Authors Posts by Doug Cabral

Doug Cabral

Doug Cabral

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Nelson Bryant, sorting apples at his West Tisbury home in November of 2014.

Mill Pond Joe: Naturalist, Writer, Journalist, and New York Times Columnist. By Nelson Bryant. YBK Publishers, New York 2014. Paperback. $18.95. Available at Edgartown Books, online booksellers, and coming soon to Bunch of Grapes.

Each of us these days has strenuously held opinions, and the opportunities to detonate them, sought or not, are deplorably plentiful, varied, and handy. Nearly each of us also appears to be of the opinion that, in his or her life’s unfolding, there is the treasure of a memoir from which the world will certainly benefit. In this, they are, almost every one of them, wrong. Nelson Bryant of West Tisbury, on the other hand, has judged correctly that his story — told in his plain, frank, unguarded, and flavorful voice — is worth telling. The result, Mill Pond Joe, will reward his readers, especially those, whether oldtimers or newcomers, whose knowledge of and interest in Martha’s Vineyard human and natural history is keen.

Nelson Bryant, sometime after he was wounded in the Normandy Invasion, and before he fought in Battle of the Bulge. —Photo courtesy of Nelson Bryant
Nelson Bryant, sometime after he was wounded in the Normandy Invasion, and before he fought in Battle of the Bulge. —Photo courtesy of Nelson Bryant

Bryant was the outdoor columnist for The New York Times for almost 40 years. As a young man, he participated in the D-Day invasion with the 82nd Airborne, then jumped again into Holland and fought in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. He was wounded twice. Later, he became managing editor for 15 years of the Daily Eagle in Claremont, New Hampshire, and then a dock builder on the Vineyard, before beginning a career as a columnist that would take him around the world and back again to the Vineyard. Mill Pond Joe describes most of his hunting and fishing adventures and visits many of the remote locations where game was plentiful and fish were biting. It’s a global story of a born naturalist’s devotion to the creatures he studied, admired, and hunted. He tells his life’s tale with a sharp aim and a storyteller’s gift. He describes an extraordinary working life that grew from an Island boyhood among the fields, streams, and especially West Tisbury’s Mill Pond.

“Now in my late 80s,” Mr. Bryant explains, “I have only an occasional urge to go far afield in quest of ducks and am usually content to visit Town Cove with my youngest son, Jeff, or my partner, Ruth. I don’t abuse the spot — don’t hammer it every day. I regard the marsh, the cove, and Mill Brook that enters it with reverence. My trips there are like re-reading a favorite poem. I never tire of the place even if no birds are flying, and I am deeply grateful to the various owners of the property who have allowed me to hunt there over the years.”

But, set aside for a moment the richly detailed chronicle of birds and animals he hunted, fresh and saltwater fish he caught, the friends exalted and humble he met, the wonderfully remote places he visited, his bravery and fear in combat, skinny dipping with Kay Graham on Chappy, his pedestrian taste in wine, his working relationship with the Times, all of which together form the framework for the telling, this is the story of a writer who, when his professional journalist’s life ended, needed to go on writing.

“All my goddam life here after the war and college,” Bryant said this week, “I’ve been a journalist, and I wanted to keep writing, for the pleasure of it. It’s always been about the words. I’ve loved words, and I didn’t want to stop using them, although really I’m inclined toward poetry.”

The poetry in this volume is plain in Bryant’s earnest self-reflection, unflinching, brutal really, as he confesses his youthful romantic and embarrassing enthusiasms, his sense of guilt over the Tisbury Great Pond drowning of his sister, his betrayal of his wife, his “children’s shortcomings.”

“I was a horse’s ass,” Mr. Bryant said Monday, “but I thought, what the hell, I’ve been a journalist all my life, a reporter, and what a reporter does is put down the truth.” Instinctually and from the habits of a lifetime, if he was going to do this he wasn’t going to do it vaguely or circuitously. “I thought if I was going to write this memoir, then goddamn it I’m going to tell the truth.”

Mill Pond Joe is the central character in stories he created to tell his children, in place of stories written by others and merely read to them at bedtime: “I was Mill Pond Joe, and my yarns were based on actual events in my boyhood…. A few years after my stint with the Times was over, I was moved to chronicle the story of Mill Pond Joe from childhood to old age. In part this came from having been a journalist most of my life. When I quit writing on a regular basis, I discovered that much of my emotional well-being was wrapped up in getting words on paper. Somewhat melancholic and guilt-ridden, I also had the notion that while assembling Mill Pond Joe’s history I might gain more understanding of his flawed and selfish, albeit life-embracing, behavior.”

The poet in Bryant takes clear-eyed measure of his life and himself. He can’t use W.B Yeats’s solution to the late in life uncertainty that occupies the thoughts of folks his age. He is not disposed to sail to Byzantium “An aged man is but a paltry thing,/A tattered coat upon a stick …” Whatever happens next, Bryant says, he will not “set a course for the “the holy city of Byzantium.”

“I must instead shuffle aimlessly toward eternity. I am, however, sustained by the knowledge that I am supremely fortunate to be living in comfort with someone I love, and with other loved ones close by, although with disturbing frequency I am troubled by contemplating the eternally fog-shrouded terrain of Hamlet’s ‘undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.’ In combat, I feared death, whether from shrieking shells, machine gun bullets plucking at my jacket, or the snap of a sniper’s round passing inches from my head, but after those things went by, and I had yet another chance to live, the fear they had engendered quickly faded. Now I sometimes feel as if I am on an unending and meaningless night patrol — without map and compass — to oblivion. I have discovered that this can be eased by actively sharing my life and thoughts with friends and loved ones.”

This sharing is generous, and it will reward every reader. Mill Pond Joe’s life, so earnestly and frankly considered, was the work of a Vineyard lad whose odyssey began and ended at home but encompassed a landscape so rich and extensive that only a writer of real skill and a love of words could do it justice.

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Bernie Holzer
Bernie Holzer

Bernie Holzer of West Tisbury, a Midwesterner who retired from a long oceangoing career as a merchant seaman to begin a 25-year second career as a purser and quartermaster aboard Steamship Authority vessels, died on August 10 in Boston. He was 80 years old.

Bernie was best known to Islanders and visitors who traveled on the ferries for his friendly, cheery personality at the beginning of each trip. He was the voice of the ferry line, reminding travelers that “there is no smoking on this vessel inside or out. That means you don’t smoke for 45 minutes,” that the travelers must “make sure you take all your belongings, and don’t leave anything behind, including your children.”

To his wide circle of devoted friends, made and cultivated over half a century, at first during years of visits between voyages on freighters and tankers, and later during his years as a permanent West Tisbury resident, he was a fixture in all of their lives, ever a cheerful, busy, dependable, first-to-pitch-in, gossipy, storytelling, heartwarming presence.

Bernie, who suffered with dementia, had fallen several days before his death, which was attributed by his family to the fall and the complications associated with dementia.

Bernie was born on September 4, 1934, in Toledo, Ohio, to Bernard and Teresa Holzer. He grew up in Toledo and began his seafaring trade as a coal passer on lakers, the Great Lakes freighters that carry bulk cargoes in and out of the Midwest. It wasn’t his plan exactly, but his father saw a chance to improve Bernie’s fortunes and took it, as any father might. The career path for 18-year-olds in Toledo at the time was narrow and discouragingly steep, and Bernie didn’t mind that. He and his buddies, he often recalled, were having a lot of fun doing the things that city teenagers enjoyed. His dad persuaded Bernie to apply at the union hall where seamen waited for jobs. And, the day came when dad hunted Bernie down to say that he’d had a call from the union hall. There was a berth available if he wanted it. Bernie told his dad that, of course, he certainly did, but to get it he’d have to drive a couple of hours to meet the ship. Bernie, who had no car, said it was a shame but he had no way to get there. His dad said, I’ll drive you.

“Bernie went to sea in an age when sailors spliced wire as easily and frequently as tying a knot in a rope,” John Christensen of West Tisbury, Bernie’s friend and a deck officer aboard merchant ships, says. “Before the push button age of hydraulic cranes and machinery, which even now belong to another century, Bernie was ‘spotting’ booms over the cargo hatches, reeving a ‘yard and stay’ rig so that cargo could be plucked from the hold using a single steam winch and landed safely on deck.

“Though able-bodied seamen usually served as helmsman as it came their turn according on watch, when steering up rivers in Vietnam during the war [and with bombs lighting the sky around his ship, as Bernie described it], when grounding could be fatal, shipmasters often called for Bernie to steer out of turn, and for long ‘tricks’ at the wheel until they were safely through. Bernie was surely an unselfconscious master of his trade.”

At 23, Bernie joined the army and served a two-year stint in Germany. Afterwards, his maritime ambitions shifted from the Great Lakes to the world and most of its seaports. He rose in the ranks to able-bodied seaman, in charge of loading and unloading cargoes. Casablanca, Odessa, Piraeus, Naples, Rio, Recife, Durban, Togo, Abidjan, Monrovia, Dakar, Manila, Da Nang, Rotterdam, Cameroon, Panama, Haifa, Saigon, Borneo, Singapore, Midway, Taiwan, Cadiz, Lagos, Hamburg, Yokohama, and Tanjung Manis, Borneo were a few of the seaports he visited. He shipped out on the S/S Austral Patriot, S/S Gibbes Lykes, S/S African Dawn, S/S Flying Clipper, S/S Gulf Queen, S/S American Leader, S/S American Reliance, S/S African Sun, S/S Mormactrade, S/S Export Buyer, and a host of others. And he kept a log of all his voyages, the dates, destinations, sign on and sign off dates, and the shipping companies. He also took a sketchbook and, armed with two years of training at the Toledo Museum of Art, he drew and painted what he was familiar with and appreciated — boats, ships, and, later, historic 19th and 20th century Vineyard and Nantucket ferries. Seafaring and history combined in his art, for instance in his brilliantly colorful rendering of the attack on the USS Maine in Havana, on February 15, 1898.

Bernie found his way to the Vineyard after making the acquaintance of Lambert Knight of Vineyard Haven and sailing with Captain Knight in the West Indies. For Bernie, to make an acquaintance was to make a friend for the long haul. Visiting the Vineyard and the Knights, Bernie met Captain Robert Douglas, Shenandoah’s master. The two were close friends for nearly a half century until Bernie’s death.

In the early 1980s, Bernie bought land on a hilltop near a farm in West Tisbury and built a house. His property was near that of his friends — Ross Gannon, Matthew and Martha Stackpole, Bob and Peggy Schweir, Peter Anderson, plus this writer and his then wife, Joyce Spooner. He didn’t give up the sea immediately, but eventually the wanderlust diminished and, his seaman’s pedigree and seniority established, he joined the Steamship Authority. After navigating oceans over many decades, he began a long series of shorter passages between Vineyard Haven, Woods Hole, Hyannis, and Nantucket, work he retired from at age 72.

It wasn’t as if he’d come ashore, but his trading offshore voyages for alongshore trips surprised his friends. What astonished them was his marriage on December 28, 1987, at the Dukes County Courthouse in Edgartown to Simmy Denhart of Vineyard Haven, a schoolteacher in Tisbury. Bernie and Simmy met on a beach in the West Indies, and she admits that she wasn’t charmed at first, but ultimately, friendship and devotion were irresistible parts of Bernie’s essence. A few months after meeting, they were married.

Bernie’s small house was sparsely furnished. Simmy came with furniture, energy, and a sense of how a sailor’s cabin could become their home. They became a team, a team never without a project. They added on to the tiny house, added a studio for Bernie’s painting and a shop and a guest house, terraced gardens and stonework. They did the work together, often mentored by Ross Gannon, the boatbuilder. Bernie and Simmy were never bored. They traveled often, skied and sailed together, and read aloud to one another. A great reader of history and biography, as his sight dimmed, Bernie listened to books on tape, despite some hearing loss common to members of his family. Simmy sums up their years together this way, “It was a great ride.”

Until his fall, Bernie still went regularly to sea, although alongshore not deepwater. He went lobstering every Saturday with Bill Austin, Tom Reynolds, and John Christensen, in Bill’s boat. The four, friends for decades, got a few lobsters every time, although Bernie admits he doesn’t like to eat lobster. Rather, it was the friendship, not the lobster pots, he was tending.

In his seagoing days, when Bernie was between ships he made regular visits to all his friends. He’d fire up his motorcycle and cruise from one to another. He might stay for lunch. He’d hold the new babies, but when there was a hint of more profound entanglements, he’d say, “I got to go.” After years of shipping out from Boston, New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, and elsewhere, when Bernie wanted a ship his seniority meant that the choice of berths was his. So, if he needed to clear out, nothing stood in his way. As excuses go, “I’m shipping out from New York the day after tomorrow” always did the trick.

But, along with her loving companionship, Simmy brought Bernie a family. Her son, Evan, his wife, Pip, who live in Portland, Oregon, have two children, Alex and Kate, to whom Bernie became grandfather, and over time he perfected his latent grandfatherly skills, so that instead of shipping out, Bernie pitched in.

And, he extended his friendly, watchful nature to children who traveled on the ferries on which he served, especially the Falmouth Academy students who traveled every weekday to Woods Hole and back. He teased them, pestered them to do their homework, kept track of their flirtations, and even made reports to parents when his oversight led him to worry about them. Sometimes, he kept the truth to himself if he judged it prudent to do so. The children called him Bernie or Uncle Bernie.

What you want in a shipmate is a lot like what you want in a friend. I have a photograph of my son Matthew, Bernie, and me, sailing in a fall gaff riggers’ race out of Vineyard Haven, which we won. The weather was snotty and dead ahead — we ought to have stayed home — the current against us on both legs, and Vineyard Sound came over the rail repeatedly on the windward stretch to soak us thoroughly. Bernie said it was a treat, just a damp day offshore.

Bernie is survived by his wife, Simmy, and her son, Evan, and daughter in law, Pip, their children, Alex and Kate, all of Portland, Oregon; two sisters, Joan Whidden of Roanoke, Virginia, and Bernadette Bolen of Toledo; and many nieces and nephews.

A gathering of friends and family will take place on Saturday, August 30, at 5 pm, at Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway, in Vineyard Haven.

Note: Excerpts from a column I called At Large, published on July 18, 2012 in The Martha’s Vineyard Times, appear above.


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The Martha’s Vineyard real estate market improved in 2013, but the advance over the year before was modest, and early signals from sales statistics for the first half of 2014 suggest that growth continues to be variable across market segments, leaving prospects for the rest of 2014 uncertain. A compilation of market statistics from LINK data, as well as data from MVTimes records and observations from brokers, all shown plainly in the accompanying graphs, make clear that the market collapse after 2007 led relentlessly to fewer annual sales and a collapse in for-sale inventories. The market found a bottom in 2009-2010 and has continued to potter along there since.

MVRealEstate Trans by Price for 2013

The stand still nature of market progress over time become is clear when one compares total sales in 2003, 566, with total sales last year, 502. That’s an 11 percent decline over the decade. Then, looking at the numbers comparing total sales for 2008, 314, and last year, 502, the change over six years was slightly greater than 60 percent. Together the two comparisons describe the steep and deep nature of the financial collapse, now familiarly known as the Great Recession, and the incomplete nature of the recovery.

At the same time, and to some degree mirroring the way the recovery has generously benefited the financial economy but been more niggardly about helping the real economy, one finds that the share of sales of property worth more than $1 million rose sharply between 2008, 87, and 2013, 144, although for property sold for more than $3 million, the difference between 2008 and 2013 has been negligible, 24 six years ago, 22 last year.

2014 Avvearge Sales Price

What the results for the first five months of 2014, compared with the first five months of 2013 show is that the year-over-year margins in these measures have narrowed, and the overall strength of the market last year has diminished in the first half of this year. In January 2014, 52 sales were recorded as against 20 in January last year. In May this year there were 46 completed transactions, exactly as many as were recorded in May 2013. In January this year, $54 million in sales took place as against $14 million in January last year, but in May, the year-to-year dollar comparison for the month found that $35 million in property changed hands in January this year, compared with $33 million in the same month a year ago. In January this year, the average sales price was $1 million, compared with just $676,000 in January a year ago. In May 2014, the average price was $759,000, compared with $724,000 in May 2013.

Interestingly, the share of total sales represented by transactions worth less than $1 million has declined over the decade since 2003, suggesting that the resources of buyers, as well as the sellers’ conclusions about the value of their properties, have increased. In 2003, when 566 transactions took place, 83 percent of those deals were for properties sold for less than $1 million. In 2008, the under-$1 million share was 72 percent, and in 2013 it was 71 percent.

In general terms, real estate insiders mostly call the 2013 performance of the market flat.

2014 Dollar Volume

The change in the inventory of property for sale flattened in 2013. Sales are little changed compared to sales in 2012. The dollar value of property sold in 2013 is barely greater than in 2012. The average value of sales didn’t change materially either. The Vineyard market may have held up better in the immediate aftermath of the 2007-2008 collapse and may have been slower to reach the bottom. Also, the bottom here has not been as catastrophic here as it has been in some other U.S. markets. But, the Vineyard market has not resumed its historically buoyant ways. Brokers say that buyers are plentiful and eager, but nervous about the country’s economic future, and they want their ideal vacation properties at ideally low prices. Inventories, historically high before the recession, declined rapidly as prices fell and buyers disappeared, but they have risen slowly as sellers return to what they see as a strengthening market.

The Chilmark market, historically characterized by high prices and low volume, has seen sales volume decline, along with prices. Chilmark recorded only 32 sales last year, 40 percent fewer than in 2012. The number of transactions recorded in Chilmark has historically been small, but the town has regularly been second only to Edgartown in dollar value of sales. In 2013, the value of its 32 sales dropped 50 percent compared with the year earlier results, to just $11 million.

2014 Median Sales Price

In wealthy, diverse Edgartown, 2013 results contrasted sharply with those of the small, rich up-Island town. Edgartown, vast geographically and its inventory spanning all market pricing segments, saw 2013  sales volume jump 15 percent compared with 2012. Dollar value for all sales rose 10 percent. In 2013, $233 million in real estate changed hands, compared with $40 million in Chilmark.

West Tisbury, $56 million, and Oak Bluffs, $59 million, saw total value of sales drop in 2013, compared with the year before. Tisbury recorded an astonishing 40 percent jump in the total value of sales, to $84 million, year over year.

2014 Number of Sales

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Almost without exception, since its founding in 1984, The Martha’s Vineyard Times has published an annual list of Vineyard real property values (VPV), and in recent years has made this data available online. For reasons sublime or pedestrian, the publication has always been a big hit. Not with everyone, mind you, but with most. Some readers consult VPV to find out what their neighbors’ houses and land have been assessed at, or the values of property owned by widely known seasonal residents. Some readers would rather the assessed values of their own houses were not listed, but they consult the list anyhow. But, however you approach this annual, comprehensive list, eagerly or bemusedly, and whether you are a year-round or seasonal property owner, you should know what Vineyard real estate is worth and how the towns compare.

The national increase in real estate values has not been uniform, and neither are the changes in value among the Island towns. Nationally, there are badly hurt regions, but there are also others where values have proven more durable and where prices are rising.

The six Vineyard towns have experienced virtually no increase in assessment values in the last few years. Using the most recent assessed values, those that were used to calculate tax bills for the 2015 fiscal year, taxable real estate in the six Island towns is worth $18.4 billion, up only six tenths of one percent over the values we reported last year. For fiscal 2010, total value was $19.03 billion, about 6.7 percent from the total value in the 2009 fiscal year in which the Great Recession began. So, after the initial shock, Vineyard real estate values have stabilized at diminished levels. This stabilization hints at better days to come, value-wise and an increase in the number of sales, year to date, is reason to think that the market may be improving. The volume of real estate sales for the first five months of 2014 increased over the same period last year from 115 to 198 but sales have not returned to the levels preceding the sharp decline that began in 2008, and the volume of properties for sale has stabilized.

Nevertheless, compared with real estate values elsewhere in the country, Island values held up during the housing bust and all but one of the six Vineyard towns have experienced modest increases in total value.

A look at average monthly median sales values for the first five months year over year finds that as of May, 2013, the median Island-wide value of closed sales was about $478,000. It rose in the same period in 2014 to $578,000. The average monthly selling price over the same period increased from $713,000 for the first five months of 2013 to $910,400 in 2014.

The assessed values we report in this edition of VPV, updated since the last edition was published a year ago, serve as the basis for property tax rates. The towns will use these values, updated by prices in actual sales, additions, remodels, new construction, and other factors to determine the tax base for the 2015 fiscal year, whose spending was determined at spring 2014 annual town meetings.

The combination of the swing in assessed values — modestly down and modestly up — during the downturn and the faltering recovery that the nation continues to experience, along with exceptionally low interest rates on municipal borrowing, plus determined efforts in most towns to rein in spending, has meant relatively stable tax rates over this difficult period. This is true, despite significant declines in state and federal revenue contributions.

Drastic changes in real estate values nationwide, and particularly in high flying parts of the country, don’t necessarily lead to corresponding calamity in small, desirable Martha’s Vineyard communities. For instance, Edgartown, worth $7.172 billion when we reported in last year, is worth $7.181 billion, roughly the same today. The county seat is the richest Island town. Oak Bluffs, $2.462 billion a year ago is slightly more at $2.522 billion. A total of about $281 million of Oak Bluffs real estate is tax exempt and not part of the tax rate calculation. That’s true for all of the tax-exempt properties in the six towns.

Chilmark, the richest of the up-Island towns and the second richest of all, is valued for the purpose of this report at $3.139 billion, slightly less than last year’s $3.144. West Tisbury, worth $2.353 billion last year, is now worth $2.354 billion. Tisbury’s real estate value, $2.432 billion when we last reported, is now $2.468 billion. Aquinnah real estate was assessed at $716 million last time, and is assessed at $732 million today.

Of course, not all the real estate in the six towns is taxable. Of the approximately $20 billion total value of property in the six Vineyard towns, roughly $1.9 billion, about 10 percent, is tax exempt, so that tax revenue lost to the six towns, based on the tax rates reported here, adds up to about $7 million. Edgartown has about 9 percent of its total value tax-exempt, West Tisbury, a whopping 20 percent, Oak Bluffs 10 percent, Tisbury seven percent, Aquinnah ten percent, and Chilmark about five percent. West Tisbury and Edgartown share ownership of the land occupied by the State Forest and the airport, which accounts for some of their large tax exempt totals.

How much a town’s real estate is worth is one measure of its borrowing ability, and that means whether new schools, emergency facilities buildings, or town halls may be financed. Vineyard towns, flush with real estate value, have built all of these municipal improvements in the last few years. Some of these projects have been undertaken in the teeth of the recession, and they have benefited from very low borrowing costs and typically favorable loan to value ratios, plus a historic caution about adding debt to town balance sheets.

Real estate values are also at the heart of home ownership, stimulating the Island’s largest industry. Typically, excluding the very depth of the recession, a little more than $500 million of Vineyard real estate changes hands in arm’s length transactions each year. Although that is a tiny fraction of total real estate value on the Island, about two percent, it is nevertheless a great deal of money, and it marks the starting point for a spiral of expenditures which contribute hugely to the Island economy. Architects, landscapers, and decorators, along with real estate brokers, lawyers, Island banks, builders, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, and excavators, all participate in the whirl of buying and selling that has real estate value at its core. The economic pressure on the real estate economy here has had some modest but measurably beneficial influence on the effort to create affordable housing here, lowering debt service, property values, and construction costs, but more powerfully the nation’s economic slowdown has diminished charitable giving for many important causes, including housing.

You should know that these values are more art than science. They are derived by examination of sales prices as they are revealed in house and property transactions recorded for your neighborhood at the Dukes County Registry of Deeds. As transaction values decline, so do assessed values. Market values affect neighborhood or like property assessed values for property that has not changed hands. These values, together with measurements of square footage of house and land, and quality of finish materials and workmanship, quality of views and waterfront are used to estimate value. Often, the location and nature of the land accounts for the largest part of total assessed value. Is it at the edge of the ocean, back from the edge but in view of the beach, in the woods, on a fashionable Edgartown street? All of these considerations affect the judgments of the assessors who visit each property before deciding on its value, and of course all of these characteristics are of significant influence.

But, because so little real estate changes hands each year, in 500 to 1,000 transactions, changes in assessed value, however carefully developed, rest upon a narrow base. And, if what smitten buyers pay for their dream houses or building sites — or, on the other hand, sharp pencil, bottom fishing buyers in this period of low values and increased inventory of property for sale  — is at the root of the calculation, then it is indeed an artful calculation. That’s why the annual list, for taxpayers and voters, is an important data resource.

To search for the latest property values online, click here for the MVT Property values database.


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The common thing to do these days is to celebrate the widely known and often celebrated. A very few of these deserve to be exalted. What is uncommon is to mark one’s neighbors for their plain, unpretentious intelligence, generosity, and square dealing. The builder, businessman, and landlord Donald DeSorcy, who died July 17, was one of these.

When Molly and I bought The Martha’s Vineyard Times in 1991, we set out to move the business from what had been its headquarters since its founding in 1984 to more spacious and visible quarters. News reporting demands more protein, fewer calories, less cholesterol, and an atmosphere that is bland and diligent rather than spicy. The old Spaghetti Pot restaurant building off State Road, where we were, had a let’s-order-pizza aroma that impeached the standard newsroom smells of perspiration, printer’s ink, stale coffee, and cigarette smoke. Donald had just the building we needed.

He took a flyer on a young couple with a young business whose future was uncertain. He remodeled the building to suit us, priced the vast space so that we could afford it, and let us alone to do our work. The newspaper has now dwelt in what feels like its one and only home for more than 20 years. Donald, reserved, genial and wry, stopped by from time to time to chat, while making the working man’s rounds of his company’s construction projects in his tiny red pickup, a stub of a cigar stuck in the side of his mouth, mostly unlit. He was always fun to see and talk to, charming in his effortlessly direct way, and always wise, helpful, and encouraging. Subtracting one Donald DeSorcy is regrettable. Adding more like him is what we need to do.

Doug Cabral

Editor’s Note: The writer is the former editor and owner of The Martha’s Vineyard Times.

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First Martha’s Vineyard visit in her 80-year career.

During her 80-year whaling career, which included 37 globe-girdling voyages, the Charles W. Morgan never visited Vineyard Haven. Built in New Bedford in 1841 and now preserved, reconstructed in authentic detail, and relaunched by the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut, the Morgan, Captain Kip Files, arrived at the Tisbury Wharf Company’s dock Wednesday, after a splendid day’s sail from Newport.


Aase Jones takes a picture of the Charles Morgan. Photo by Michael Cummo.


An old steamboat was one of the ships following the Charles Morgan. Photo by Michael Cummo.


The Charles Morgan sails toward Vineyard Haven. Photo by Michael Cummo.


The Charles Morgan rounds West Chop on its way in to harbor. Photo by Michael Cummo.


A tugboat helps the Charles Morgan into harbor. Photo by Michael Cummo.


The sails of the Charles Morgan. Photo by Michael Cummo.


Looking ahead on the Charles W. Morgan. Photo by Doug Cabral.

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The crew aboard the Charles W. Morgan. Photo by Doug Cabral.


Vineyarder and Mystic fundraiser Matthew Stackpole of West Tisbury is the go to docent aboard Morgan, describing her history and reconstruction to all aboard, in groups and one-one-one. Behind him is Dick Vietor, a Mystic trustee and, with his family, a longtime Edgartown summer resident. Photo by Doug Cabral.


Harbormaster Jay Wilbur, left, and Aase Jones chat while watching the Charles Morgan sail towards Vineyard Haven. Photo by Michael Cummo.


Tisbury town administrator Jay Grande looks out over the water as the Charles Morgan glides past. Photo by Michael Cummo.


Vineyarders crowd a jetty to get pictures of the Charles Morgan as it sails into Vineyard Haven. Photo by Michael Cummo.


All hands on deck! Photo by Michael Cummo.


Entering the harbor Wednesday afternoon. Photo by Michael Cummo.


A man successfully attempts to fix the sail of the Charles Morgan, which got tangled mid sail. Photo by Michael Cummo.


The Morgan arrives in Vineyard Haven. Photo by Michael Cummo.


The Charles Morgan had a small flotilla of boats following its path to Vineyard Haven. Photo by Michael Cummo.


The route of the Morgan's 38th voyage. Courtesy Mystic Seaport.

Vineyard Haven is one of several stops along a promotional route that will have her visit such New England ports as New London, Newport, New Bedford, Boston, Provincetown, and cruise over the right whale sanctuary at Stellwagen Bank.

After a longish tow from her Ft. Adams dock, at the end of a hauser from Ralph Packer tug Sirius, Captain Paul Bangs, Morgan dropped the towline and added sails as she approached Gay Head. Robert McNeil’s Cangarda, a restored 19th century steam yacht, joined a growing flotilla of small craft, sail and power, trailing the Morgan, delighted and astonished at this visitor from two centuries ago. Bailey Norton of Edgartown was aboard Cangarda. He is a descendant of Thomas Norton, captain of the Morgan on her first whaling voyage.

Rounding West Chop, Captain Files chose to take a hitch into Vineyard Haven Harbor, before turning around clew up his sails and take Sirius alongside to move her to her mooring at the Tisbury Wharf Company, which has been dredged and deepened especially to make a comfortable berth for the whaleship, which draws as much as 17 feet.

The cluster of smaller craft, some of which had trailed Morgan from Rhode Island Sound, but also including Vineyard Haven craft, including the schooners Charlotte, Malabar, Perception, Alabama, and Ishmael (never seeming so brilliantly named) followed her. Crowds watched her progress east in Vineyard Sound at West Chop, and Islanders gathered at Coastwise Wharf and Tisbury Wharf, and anywhere else that served as a vantage point, to welcome Morgan in her 21st century incarnation.

Morgan is a barque, which means three masts, with square sails on the foremast and the main and fore and aft sails on the mizzen. She was launched originally as a ship, which means square sails on every mast. Today, in addition to two jibs and a staysail, plus mizzen and mizzen topsail, she carries a course foresail, with two topsails and a topgallant sail above. On the main, there is the course, two topsails, the topgallant and a royal at the very apex of the rig. By contrast, Shenandoah, Vineyard Haven’s square-rigged centerpiece since 1964, carries two square sails on her foremast, a topsail and a topgallant. She’s known as a topsail schooner.

Nantucket was a prosperous, world-famous whaling hub. New Bedford became the world capital of the whaling industry and the richest city in North America in the 19th century.

The Vineyard, apart from shore whaling by Wampanoag Indians, lived on farming, shore fishing, and coastwise schooners passing north and south through Nantucket and Vineyard sounds. Its contributions to the 19th century heyday of American whaling were crewmen — Azorean sailors, Gay Head (Wampanoag) Indian harpooners, and Vineyard sailors, mates and captains. The Morgan’s visit memorializes their vital places in her celebrated commercial history.

The Vineyard and Gay Headers were represented Wednesday by Elizabeth James-Perry, a Wampanoag descendent for whom the trip was a spiritual recapture of sorts, and Matthew Stackpole of West Tisbury, a professional fundraiser for Mystic, who has helped raise millions of dollars for Morgan’s reconstruction. Another Vineyarder, the craftsman, boatbuilder, and artist Frank Raposa, who is among his many talents an expert caulker, joined the Morgan construction team in Mystic when it came time to caulk Morgan. And, Gannon & Benjamin, the Vineyard Haven boatbuilders, constructed one of Morgan’s whaleboats, hanging in davits today.

Morgan’s maiden voyage, 35 in her crew, took her back and forth across the Atlantic, around Cape Horn to the Arctic and back again around Cape Horn, to her New Bedford home port, three and a third years in all. The captain was Thomas Norton. He and many of the crew were Vineyarders. Fortunate and profitable throughout her career — despite howling storms, Arctic ice, hostile natives where Morgan stopped for water and provisions, attacks by Confederate raiders — Morgan, an early factory ship, came home with a variety of products in demand worldwide and especially sperm oil, the premium lubricant and fuel for lanterns and machines until petroleum was discovered and refined. As many as six of Morgan’s 21 captains during her whaling career were Vineyarders and many of her skilled crew, harpooners and boatsteers were Gay Headers. Morgan was a profitable business that enriched her owners and investors, and created livelihoods for captains and crewmen.

Morgan, a National Historic Landmark, the oldest operating American commercial vessel still afloat, and the last wooden whaleship remaining in the world, was decommissioned in 1941 and became a Mystic Seaport exhibit. Today, she did what she knows how to do very well – sailing fast, handling well, getting where she was going efficiently and with an easy motion that her passengers, most of them at least, found comfortable.

Visitors welcome

Vineyard residents and visitors are invited to board the 173-year old whaleship Charles W. Morgan, faithfully restored by Mystic Seaport shipwrights, on her third port stop on her historic 38th Voyage. The whaleship, built in 1841 in New Bedford, will be moored at Tisbury Wharf in Vineyard Haven and will be open to the public June 21-24.

Morgan’s last whaling voyage, her 37th, ended in 1921 at New Bedford, and although she did not sail from Martha’s Vineyard or discharge her cargos at Vineyard ports, on this 38th voyage, she is paying a call at Martha’s Vineyard to recognize the contributions to her commercial success made by dozens of Vineyard captains and crew members who sailed in her.

Visitors who tour the Morgan during her Vineyard stay will learn about whales and whaling in the Mystic Seaport Museum’s 22,000 square-foot dockside exhibition. There will be video on the history and significance of the meticulously restored vessel, and a series of panels explain the role the American whaling industry had in this country’s history; how the Morgan and other whaleships connected distant and varied global cultures; and how Americans’ perceptions of the natural world have changed since the Morgan’s whaling career. Hands-on activities include knot tying, handling samples of wood used in the restoration, and searching the Morgan’s crew lists for familiar names or hometown connections.

Spouter, a 46-foot-long, life-sized inflatable model of a sperm whale will be on hand, and visitors may join in “What Bubbles Up?,” an opportunity to write down their whale related memories, questions, or sketches and attach them to a humpback whale sculpture.

Mystic Seaport representatives will demonstrate the 19th-century maritime skills of a cooper, shipsmith, ropemaker, and whaleboat oarsman. There will also be live performances including sea chanteys, the interactive “Tale of a Whaler,” and a condensed rendition of Moby-Dick,  “Moby-Dick in Minutes.” Visitors may even take a turn rowing a whaleboat.

And, the 38th Voyage partner, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, will be at hand to explain how the National Marine Sanctuaries interpret America’s maritime past, promote ocean conservation, and engage in cutting edge research. They will show how whales feed and what they feed on, and there will be videos that describe the National Marine Sanctuary System, whales, whale research, and whaling heritage. Kids can even create their own whale hats.

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The whaleship Charles W. Morgan, in view of West Chop, Martha's Vineyard. — Doug Cabral

Dispatch from onboard the whaleship Charles W. Morgan, 1:50 pm, Wednesday, June 18, 2014:

The whaleship Charles W. Morgan, as seen from the boat of Vineyard Haven harbormaster Jay Wilbur.

Most of the sails are set, but more are in waiting. The captain has taken a hitch toward Tarpaulin Cove on Naushon Island. There he will tack or jibe and head across toward Menemsha Hills. The breeze is strong, and there is a fair current in the sound, so she is hurrying along. He says that he will try to duck into VH harbor under sail, then turn around and head out of the harbor to get sail off.

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Speakers at the service Wednesday remembered a man whose life, marked by civic and family commitment, was cut short.

Joseph Arceri, Pat Gregory's college roommate, spoke to mourners from the lectern Mr. Gregory commanded at West Tisbury town meetings. — Photo by Ralph Stewart
Shannon and Daniel Carbon were preceded by their son, Jack, as they moved to their seats.
Shannon and Daniel Carbon were preceded by their son, Jack, as they moved to their seats.

Hundreds of stricken Islanders, and especially West Tisbury residents whose civic debates Pat Gregory moderated for 23 years, gathered on Wednesday afternoon at the Ag Hall to come to grips with Mr. Gregory’s death at the hands of a murderous robber in California. Husband, father, grandfather, teacher, businessman, friend, genial, optimistic, and modest, Pat — everyone called him Pat, and still do — had, over his years in residence and his leadership of municipal decision making, combined, in the minds of many, all the characteristics West Tisbury residents cherish in their neighbors.

Three generations of Gregory women — Dorothy with her granddaughter Bess and daughter Shannon — smiled to well wishers after the service.
Three generations of Gregory women — Dorothy with her granddaughter Bess and daughter Shannon — smiled to well wishers after the service.

Bright Celtic music welcomed the crowd, which by their numbers delayed the start of the scheduled 4 pm memorial service, but the tunes fell upon a solemn audience, given occasionally to deep silence. Somberly, friends greeted friends, and often in the hugs sadness and tears, flimsily dammed, threatened.

Besides the sadness, there was anger, as Pat’s daughter, Shannon Gregory Carbon, acknowledged. She said she understood that people were angry because of the  circumstances of her father’s death, but she was affected otherwise. She had recalled, in her description of her father, that he held that “the stories we tell of each other keep people alive” after death, creating a sort of heaven on earth. Her father, she said, “knew of life’s sorrow, but he wasn’t impressed.”

Dorothy Gregory with her granddaughter Bess Carbon.
Dorothy Gregory with her granddaughter Bess Carbon.

On May 16, Francis Patrick Gregory, 69, and a 76-year-old friend and hiking companion from the small nearby town of Manton, California, were not far from a trailhead just off heavily traveled Highway 36E, north of the county seat of Red Bluff in Tehama County, when they encountered a man who robbed and then shot them. The men did not resist, police confirmed. Tehama County law enforcement is investigating, and the sheriff has said his department expects to arrest the robber though he has not discussed in detail the progress his detectives have made.

The cavernous Ag Hall was filled, an historic crowd many times larger than any over which Pat presided, or earlier in the annals of West Tisbury history. Cynthia Mitchell, a selectman, represented the town. She described Pat as a moderator with “boundless energy,” who mounted the meeting stage and grasped the podium delightedly, but who was careful and measured in his leadership, to allow civic debates to air all sides. And, most of all, he liked to “move things along,” and he would at times seize on a pause for breath in Ms. Mitchell’s official remarks at a meeting, to say, “Thank you, Cynthia,” as if she were finished, and then open the meeting to comments from voters.  She was amused by what she called the “running joke” between Pat and her, but in the telling of it, she needed to pause often to compose herself.

Pat's son, Timothy, remembered his dad.
Pat’s son, Timothy, remembered his dad.

Ms. Mitchell brought word that the Massachusetts House of Representatives, on a motion by state Representative Timothy Madden of Nantucket, suspended its business on May 19 for a moment of silence, to recognize Mr. Gregory’s public service.

Joseph M. Arceri, a friend of Pat’s since they were teenagers and at college together, recalled 50 years of their close association. He described Pat as an optimist, joyful, zestful, “everything was an adventure to Pat.” And, of Pat’s wife Dorothy, Mr. Arceri said, it was “always Pat and Dorothy.” The Arceris and the Gregorys had double dated in college, dined and vacationed together, and Pat, Mr. Arceri recalled, had often said that he had married the love of his life.

Father Michael Nagle and Rev. Cathlin Baker, who presided at the ceremony, comforted each other.
Father Michael Nagle and Rev. Cathlin Baker, who presided at the ceremony, comforted each other.

Daniel Lima Carbon, husband of Shannon and for the past four years a partner with the Gregorys in the Educomp business, said that as he and his father-in-law brainstormed about the future of their business, he was struck by Pat’s eagerness to move forward, even to take considered business risks. He wondered aloud whether Pat wouldn’t rather play more golf or travel more, or do whatever he liked. “Pat said, ‘I’m doing what I like.’ Pat was truly happy.”

Daniel Carbon, Pat's son-in-law and partner at Educomp, spoke of Pat's love for his work.
Daniel Carbon, Pat’s son-in-law and partner at Educomp, spoke of Pat’s love for his work.

Mr. Carbon thanked the Educomp staff — he said the Educomp “family” — for their unstinting support during the days since Pat’s death.

Mr. Arceri, whose fond memories of Pat were, he said, not intended as a eulogy, explained, “There’s no need for a eulogy for Pat. You all knew him. Everyone knew him, and he enjoyed all of those relationships. Knowing him is best.” But, Mr. Arceri added that if a eulogy were in order, his friends could “pay forward his goodness to others,” and that would do.

Molly Conole, a member of the Educomp staff, added the lovely “An Irish Blessing,” which she composed, sang, and accompanied on the flute – “May the road come up to meet you, and the wind be always at your back…”

Islanders, more than 1,000 of them by some estimates, came together in many ways at the service.
Islanders, more than 1,000 of them by some estimates, came together in many ways at the service.

An inspired choice in the occasion’s program, decorated with a photograph of Pat at the West Tisbury town meeting podium — also used on the low stage in the Ag Hall Wednesday — were these few and definitive lines by Robert Burns:

An honest man here lies at rest

As e’er God with his image blest.

The friend of man, the friend of truth,

The friend of Age and guide of Youth;

Few hearts like his with virtue warm’d,

Few heads with knowledge so inform’d:

If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;

If there is none, he made the best of this.

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This is the 807th and last weekly At Large column I will write. The series began in November of 1998, and I haven’t missed a deadline since. All by itself, that’s something to be proud of, I suppose. But actually, it was never my plan to begin the column, and I certainly never imagined I’d rumble on for more than 15 years. Figuring that I’d have to say something at least mildly interesting and certainly true in this final installment, I’ve been thinking lately about my lack of a plan, not just for the column, but for all the years I’ve logged as a newspaper writer, editor, columnist, and owner. I didn’t chart a course for any of it. It was all an accident — delightful, as it turned out, but unimagined and unplanned.

James Reston gave me a job as a feature writer at the Vineyard Gazette in 1972, after someone brought to his attention a story I’d written about living on my little boat with a big dog. A little while later, the woman I worked for left for a bigger, daily publication and a book writing career, and I became the managing editor. The learning curve was steep, but as luck would have it — and there is so much luck bearing on this tale — besides Reston, I worked under the guiding wisdom of Henry Beetle Hough, the Gazette’s hallowed editor, and Bill Caldwell, a Pulitzer Prize winner for commentary during his career as a columnist at the Record of Hackensack, New Jersey.

Henry’s reputation has over time parted ways with the workaday reality of this gentle but formidable man. He was not a summer visitor. His paper was not conceived as a postcard to summer folk who lived their lives elsewhere for most of the year, hankering all the while for their Vineyard vacation houses. He was a fully committed year-round Vineyarder, a member of the regional school committee, a bank director, the one who, with me, called the funeral directors — there were two in those days — early on Friday mornings to see if they had “anything for us” before the press began rumbling. And, he was the one who sat at the Linotype machine to set the late obituary in type. He meant his newspaper to be a tool for Islanders first, and then for others who loved the place and its land — and seascapes as he did.

Bill Caldwell taught originality and impeccable prose. His copy, which, in an odd and ironic twist, came to me for editing, though it needed none. No X-outs, no punctuation, spelling, or construction errors. Utterly perfect in every respect when he yanked it out of his typewriter and brought it to me.

Reston, the owner and publisher, whose archbishop-like presence led the great and powerful in the nation’s Capitol to genuflect, taught that beginning life as a sports writer and indulging a taste for flavorful sports metaphors and workmanlike, colloquial prose could make a columnist’s analysis of Washington politics and international diplomacy pleasurable and instructive to readers. He also taught newspaper office politics — a fervid, constant pastime in this business — at which he was clever and subtle.

In 1980, I left the Gazette, and it turned out that raising cattle, horses, pigs, chickens, hay, feed and sweet corn was next for me. But, six years later, I had a call from the founders of The Times and an offer. Five years after that, Molly and I bought the paper, and a few years after that, we met Barbara and Peter Oberfest, because our children went to the Vineyard Montessori School together. We and they formed a durable and successful two decades long partnership.

This column wasn’t my idea either. As I’ve told you on other occasions in this space, I began it at Molly’s suggestion. I had been writing a weekly editorial for several years before that — the one across the way on the Editorial page this morning is mine, another and final effort to get you to see things my way — but Molly said back in 1998 they often sounded bossy, and the subjects were boring. Well, no arguing with that. “Why don’t you write something more varied and occasionally fun,” she said. “You don’t want readers to think you’re a bossy, boring person.” (In the end, her hopes may have exceeded my grasp.)

But, as so much else over these many years has been, it was fun, and I enjoyed the unusual and enviable freedom to write what I liked on whatever topic I liked. Best of all, many of you were kind enough to say you enjoyed at least some of them. You stopped me in the market or the drug store or on the ferry to tell me so. On the other hand, some of you objected. A very nice Chilmark woman clipped a copy of one of the columns and mailed it to me with red pencil corrections to nearly every comma, capitalization, and word choice I had used. I’m sure she intended to be constructive, and she certainly was a diligent reader.

Her fading rewrite, pinned to the wall in my office, reappeared the other day as I took down the photos and cards I’d saved over all these years, including the bumper sticker someone gave me that said “MVTimes: Hateful Journalism Every Thursday.”

My colleagues over all these years have been numerous and varied. A few came and stayed. One preceded me on The Times, and she and one or two others have been with me for almost a quarter of a century — excellent, committed people of integrity and, yes, durability. There were tough times as well as triumphs. The ones who came and went quickly left their indelible marks too — the young reporter who, in interviewing for the job, failed to mention that he was dyslexic; the theater reviewer who, inflamed with artistic integrity that brooked no clumsy amateur performances, lumbered the grade school kids acting in the school play; the giggling summer interns who found most of their stories at the beach; the section editor who never met a deadline she couldn’t miss; the other one whose only skill was meeting deadlines; the California website geniuses who built a site that drained our treasury, exhausted our patience, and vanished, leaving us face to face with the fact that we were fools and had been taken to the cleaners.

Today, this happy accident has run its course. Peter and Barbara will navigate the next leg of The Times trip. Molly and I wish them and all of The Times folk great fun, accidental or otherwise. Newspapers by nature are carried along daily in the bouillabaisse of human events: births, deaths, tragedies, triumphs, fire, flood, politics, arguments, crabbiness, euphoria. We are exposed to it all. It’s the job, and thanks to you — readers, customers, newsmakers, colleagues, neighbors, friends, critics — it has been a terrific job to have. There is always smiling promise and great opportunity for someone like me — especially in your neighborly, encouraging, indulgent, and enthusiastic company.

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If you have been marveling at the other marathon, that is, the marathon, unanesthetized colonoscopy now being performed on the Stop & Shop project, history suggests that this is nothing new. When we fight, especially when we consider change, we insular types don’t flag, we don’t cave, we hold grudges, we fight on. Winston Churchill — “Never give in”  — would be proud. The fight over the Nantucket Sound Islands Trust legislation went on for years, followed by the fight over the Martha’s Vineyard Commission legislation, the fight over the creation of the Land Bank, the battle over the golf courses, the vicious and wearing conflict over the Ramsey-Counter land claim, and on and on, beyond remembering.

But, it may be that the fight over Cape Wind, still muttering on in the background, will one day be crowned the mother of all political wars. Cape Wind, more than a decade in the application-permitting-financing journey, has not erected a single turbine, not created a single volt of electrical power, and it’s better than even money that it never will.

If you are one of those who favor a clean, plentiful, growing, cheap supply of energy to support the growth of the American economy — and, naturally enough, its many subdivisions, including this tiny, remote (but not remote enough) outpost we call home — I urge you not to despair.

The state of Massachusetts, in its nutty devotion to wind-powered, ocean-based generating plants deployed, in cooperation with the federal government, in a strangling circle around the Vineyard, does not feel your pain. Indeed, the state’s aim is not only to conspire over the Cape Wind project, but to elbow aside valid economic and environmental concerns expressed by Islanders, to allow, no matter what local opinions may hold, wind factories to the east, west and north of us. It’s a plan whose benefits are immeasurably small and diminishing compared with new, less expensive land based technologies — especially solar, whose installation costs have plunged in the last few years. But, it’s a plan whose time, if it ever came, has now gone.

Among the drawbacks, and the Cape Wind deal with National Grid draws this out plainly, are the state’s policy determinations to allow the expansion of wind generation, no matter what the cost to residential and commercial customers and no matter whether the local targets agree to the intrusion. Wind-driven sea-based power will be significantly more expensive than energy produced by any other source, but the state endorses it, subsidizes it, and would protect its higher costs by attempting to block energy suppliers from buying less expensive power — even power from renewables — created out of state. Absent the politically forced premium to be paid for Cape Wind electricity, the development of that wind turbine factory could not be funded. Wind power needs such well-intentioned but foolishly conceived support, otherwise developers of wind-driven electricity would not find financing or a market. At this point, wind enthusiasts point to billions in subsidies extended to other energy producers, notably oil. But, although oil doesn’t create much electricity in the U.S., it is a vital, current transportation fuel, and for good reason. Oil produces powerful energy, and does it relatively cheaply. It’s been worth subsidizing.

The argument here is that the energy future of our economy will be built on electricity and transportation fuels. Oil, whether produced here or abroad, does not figure significantly in electricity generation now and will certainly figure only marginally in the equation as we move forward. But it predominates as a motor fuel and a raw material in too many manufacturing processes to count, and it will continue to do so until replacement technologies can be concocted or discovered that furnish the same dense, cheap power and hugely variable utility.

The keys to plentiful, growing, and inexpensive sources of electrical power are conservation (especially in homes and vehicles), natural gas, and nuclear power. Something better may come along, but it won’t be wind. And, political manipulation will not make ocean-based wind power more desirable, more economical to build, or more reasonably priced for consumers.

As is apparent after a decade of debate over Cape Wind, the industrialization of 25 square miles of Nantucket Sound and of the empty ocean southwest and northwest of the Vineyard will diminish valuable, wild, clean seascapes, in exchange for modest, intermittent supplies of high-priced electricity that will in the end depend on traditionally fueled, efficient, powerful, economically scalable electricity generators capable of reliably producing power when we need it. And, doing it less expensively on a much less profligate footprint.

The Cape Wind deal to sell the electric power that the planned Nantucket Sound wind farm would one day produce will cost electricity end-users billions more than conventionally produced power. That’s not because wind-driven electricity is better electricity, or more dependable, or more easily scaled up to meet growing demand, or less demanding of the natural environment — consider the marine acreage to be consumed — but it’s because the political climate insists on it, no matter the costs.

For someone with a native fondness for New Bedford, the Whaling City, I’m happy to report that the only valuable spinoff from the failing Cape Wind project is the rehabilitation of a portion of the New Bedford waterfront.

Gov. Deval Patrick selected a portion of New Bedford’s waterfront that will be resurrected to serve Cape Wind’s construction and maintenance needs as the staging area for its turbine factory at Horseshoe Shoals. It’s about $35 million in investments, now underway in the form of dredging and dock building. We’re likely never to feel a single jolt from electricity produced by Cape Wind, but at least a community that needs investment and jobs is getting a lift from the project, now in hospice care.