Ping-Pong on the Chappy ferry

Well, why not?

Photo by Lynn Christoffers

This past Sunday, Martha’s Vineyard Table Tennis Club players confronted a new challenge: keeping the ball in play while riding the moving Chappy ferry.

Regular team members Alina Wen, Rod Backus, Rae Carter, and club president Bob O’Rourke gave puzzled dockside viewers an admirable demonstration of singles and doubles matches as the ferry motored along to several points on the short route between the Edgartown dock and Chappaquiddick. Ferry owner Peter Wells was most cooperative, and directed the ferry by intercom — with tennis table in situ on the boat — to detour from its usual route so that the game could be photographed from various angles. George Fisher captained the ferry, and Mate Eric Gilley deftly netted stray balls that blew into the water.

Once the table tennis On Time ferry docked, team members assembled for a game (and photos) on the lawn at the Old Sculpin Gallery, in front of the whale sculpture and lifeboat. Though the club typically plays at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) cafeteria, or at the YMCA, these games on the go were designed by the club to spread the word and expand the presence of table tennis on the Island.

Founding player-members Albert Lau, Bruce Golden, Bob O’Rourke, and friends organized as a sanctioned club four years ago, and the Table Tennis Club now boasts more than 70 occasional players, with 25 weekly active members. A growing competitive sport on the Island, the club is a member of USA Table Tennis, the national association for the worldwide Olympic sport. Members participate in tournaments throughout New England.

Last winter, the club initiated a Teens Table Tennis program at Alex’s Place at the YMCA. This fall, they have plans to start a new program at the high school, providing coaching and equipment for students. Club equipment includes a table tennis “robot,” and they regularly host a guest coach from off-Island to provide specialized training.

And appropriately, they’ll be back on Chappy: In August, the Chappy Community Center, in cooperation with the club, will host the annual “Chappy Pong” table tennis tournament, open to all. Winners will take home Morning Glory Farm pies for their efforts.

The club welcomes new members of all (well, most) ages, from 6 years old to 85. Their regular venues are at the Martha’s Vineyard High School cafeteria every Tuesday and Thursday evening, and at the YMCA each Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. Annual membership dues of $50 covers costs for new equipment and expenses. For more information about the Martha’s Vineyard Table Tennis Club, contact Bob O’Rourke at 508-627-7902; a website is coming soon.