Authors Posts by Nelson Sigelman

Nelson Sigelman

Nelson Sigelman

by -

Chappy resident and new tackle shop owner Peter Sliwkowski says he plans to build on the foundation of the Edgartown fixture.

Peter and Melissa Sliwkowski, the proud new owners of Larry's Tackle Shop in Edgartown with their dog Minnie.

Years ago, whenever Peter Sliwkowski traveled near the ocean for business as part of the leadership team of Progress Software Corporation, a leading global supplier of business technology, he packed away a fishing rod and built in some time to fish. Sitting at his desk, the avid fisherman said he often imagined what it would be like to own a tackle shop.

On Monday, Mr. Sliwkowski and his wife, Melissa, purchased Larry’s Tackle Shop on Upper Main Street in Edgartown, first opened in 1947 by Larry Myers in the location now occupied by Depot Corner gas station, and run for years by Larry’s daughter Ruth.

Steve Purcell, who has owned the shop since 2008 and managed it prior to that, plans to move to western Mass where he will manage farm properties for a boyhood friend and switch his attention from fishing to hunting. The affable and always helpful Mr. Purcell leaves a loyal clientele and a core staff that Mr. Sliwkowski said will provide a solid foundation upon which to grow his new business.

This week, Mr. Sliwkowski marked the change with a 20 percent off sale for everything in the store. “People love fishing stuff for the holidays,” he said.

In 2000, the Sliwkowskis purchased property on Chappaquiddick, noted for its wonderful shore fishing and beaches. In 2014, with both of their children out of college the couple moved from Sudbury to the small island and became full-time residents. Mr. Sliwkowski, 50 and retired, began working as a shore fishing guide. Conversations with Steve Purcell about how he might grow his business soon led to an invitation to Mr. Sliwkowski to purchase the shop.

An ardent shore fisherman, he participates in the Bass and Bluefish Derby and the spring Catch and Release tournament. He also continues to travel the world to fish: this month he’s heading to Christmas Island in the Pacific.

Mr. Sliwkowski said he looks forward to working with his wife, who has experience in retail sales. Asked about changes down the road, he said, “I have a saying, people don’t hate change, they hate loss.”

He expects to add to the product line, add some fishing clothing and custom rods. He outlined three primary goals: spruce up the store to create a world-class environment; provide a great selection; and make sure everyone has a great customer experience.

Building on his software background, in the future he also plans to revamp the website and be active on Facebook, providing up-to-date fishing reports and photos.

“Steve built a great foundation and a great reputation,” he said. “We’re just taking what he’s done to the next level.”

Asked why he would want to ruin a perfectly good retirement by purchasing a tackle shop, Mr. Sliwkowski said, “I’m an avid fisherman but it’s kind of weird — ten years ago in my corner office I had said, ‘Someday, I’m going to own a tackle shop on the Vineyard and that’s what I’m going to end up doing.’

“I would say, I’m not retired — work is optional.”

by -
The Island Home sets sail on a calm Wednesday afternoon. —Photo by Michael Cummo

The Steamship Authority moved forward last week with plans for two large capital projects, a new passenger/vehicle ferry that will serve the Vineyard route and the reconstruction of the Woods Hole terminal and relocation of the boatline’s administrative offices.

Meeting last Thursday in Hyannis, authority members awarded a $36,448,000 contract for the motor vessel Woods Hole to Conrad Shipyard of Morgan City, Louisiana.

The overall budget for the project is $40,236,500, which includes the cost of design and engineering services, SSA oversight and SSA furnished equipment. The board has authorized the sale of up to $38,250,000 in bonds to pay for the new vessel.

The single-ended boat will have an uncovered back deck and be capable of carrying 384 passengers and 50-55 cars or 10 semi-trailer trucks. It will serve as a replacement for the aged Governor, which will be sold or scrapped.

The members also approved a report by Betreaux and Iwerks Architects for a feasibility study of the reconstruction of the Woods Hole terminal that includes a proposal to move the SSA’s administrative offices from Woods Hole to a new building that would be constructed on SSA property adjacent to the Palmer Avenue parking lot in Falmouth. Management concluded that the Woods Hole site could not accommodate needed office space and parking.

In a telephone conversation, Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, told The Times that after a rocky start the SSA and community members led by Catherine Bumpus, co-president of the Woods Hole Association, had worked well together and reached consensus on most issues.

The existing terminal building that also houses administrative offices would be demolished, opening up views to the water, and the existing terminal pier would be partly removed to make way for a relocated slip number three. The new terminal would be set back from the water. The price tag for the entire package is expected to be close to $61 million.

Fuel for the fire

SSA officials also told The Times that despite a drop in oil prices, boatline managers have no plans to reconsider a slate of rate hikes approved October 21 that are scheduled to take effect in the new year.

Beginning January 1, the discounted vehicle excursion fare for Island residents, parking rates at Falmouth lots, and passenger fares for all travelers will increase.

In October, Mr. Lamson said the hikes were needed to cover increased operating costs projected for 2015, including fuel costs, vessel maintenance, employee salaries, health care benefits, and pension benefits.

At the October meeting, several members questioned the budget projection for fuel costs, given the current downward trend in wholesale oil prices.

“The market is correcting right now,” SSA treasurer Robert Davis said on October 21. “Talking with our consultant, he is still feeling the $90 range is a good range to be targeting.”

In public comment, Oak Bluffs businessman Todd Rebello, a former selectman, said, “I do believe there is a little fluff in the potential fuel budget that could be significant.”

Mr. Rebello said he did not expect any savings to be passed on to the ratepayers. “You’ll find another place in the budget to plug a hole,” he said.

This week the price per barrel of crude oil had dropped close to $60.

No rollbacks planned

In an email to The Times on Wednesday, Mr. Lamson said at this point he is not recommending that the SSA forestall the rate increases approved in October.

“Fuel is only one of the SSA’s expenses, and we already know that we will be incurring significant unbudgeted increases in our repair costs next year,” he said.

He cited almost $1.4 million in higher than expected costs to replace the dolphins at the Vineyard Haven terminal, repair the older portion of the dock at the Oak Bluffs terminal and dry-dock the Island Home next March.

“In addition, while we may all have opinions as to the range of oil prices that we are likely to see going forward over the long term, no one knows for sure at this point where the price of oil will ultimately settle at in 2015,” Mr. Lamson said. “The Department of Energy’s latest forecast says that WTI crude oil prices are expected to average $78 per barrel in 2015.  If that prediction proves to be accurate (and even the DOE cautions that energy price forecasts are highly uncertain), the SSA might spend around $1,300,000 less in vessel fuel expense next year than projected in its 2015 budget, but that amount will still not offset the unbudgeted increases in our repair costs that we already have incurred.

“Further, given that the SSA’s vessels consume almost 60 percent of their fuel during the months of July through December, it would not be prudent to base all of next year’s fuel price assumptions on the price that we are currently paying, which by most accounts may only be temporary.”

Mr. Lamson said the 2015 budget projects a net annual income of a little more than $3,000,000, which provides for “a very thin margin of error. “Even just a few unexpected events can turn the SSA’s black ink to red. On the other hand, if we do end up with a larger surplus next year than anticipated, the extra money will automatically flow into the SSA’s special purpose funds to be used to pay for the cost of our capital projects, which will help keep our rates lower in the future.”

Marc Hanover of Oak Bluffs, the SSA’s Martha’s Vineyard member, supported Mr. Lamson’s reasoning in a telephone conversation on Wednesday. Mr. Hanover said the SSA must take into account the volatility of the market and its future capital expenses. He said the notion that the boatline is socking away money at the expense of the ratepayers is not accurate.

For example, he said any unexpected surpluses would help lower borrowing costs.

“This is the first rate increase in four years,” Mr. Hanover said. “Costs have been up 2.5 to 3 percent per year and it is a $1 on a car and 50 cents on a person and it is pretty nominal at best.”

Rob Ranney, the Nantucket SSA member, agreed with his island counterpart. “Of course, there is also no way of knowing how long fuel costs will remain low for now,” he said in an email to The Times. “I don’t know what gasoline prices are on the Vineyard, but here on the outer island I paid $3.95/per gallon for the cheap stuff yesterday to fill up my car.”

Mr. Ranney said the SSA takes a longer view on these issues, “due in part to mandated bond repayment requirements, pension, healthcare and labor costs, maintenance schedules and unforeseen expenses.

“Also, despite outward appearances to the contrary, nobody at SSA likes rate increases, not me, not management, not passengers, not the ports, not anybody.”

by -
A hunter makes his way through the state forest in search of deer.

Deer hunters are reminded that the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife will staff the deer check station in the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest from 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday, the last day of the two week shotgun season.

All deer taken during the Vineyard shotgun season must be appropriately tagged and taken to official deer-checking stations. The state forest check station was staffed daily during the first week, and was by appointment the second week.

Deer may also be checked at the Wampanoag tribal headquarters building in Aquinnah and Larry’s Tackle shop on Upper Main Street in Edgartown. Call for hours.

The primitive firearms deer season begins Monday, December 15, and ends Saturday, December 31. Deer may be checked online during that season.

The Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun club on Third Street in Edgartown will host a blackpowder deer shoot competition from 11 am to 2:30 pm, this Sunday. The public is invited.


by -
The Nantucket is out of service this morning. — File photo by Susan Safford

Steamship Authority general manager Wayne Lamson said the discovery of water in a compartment below deck on the ferry Nantucket Thursday morning led to the discovery of a small crack in the hull above the water line.

As a result, the ferry was taken offline for repairs. Maintenance crews repaired the crack. Following a Coast Guard inspection she was back on schedule as of 1 pm, Thursday, Mr. Lamson told The Times in a telephone call.

by -

The Steamship Authority (SSA) met last week and renewed several agreements and bolstered the late summer, early fall schedules in response to complaints that reservations were unavailable in early fall.

The SSA renewed its contract with the Martha’s Vineyard Regional Transit Authority (VTA) to continue providing shuttle service between the Tisbury Park ‘n Ride lot and the Vineyard Haven terminal through December 31, 2016, with one significant change.

In the past, vehicles could remain in the lot for free for seven days. At the town’s request, that period will be reduced to four days.

The VTA shuttle van is expected to leave the town parking lot off State Road 15 minutes before each vessel’s scheduled departure and meet each vessel’s scheduled arrival. In return, the SSA reimburses the VTA for 50 percent of the direct labor and fuel costs attributable to the service plus $200 per month to cover maintenance, insurance, and other indirect costs, according to the SSA.

At the November 18 meeting boatline members also renewed its transportation agreement with the regional school district under which it will provide school-related approved transportation at a fixed price of $60,000 for a one-year period beginning July 1, 2015. The contract rate has remained unchanged for the last four years and represents an approximately 50 percent discount, the SSA said.

Regular travel was also on the agenda Tuesday. Responding to complaints that service was insufficient to meet demand when the summer schedule shifted to fall, the board approved a request to add service on the Vineyard route during the early fall.

The SSA will shift the Katama to an earlier schedule to meet morning demand by changing the 7:15 am, 9:45 am and 12:15 pm departures from Vineyard Haven to 6:30 am, 8:30 am and 11 am “to accommodate Island residents who wish to travel off-Island as early in the day as possible.”

It will also man the Governor with a single crew for the first six days of the fall schedule, “thus making it capable of operating up to 12 hours per day depending upon weather conditions and service demands.”

Looking ahead, the members approved management’s proposed 2015 capital budget which includes 18 new projects. The SSA plans to issue $40 million in bonds for the construction of its newest ferry, Woods Hole, and $6 million in bonds for the construction of new administrative offices.

In addition to those projects, new capital projects include: replacement of three shuttle buses; replacement of eight rescue boats; and security and spam filter upgrades.

The SSA also announced that reservations for the summer season will be accepted by mail and Internet through the headstart program from January 6 to 11. Reservations will be opened to the general public by mail and Internet beginning January 13. Telephone reservations open January 20.

Reservation-only (no standby) days will be every Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from June 19 through September 7, as well as from May 22 through May 26 (Memorial Day), and October 9 and October 12 (Columbus Day), the SSA reported.

by -
The SSA is adding trips in anticipation of storm disruptions. — File photo by Steve Myrick

The Steamship Authority has canceled the 1:15 pm  trip of the Island Home from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven and her 2:30 pm departure to Woods Hole due to weather conditions this Monday afternoon.

The SSA also cancelled the 1:15 pm sailing of the Nantucket from Vineyard Haven to Woods Hole and the 1:30 pm departure of the freight boat Katama from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven.

The 2:45 pm departure of the Katama from Vineyard Haven and the 2:30 pm departure of the Nantucket from Woods Hole are also cancelled.

For more information, call 508-548-3788 or 508-693-0367.

Current Conditions may be viewed at

by -

There are two ways to harvest bay scallops: hauling a scallop drag or dip netting. There is, in my estimation, only one way to eat freshly shucked scallops: dipped in Panko bread crumbs and deep fried in hot oil.

The crunch of the bread crumbs complements the sweet juiciness and firm texture of the bay scallop, which has a flavor unique to our waters — a flavor unmatched by sea scallops, their bulkier, chewier cousins, or the look-alike southern calico scallop, which has all the appeal of a fried eraser.

Compared to the Vineyard’s many highly publicized attractions, the bay scallop is one of our relatively unsung treasures. That may owe to the fact that scallop season does not begin until late October, when the Vineyard takes on a less glamorous auradevoid of the summer spotlight. That suits Island scallopers just fine. Even the most generous among us is apt not to share a prime scallop hole.

Scallops do not come easy, even in those years when they are abundant. It is physical work not matter how you cut it. Sore backs and arms are part of the harvest.

At one time, I scalloped using a drag hauled behind my 18-foot Tashmoo center console. I always made sure to invite my friend Tom Robinson along. Tom was good company, but better yet, he could be relied upon to haul the drag up to the side of the boat where we would struggle to hoist it to our culling board and expectantly dump its contents — a combination of stones, dirt, weeds, an occasional broken bottle, a wriggling tiny fish, a crab or two, and, depending on our fortunes, a good haul of legal sized scallops.

I discovered the joy of dip-netting a few years ago. It is low-tech harvesting. A pair of waders made for duck hunters designed for those who must navigate cold water, a peep sight for spotting scallops on the bottom and a long-handled scallop net and a floating bushel basket is all that is needed.

On Saturday, with the wind howling out of the northeast generating white caps on Lagoon Pond I starred in the scalloping version of Deadliest Catch. A wave broke against my peep sight and splashed into my face. I persevered with my reward in mind, that night’s dinner.

When I arrived home I dumped my bushel of scallops into the kitchen sink where they clicked and clacked, a jumble of live castanets. Then the real work began — shucking, an art form in itself.

The scallop knife needs to follow the roof of the shell or you risk slicing away the precious meat you have worked so hard to harvest. Bring the knife around the shell to pull off the guts and reveal the white, pulsing muscle. Again, a deft touch is needed to avoid ripping the muscle. One undercut, a flip and you are one scallop closer to what often seems the endless task of shucking a bushel.

Flour, egg wash, panko bread crumbs. It is my mantra. I wait until the oil just hits 325 degrees. In they go, out they come golden brown.

It is time I think that Martha’s Vineyard declare opening day of the scallop season a gastronomical holiday.

by -
Brothers Ned Casey (left), and John Casey with a large striped bass caught last year during the spring run. One year later, fishing was poor. —Photo by Nelson Sigelman

Fishermen along the East Coast can expect to see new regulations in 2015 designed to reduce the harvest of striped bass. That comes as welcome news to fishermen who have expressed concerns for several years over a steady decline in the abundance and size of one of New England’s most sought-after gamefish.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), a 15-member body responsible for managing fish species and implementing management plans along the East Coast, last week announced its approval of Addendum IV to Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass.

The changes will require a 25 percent reduction in the Massachusetts commercial quota and a reduction in the recreational bag limit from two fish per day at 28 inches to one fish at 28 inches, or a plan that results in a similar 25 percent reduction in the recreational harvest.

The 2014 Massachusetts commercial striped bass fishing quota was 1,155,100 pounds. The season closed following a reported harvest of 1,128,337 pounds.

The Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) said it will hold several public hearings this winter on the proposed changes to the bass regulations. “As always, input and participation from stakeholders will be an integral part of this rulemaking process,” DMF said in a prepared statement.

ASMFC said the changes are a response to data that showed a reduction in the number of breeding fish, and continuing harvests above mortality targets.

“The Addendum establishes new fishing mortality (F) reference points, as recommended by the 2013 benchmark stock assessment. In order to reduce F to a level at or below the new target, coastal states will implement a 25 percent harvest reduction from 2013 levels,” ASMFC said in a press release. “Chesapeake Bay states/jurisdictions will implement a 20.5 percent harvest reduction from 2012 levels since their fisheries were reduced by 14 percent in 2013 based on their management program. All states/jurisdictions will promulgate regulations prior to the start of their 2015 fisheries.”

According to the ASMFC, the changes in the management plan that has governed striped bass for decades responds to results of the 2013 Atlantic striped bass benchmark assessment that indicated fishing mortality was above target in 2012, and female spawning stock biomass “has been steadily declining below the target level since 2006.”

The ASMFC said that while “the stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring,” the number of spawning fish is expected to continue to fall below the set target.

“I congratulate members of the management board for making tough choices yesterday to ensure the long-term health and viability of our striped bass fishery resources,” board chairman Douglas Grout of New Hampshire said. “The board struck an important balance in taking immediate action to reduce fishing mortality back to the target while also recognizing the unique characteristics of the Chesapeake Bay fisheries.  The action will assure a more rapid increase in the abundance of spawning fish which has been declining in recent years.”

Welcome change

Kib Bramhall of West Tisbury, a dean of the Island’s recreational fishing fraternity and a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby hall of fame, has seen striper numbers decline and rebound, only to decline again. In 1981, he set a Derby shore record when he landed a 42.14-pound striped bass on the fly rod.

“I believe that striped bass are in serious trouble again,” Mr. Bramhall said. “The overall recreational catch is down something like 60 percent in the last several years, and the Derby weighed in 40 percent fewer stripers than last year. You can’t make this kind of stuff up.”

Mr. Bramhall said he applauds the ASMFC decision to implement a 25 percent reduction, but he wishes the Chesapeake, where the reduction is set at 20 percent, faced a similar cutback.

“It is fine to limit recreational anglers to one keeper per day,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how individual states come up with size limits.

“It will be largely up to recreational anglers to use peer pressure to enforce new regulations. There aren’t enough EPOs (environmental police officers).”

Not optimistic

Justin Pribanic holds a large striped bass he caught on a fly rod off East Beach and then released. —Photo by Nelson Sigelman
Justin Pribanic holds a large striped bass he caught on a fly rod off East Beach and then released. —Photo by Nelson Sigelman

Brad Burns, president of Stripers Forever, a Maine based nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to making striped bass a gamefish along the entire east coast, is not optimistic that the ASMFC reductions will  alter the decline in striped bass.

In a newsletter to members, Mr. Burns said the ASMFC technical committee gives the new changes only a 50 percent chance of rebuilding the spawning stock. He pointed to the unwillingness of Chesapeake Bay area commercial fishermen to support conservation measures on the basis that they fish on a stock of non-migratory and plentiful male fish. “This argument is hard to buy since the recreational catch in the Bay has declined from about 6.7 million fish in 2006 to 3.2 million in 2013,” Mr. Burns said.

Bay area commercial fishermen, he said, also claim that stripers are eating too many young blueclaw crabs that the fishermen depend on for the rest of their living. “The truth is that stripers have been coexisting with the crabs in the Chesapeake Bay forever, and many people feel that over-harvest and environmental conditions within the bay are the real culprits in the low crab population,” he said.

Mr. Burns pointed to one high point during the ASMFC hearing. “Paul Diodati, the Director of Marine Fisheries in Massachusetts, made the point that the coastal states had already lost a great deal of money with the striped bass population downturn, and that many anglers have been deprived of highly valued recreational opportunities,” he said. “Listening to ASMFC fishery debates over the years, I have never heard anyone stand up for the value of recreational fishing and the need for a robust fish population to the extent that I did during this meeting. That may be a good sign for the future of fishery management.”

Mr. Burns said there is no telling what the future holds for striped bass. “So while the vote this week mandating regulatory changes for 2015 is a step in the right direction, we would be surprised if those changes will substantially improve the striped bass population, or even make any difference. The battle is a very long way from being over.”

Huge hit

Darren Saletta of Chatham, president of the Massachusetts Commercial Striped Bass Association, which represents the interests of more than 130 commercial bass fishermen, said his organization supports the science the ASMFC has applied to managing striped bass and the goal of sustainability. However, in a telephone call with The Times on Tuesday, Mr. Saletta, a charter captain as well as a commercial fisherman, said he does not agree with a 25 percent cut across the board.

Mr. Saletta said that the recreational fishery, which has experienced uncontrolled growth over the past 15 years, generates little accurate data as opposed to the commercial sector, which is tightly monitored and has been held in relative check when compared with the recreational take. He would like to see the responsibility for a reduction in harvest fall more heavily on the recreational side of the ledger.

“The commercial fishery should be subject to a more modest reduction, such as seven to 10 percent, somewhere in there,” he said. “Twenty-five percent of 1.1 million is a lot of fish, a lot of money. It is a very direct economic hit on a commercial fishery in the state.”

Mr. Saletta said the reduction in the recreational bag limit from two to one will not affect the recreational economy. Fishermen will still fish, he said. “Do we need to take 25 percent from a fishery that is a fraction of the recreational fishery?” he asked. “That’s a huge hit. That’s a lot of money.”

by -
Joe Malafy of Malafy’s Meat Processing in Milan, New York prepares to hang a doe in his cooler, one of almost 1,000 deer he expects to process this hunting season. —Photo by Nelson Sigelman

Two weeks ago, my wife and I traveled to Taghkanic, New York, at the invitation of friends, New York city residents with a lovely country house set at the top of a steep driveway and overlooking farmland and distant hills. I was their first visitor to ever arrive with a Summit climbing stand and a Mathews Switchback compound bow.

Laurel had often described all the deer on her property and how much damage they did to her plants. I casually mentioned I could help with her problem. My wife, Norma, well attuned to my ulterior motives, suspected something when I suggested we take our first off-Island trip in more than four months. She was not surprised to learn that the New York state bow season opened two weeks before the Massachusetts season, which began Monday.

Ed and Laurel are not hunters. Not even close unless I widely expand the definition to include finding a specific item on a crowded shelf at Zabar’s, the wonderful specialty shop in Manhattan. But they are wonderful and relaxed hosts.

After all, how many people would put up with a house guest who began the dinner he said he would cook, and left the stove only to return a few hours later splattered with deer blood and gore?

I had planned to cook venison shanks, the remainder of last season’s harvest. Cooked slowly with carrots and onions in beef broth and red wine with spices and herbs, it is delicious. I braised the shanks, but when I realized that dusk, the time when deer tend to emerge from the woods, was fast approaching, I asked Laurel to take over at the stove and dashed out of the house.

My biggest concern as I sat in my tree stand on the edge of a small grassy field overlooking a fire pond that is a magnet for deer in the area was that I not miss a vital area. Every bow hunter knows it happens. On the Vineyard I could call on help from fellow hunters to find a deer. Not in New York, and I did not want to have to spend hours tracking a deer alone in unfamiliar woods crossing private property and encountering stray rottweilers.

Out of nowhere I heard a crunching sound to my right and saw a big doe eating acorns. The doe came closer. When she stepped behind a tree I drew my bow. My shot appeared to hit the deer well. I watched her direction of travel closely as she ran off.

It is always best to wait before tracking a deer. Unpressured, a deer will most often lie down and expire. I waited as night fell and the woods quieted.

“I shot a deer and I need to go find it,” I told Ed and Laurel after I returned to the house where everyone waited patiently for dinner. Up to then the notion that I might actually kill a deer on their property had been a vague concept. “But it’s dark,” Laurel said.

The deer had travelled only about 80 yards. I field-dressed the doe and dragged it out. I returned to the house about 45 minutes later. Four feet protruded above the bed of my pickup truck

Joe and Sallie Malafy have built a successful business on quality and hard work. —Photo by Nelson Sigelman
Joe and Sallie Malafy have built a successful business on quality and hard work. —Photo by Nelson Sigelman

I had done some research before we left the Vineyard and discovered that I would be only a 20-minute drive from Malafy’s Meat Processing, owned by Joe Malafy, a man Frank Miniter, executive field editor of American Hunter magazine described in a story as the best butcher he had ever met.

Joe is not the most willing conversationalist you will ever meet. He does not stand around and listen to hunting stories. Thin, wiry and all business, he is in perpetual motion. “Got to keep moving,” he told me when I stopped by to take a look at his operation and got him to pause long enough for a photo with his wife, Sallie.

“My husband is a hard worker,” Sallie told me as we walked through their facility set on an open piece of land off a country road in the small town of Milan. “He built the business slow and steady.”

In a part of America where it still matters, his hard work had paid off. Malafy’s is a modern, clean facility with large coolers, freezers, and a commercial smoker. One section is devoted exclusively to deer, another to domestic animals. The family home, a large contemporary country house, is set on a nearby knoll.

Joe began butchering deer when he was a teenager working for an area supermarket. He later went into business for himself. Strict Federal regulations prohibit any sharing of space or equipment when processing domestic and wild animals. Last year, the Malafys completed the demanding process of becoming a USDA inspected meat processing facility for resale. Malafy’s now provides custom butchering services of cattle and hogs for local farmers and farmer’s markets.

Malafy’s processes about 1,000 deer annually, Sallie said. The basic charge is $120 to skin, cut, wrap and vacuum seal all basic cuts. For an additional charge a hunter can also order from a variety of products that includes all manner of sausages, salami and a whole, ready-to-eat, smoked leg of venison.

Joe has a well-earned reputation built on high standards that he applies to the animals brought to his shop. The Malafy’s website makes it clear that he will not accept deer that have not been properly cared for in the field.

“We have some very unhappy people,” Sallie told me. “A regular customer just cursed out Joe because he would not accept his deer.”

For my money, I would rather know my butcher sticks to high standards. The hunter’s permit and a tag that describes the type of cuts the hunter has selected follow the deer through the process from cooler to cutting room to freezer. “Our business is based on what we do with the deer,” Sallie said. “We process a lot and take it very seriously. And it starts with how the hunter harvests the deer.”

The key is a clean kill, and a hunter who knows how to field-dress a deer. It is also important to immediately begin the cooling process. Bags of ice inserted into the deer’s body cavity will help cool a deer down when it must hang overnight in warm weather.

The first thing Joe did when I drove in with my doe was inspect the body cavity. He smelled inside it for any sign of deterioration as I waited anxiously for it to make the grade.

I thought it was a big doe and pretty good shot. There was no chit-chat. Joe had my order tag and was filling it out. Did I want all the hindquarters made into steaks or just the best parts, he asked. I pondered too long. “That’s a yes or no question,” Joe said. He had to keep moving. Another pickup truck with another deer was waiting.

On Friday, Ed and Laurel called excited about the big box of steaks and sausage they had just picked up at Malafy’s. Laurel said she has found a good recipe for venison scallopini and wondered when we would return for another visit.

Hunters on Martha's Vineyard took a significant number of deer last season.
Hunters on Martha’s Vineyard took a significant number of deer last season.

by -

A newly installed security camera recorded a woman pocketing money and led to her arrest in connection with several thefts from cash boxes.

At the Grey Barn farmstand, meat, cheese and produce are sold on the honor system. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Updated at 12:15 pm, Wednesday, October 29.

Chilmark police Sunday arrested Sasha Wlodyka, 37, of State Road, Chilmark, in connection with a series of thefts of cash from money boxes and produce from the Grey Barn and Farm off South Road, and Mermaid Farm and Beetlebung Farm on Middle Road in Chilmark.

Ms. Wlodyka was booked at the Dukes County Jail Sunday night and released Monday on $1,000 bail. She is scheduled to be arraigned in Edgartown District Court on Friday, October 31.

Chilmark Police Chief Brian Cioffi said he could confirm the arrest but would not comment on the details while the investigation remains active and arraignment is pending. Police arrested Ms. Wlodyka on three counts of larceny over $250 on a single scheme and one count of forgery and uttering in connection with alterations she made to ledger sheets.

“Our department worked hard on this case which reflects on the quality of life in our community,” Chief Cioffi said. “At the end of the process, our goal, as always, is to see that the victim is provided with appropriate restitution.”

Eric Glasgow and his wife, Molly, own Grey Barn, a small-scale certified organic farm located just past the West Tisbury town line where they raise cows, pigs, and chickens and produce a variety of products, including two types of cheese, meat, pork, eggs, and raw milk, all of which are sold at their farmstand.

In a telephone conversation Monday, Mr. Glasgow said the farmstand operates on an honor system. Visitors are asked to record what they take on a ledger sheet and leave payment in a cash box. He became aware that someone was stealing from the farmstand in August when product inventories, ledger entries, and cash did not add up. While some discrepancies are to be expected due to honest math mistakes, he said, “if it indicates that there should be $400 and there is only $200, that’s a problem.”

As the thefts continued intermittently, Mr. Glasgow said, he became very annoyed and decided to do something about it. He ordered a security camera but got busy and delayed installing it. “And then of course, it happens again, and at that point I’m super angry at myself because I hadn’t even managed to install the camera,” he said.

Saturday he and his son spent the better part of the morning installing the camera. That evening when he went out to collect the money he saw that a ledger sheet on which he had transcribed some customer comments was missing and the money appeared to be off.

“I went and viewed the footage, saw the perpetrator and called the police,” Mr. Glasgow said. “They were able to take the information they got off that and figure out who it was and make an arrest.”

Mr. Glasgow said the recording shows that Ms. Wlodyka’s young daughter was present in the farmstand Saturday as she took bills out of the cash box, he said.

“It is a rather disheartening thing to see the crime taking place in front of a young child,” Mr. Glasgow said.

Mr. Glasgow said it is difficult to calculate exactly how much was stolen because Ms. Wlodyka, a frequent farm stand customer, removed the original ledger sheet and replaced it with a doctored sheet.

Mr. Glasgow said he appreciated the response of the Chilmark police. “The surveillance video was pretty conclusive, but they obviously made pretty quick work out of figuring out who it was since I didn’t immediately recognize the person.”

Mr. Glasgow said the entire episode is regrettable and reveals that the Vineyard is not immune from the type of petty crime that is more often associated with the mainland. “We like to believe that we can have an honor box and people are not going to steal,” he said. “Unfortunately it did not play out.”

Chief Cioffi said at this point he has no credible evidence that the Sunday night arrest of Ms. Wlodyka is related to a string of nighttime thefts in Chilmark and West Tisbury during the first week of September, in which entire cash boxes were stolen from Mermaid Farm on Middle Road, North Tabor Farm on North Road, and the flower stand on the Menemsha Cross Road.

That same week, West Tisbury police were called to investigate break-ins at Leona’s Pet Supply and Fiddlehead Farm. In all cases, the robberies occurred sometime between the close of business on Tuesday and early Wednesday morning, according to police. Cash registers at both businesses were stolen and scales were also taken from Fiddlehead Farm.