Authors Posts by Nelson Sigelman

Nelson Sigelman

Nelson Sigelman

The Sheriff's Meadow Foundation 2014 summer benefit was held on the Vose family property overlooking Edgartown Harbor and the Vose boathouse.

Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation welcomed its supporters Tuesday night to its annual summer fundraiser held under a spacious tent set up on top of Tower Hill in Edgartown that provided spectacular views of Edgartown Harbor, courtesy of the Vose family trust, which lent its grounds for the occasion.

In his welcoming remarks to the sold-out dinner crowd, Adam Moore, Sheriff’s Meadow executive director, provided an equally pleasing view of the the land conservation organization’s financial health and programs, which include a new educational initiative to introduce Island school children to the natural world through field trips to Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary in West Tisbury.

Sheriff's Meadow Foundation executive director Adam Moore said the conservation organization is strong and healthy.

Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation executive director Adam Moore said the conservation organization is strong and healthy. — Photo by Sara Piazza

The evening also provided an opportunity for newly elected Foundation president, Chris Alley of Oak Bluffs, an engineer with Schofield, Barbini and Hoehn, to display his wit and thank the many people who support the Island’s home-grown conservation organization. Mr. Moore provided the nuts and bolts. Mr. Alley pointed out that the organization’s newest acquisition, Bittersweet Hill on Chappaquiddick, was visible across the harbor. The property is open to the public and provides stunning views of Cape Poge and beyond, he said.

“We are a nonprofit, charitable organization whose mission is to conserve the natural, beautiful, rural landscape and character of Martha’s Vineyard for present and future generations,” Mr. Moore, a graduate of the Yale School of Forestry, told the dinner guests. “We own 2,003 acres of land across the Island, and protect an additional 853 acres with conservation restrictions.”

As guests chatted and munched on a delicate salad of Island greens in the comfort of a light, cool sea breeze, Mr. Moore described the accomplishments and goals of the nonprofit.

“We purchased Bittersweet Hill from Mrs. Virginia Mattern for the bargain price of $100,000,” he said. “We still have about $80,000 left to go to raise back the money we spent and help fund our next purchase. At Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary, we have just $36,000 left to go to meet our goal of raising half a million dollars. And for the repair and restoration of the Mayhew-Hancock-Mitchell House at Quansoo Farm, I am pleased to report that a generous, anonymous donor has offered to match, dollar for dollar, all gifts for the house, made in memory of Donnie Mitchell, up to $100,000.”

From left to right: Kerry Alley, Pat Alley, Sheriff's Meadow president Chris Alley and wife Kate Feiffer.

From left to right: Kerry Alley, Pat Alley, Sheriff’s Meadow president Chris Alley and wife Kate Feiffer. — Photo by Sara Piazza

Mr. Moore also spoke of the foundation organization’s responsibility to maintain and defend its properties. He acknowledged criticism of a lack of stewardship in the past. “I want you to know that we take our role as stewards very, very seriously, and we have been doing our level best to improve and increase our stewardship,” he said. “Over the past four years, we have quadrupled the amount of field time that we devote to maintenance.”

And he added, “We pledge to you that we will look after these lands. We will care for the rare plants and the endangered wildlife. We will deal with the forest fire risks. We will mark the bounds. We will support our farms. We will blaze trails and tend paths. We will offer peaceful natural places for study and research and observation and reflection and mourning and reverence. And when these lands are threatened — and at some point, they will all be threatened — when these lands are threatened, Sheriff’s Meadow will defend them.”

Mr. Moore said that Monday’s event raised about $300,000, a record and far ahead of past benefits

For more information about Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, go to



The ground pounders fought the tide and sea bass in the VFW fluke derby.

The VFW Fluke Derby was a boatload of fun for the kids. Left to right: Elizabeth O'Brien, Katherine O'Brien, David Packer, Nathan Packer, Jack Simpson, Jake Mundell, Molly Menton, and Charlotte Packer.

I fished a four-aspirin, two-Aleve weekend. After two days of bouncing lead weight in 80 plus feet of water in Vineyard Sound for two days in the VFW Fluke Derby held Saturday and Sunday my body felt like Poseidon had gone over every muscle in my back and arms with a hammer.

The key to catching fluke is to stay in contact with the bottom where fluke lie in wait for prey. That takes weight. How much depends on current and water depth.

Kid champs. From left, Kendall Nerney, Corbin Buchwald, Tate Buchwald, Darien Kral, and Joseph Medeiros.

Kid champs. From left, Kendall Nerney, Corbin Buchwald, Tate Buchwald, Darien Kral, and Joseph Medeiros. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

On Saturday, the wind was calm and the fishing was relatively easy. Most of the competitors worked hard to pick up a fluke amid the carpet of sea bass. Sunday, conditions changed. A strong southwest wind coupled with the fast flowing easterly tide made it tough to hold bottom.

Many of the boats worked the deep water holes off Seven Gates, between Cape Higgon and Cedar Tree Neck, where the water depths range between 80 and 108 feet and the big fish always seem to lie. By about 11 am, Sunday it took an engine block to hold bottom.

Saturday, my teammates, Barry Stringfellow and Nathaniel Horwitz, met me at 5 am at Tashmoo landing. I wanted to get an early start so I could take full advantage of the morning rising tide. On Sunday, my major concern was not getting caught on Vineyard Sound about noon when the tide would begin to drop against the wind. Sea conditions change rapidly once the tide turns and the ride back would have been quite uncomfortable and wet in my 18-foot Tashmoo.

Team MV Times held the lead Saturday night. But I knew it was tenuous and that a big fish on Sunday would determine the winner. With teams led by Cooper Gilkes of Edgartown and Bill Dreyer of West Tisbury on the water we were hanging on to the lead with a frayed piece of braid.

On Sunday, Billy caught an 11.39-pound fluke that earned him the fluke king crown and lifted his team Breakaway (Roger Kubiak and Joe Altavilla) into the winner’s circle. It was a sweet victory for Billy, Roger and Joe, who have lost in the past by just ounces.

VFW fluke tournament impresario Peter Herrmann with his grandchildren (Darien, Dylan and Emily Kral) and new eagle.

VFW fluke tournament impresario Peter Herrmann with his grandchildren (Darien, Dylan and Emily Kral) and new eagle. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

A cable news pundit Friday reporting on President Obama’s planned two week family vacation in August on Martha’s Vineyard described the Island as “ritzy and glamorous.” I suppose that impression would be accurate if one’s world only encompassed kiss-kiss cocktail parties and swank dinners in summer echo chambers. It sure does not describe the VFW Fluke Derby, and for that I am very grateful.

For the past ten years Roger and Joe have come up to fish the fluke derby with Bill. Joe is from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and Roger is from some town in New Jersey he kept, as near as I could tell, saying was “Metouchem.” I could not get the spelling straight in the noisy dining room and since it is New Jersey I did not really care.

I asked the two winning team members why they like fishing the fluke derby other than the fact that Billy takes them out and shows them a great time.

“They do a great job for the kids,” Joe said.

“Basically for the kids,” Roger said.

I had to ask, “Have you guys ever run for elected public office?” They looked at me quizzically. I explained that whenever someone starts telling me they’re doing it for the kids I figure he or she is running for office.

“These guys come up here,” Billy said, “They have a great time fishing. they fill their cooler full of sea bass and fluke, mostly fluke, and then they go home and look like heroes. They feed the town.”

Daughters, sons, cousins and family members they never knew they had text and call to ask about fresh fish. “It’s a good excuse to get together and fish for a long, long weekend,” Bill said.

Big kid champs, winners of the team competition. From left, Roger Kubiak, Bill Dreyer, and Joe Altavilla.

Big kid champs, winners of the team competition. From left, Roger Kubiak, Bill Dreyer, and Joe Altavilla. — Photo by Nelson Sigelman

John and Janet Packer of Vineyard Haven loaded up a boatful of kids Friday night. The kids sleep on the boat so that the only one who has to get up early is dad. The family has been a part of the tournament every year. Same for Bill and Kris O’Brien of Oak Bluffs and their two daughters. This year the family could only fish one day, but Bill said, “If I can only fish a day I’m goin’.”

The highlight of the awards ceremony is always the auction. Think of it as the anti-matter of every swank, high-priced Vineyard fundraiser. No celebrities. Just fun and spirited bidding.

Tournament organizer Peter Herrmann began the bidding for a set of wine glasses with the derby fluke logo at $30. $40 — $55 — $65 said winning bidder Janet Packer, who was determined not to be outdone.

A large stuffed bald eagle doll generated a bidding battle between Mark Morris and Jarda Kral. The three Kral kids urged dad to stay in the mix. But when the price hit $80 he stepped off the pedal. Mark peeled off $80 and then turned to the Krals. “You guys can have it,” he said.

The VFW Fluke Derby is that kind of tournament.

Largest fluke: 1. Bill Dreyer (11.39); 2. Cooper Gilkes (7.05); 3. Peter Cox (6.68).

Largest sea bass: Kendall Nerney (5.4)

Kids (12 and under): 1. Joseph Medeiros (5.5); 2. Tate Buchwald (4.18); 3. Darien Kral (4.04); 4. Corbin Buchwald (3.8); 5. Radio Goulart (2.42).

Teens (13-16): 1. Brendon Morris (3.91); 2. Richard Gibson (3.75); 3. Nathaniel Packer (2.80).

Teams: 1. Breakaway (Bill Dreyer, Roger Kubiak, Joe Altavilla) 39.28; 2. Sole Men (Cooper Gilkes, Rick Harvey) 33.85; 3. Austin O (Keith Olsen, Walter Tomkins, Galvin Tomkins, Michael Tomkins) 31.86; 4. MV Times (Nelson Sigelman, Barry Stringfellow, Nathaniel Horwitz) 29.84.

Derby Book launch

Hold a five-week fishing tournament on an Island with lots of crazy fishermen for more than six decades and what do you get? Lots of fishing stories.

Add the skills 25 years ago of a talented Edgartown artist who was devoted to the nonprofit organization and agreed to create a print each year to be sold to help fund the tournament and what are you left with? A series of images by Ray Ellis that captured the excitement, mood and beauty of fishing on Martha’s Vineyard.

Ed Jerome, longtime Derby president, has collected 27 Derby stories, many previously published, and put them together with Ray Ellis Derby prints into an anthology titled, “An Amazing Story of the Vineyard’s Derby, Twenty-five years of Paintings, History and Fishing.”

There will be a reception and book signing to celebrate the publication of the book from 5 to 7 pm, Friday, July 18 at Edgartown Books on Main Street in Edgartown. Many of the contributors will be present to sign books. For more information, call 508-627-8463 or go to

Speaking of

Speaking of the Derby and books, Ron Domurat of Edgartown has published a collection of Derby stories in a self-published paperback titled, “Three Decades of The Derby, A collection of Stories from Thirty Years of Participation in Martha’s Vineyard Fall Fishing Classic.”

I always knew Ron was a skillful fisherman. Now add writer to his portfolio. For anyone familiar with the Derby the stories will evoke memories of great fishermen and good times with men that include Don Mohr, Abe Williams, Gordon Ditchfield, Al “Angie” Angelone, Marsh Bryan, and Walter Lison.

Last chapter

Henry “Hank” A. Schauer died on Friday, July 4, 2014, at the Arnold Walter Nursing Home in Hazlet, New Jersey. He was 85. His obituary said, “He lived to fish.”

A memorial service will be held at 11 am on Saturday, July 19, at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Navesink. Interment will be private. Memorial donations may be made to the

Alzheimer’s Association, Greater New Jersey Chapter, 400 Morris Ave., Suite 251, Denville NJ 07934. Please visit Hank’s memorial website


The case, now in federal court, could determine if the Wampanoag Tribe may build a casino in Aquinnah.

Erected by Air Force reservists in 2004, the unfinished community center will be converted into a class II gaming facility, if the tribe's current plan is executed.

The town of Aquinnah and the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association Inc. (AGHCA) filed court documents last Thursday, July 10, in U.S. Federal District Court in Boston in which they asked to intervene in a lawsuit Governor Deval Patrick filed to block the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) from building what the tribe has described as boutique casino on tribal lands.

Governor Patrick first filed suit in December in state court. The Wampanoag tribe argued that the case rightly belonged in federal court. Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV agreed, noting the body of federal law supersedes state law with respect to gaming on Indian lands.

In a statement issued in response to the ruling by Judge Saylor, Cheryl Andrews Maltais, Aquinnah Wampanoag Gaming Corporation chairman, (AWGC) said, “The U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Indian Gaming Commission have each provided formal legal opinions in support of our rights. We now have all of the federal approvals required to proceed with gaming on our existing trust lands, and we are confident, in light of this decision, that the federal court will confirm Aquinnah’s sovereign and federal statutory rights to do so.”

The central issue and major hurdle in the tribe’s long-running battle to build a casino, in southeastern Massachusetts or on tribal lands on Martha’s Vineyard, is the Settlement Agreement that led to federal recognition for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head.

The Settlement Agreement was signed by tribal leadership in 1983 and was ratified by the state Legislature in 1985 and by Congress in 1987. That agreement stipulated that the tribe was subject to local and state laws and zoning regulations in effect at the time. In November, the tribe said a legal analysis from the National Indian Gaming Commission underpinned its view that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) supersedes the Settlement Agreement.

The town of Aquinnah takes the view, outlined by town counsel Ron Rappaport in a seven-page opinion dated April 27, 2012, that the Wampanoag Tribal Council of Gay Head Inc. cannot operate a gaming casino in Aquinnah because the 400 acres described in the Settlement Act are subject to the zoning regulations in effect at that time.

The state’s 2011 expanded gaming law authorized up to three licenses for resort casinos in Massachusetts, with a directive for the Patrick administration to negotiate gaming compacts with federally recognized Native American tribes.

Mr. Patrick negotiated a compact with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, which is seeking to build a casino in Taunton, but refused to negotiate with the Aquinnah Wampanoag.

The Patrick administration contended that the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe was free to compete for a commercial gaming license under the strictures of the casino law, but forfeited its rights to tribal gaming when it signed the land settlement.

In turn, the Wampanoag tribal membership narrowly voted to turn its unfinished community center in Aquinnah into a Class II gaming facility. The building, erected by two teams of Air Force reservists in 2004 and 2005 has sat unfinished for more than nine years while the tribe engaged in a multimillion dollar casino effort. The vote split the tribal membership, with many Island residents opposed to any casino on tribal lands, and mainland members in favor.

Class II gaming encompasses high stakes bingo, poker, pull-tab cards and associated electronic games that do not require coin slots. Unlike class III gaming, which encompasses all types of gaming and requires a tribe-state agreement, tribes may regulate Class II gaming on their own lands without state authority, as long as the state in which the tribe is located permits that type of gaming.

James Newman, chairman of the three-member Aquinnah board of selectmen, which includes two tribal members, said the motion to intervene is necessary to protect the town

“It was the right thing and the natural thing to do to protect ourselves from the casino,” Mr. Newman said Tuesday.

Town counsel Ron Rappaport said the town believes it is appropriate to be a party to the state lawsuit for several reasons. “First, we are a party to the settlement agreement; second, and most importantly, we are the party that enforces zoning, and zoning does not permit commercial gaming. So we stand uniquely suited to advocate through the courts that our local rights need to be preserved.”

The town will not stand alone. The Gay Head community association, which has carried the fight to defend the settlement agreement in the past, will do so again.

In an email to The Times on Tuesday, retired lawyer and longtime AGHCA president Larry Hohlt said, “As noted in AGHCA’s filings, the tribe’s recent gaming-related actions directly implicate the meaning and enforceability of the 1983 Settlement Agreement and the implementing Federal and Commonwealth Acts by flaunting numerous agreements, restrictions, and general provisions set forth in those documents. At the core of this case is the question of whether the agreement struck among the town, the Tribal Council, the Commonwealth, and AGHCA’s predecessor (the Gay Head Taxpayers Association) in 1983 is going to be enforced.

“Each of the parties to the 1983 agreement derived great benefits from it, and made significant compromises to obtain those benefits. We strongly disagree with the Tribe’s position on the interaction of IGRA (the Indian Gaming Reform Act) with the 1983 Settlement Agreement and implementing acts, and with the legal opinions from the Interior Department and the NIGC (National Indian Gaming Commission). We have therefore moved to intervene in the present action in order to take the steps necessary to ensure that the Settlement Agreement is properly interpreted and applied, and that the parties to the agreement receive the full panoply of benefits for which they bargained — just as we have done in the past, and will continue to do in the future.”

In a prepared statement emailed to The Times Wednesday, Ms. Andrews Maltais, AWGC chairman said, “We fully anticipated the town and taxpayers would try to intervene. However, as the court stated, this is a matter of federal law. So in my opinion, the Commonwealth is fully capable of representing any interests they may feel they have; since I believe all of their interests or rights are derived from the Commonwealth.”


Several weeks late, striped bass began showing up in Island waters in better numbers.

Remick Smothers (left) holds one of two large striped bass he caught on a fly rod while fishing with Nelson Sigelman off Lobsterville Beach.

Retelling fishing stories about how good the fishing used to be is a frightening symptom of aging that appears along with various other frightening signs that include aches that seldom seem to disappear, and hair disappearing from the right places and appearing in the wrong places. No one likes to sound like an old codger, even when codgerism is setting in.

In recent weeks, I had been living on my memories of how good the shore striped bass fishing used to be on Martha’s Vineyard, in particular Lobsterville Beach. In the 90s, when it was not unusual to see a line of fishermen stretching up and down the beach. I spent many nights casting to the sound of a large bowling ball dropping in the water, the sound a big bass makes when it hits bait on the surface.

Last season, Tom Robinson and I had each caught more than a dozen “keeper” bass, fish 28 at least inches in length, before the start of June. This season, I did not catch a keeper until late June. The last week in June, Tom and I fished Cedar Tree Neck on a rising tide just after sunset and caught not one fish for our efforts, not even a schoolie. Other fishermen were having equally dismal luck from the shore and on the water.

So I was pleasantly surprised last week to hear that the bass had started to show up around the Island. The boats were also picking up fish. But the best news concerned Lobsterville.

It is a magical spot for striped bass fly fishermen. The prevailing southwest winds blow right off the back and the fish are generally right off the beach. When it is hot it is one of the finest spots to fly fish for striped bass on the Vineyard (which means the world). I was anxious to get up-Island. What better excuse than a visitor who wanted to fish.

Every summer about this time I get a call from Remick Smothers. I began taking Remick fishing when he was about 7 years old. His family did not fish and he loved to fish so they gave me a call and asked if I wouldn’t take him fishing. I took him to Lobsterville Beach. He returned home and proudly deposited three big bluefish in his grandmother’s sink. I recall that she was as tickled by his catch as he was proud.

Remick is now 25 and a fine young man with lots of social obligations and a new job. Last week, I got the call. “Nelson, it’s Remick. I’m here for a week and I’d love to get together and do some fishing.”

My first free night was Thursday. Remick was off with his folks at 6 pm to a BBQ party off South Road in Chilmark, a fundraiser for the Y. No problem, I said, the bass fishing will not start until the sun goes down. I can pick you up at 8:30 pm in Chilmark.

Now there are people who like to fish and there are fishermen. Any 25-year-old guy who would leave lots of food, pretty women, beer and friends to go bass fishing is a fisherman.

The driveway looked like a Lexus, Mercedes, BMW dealership lot — not a pickup truck in sight as I did my best to avoid sideswiping any bumpers.

Remick and I arrived at Lobsterville and made a quick walk up the dark beach. Bass were delicately snatching bait from the surface. I cast to each expanding circular ripple on the surface of the water. Not far away, Phil Cronin of West Tisbury, tell-tale cigar in his mouth, cast to breaking fish.

An experienced charter captain, Phil said it was his first trip to the beach this season. Word filters around the Vineyard and Phil had gotten the word: Lobsterville.

Finding stripers and getting stripers to hit can be two separate challenges. The fish were there. The key turned out to be a small black fly and very slow retrieve.

Remick was casting an intermediate line that put his fly lower in the water column where the larger fish tend to roam. Remick gets excited about fishing, and he gets really excited when he is catching fish. “Nice fish,” he shouted to me as line rolled off his fly reel.

He slid the fish up the beach. The bass measured 34 inches, a fine catch on any night, but a particularly fine fish for a young man happy to be back fishing under the stars on Lobsterville Beach on Martha’s Vineyard and another good story for me to tell when I become a codger.

West Basin parking

Years ago, the state built a public boat launch ramp at the end of West Basin Road in Gay Head. The state failed to anticipate that the town would restrict parking to the extent that only residents could easily park a vehicle and boat trailer.

Years ago, a fisherman could park along the fence. The town now restricts that area to residents. There is a lot at the end of the road that is state property with about 12 spaces, used by beachgoers during the day and fishermen in the early morning and night. Out-of-town boaters can use one of those spaces to park a trailer. It is not a perfect situation but it works.

Unfortunately, I heard that several spaces had been occupied for more than a week by trailers. On Sunday, I saw three spaces occupied by trailers, one of which had a boat on it. Given the limited available spaces it seemed quite inconsiderate.

I spoke with Aquinnah Police Chief Rhandi Belain. He has always done his best to accommodate fishermen. Chief Belain said he was aware of the three trailers and was looking into getting them moved to free up the spaces.

The owner of the boat and trailer said he was waiting for a mooring. That was several weeks ago, Chief Belain said. The chief has ordered signs that state that overnight parking is prohibited. That may help. A little consideration would also help.

Fluke fishermen get ready

The VFW fluke tournament is this Saturday and Sunday, July 12, 13. The cost to enter is $20 for adults, $10 for teens and seniors; 12 and under are free but registration is required.

In addition to the individual competition there is a team division. That is an additional $20. The winning team gets half the purse — the glory is priceless. Four heaviest fish each day count to the team’s total. It does not matter who catches the fish. Weigh-in is from 4 pm to 6 pm at the VFW. There is a cook-out on Sunday followed by an awards ceremony. Register at Coop’s, Larry’s, Dick’s, Shark’s Landing and the VFW. This is a fun tournament. For more information, call Peter at 774-563-0293.


Island public agencies provided shelter from the storm for more than 150 members of a tour group left stranded when Hurricane Arthur shut down SSA ferries Friday night.

Stranded Island tourists bedded down for the night on cots set up in the Tisbury School gym.

There are more luxurious accommodations on Martha’s Vineyard than the Tisbury and Oak Bluffs school gyms. But on Friday night, more than 150 tired members of a stranded tour group were more than happy to sleep on cots set up on the parquet floor as Hurricane Arthur lashed the Island with torrential rains and high winds.

The details read as though they might have come from the playbook of a regional public safety drill. A category 1 hurricane races up the coast on July Fourth. The Steamship Authority (SSA) cancels the last boats and more than 150 mostly Asian tourists from New York City who expected to depart on the 8:30 pm ferry wait anxiously in the Vineyard Haven ferry terminal with no place to go.

But this was no drill. As the rain fell and the winds picked up to gale force, members of the Island’s emergency management network and public agencies sprang into action. Within hours, all of the visiting tourists had places to sleep. By 7 am the next morning, they were on their way back home with an exciting story to tell about their trip to Martha’s Vineyard.

Calm before the storm

Friday was hot and humid. Hurricane Arthur was predicted to race by Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket late that night. Weather forecasts predicted heavy rains and strong winds as the storm passed by late at night.

L & L Travel Enterprises, Inc., a major tour operator in New York City that caters mostly to Asians and Chinese speakers, had brought about 400 visitors to the Island for the day. The visitors planned to spend the day shopping and sightseeing and return that evening on the 8:30 pm ferry to Woods Hole and waiting tour buses.

And they were not alone. Two more tour groups, about 100 people, were on the Island.

Later in the day, as the storm began to approach, SSA agents were able to convince many members of the tour groups to board an earlier ferry to Woods Hole. Others continued to shop and look around town, unmindful of the worsening weather conditions and the likelihood of boat cancellations.


SSA terminal agent Dave Merritt said that terminal manager Bridget Tobin cautioned travelers as they disembarked throughout the day that the approaching storm could disrupt later travel.

By 6 pm, terminal agents were doing their best to get day travelers to board early boats.

Mr. Merritt said the tour directors appeared to be doing the best they could, but with so many people off in so many directions it was difficult to communicate. “We told one of the tour directors, you need to go on this boat or an earlier boat because there is a possibility the 8:30 boat will not run,” he told The Times in a telephone conversation. “I told her that, but the people didn’t want to get on the 6:15 because the people in general didn’t know what was going on.”

Due to worsening weather conditions, the SSA shifted the 8:30 departure from Oak Bluffs to Vineyard Haven. There was a 7:15 scheduled to depart Vineyard Haven.

“The 6:15 left and they didn’t get on it so we started sending groups and groups over to Vineyard Haven to try and get them on the 7:15,” Mr. Merritt said as the tour operators attempted to get in touch with members of their group.

Mr. Merritt went to Vineyard Haven to help out. “We got tons of people on the 7:15, but it was like pulling teeth,” he said, “because they didn’t want to go because all their people weren’t there and some of their tour directors weren’t there because they were over in Oak Bluffs trying to find all their people. It was really a madhouse, lots of confusion.”

Mr. Merritt said he spoke to one man, who appeared to be in charge of one of the groups, and told him to get his people on the boat and their tour buses would be there to meet them on the other side.

“The 7:15 left and everybody was fine and then all of a sudden more people started coming in from all the tours that were scattered around town, that didn’t get called, that didn’t make it in time. About 170 of them. All of a sudden the 8:30 cancels. Uh-oh.”

Call to action

It was dark and raining, and SSA terminal agents Dave Merritt and Joe Sullivan had more than 170 people crammed inside the small building with no place to go. Ticket agents began calling around for rooms, but few were available. An alternative needed to be found.

Mr. Merritt called Chuck Cotnoir, Dukes County emergency management coordinator, who works closely with each town’s emergency management director. “I said Chuck, we’ve got a shelter for these people, 170 people, they’re Chinese. Some speak English, some don’t. We’ve got to do something for these people.”

Mr. Cotnoir began making telephone calls. Mr. Merritt said initially it was difficult to reach people. Mr. Merritt contacted Tisbury police. There was some initial confusion about the extent of the problem and what needed to be done, he said.

In a short time coordinated efforts began developing to help the stranded visitors.

Tisbury Police Sergeant Chris Habekost and officer Jeff Day helped keep people calm. Sergeant Haberkost began calling hotels to find rooms for the elderly and families with children. On one of the busiest holiday weekends of the year he was able to locate seven rooms in Tisbury and four rooms in Oak Bluffs.

In the terminal, several people began feeling sick. EMTs arrived to help out. Nearby Porto Pizza faced a deluge of customers. “It was really interesting,” Mr. Merritt said. “But we all did great, we all pulled together. Everybody that was working here, the Steamship Authority, the police, the tour guides, there was no problem, no fighting, everybody was listening and communicating.”

Plans were made to open up the Tisbury School gym, a designated emergency shelter.

But there were no cots immediately available. Mr. Cotnoir called John Christensen, West Tisbury emergency management director (EMD).

Mr. Christensen began rounding up cots. When he realized he did not have enough, he called Tim Carroll, Chilmark EMD. The men worked in the rain to get the cots to Tisbury.

Angela Grant, Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) administrator, directed buses to assist with transportation.

Richard S. Reinhardsen, chairman of the Salvation Army, and Shelley Christensen arrived at the Tisbury school to hand out juice and snacks.

Ann Marie Cywinski, Martha’s Vineyard American Red Cross team captain and assistant Tisbury assessor, brought resources that included personal hygiene kits to hand out to the stranded people. She and other volunteers would spend the night in the shelters with the unexpected Island guests.

Tisbury Police Lieutenant Eerik Meisner, who is also the town’s emergency management director, contacted Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling. The men opened the Tisbury School gym and began setting up cots.

Mr. Meisner also called Oak Bluffs fire chief and EMD John Rose, who began mobilizing to open the Oak Bluffs School.

“We weren’t expecting that to happen, but we made a good show of it,” Lt. Meisner said.

“And kudos to Oak Bluffs. They stepped up and took about half the people, otherwise I don’t think we would have been able to fit all those people in the school.”

A VTA bus transported more than 70 weary travelers to the Oak Bluffs School.

“We set up all of our cots and they were happy,” Mr. Rose said. “By midnight they were pretty much all sleeping.”

Mr. Rose and a police officer spent the night at the shelter along with the town’s guests.

The next morning a VTA bus arrived and transported the visitors to the ferry terminal in time to catch the 7 am ferry. “It was pretty seamless; it worked pretty well,” Mr. Rose said.

All came together

Ms. Cywinski said the first bus load of about 70 people went to Oak Bluffs. Buses took 84 people to the Tisbury School. Members of the Salvation Army were there to greet them with snacks and juice. “They just came in and ran for the cots, they were so tired and confused,” Ms. Cywinski said.

With the help of a translator, Mr. Cotnoir put up signs in Chinese so that people would know where the bathrooms were located in the Tisbury School

Mr. Cotnoir praised the regional effort. “I think that everybody did a truly excellent job,” he said. “It was just incredible the way it all came together. The whole thing was from 8:20 pm to midnight and they were in all bed. That is what coordination is all about.”

Thank you Martha’s Vineyard

L&L company vice president Rich Sun told The Times in a telephone call Saturday that he was very grateful for all the help.

“We were very grateful, very thankful that they did their best to find shelter,” he said. “We really appreciate it. We saw the pictures of the night and all the people very peacefully resting. We really appreciate it.”

Mr. Sun said his company paid for the hotel rooms. “It was pretty expensive, about $400 per room,” he said.

Mr. Sun said he sent four busloads of visitors to the Island on Friday, about 200 people in all, mostly Asian Americans from New York City. He questioned why the SSA did not provide a warning that there was a possibility boats might be cancelled. “All the tour guides were very experienced and none of them were notified about this,” he said.

He said that one group boarded the 7:15 pm boat and made it back to the mainland. The

majority were stranded, however. “I hope if a similar thing happens some warning would be given to tour guides before they get on the Island,” he said.

Mr. Sun said he was aware of the weather reports of a hurricane moving up the coast. “I did see that, but when we checked weather reports we did not see anything so significant,” he said.

A file photo shows the section of South Road near where the accident occurred.

Alexandro Garcia, 22, of Springfield died just after noon on Wednesday after he lost control of the moped he was operating on South Road in Chilmark and drove into the path of an oncoming pickup truck operated by Jonathan Rich, 24, of West Tisbury.

Mr. Rich had just left work at the Grey Barn Farm and pulled out of the driveway on his way down Island. Mr. Garcia was driving up Island when he went off the road on the right side, tried to correct, and crossed into the oncoming traffic, Chilmark Police Chief Brian Cioffi said.

Chilmark, Aquinnah, West Tisbury, and State Police responded to the accident call at 12:27 pm. The State Police accident reconstruction team arrived on the Island about 3 pm. South Road was closed between the Grange Hall in West Tisbury and Beetlebung Corner in Chilmark most of the afternoon while police investigated. No charges will be filed.

Mr. Garcia worked for Sun & Fun, an Oak Bluffs moped rental business owned by Don Gregory Jr., Mr. Garcia’s brother-in-law.  He had the day off and was alone at the time, possibly on his way to the beach, Mr. Cioffi said.

“It is just an unfortunate, tragic, sad accident,” Chief Cioffi said. “My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of both young men involved.”


Every fisherman’s list of gear should include some type of PFD.

Rene Sehr of Holland holds up a small striped bass he caught in Menemsha Pond.

If you think about it, fishing is an inherently dangerous sport. There are sharp hooks and fish with sharp teeth. There are rocks to slip on, jetties to fall off, and boats to sink. But the biggest danger fishermen face, particularly experienced fishermen, is complacency.

How often do you see a single fisherman tooling along in his boat wearing no personal flotation device (PFD)? Too often. And not just fishermen.

The prevailing excuse is that there are other boats around, or the water is calm, or he or she is a good swimmer or the mindset that accidents happen to someone else. Well, they do not.

Inflatable PFDs are inexpensive — cheaper than a fishing reel or a casket — and they are comfortable to wear fishing from a boat or on land. Why would you need one on land?

Last week, I received an email from Rene Sehr (aka one of the Dutch guys). Rene has been visiting the Vineyard from Holland for years, usually in the company of Ton Kalkman, for an annual fishing vacation. He fishes hard day and night. He said his vacation started slow because he was a bit sick due to the air conditioning in the plane. But he soon got down to business.

“I found a few fish, but most of the beaches I used to fish and catch, were deserted places, no fishermen and no fish or just a few small fish, so I started roaming the ponds and I found some good schools of small herring and finally the bass arrived,” Rene said. “During daytime I caught a lot of small bass, but during the night I also caught keeper sized bass. So my fishing was pretty good.”

“We once experienced the drowning of a guide, you wrote an article about this sad event,” Rene said, referring to the June 2002 death of Kenneth Schwam, 46, of Oak Bluffs and Wyncote, Pennsylvania.

Ken, a fly fishing guide, drowned after he stepped off a sandbar into deep water just before midnight while fishing off Eel Pond in the Fuller Street Beach area of Edgartown’s outer harbor. Ken was fishing with a client on a sandbar off the beach. Returning to the shore in darkness, the men mistakenly stepped into a channel and became separated in the water.

In November, 1997, David Nielsen, 38, was fishing on the inside of Tisbury Great pond, a short distance from the ocean opening, when he accidentally stepped off a sandbar into deep water and drowned.

Rene continued, “One of those dark and foggy evenings last week I was standing on a sandbank in the pond, when I hooked up with a good fish, that forced me to go further onto the bank and deeper into the water. Finally I could unhook the fish and I wasn’t aware that the fog has became very thick! I stood up and due to the use of my headlight I couldn’t see a thing for a few moments. After that I saw that there was very little world left around me. So for a few moments I became a little bit shocked. We have an expression in Holland, but I cannot translate it properly, but it’s something like: my heart stood still for a moment. Where has the shore gone? Well after 20-30 seconds the fog pads drifted away and I was able to see a little bit of the shore again. But I cannot explain what came over me for a few moments!

My point: beware of the fog and do not say it cannot happen to me! I know this area pretty good, but you are completely lost when this happens!

So I have caught a good amount of fish, but only three on the flyrod…. Most of the fish could only be caught deep in the channel with heavy shads. So, see you next year and I will bring Ton again.”

White shark numbers increase

A recent study of white sharks by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that their numbers are increasing, in part due to strict conservation measures.

NOAA said white sharks are among the largest, most widespread apex predators in the ocean but are also among the most vulnerable. The new study, the most comprehensive ever on seasonal distribution patterns and historic trends in abundance of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) in the western North Atlantic Ocean, used records compiled over more than 200 years to update knowledge and fill in gaps in information about this species, NOAA said in a press release.

“White sharks in the Northwest Atlantic are like a big jigsaw puzzle, where each year we are given only a handful of pieces,” said Tobey Curtis, a shark researcher at NOAA’s Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office in Gloucester, and lead author of the study. “After decades of effort by a lot of researchers, we finally have enough puzzle pieces for a picture to emerge on distribution and abundance patterns. We are pleased to see signs of population recovery.”

Among the findings: White sharks occur primarily between Massachusetts and New Jersey during the summer, off Florida during winter, and with a broad distribution along the U.S. East Coast during spring and fall. The sharks are much more common along the coast than in offshore waters. The annual north-south distribution shift of the population is driven by environmental preferences, such as water temperature, and the availability of prey.

The return of gray seal colonies off the coast of Cape Cod followed by frequent sightings of white sharks has generated considerable media publicity and provided the state Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) with unprecedented opportunities to study the feared and fascinating predators.

The NOAA study provides plenty of reason to think that white shark sightings in the waters surrounding the Vineyard will increase.

While the overall distribution of white sharks is very broad, ranging from Newfoundland to the British Virgin Islands and from the Grand Banks to the Gulf of Mexico as far west as the Texas coast, 90 percent of the animals recorded in this study were found along the East Coast roughly between the Florida Keys and northern Caribbean Sea to Nova Scotia, Canada. The center of the distribution is in southern New England and the Mid-Atlantic Bight, where 66 percent of the sharks occurred.

The U.S., which has managed its shark fisheries since 1993, banned both commercial and recreational harvesting of white sharks in 1997.

The study said that newborn white sharks, as small as four feet long, regularly occur off Long Island, New York, suggesting this area may provide nursery habitat. The largest shark in the study considered accurately measured was a female landed on Prince Edward Island, Canada, in August 1983. The animal measured 17.26 feet from the tip of its snout to the fork in its tail.

VFW fluke derby

Had enough of World Cup histrionics? Tired of celebrity tournaments, celebrity fundraisers, celebrity this and that? Join the VFW Post 9261 MV Fluke Fishing Derby for some good Island fun Saturday and Sunday, July 12 and 13.

This is a rock-solid Island tournament and an awful lot of fun with a no-frills awards ceremony and barbecue Sunday at the VFW on Towanticut Avenue in Oak Bluffs. Where else on Martha’s Vineyard could a set of four beer mugs with one cracked glass command an auction price of over $40?

Prizes for the biggest fluke and sea bass. Kids 12 and under enter free but must register. Adults registration is $20, teens and seniors are $10. Weigh-in is 4 to 6 pm at the VFW. There is also a team competition. For more information, call organizer Peter Hermann at 774-563-0293. Register at local tackle shops.

R.I.P., Walter

Walter Ashley of Oak Bluffs died Saturday. A fisherman, hunter, and fixer of most anything brought into C&W Power, his small machine repair shop in the airport business park, he will be missed by those who came to appreciate his deadpan sense of humor and sure fix on what was right and wrong in life.

Tuesday night’s concert, featuring Rosanne Cash and her husband John Leventhal, raised about $127,000 for the Save the Gay Head Light Committee.

Rosanne Cash and her husband, John Leventhal, a duet in every sense of the word, treated a sold-out Martha’s Vineyard audience to a display of their rich musical and songwriting talents at Flatbread Company on Tuesday night, and in the process raised a heap of money for the effort to save the Gay Head lighthouse. For those who paid $200 and more for a ticket, donating money never sounded so good.

Tony Shalhoub, left, and Lenny Butler worked the crowd during the auction portion.

Tony Shalhoub, left, and Lenny Butler worked the crowd during the auction portion. — Michael Cummo

Aside from her well-known country music lineage as the eldest daughter of the legendary late Johnny Cash, for some time now Rosanne Cash has added considerable accomplishments to her personal and professional resumé. Singer, songwriter, author, and mother of four daughters and one son, she is a star in her own right, and on Tuesday night she shared her insights on life with the audience through her music.

Many of the songs were drawn from her latest album, “The River & the Thread,” her first album in four years, which her husband produced and arranged.

“Cash comes full circle as a storyteller and singer of exceptional grace and grit,” James Reed of the Boston Globe wrote in a review. “It’s among her finest work in a 35-year career, assured and at ease, and one of 2014’s first great albums.”

Each song is built on a story drawn from shared experiences of Ms. Cash and Mr. Leventhal during a series of road trips through the south and a reconnection with the southern culture that defined her childhood. In brief introductions, Ms. Cash described the foundation of each song. For example, “Etta’s Tune,” a sweet ballad, tells the story of Etta and Marshall Grant, her father’s longtime bassplayer. The couple remained married for 65 years, a record in the industry of touring bands, Ms. Cash said. Every morning when they woke, she said, they asked each other, “What’s the temperature, darlin’?’’

Rosanne Cash, playing with husband John Leventhal.

Rosanne Cash, playing with husband John Leventhal. — Michael Cummo

Ms. Cash’s songs provide a narrative of her not always easy life. Her interaction with Mr. Leventhal, alone on the stage with their guitars, provided a sense of intimacy and a display of Mr. Leventhal’s musicianship, which might not have come across so easily in a larger venue.

The evening began with an auction of five items, that included a trip to a resort in the southwest and a week in a Paris flat, that raised a total of $27,000. Actor and Chilmark resident Tony Shalhoub brought his deadpan skills to the job of auctioneer with able assistance from straight man builder Lenny Butler of Aquinnah, who heads the Save the Gay Head Lighthouse Committee.

“It is not an easy thing to move a lighthouse, and it isn’t cheap,” Mr. Butler said, noting that after the night the committee expected to be half way to its goal of $3 million to save the iconic beacon.

In a conversation with The Times following a sound check Tuesday afternoon, Ms. Cash, who was greatly looking forward to a nap after a long drive from Truro where she had performed the night before, spoke about her connection to the New England and the ocean.

A portion of the sold-out crowd.

A portion of the sold-out crowd. — Michael Cummo

Ms. Cash said the Vineyard connection stems from the long friendship between her husband and master guitar restorer Flip Scipio, husband of Mitzi Pratt, one of the organizers of the effort to save the lighthouse that is now within 46 feet of the cliff edge. Ms. Cash and Ms. Pratt got to know each other last year when Ms. Cash asked Ms. Pratt, a custom book binder, to bind a book as a special gift for her husband.

“Mitzi just asked us, she was involved with this, with saving the lighthouse and asked us to do it and I thought, what could be bad about this? Saving a lighthouse, coming to the Vineyard in July, seeing friends. So we’re here.”

Ms. Cash has roots in the area. “My first Cash ancestors went to Salem, and then a group of them went to Nantucket. And William Cash was a whaling captain in the early 19th century. In fact, the jawbone of the whale that hangs in the town museum was brought by William Cash.”

Ms. Cash, who now makes her home in New York City, has written about the sense of loss she felt when she moved from Malibu to Nashville and was not near the ocean.

“The ocean is like religion to me, I don’t feel myself unless I get a regular trip to the ocean.”

Asked what she misses about the south, Ms. Cash said, “The food. Really good cornbread. And sweet tea, but I don’t have to miss the south, I go down often enough.”

Being a mother, she said, helps feed her songwriting. “Getting your heart opened, getting your heart broken, you wrangle with all your deep issues, so all of that goes into songwriting somewhere or other.”

Writing songs or prose all require discipline, she said. She said she has no preference but that songwriting is her first love. “I do love the prescribed nature of songwriting that your lyrics are married to a melody and you’ve got to do it in four minutes. I like those limitations.”

She and her husband have been performing together for about 20 years. “We enjoy it,” she said. “We do this duo show quite a lot. It is intimate — we play off each other.”

On Tuesday night, the audience got to listen in.

The Save the Gay Head Lighthouse committee is committed to raising $3 million to complete the project before next spring. For more information, visit

The smoke and flames were intense and firefighters fought to keep the blaze from spreading to nearby houses.

Updated Tuesday, 4:15 pm

On a warm sunny Sunday, when many people were enjoying a day off, Tisbury and Oak Bluffs firefighters responded to an afternoon blaze in a garage workshop behind the home of Albion Alley, III on Hvoslef Way, off Lake Street, overlooking Lake Tashmoo.

Assistant Tisbury fire chief Jim Rogers directed the fire fighting effort Sunday afternoon.

Assistant Tisbury fire chief Jim Rogers directed the fire fighting effort Sunday afternoon. — Nelson Sigelman

Assistant Tisbury fire chief Jim Rogers directed the effort to fight the fire that broke out at about 2 pm. Firefighters, assisted by a light southwest breeze, managed to contain the fire in a relatively small area of the congested neighborhood and keep the flames from spreading to the adjacent Tashmoo Boatyard, nearby propane tanks, and several small houses.

Mr. Alley’s garage workshop, its contents which included his work tools, his truck and a car, about 50 lobster traps, a satellite dish and a nearby shed owned by a neighbor were destroyed. There were no injuries.

Mr. Rogers praised the quick response of Tisbury firefighters, Tisbury EMS and members of the Oak Bluffs fire department, who provided mutual aid, in the middle of the afternoon. Tisbury EMS set up a recovery tent where firefighters could cool down. “It was a hot day, particularly in turnout gear, and they made sure no one got overheated,” Mr. Rogers said.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

David Stanwood of West Tisbury witnessed the fire. “My wife, Eleanor, was rowing on Lake Tashmoo and I was in our sailboat,” he said in an email to The Times. “It was just before 2 pm on Sunday. She started shouting at me and pointing towards the opposite side of the harbor by Tashmoo Boatyard. I turned and saw black smoke starting to billow up from behind Albion Alley’s house on the lake front. I called 911 and we made our way across the harbor to get a closer look. We watched as the smoke increased and large flames burst out amid the homes. It was alarming, especially when we heard the screams of children.

The fire destroyed a garage, three vehicles and a satellite dish.

The fire destroyed a garage, three vehicles and a satellite dish. — Nelson Sigelman

“The fire became very intense and it seemed as if the surrounding homes would be involved, but the firemen soon arrived and got things under control. Several explosions were heard at the height of the fire. Curious boaters in the crowded harbor congregated nearby to watch and Albion Alley came speeding in on his outboard from fishing on the sound. He ran his boat up on the beach, hopped out, and ran up to his home, but there seemed little he could do as the fire was intense and very dangerous. We were relieved to hear that no one was hurt.”

Jamie Greer of Oak Bluffs, a car mechanic and family friend, had preceded Mr. Alley off the water. When he saw the flames he ran to the house to let Mr. Alley’s dog out. In bare feet he attempted to move Mr. Alley’s truck but was unsuccessful due to the heat, according to one witness. Then he began hosing down a hedge that separated the flames from a series of propane tanks until firefighters arrived.

Albion Alley, Mr. Alley’s son, said the family was grateful for the response by firefighters. “It was a great effort,” he said.

The younger Mr. Alley was on South Beach when he heard the news of a fire in the neighborhood and he rushed home. “Everyone’s been great,” he said, “There was just an outpouring of support from the neighborhood.”

The home and garage workshop originally belonged to Mr. Alley’s grandfather, Albion “Beanie” Alley Jr., a well-known Islander. The workshop contained a lifetime of memories.

There was quite a lot of sentimental value, Mr. Alley said.

Tisbury fire chief John Schilling was off-Island when the fire broke out but he arrived in time to survey the cleanup effort. “Nothing is going to replace a lifetime’s worth of collectibles and tools, that’s the part that breaks your heart,” he said.



In a time honored ceremony, Senior Chief Robert Riemer took command of the small boat station on Martha’s Vineyard.

Following the Station Menemsha change of command ceremony Friday, new officer in charge, Senior Chief Robert Riemer (left) shook hands with his predecessor, Senior Chief Jason Olsen as Captain John T. Kondratowicz, Commander USCG Sector Southeastern New England looked on.

In a brief exchange rooted in the maritime traditions that form the core of Coast Guard service, command of Station Menemsha passed from one officer to another Friday morning under clear blue skies on a hill with a sweeping view of Vineyard Sound.

“I offer my relief,” Senior Chief Robert J. Riemer said.

“I stand relieved,” Senior Chief Jason L. Olsen replied as assembled guests, Coast Guard officials and approximately 21 crewmen and women assigned to the small boat station that protect mariners in the waters of the western end of Vineyard Sound and nearby Buzzards Bay looked on.

In a few hours, Senior Chief Olsen, a native of San Diego, would leave for South Portland, Maine, where he will be the Executive Petty Officer on the Marcus Hanna, a 175-foot buoy tender, his latest post in a Coast Guard career that began in October 1996.

Four years earlier, Mr. Olsen had just arrived at Station Menemsha to assume the responsibilities of Officer in Charge when a raging fire inJuly 2010destroyed the Coast Guard boathouse, now being rebuilt.

During his four-year tenure, Station Menemsha received the Sumner I. Kimball award plaque and pennant that “recognizes excellence in crew proficiency, boat and personal protective equipment condition and compliance with established training documentation requirements as essential readiness components.”

In his farewell remarks, Senior Chief Olsen, often choking up with emotion, thanked his crew, the community, the members of the Coast Guard command staff, and his wife for their support throughout his tenure.

“I can’t believe that today is here already; it sure did go by quickly,” he said with his wife and three children watching from the front row. “And even though the time started with a dramatic event, there was so much more that happened here and those are the things that I am going to remember.”

Turning to his crew, Senior Chief Olsen grew emotional and paused to regain his composure. “Without you guys, and like I told you guys last week, I pushed you hard, I expected a lot out of you, I know we had our challenges together, but we had a lot of success and that is what I am going to remember. I hope you guys learned some stuff from me. I’m telling you I learned a lot here, more than from my Coast Guard career combined.”

Describing his wife, Andrea, as the “rock and anchor” of his family, Mr. Olsen presented her with a bouquet of flowers and a kiss.

In his remarks, Captain John Kondratowicz, Sector Commander Southeastern New England, described the history of Station Menemsha, rooted in the early days of the U.S. Life Saving Service and Station Gay Head.

“Station Menemsha and her crew carry on the legacy of rescuers past and the mission of modern maritime safety,” he said. “Senior Chief Olsen and his crew are part of this long lasting story of Menemsha.”

Captain Kondratowicz highlighted the crew’s many accomplishments under Mr. Olsen’s leadership, which included search and rescue, law enforcement, and protection of marine resources. Just as important, he said, was crew interaction with the community, most recently dancing with the residents of Windemere nursing home.

“Their commitment to excellence does not come easy, or by accident,” he said, adding that it took a steady hand at the helm and Mr. Olsen was that steady hand. An Officer in Charge, he said, must lead from the front and set an example to the crew in operations or in professional development. He also must continually find ways to develop the competence of each member to perform assigned duties.

At the conclusion of his remarks, Captain Kondratowicz presented Senior Chief Olsen with a gold star citation commendation medal.

In his remarks to newly appointed Officer in Charge Senior Chief Riemer, Captain Kondratowicz said, “You have a great crew, a great unit, and a fantastic location. I am sure you will have many great days ahead.”

Strict rule book

Senior Chief Riemer, 41, is a native of Liberty, New York. In a conversation prior to the change of command ceremony, Mr. Riemer said Station Menemsha was at the top of his assignment request list.

“I wanted to go back to sea, but it was not in the cards,” he said. One of his goals is to command a Coast Guard ship.

Mr. Riemer is no stranger to Island waters. In the Coast Guard for 23 years, he previously served on a cutter based at Woods Hole. He and his wife, Kara, and two daughters have very pleasant memories of living on Cape Cod.

He was most recently Officer in Charge of CG Station Elizabeth City. Asked to describe some of the challenges of command, Mr. Riemer cited responsibility for personnel.

“In the private sector, you worry about your staff from 8 to 4, 9 to 5. In the Coast Guard, we are worried about our staff, our crew, 24/7. And that includes the care and welfare of their dependents. We’re concerned about their finances; we’re concerned about their health. We’re concerned about their family wellness and overall well-being.”

Mr. Riemer said those outside the Coast Guard often do not understand how much the military tries to look out for its people. “It can be one of our toughest challenges and can be one of our most rewarding experiences,” he said.

Mr. Riemer said he expects the changing tempo of the Island, from the busy summer season to the off season, to offer its own set of challenges – in particular, keeping some of the younger members of the crew “positively engaged.”

Despite the isolation and familiarity of the up-Island station, it remains a military installation. “It’s like running a household with a very strict rule book,” he said.

Senior Chief Riemer said for now he needs to become familiar with the station, his personnel and the Island.

Asked what he finds most rewarding about his job, he thought for a moment and said, “I really enjoy helping people be successful. I like seeing a member of my crew, my team, earn their captain’s license or take a college course or pick up a new Coast Guard certification. I get a lot of satisfaction out of seeing my people do well.”

Mr. Riemer entered the Coast Guard in 1991. “I joined the Coast Guard because I wanted to help people,” he said.

One change he has seen over the past 20 years is a change in the mission. There is more emphasis on maritime security and law enforcement. The primary mission, search and rescue, has also changed, he said.

“We are not seeing as much of a need for search and rescue,” he said. Mr. Riemer attributes that to better boating education, equipment and technology. “The sea is an inherently dangerous environment and I think people are going out a little better prepared than they were 15, 20 years ago,” he said.

The First District is broken up into five sectors. Station Menemsha, designated a heavy weather station, is part of sector Southeastern New England, an area that includes the waters off Rhode Island and Cape Cod.

Mr. Riemer is responsible for a crew of approximately 24 men and women assigned to Station Menemsha. Their area of responsibility includes the waters west to the Rhode Island border, 50 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, Buzzard’s Bay, and Vineyard Sound.

Equipment at their disposal includes two 47-foot motor lifeboats (MLB) and one 25-foot response boat.

The workhorse of the life-saving fleet, the MLB has a top speed of 25 knots. What it lacks in speed it makes up for in rugged, all-weather durability. The 47 is designed to operate in up to 50-knot winds, towering 30-foot seas and 20-foot surf. The MLB is completely self-righting: if a wave knocks it completely upside down it will roll until it is upright.

Semper Paratus

The United States Coast Guard traces its history back to August 4, 1790, when the first Congress authorized the construction of 10 vessels to enforce tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling. The fleet was known variously through the 19th and early 20th centuries as the Revenue Marine and the Revenue Cutter Service.

A separate agency, the Life Saving Service, was created in 1878 to improve a largely volunteer network of rescue stations that assisted mariners in distress along the very busy coastlines.

The U.S. Life Saving Service built a station and boathouse, which later became Coast Guard Station Gay Head, in 1895. The station building was near Gay Head Light and the boathouse on the shore west of Dogfish Bar. The first keeper was Nehemiah C. Hayman, who was appointed October 4, 1895, according to a Coast Guard history of the station.

Keepers had to be “able bodied, of good character and habits, able to read and write and be under 45 years of age and a master at handling boats, especially in rough weather,” according to the history.

In 1915, an act of Congress merged the Revenue Cutter Service with the Life Saving Service, creating a single maritime service, the Coast Guard, dedicated to saving life at sea and enforcing the nation’s maritime laws.

In 1952, the Coast Guard moved the Cuttyhunk station building to Menemsha by barge. Commissioning of the new station took place on March 12, 1954. In January, 1974, the Coast Guard officially changed the name of the station from Gay Head to Menemsha to reflect its actual location.

In 1995, during a period of downsizing, the Coast Guard considered closing Station Menemsha and disposing of the property including the station house on the hill. Strong public and political pressure prevented a closure of the Island’s only search and rescue station, but not a downsizing.

Then came the events of September 11, 2001, after which the Coast Guard’s role in providing homeland security was greatly expanded.

In September 2004 Coast Guard Station Menemsha was officially designated a fully independent “station large.” As a result, the number of Coast Guardsmen increased and the station began to maintain its own radio watch.