbuilder use his land.

In a phone conversation with The Times last week, Mr. Barwick said his concerns are centered on what might happen in the event of a storm. “Considering the size of the boat and the duration of the project and what he has to do with it, its pretty tight quarters in that location,” the zoning official said. “At this point in that location, it is not acceptable for public safety reasons. It’s a postage stamp down there. Its right on top of Beach Road. It would be an accident waiting to happen. The scope of Ted’s project, in my mind, is a major public safety hazard.”

Asked whether Mr. Box needed a permit to move to the new location, Mr. Barwick said, “I would say no. It would be no different than what I see Mr. Packer and Phil Hale, of the Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard and other marine contractors doing with their boats. The only thing I said to Ted was I would be giving the information to the conservation commission, to the harbor management committee, and would be contacting the Martha’s Vineyard Commission on telephone, only because they had heard the proposal when Mr. Box made the first arrangements with Mr. Boch.”

In preparation for the move, in November Mr. Box dismantled the large, open, corrugated steel roofed temporary structure that housed the early stages of the boat project. He said the boat would be finished without the need to build a protective structure over it, so he should not need a building permit wherever he ends up. Mr. Barwick approved a building permit for the temporary structure in 2011.

Until last week Mr. Barwick said he had limited contact with Mr. Box after the permit was issued. “I asked him to clean up his act, if you will. He was kind of scattered from one end of the property to the other. I was concerned about severe storm conditions and his ability to tie things down to prevent floating safety hazards.”

Yes, a little tight

While agreeing that the rejected site is probably “a little tight” for completing the 90-foot wooden boat, Mr. Box told The Times he didn’t know how setbacks applied to the temporary parking of a boat on a piece of land where there are presently two small boats. The property has been used for many boat-related projects over the last couple of decades.

Mr. Box said he did not think Mr. Barwick was singling him out, but that he was just doing his job.

“I went to talk to Mr. Barwick when I heard through the grapevine that he was opposed to having the boat at the new location,” Mr. Box said. “He told me the town’s conservation commission and the zoning board would probably agree with him, if I moved the boat there.”

As for Mr. Boch, he is not pressing the deadline. “I am keeping Mr. Boch informed of our progress on the move, and he seems to be okay with our efforts so far,” he said.

The scow project has benefited from donations of nominal rent, money, labor, and materials, according to Mr. Box, who said the plan is to create a teaching boat aboard which children can learn about boats and the sea. Mr. Box has worked on his project for more than two years while several unintended flexible deadlines passed, due primarily to a shortage of funds, he said. His plan is to have the 32-ton boat in the water by May or June, even with the most recent delay.

Mr. Box is now looking for a new location. He hopes to find a new site along the Beach Road corridor that would make launching from the town Lagoon launch easier.

Mr. Packer, one of his main supporters on the project, is looking at several possible sites on property he owns, according to Mr. Box. For his part, Mr. Packer referred all questions to Mr. Box.


  1. I have been totally frustrated watching this be just another reason Tisbury looks terrible and very few homes are selling in this town compared to other island towns! SAD!

    1. While I hear you about the boch property being a mess it’s not Mr. Box that is the reason for “few homes” selling in the town of VH (if that’s even true). I think two parties to place your appropriate disgust would be to Boch himself for allowing it and to the MVC, Both along with the planning board have done nothing to clean up the property in the past or to change the antiquated and confusing zoning. Who would want to buy into that mess?

  2. Wooden boat building kills property values and sales! Wow, what a world we live in! Maybe building another gas station or a car dealership would jumpstart home sales.

    1. A Messy, Sloppy and mostly Empty project like that looks terrible to some folks!
      If my yard looked like that my neighbors would be all over me never mind if they were trying to sell their home(s) and potential buyers had to drive that mess for every showing.
      Sorry you cant see it from my point of view. Do you think folks in Edgartown would stand for this?

      1. It’s not somebody’s front yard. It is one of the last remnants of a working, historic waterfront. While you might prefer a mini-mall of cute shops selling turquoise jewelry and designer clothes, I vote for boat building. BTW I can see it from your view but that doesn’t mean I agree with it or think it is appropriate. I thought a Vineyard Native might remember when the Island wasn’t filled with so much nonsense and it had an honest, working waterfront.

        1. As a good friend once said to me, about neatnik complainers: “For crying out loud, you can’t get from point A to B without making a mess”. Some people get awful prissy about a working project. If a house isn’t selling, the reason is more likely its asking price being too high.

        2. As a Native I have very sadly seen VH look much worst than what OB looked like back in the day!
          OB use to be down right nasty but I have watched them clean up their act and VH has been passed their Nasty torch.
          Heck I would also vote for boat building but not when what they are doing there looks like a grave yard for old ship wrecks.
          My children and I love seeing the Shenandoah and Alabama as we enter the main port for the island but am then sickened and saddened to see that long over due experiment ruin our first impression. GOD only knows what this storm will to to delay whatever is suppose to happen to it now. At least the snow will briefly cover it for a few days. Lastly, “Two thumbs up to Ken Bardwick for doing what he could to keep a handle on this as much as he could.

          I lay much if not all of the blame on the VH Selectmen who should not have allowed this from day one and didnt say peep when e missed all the promised completion deadlines!

          1. Alert the media:
            Large wooden boat built nearly singlehandedly misses completion deadline!

          2. You honestly have no idea what you’re talking about. It’s embarrassing.

      2. Yes, they would as it would be better than some of the other things going on here.
        The Vineyard is known for its history as a whaling community. He’s building a wooden boat. It’s attracting much more positive attention than negative. It’s a nice project and is a long, long way from being an eye sore.

      3. I can’t imagine how the construction of a wooden boat in a coastal community with a long tradition of boat building could possibly affect the price of a house on Franklin street.
        At least this project covered the weeds that have been growing there since 1999. Not that I have anything against weeds, but I certainly have seen a lot of complaints about that lot on this very forum in the past 14 years.
        I also don’t really care what the folks in Edgartown will stand for.
        Do you remember when Oak Bluffs built those really beautiful bath houses on the harbor ? There were plenty of comments about how they blocked the nice view when coming down the hill from V.H. Someone on this very site said “you should be watching the road” ….

  3. I would like to see this vessel finished: While it is true
    that the project might have gone beyond its original timeline, the island’s
    economy was once entirely supported by ships akin to this one.

    In addition those who worked in the whaling and shipbuilding industry built many of the stately picturesque homes, which contribute to the islands tourist economy.

    If this vessel is finished it could be an attraction in its own right, perhaps those who support this project ought make an effort to work with the builder to finish the vessel.

    Something along the likes of kickstarter.com
    “the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. A home for
    film, music, art, theater, games, comics, design, photography, and more”, could
    be combined with an association of volunteers who would not only help finish the
    shipbuilding project, but start more like it.

    1. Times have SoOoOOooo changed in every way since the island’s
      economy was once entirely supported by ships akin to this one and those who worked in the whaling and shipbuilding industry built many of the stately picturesque homes.

      Maybe those so offended by my personal opinion could offer to allow him to finish it in their back yards and also those who want to do this type of project again! For such a bunch of self proclaimed tolerant bunch of “L” island folks ya’all sure get quite upset when one does not agree with you.

      1. If those who support finishing the vessel contribute to its construction and get it finished then it wouldn’t be an eyesore for those who live in VH.

        The economy certainly has changed, tourism and “L” island folks, amongst others, bring a significant amount of revenue to the island.

      2. First of all, it seems you somehow have to bring politics into it and blame the “L” ‘s ( I am pretty certain you mean liberals )
        To me, this is not a political discussion, and would respectfully ask that you don’t label people because they either think this is a non issue, or it’s the end of the world.
        Second, It does not seem to me that any commenters here, either pro or con whatever the issue is, are upset with you personally for your opinion.
        In fact, a thorough reading of every comment so far, has only one person categorizing people with differing opinions from theirs.
        Your points would have more validity if you did nor resort to stereotyping and name calling .
        This conversation is about a boat, and a piece of property that has been the subject of many a story in this newspaper.
        It’s not about your opinion, or anyone’s political leanings.
        Thanks for taking the time to express your opinion.
        Please respect the opinions of others.
        I am not upset.

  4. I recently watched a marvelous film titled “Still Mine.” Ted should watch it, as the main character played by James Cromwell even looks a bit like Ted shall when he’s 85, that is, if bureaucrats don’t drive him to an eary grave. Everyone should watch it. It’s based on a true story in a seaside community in the Canadian Maritimes and underscores the tyranny of local government. It’s on Netflx. And it’s a wonderful love story to boot.

  5. I wish Mr. Barwick would flex all his power to the letter of the law (as he is with Ted) and shut down all building sites at which illegal aliens are present – for which he has the power.

    1. why is it always about Obama, liberals, or illegal aliens ?
      do you think there are “illegal aliens” helping this man build this boat ?
      Perhaps someone can read this comment and blame Obama, as he hasn’t been dragged into this yet.

      1. So I take it that you believe Mr. Barwick should not enforce all of the laws? Just some?

        1. I am not making any statement about what Mr. Barwick should or should not do. I have complete confidence in his choices.
          But since you bring up selective enforcement of laws, I will go off topic and tell you that the Tisbury police department has NEVER ticketed anyone for violating this law

          They do enforce this one, but only if your car is stolen.
          mgl chapter 90 section 13: “no person….shall allow such vehicle to stand in any way and remain unattended without stopping the engine of said vehicle,” ( I edited this one because it is really long)
          It is never enforced when an oversized f350 diesel is polluting the air with a known carcinogen while the driver is chatting it up with the coffee girls in Moca Motts.

    2. and just how would the building inspector know if there were any illegal aliens on a job site ?
      Do you want him to be able to randomly profile certain people and require them to produce identification. If you were working on a job site, and a legal working college kid from say Canada had left his visa papers home that day, would you want the building inspector to be able to send every person on the site home until he came up with the proper papers? Do you really want building inspectors spending their time checking people’s identification ? I thought you were opposed to big and intrusive government.
      Jonathan, while I disagree with most of your opinions, you usually think them out some. This “wish” of yours would have some pretty serious constitutional violations if implemented.

      1. I bring up illegal aliens at building sites because I want them gone for one reason: They are breaking our duly constituted laws, enacted by both houses of congress and signed by the president into law.

        The building inspector is part of that greater law enforcement body, and as such, in his local role, he is to assure that all building sites conform to safety and material codes, and insurance regulations. As such, illegal aliens (and the companies that hire them) are not lawfully insurable. So Mr. Barwick could demand to see the proper documentation on any site, and can shut the site down if all of the employees do not check out. But he does not. Take a stroll some of the building projects some time.

        Why don, do you want the Vineyard to harbor criminals? Yes, criminals. Criminals break the law. Illegal aliens break our laws every day. Why do you want to protect them so much? I do not understand.

        1. It’s not so much that I want to protect criminals, as you call them.
          I believe what the declaration of independence says– “all men are created equal”. At the time that was written there were zero, -count ‘em- zero citizens of the United States. I have respect for hard working people that are trying to earn an honest buck, even if they were born in another country.

          I am not saying that anyone should come here without following the immigration rules, but I also do not feel that they are the source of all of our problems. We have learned from history that xenophobia and or scape goating has led to some seriously bad things.
          Our laws are defined by our constitution.
          There are more than 2 amendments to it.
          For instance, that pesky fourth amendment states:
          “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated”
          What that has been upheld by the courts to mean is that a local official cannot just profile someone and throw them in jail because they don’t have proper papers. Building inspectors are not ICE agents.
          And if you are worried about “criminals” get your local police to enforce the laws I mentioned before. And by the way, wear your seat belt.

          1. “I am not saying that anyone should come here without following the immigration rules.” Unless you want these illegals deported (as almost every nation on earth does, by the way) you are exactly saying that you don’t believe illegals need to obey our laws. Unless you enforce the law, you have no law.

      2. My goodness don, that’s what inspectors do: They inspect! That’s their job! They are supposed to do just that – go to building sites and other places within their jurisdiction and make certain our laws – federal, state and local – are being met.

  6. It is ironic that the zoning in Vineyard Haven is that within 100 feet of the water only boat building and other boat related uses are allowed. Mr. Boch was convinced that allowing a vessel to be built on his property would enhance people’s opinions regarding the property. But according to the opinions expressed in this section the opposite is the case. To those who are not privy to what really happened, nothing can be further from the truth and Mr. Boch Jr. is entirely blameless and in fact quite the opposite. Hopefully Mr. Box will successfully launch his boat in due time and the community can breathe a little easier. We should all wish that this project gets cleaned up and succeeds. It is not about how messy it looks, it is about public safety concerns because of the articles strewn all over as Mr. Barwick, building inspector has clearly said and concerns about the fragile coastal dunes where the vessel project was intended to be put. The ideal spot would be the Packer Marine railway but that is up to Mr. Packer and certainly economics enters into it at that point.

  7. I have an idea for Mr. Boch’s property that I think would benefit far more people than the boat building project. Each summer from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day I propose erecting a ferris wheel on the property and charging $5 a ride with proceeds benefitting Camp Jabberwocky (campers and counselors would ride free). The view over the Vineyard Haven harbor would be spectacular and think what good it could do this wonderful Vineyard tradition.

    1. Do not understand how a neat idea like this gets slammed and someone would suggest a car dealership on someone’s front yard – not even knowing if the writer has a front yard – not respecting either Mr. Boch or the writer who made the suggestion. The idea takes a little getting used to, but think about it… It will never happen of course, but let your imagination follow this thought of being on a ferris wheel high above Vineyard Haven and watching the boats, the people, the sky, maybe with someone you love – maybe a sunny day, maybe some rain drops,,, give the guy a break.

      1. My comment is motivated by the tendency some Vineyarders have for determining what should be done with property that belongs to someone else. This is no different that opining that the Kennedys donate a portion of their property for a public beach. It is all part of that ‘you have so much. Give me some’ philosophy.
        I don’t mean to disparage Jabberwocky and that should be obvious from the sarcastic nature of the comment. It also has nothing to do with whether or not Mr. Miller has a front lawn.

        1. Sorry, misunderstood you. So then presumably you might like the idea of a ferris wheel so long as it benefits the land owner financially, and your point is that people want private land made into public land that everyone can benefit from? And by the same token, when Mr. Box idea that what he was doing was a public benefit that he should receive the land for nominal rent ($125.00 a month) or for free would be something that you would not agree with and that a person building a boat or any other enterprise that purportedly is a “public benefit” should still pay market rates?

          1. My liking or not liking a Ferris wheel on the Boch property has absolutely nothing at all to do with financial returns.
            As it happens I don’t care for Ferris wheels outside of carnivals where they belong. The giant one erected in London lends a funhouse carnival atmosphere to that dignified city and I can’t wait to see it go.
            Guess I’m just a old fuddy-duddy.

          2. My idea only has to do with making good use of a piece of prime property on the waterfront which hasn’t been used by Mr. Boch for several years. Mr. Boch’s father was a major supporter of Camp Jabberwocky as I recall, and held an annual picnic on his Edgartown property for campers and staff every August. Erecting a ferris wheel that would occupy his family’s land for three months a year and use the profits to benefit the camp seems like a good way for his son to honor his father’s memory. I think visitors and families on the Vineyard would also enjoy the experience.

          3. All good points I am sure.
            I just think it is presumptuous when people make suggestions publicly about how someone else should use their property. Perhaps you might make the proposal to Mr. Boch privately.
            Good Luck.

          4. All of these points are well taken, but it must be remembered that the zoning in the location discussed is split into two separate zones. Nearest the water, within 100 feet, is the so-called “dead zone” so named by some of the Planning Board members who opposed what they saw as an unwieldy and unworkable bylaw. So in order for a ferris wheel to be permitted there Mr. Boch would have to go the Planning Board and they would have to like the idea and find a way around the bylaw, which is the way it works. Some people felt that it was important to limit growth with a bylaw that split parcels into two zones and make it so unworkable that whatever went in had to go through a screening process, and that that process then theoretically allowed only “beneficial” projects to go through – in the eyes of those who would judge it. It has worked pretty well so far. Though some would not agree.

  8. I would like to remind the people here that Mr. Box is happy to have volunteer work.
    If you are concerned about the appearance of the site, you can go down there and help him clean it up.

  9. This article states that Mr. Box welcomes volunteer labor. Anyone who thinks this site is a mess is welcome to show up there, and pick up some trash or organize some out of place things.

  10. With the progress the boat was making he would have needed at least 10 years to complete it. Looks like Mr Boch is instrumental to complete this boat. Right now it certainly isnt seaworthy. Probably will have to be dismantled. It would be nice if Mr. Boch would give Mr. Box a 5 – 10 year extension on the project. Nothing was ever done to that property in the 30 years I lived here.

    1. It is pretty strange what has happened on that property. The town went to indescribable lengths to prevent parking there – which – actually – is sorely needed. Do you realize that every year or two these guys appear in white tyvek suits with full face masks and oxygen tanks and take soil samples to measure the amount of dripping from exhaust pipes? That there are several layers of protection from exhaust pipe and vehicular pollution there and that this was never required from anyone else on Beach Road? In fact, some parking areas are paved over. So why is this lot singled out for excruciating inspection? So although nothing much has happened, despite this, the lot is opened up for charitable purposes from time to time. The Tisbury fireworks were paid for by the Boch family for years, and honestly, much more would have been done for the town had they not been so awful. Asking them for a handout seems rather inappropriate given all of the facts.Oh yes, and if memory serves, the town of Tisbury became interested in that property as a parking lot, and considered the idea of taking it by eminent domain for that purpose. This is after spending a half million dollars on legal costs to prevent it from becoming a parking lot. The idea being that it would have turned into a car dealership. Which indeed, would have been awful, but there had to be a better way to deal with it. Hard to call that one after the fact, but it does seem like there must have been a better way. In any case, a tortured lot and now this – stuck.