Authors Posts by Steve Myrick

Steve Myrick


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Quick action last June by Tri-Town Ambulance EMT Kristina West helped save the life of Chris MacLeod.

Tri-Town Ambulance EMT Kristina West, right, performed lifesaving CPR on Chris MacLeod, center, after Rodney Bunker, left, got him to the ambulance headquarters. – Photo by Michael Cummo

It’s official. Tri-Town Ambulance EMT Kristina West is a hero.

The Red Cross of the Cape, Islands, and Southeastern Massachusetts named Ms. West the recipient of the Sheriff Donald Tulloch Professional Hero Award. She and 11 other individuals will be honored for their lifesaving efforts at a Red Cross Heroes Breakfast on April 10 in Hyannis.

Kristina West was on the second solo shift of her young career, and she’d never treated a patient in full cardiac arrest before, when Chris MacLeod, 47, arrived at the Chilmark ambulance barn.

Mr. MacLeod, a carpenter, was working by himself at the town’s North Road fire station on the morning of June 18, one of the warmest days of the year, when he began to feel ill. Chilmark town custodian Rodney Bunker brought Mr. MacLeod to the barn.

As Ms. West recalled in a story published July 10, “Miracle in Menemsha,” “Then I saw Chris and we sat him in a chair right away. It wasn’t long, less than a minute, until he coded.”

“Coded” is medical-speak for cardiac arrest — the heart stops pumping and the lungs stop breathing. Essentially, the person has died.

More experienced medics rushing to help were delayed by an accident, leaving the diminutive EMT alone to perform CPR. Medical guidelines call for 100 chest compressions per minute for a man of Mr. MacLeod’s size, an extremely demanding physical effort. For 15 minutes, Ms. West kept him alive until backup help arrived.

Mr. MacLeod’s heart stopped again several times as he was taken to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, and then transported aboard a Medflight helicopter to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. His heart stopped twice more during surgery, but doctors were able to repair two blocked arteries, and Mr. MacLeod was back at his Chilmark home just one week later. Doctors said the emergency care provided by Ms. West and her Island colleagues was critical in avoiding heart and brain damage.

“In Chris’s case, a full recovery is quite miraculous,” said Dr. Donald Cutlip, a Beth Israel cardiologist, a few days after Mr. MacLeod’s surgery. “Years ago, only a few percent of bystanders knew CPR. As more people learn it, these miracles will happen more often.”

“He was in the right place, surrounded by people who knew exactly what to do, and they did it properly,” said Dr. Amjad AlMahameed, also a Beth Israel cardiologist. “The outcome of a heart attack is determined in the first 15 minutes. The first responders and the staff at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital deserve the credit for protecting his brain.”

The breakfast is from 7:30 am to 9 am at the Hyannis Resort and Conference Center. For tickets or more information, call 508-775-1540.

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The removal of a covered walkway and additional travel and check-in lanes are intended to improve vehicle traffic flow.

This architectural drawing shows the reconfigured parking lot at the Steamship Authority Vineyard Haven terminal. – Drawing courtesy of SSA

The town of Tisbury and the Steamship Authority (SSA) have agreed on a plan to reconfigure the staging lot at the Vineyard Haven ferry terminal. The changes are designed to alleviate traffic backups during ferry arrival and departure times. Proposed changes include an additional ticket booth for vehicle drivers to check in, removal of the covered walkway along Water Street, and a redesign of the pickup and drop-off areas.

In October, SSA officials began to meet regularly with a committee of Tisbury officials appointed to examine traffic issues. The members included Selectman Tristan Israel, planning board members Dan Seidman and Benjamin Robinson, Police Lieutenant Eerik Meisner, and Bob Breth, owner of Martha’s Bicycle Rental at Five Corners.

Mr. Seidman said the addition of a second booth for checking in vehicles during peak traffic periods was a key improvement. “That should help with the circulation coming from Five Corners,” Mr. Seidman said. “A lot of times you will see a truck partially turned in, and that hangs up everybody.”

Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, agreed. “It takes one or two trucks, that’s all it takes for things to back up on Water Street, and eventually it begins to impact Five Corners,” he said.

Terminals in both booths will be hard-wired. Currently, the ticket taker in the single booth depends on a wireless connection, which has caused disruptions in the past.

At busy times, a second attendant equipped with a handheld electronic unit now checks vehicles into the waiting areas, but that has not solved the problem of traffic backups.

“We’ve always had the ability to have a second lane,” Mr. Lamson said. “We thought it would be better if we provide two dedicated lanes there, and two booths. The computers and the scanner are going to be hard-wired.”

Staffing will vary. “It may not be all the time that we’ll need the two booths, but generally in the morning, and in the summer on peak days,” Mr. Lamson said.

Even on the best of days, Five Corners can be difficult to navigate. Add a backup from the SSA lot, and through-traffic movement along State and Beach Roads slows to a crawl as drivers wait to turn onto Water Street.

“I thought we’d resolved it earlier, but it’s still an issue,” said Marc Hanover, the Martha’s Vineyard SSA member. “It happens infrequently, but when it does, it’s a real pain. This should eliminate it completely.”

On Wednesday morning in midwinter, traffic waiting to check in at the Vineyard Haven ferry terminal backed up onto Water Street. — Photo by Steve Myrick
On Wednesday morning in midwinter, traffic waiting to check in at the Vineyard Haven ferry terminal backed up onto Water Street. — Photo by Steve Myrick

No more shelter

The redesign also call for removal of the shingled passenger shelter over the sidewalk along Water Street. The sidewalk will be moved closer to the street, eliminating three parking spaces next to the right travel lane of Water Street. Those spaces are currently restricted to 10 minutes of parking for pickup and drop-off. Architectural drawings show four new shade trees and landscaping along the new sidewalk location, with a sloped bank where the elevated part of the split sidewalk now exists.

Eliminating the outside temporary parking spots will create space to add a second traffic lane between the angled parking spots inside the lot.

“The shelter is in disrepair; it either needs work or needs to be torn down,” Mr. Hanover said. “It makes sense to put two lanes through that parking area. There’s a real bottleneck when there’s only one lane.”

SSA and traffic committee members said they are not concerned about the net loss of the temporary parking spaces.

“I see people doing other things than picking up in those spots,” Mr. Seidman said. “By creating two lanes, for people who are actually picking up people from the ferry, it should make everything move more smoothly in that area.”

“From our experience, it’s used by a lot of others, and not so much for pickup and drop-off,” Mr. Lamson said. “Although there’s a loss of three parking spaces, we think that overall these changes will make for smoother traffic circulation through the area.”

There are no plans to change the current queuing lanes for passengers or trucks.

The SSA and the traffic committee plan to present the proposed changes to Tisbury selectmen on Tuesday, March 3. The SSA plans to issue a request for bids in late March, and expect work can be completed by mid-May, according to Mr. Lamson.

Beach plan

While it is not outlined in the current plan, Mr. Lamson said the SSA has heard concerns about the beach frontage adjacent to the parking lot, which includes a sidewalk, benches, and a gazebo that provides a scenic view of the harbor and is popular with the public.

“We’re looking into that to make sure our employees understand that the maintenance of that beach area, cleaning the litter, the trash, all that, needs to be kept up,” Mr. Lamson said. “We need to do a better job of that. We’re going to look into the shape of the gazebo, and see whether that needs to be replaced.”

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Aquinnah purchased Gay Head lighthouse in preparation for its move. — File photo by Steve Myrick

The town of Aquinnah took ownership of the Gay Head Light on Friday, Feb. 20, removing a legal hurdle and clearing the way for the town to move the historic lighthouse away from the quickly eroding Gay Head cliffs.

“This is a great and historic day for the town of Aquinnah, the Wampanoag Tribe, the Island of Martha’s Vineyard, and especially for the iconic Gay Head Light,” the Save the Gay Head Light Committee said in a statement. “It is now assured to keep on shining for generations to come.”

The General Services Administration, the agency that manages the property of the U.S. government, transferred the deed to the town for the sum of $1.

The deed says the federal government does “hereby grant, give, remise, and release, without covenants, warranties, or representations of any kind or nature” the title to the red brick and sandstone lighthouse built in 1856.

The transfer follows the crafting of a complex memorandum of agreement between the town of Aquinnah, the General Services Administration, the National Park Service, the Massachusetts Historic Commission, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah (Gay Head). The memorandum is part of the process of transferring ownership of the lighthouse under the National Historic Lighthouse Protection Act, and includes terms for future management and maintenance of the property.

The bargain price of $1 comes with a far more expensive responsibility. The town plans to move the lighthouse about 135 feet southeast of its current location, a spot it believes will be more stable, according to geological surveys.

The Save the Gay Head Light Committee has raised $2.5 million toward its goal of the $3 million needed to finance the project, according to Mitzi Pratt, co-chairman of the group’s fundraising committee. In their annual town meeting last year, Aquinnah voters approved $90,000 in Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to help pay for the project. Voters in the five other Island towns approved a total of $500,000 in CPA funds to help finance the move.

Preliminary site work is scheduled to begin as soon as the winter weather allows, with the actual relocation of the structure scheduled for May.

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Some Island towns have already spent the entire amount budgeted for this winter.

Winter has kept plows and sanders busy, shown here in West Tisbury. — File photo by Lynn Christoffers

Town highway departments across Martha’s Vineyard, after struggling with record winter storms, are now working to cover the costs of snow removal. Several local towns depleted their entire snow-removal budget for the year dealing with the Jan. 26–28 storm.

State law treats snow-removal costs differently from any other line item in a town budget, allowing municipal governments to overspend the budgets without an appropriation approved by voters. Eventually, however, towns will have to pay the bills, either by transferring money from other departments or by making an additional appropriation. A town’s board of selectmen and its finance committee must approve additional money for snow removal.

Cleaning up the January blizzard in Oak Bluffs, which dumped 27 inches of snow, according to a National Weather Service observer, cost more than the $35,000 set aside in the town’s operating budget.

“We’ve spent our entire snow budget,” Richard Combra Jr., highway superintendent for Oak Bluffs, said. “We budget $15,000 for salt and sand; we spent all that — we budget $10,000 for for overtime; we’ve spent all of that — we budget $10,000 for private contractors; we spent that.”

Oak Bluffs has 10 plows of various sizes on the road during a storm, as well as two front-end loaders. In January, the town contracted for two more plow trucks, two more front-end loaders, and four Bobcat excavators to help the highway department staff.

Edgartown highway superintendent Stuart Fuller said the $55,100 appropriated for snow and ice removal ran out during the second big storm of the winter. He has logged more than 1,200 miles of plowing, salting, and sanding already this year, and many of his employees are also racking up many hours at the wheel of a plow truck.

“There are seven full-time employees, including myself, and everyone is on the road,” Mr. Fuller said. “We’ll survive; we’ve done it before.”

Financial flexibility

The flexibility allowed by state law gives towns a way to deal with the unpredictability of Island winters. Most towns budget a reasonable appropriation for snow and ice removal, and replenish the budget if the winter is severe.

“Most towns do that,” Mr. Combra said. “It wouldn’t be wise to overbudget every year; then we would have an artificially inflated budget. It’s so hard to predict. Unless we keep getting these blizzards, I don’t think we’re going to be too far in deficit.”

Tisbury has already depleted the $15,000 budgeted annually for snow removal. Treasurer Tim McLean said it would be impossible for towns to manage snow-removal costs if not for the state law that allows them to overspend.

“There’s no way,” Mr. McLean said. “You would either have to budget a huge number that you might never use, or budget a consistent number. You have to pay for it eventually.”

Aquinnah town manager Adam Wilson expects to spend all of the $10,800 budgeted for plowing and sanding this year, but after the first big winter storm, the town had spent only about $3,500 of that amount.

“We’re not terribly worried about it, because the state allows you to go over budget,” Mr. Wilson said.

West Tisbury budgeted $40,000 for snow removal this winter, according to its town report. Chilmark budgeted $7,000 for snow removal this year.

Money back

There may be a silver lining in the clouds that dropped all that snow. Island towns are likely to qualify for reimbursement from the federal government for a large portion of snow-removal costs. According to state and federal guidelines, any county that reaches or exceeds 90 percent of the previous snowfall record, and exceeds cost thresholds, is eligible for reimbursement.

Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) disaster recovery manager Scott MacLeod said it appears Dukes County, which encompasses the six towns on Martha’s Vineyard as well as Gosnold, qualifies on both counts.

“On a preliminary basis, it appears that we may have eight or nine counties that may qualify,” Mr. MacLeod said. “It would appear that Dukes County had a record snowfall. Based on numbers reported by both local communities on the Island as well as the department of transportation, it would appear we have far exceeded our threshold of $58,864.”

MEMA is working to gather information from Massachusetts towns about how much they spent on the January storm. Those costs can include salaries and overtime for town personnel, equipment costs, private contractors hired to assist in snow removal, the cost of salt and sand, and the cost of opening emergency shelters, in certain circumstances.

Federal and state officials hope to complete the process of validating and verifying snow-removal costs sometime in March. That will clear the way for Governor Charlie Baker to make a formal request to President Barack Obama, asking the president to declare a major disaster in the affected counties. Then local towns can begin the process of applying for federal funds, asking to be reimbursed for up to 75 percent of the expenses for snow removal.

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Several varieties of lettuce in various stages of growth inside the greenhouse.

It was a cold winter morning on Martha’s Vineyard, with a dark gray sky threatening to drop more snow on the white fields at Thimble Farm in Oak Bluffs. But inside the Island Grown Initiative (IGI) greenhouse, the temperature was a balmy 70° during a recent visit.

Everywhere one looked were rows and rows of green plants, all the more colorful when set against the snow and sky outside. Automated black shades overhead preserved the heat. Later in the afternoon, the shades would roll back. The afternoon sun, even when blocked by clouds, heats the greenhouse to 80°.

Financed by $3 million in donations by two major donors, IGI announced its plan to purchase the 41-acre property in 2012, and set out to grow the nonprofit organization, beginning with a substantial hydroponic produce facility. In May 2013, when Keith Wilda was hired to manage the farm, the 33,000-square-foot greenhouse sat empty except for piles of discarded equipment.

Last summer, the first hydroponic crops were ready for harvest. IGI began selling greens and vegetables to Island schools for school lunch programs.

Today the greenhouse is filled with crops in various stages of maturity, and the organization sells to schools, retail stores, and restaurants year-round. There are three full-time employees working on the farm, and another coordinating the Island Grown Schools program. In addition to the hydroponic greenhouse, IGI operates a mobile poultry slaughterhouse that processed 4,000 chickens and turkeys last summer, a vegetable gleaning program that yielded 24,000 pounds of food last fall, and a winter CSA (community supported agriculture) co-op program retailing directly to consumers.

“Island Grown Initiative,” according to the organization’s web site, “works to encourage and support a resilient local food system on Martha’s Vineyard.”

No dirt, no problem

Plants nearly a year old are still bearing sweet miniature red peppers.
Plants nearly a year old are still bearing sweet miniature red peppers.

As one of the farm workers harvested sweet red peppers from plants that are still bearing a year after they were planted, Mr. Wilda explained some of the advantages of growing food without soil. By controlling temperature, sunlight, and nutrients, the greenhouse provides optimal growing conditions around the clock.

“We can grow our cut lettuce this time of year from seed to harvest in about seven weeks,” Mr. Wilda said. “In the summer it’s four weeks. The greenhouse, with 33,000 square feet of growing space, is equal to 8.5 acres outside. We can do it year-round.”

Lettuce is the primary cash crop in the winter months. Several Island restaurants buy 10 to 16 pounds of bagged lettuce each week, at a wholesale cost of $9 per pound.

IGI also grows custom orders for Island restaurants. Unseen under a large tray of young radishes, a tangle of corn shoots were growing, a custom order from a local eatery. Mr. Wilda reached under the tray and snapped off a small tendril. It tasted like sweet corn in salad form.

Unlike in traditional dirt farming, every drop of water used in the greenhouse is recycled, replenished with organic nutrients, and sent back to the plants. “We use 300 gallons of water,” Mr. Wilda said. “Compare that to 8.5 acres that has to be irrigated; they would probably use 3,000 gallons a day.”

In another part of the greenhouse, two large tanks were filled with small trout. By the end of June, the fish will grow to about 15 inches, weigh 1.25 pounds, and be ready for sale to retail fish markets and Island

Farm manager Keith Wilda lifts a net full of trout from the growing tank.
Farm manager Keith Wilda lifts a net full of trout from the growing tank.

restaurants. But the fish are not the primary product. The water from the fish tanks provides enough nutrients to feed a large portion of the plants growing nearby. It will dramatically reduce the amount and cost of organic fertilizer needed to nourish the crops, Mr. Wilda said.

Growing pains

Island Grown Initiative has grown so quickly that a new management structure was needed, according to Mr. Wilda. The three-member board of directors expanded to seven, and the group is working to fill all the seats. At the moment there are six directors.

“Because of the growth of all the programs, we needed more board presence,” Mr. Wilda said. “The board called me into a meeting in August 2014 and asked me if I would be interested in filling the role of executive director. I work the farm program 50 percent, and executive director 50 percent.

“You need oversight. It’s growing so fast; just like any company or corporation, you need some upper-level management. I work directly with the board, conveying the issues that need to be addressed.”

Change has caused some friction: “Change always does,” Mr. Wilda said. “Being here almost two years, I have seen a lot of changes in this organization, all for the good, I think.”

Steve Bernier, owner of Cronig’s Market, was among IGI’s most active board members and financial supporters. Late last year he resigned from the board and severed ties with the organization.

“There were too many different things getting me compromised, so I thought I better step aside,” Mr. Bernier said. When asked to elaborate on some of the issues that prompted him to resign from the organization, he mentioned the CSA, which competes with his grocery stores by selling produce directly to consumers.

“I’ve heard from customers of the startup of a CSA,” Mr. Bernier said. “It’s less complicated this way. I hope they [IGI] find their path and do well.”

Sarah McKay, who formerly worked for Cronig’s, serves as president of the board of directors. She was volunteering her time as a de facto executive director before Mr. Wilda was hired for those duties.

Ms. McKay declined to comment on the organizational changes.

Competitive landscape

Mr. Wilda said IGI tries very hard to avoid competing with local food producers. During an informational meeting two years ago, some local farmers were hostile to the plan for producing food in a hydroponic greenhouse. Mr. Wilda said relations with local farmers have improved, and he hopes to organize another meeting with them soon. But he concedes that avoiding competition is tricky business.

“We’re very sensitive about that,” he said. “Island Grown Initiative is here to build a food system that’s resilient for the Island. That means working with farmers.”

He cites marketing assistance, a small-equipment repair service, help with small-scale greenhouses, and a farm equipment lease program as ways IGI works with local farmers.

IGI is also evaluating whether it can establish a wholesale distribution center, where Island farmers could bring their produce and retailers and local chefs could buy it.

IGI has recently invited local farmers to submit proposals for growing crops on about 12 acres of land at Thimble Farm.

Treading lightly on competitors makes it more difficult for the nonprofit organization to make ends meet with income from the food it grows. But Mr. Wilda said even with the self-imposed restrictions, IGI will soon be in the black.

“If it means we have to go off-Island with our products, as long as the revenue is coming back to programs within IGI, we will,” Mr. Wilda said. “We’re about 20 percent from breakeven. We’ll be in the black this year.”

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The Martha's Vineyard Airport . — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission voted Feb. 4 to awarded airport manager Sean Flynn a new three-year contract worth $138,882 annually, a 1.4 percent increase over his current salary of $136,906. Mr. Flynn’s current contract, a five-year agreement which began in 2010 at a salary of $115,000, ends June 30.

Agreement on a new contract followed several extensions and an extended period of negotiation. The contract takes effect July 1. Mr. Flynn is entitled to a step raise of up to 2 percent in each subsequent year, based on a positive performance review. Mr. Flynn will also receive an annual cost-of-living adjustment tied to the federal Consumer Price Index.

The contract automatically renews for one year, unless the airport commission gives Mr. Flynn notice that it does not intend to renew the contract one year before the end of the three-year contract term.

The airport commission vote provides some protection for Mr. Flynn, who finds himself in the thick of the legal battle between the airport commission and its appointing authority, the Dukes County commission, over control of the Island airport.

Under the terms of the contract, if the airport commission dismisses Mr. Flynn, the commission must pay him through the end of the three-year contract. The commission, by majority vote, could terminate the contract for cause by meeting a number of conditions. The commission must give the airport manager 30 days notice of the vote, as well as time to correct any deficiencies identified. The commission must also conduct an impartial hearing at least 10 days before the scheduled vote.

The Dukes County commissioners are expected this month to fill three expiring seats on the airport commission.

Airport commission chairman Constance Teixeira and commissioners James Coyne, Denys Wortman, Norm Perry, and Beth Toomey approved the contract. Commissioner Christine Todd, who is also a county commissioner, and Rich Michelson, a former airport employee, voted against the contract.

The commission, by a vote of 6 to 1, also approved a new three-year contract for assistant airport manager Deborah Potter. Mr. Michelson was the only dissenting vote. Ms. Potter will earn $105,326 under the terms of the new contract, which takes effect July 1. She also is entitled to a 2 percent step raise, based on a positive review, and an annual cost-of-living adjustment.

Ms. Teixeira and Mr. Coyne are seeking reappointment to the airport commission. Mr. Wortman, whose three-year term will also expire, will not seek reappointment.

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Stuart Fuller appeared before the board after clearing snow from the latest winter storm.

Edgartown selectmen recently voted unanimously to allow scallopers a longer season. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Bleary-eyed Edgartown highway superintendent Stuart Fuller appeared before Edgartown selectmen for an annual performance review at their meeting Tuesday. Mr. Fuller came directly from a long night and a long day plowing and sanding during the latest winter storm, and went directly back to the job after the short review.

“You picked a really good day to come in and have an annual review,” chairman Art Smadbeck said. “We all got here, so thank you for that.”

“I think we all appreciate everything,” selectman Margaret Serpa said. “It’s times like this that you really know what’s involved. Good job.”

“I’ll catch up on sleep in the spring,” Mr. Fuller said.

Mr. Smadbeck and Ms. Serpa voted to approve a positive review for Mr. Fuller. Selectman Michael Donaroma did not attend the meeting.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Diane Durawa reported to selectman about the work of the Dukes County Healthy Aging Task Force. Ms. Durawa is Edgartown’s representative to the task force.

Ms. Durawa said the task force is working on initial development of a comprehensive information and referral service for aging Vineyard residents. The task force wants to purchase the commercially available web-based system One Stop, which is designed to consolidate information and resources in one place. It also wants to fund a full-time position to manage the online service, as well as face-to-face interactions with residents. “It’s a way for seniors to sign into programs,” Ms. Durawa said. “It’s really supposed to improve access to programs. This is a big improvement.”

Selectmen took no action on the request.

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Father Brian Murdoch dispensed ashes to Mary Elizabeth Bailey, with children in tow, on Ash Wednesday, as Isaac Russell from Grace Church assisted. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Father Brian Murdoch, parish priest at Grace Church in Vineyard Haven, observed Ash Wednesday with a particular Island theme, and a little humor. Father Murdoch met travelers arriving at the Steamship Authority Vineyard Haven terminal on the 11:30 am Island Home ferry to dispense ashes in the traditional Ash Wednesday custom. The mark of the cross, placed on the forehead using ashes from burned palm fronds, is a symbol of devotion and repentance.

Father Murdoch also handed out flyers counting down his “Top 10 ways to make a real and holy Lent.” Coming in at No. 3 on the top 10 list: “Take good walks regularly with your best soul friends — both the two- and four-legged ones.”

In recent years the custom has gained popularity, as churches have expanded the traditional Ash Wednesday church service to dispense ashes at train platforms, subway stations, and street corners.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a period of reflection and penance leading to Easter, for Christians. Many observe Lent with prayer, fasting, or donating to charity.

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Jason McGlashan and his father, Reg, stand aboard the Sedona in Jamestown last weekend. The two were rescued by the Coast Guard early Sunday morning off the coast of Nantucket. Photo by Dave Hansen/ Newport Daily News

A U.S. Coast Guard crew from Air Station Cape Cod rescued a father and son from a 43-foot sailing vessel about 150 miles south of Nantucket Sunday morning, just as the weekend storm started to intensify. The men left Jamestown, R.I., on Friday, bound for Australia, according to published reports.

Watchstanders received a distress signal from a beacon aboard Sedona, and contacted the crew by satellite phone. The crew said their vessel was disabled and adrift, with sails torn, and they were unable to start their engine.

The Coast Guard launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, but conditions were deteriorating so quickly, the Coast Guard could not launch an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft to support the rescue mission.

At the time of the distress call, seas were running about 9 feet and winds blowing 40 mph at the sailboat’s location, according to the Coast Guard. By the time they arrived on the scene at 8:48 am, conditions had deteriorated to 25-foot seas and 60 mph winds.

The rescue crew lowered a swimmer equipped with marine survival gear into the water. The two distressed sailors, also equipped with survival suits, jumped into the water one at a time, where the Coast Guard swimmer got them into a rescue basket, so they could be hoisted to the helicopter hovering above. The rescue operation took about 40 minutes.

“Given the severity of this storm, this rescue was a major effort, and we are all relieved it ended as it did,” Lieut. j.g. Tyler Dewechter, MH-60 pilot and public affairs officer at Air Station Cape Cod, said in a press release. “We are glad we were prepared for this storm and could render aid, and also continue to urge mariners to stay safe and heed the cautions and advisories of winter storm warnings.”

According to a feature report published in the Newport News, the rescued men are Jason McGlashan and his father Reg McGlashan, of Australia. According to the newspaper report, Jason McGlashan purchased the 43-foot boat on eBay for $10,000, and flew to Rhode Island in January to prepare the vessel for the voyage to Australia.

“We’ve never done anything like this,” Jason McGlashan told the Newport News before the ill-fated voyage. “Dad’s not even a sailor, but he’s a quick study. We’ve got plenty of food, plenty of booze, good sails, and all the safety gear you could ever need.”

According to the Coast Guard rescue crew, the two men were in good condition once they got aboard the rescue helicopter, but were evaluated for hypothermia, once they returned to the Coast Guard base.

The Coast Guard mounted an extensive effort to warn mariners of the danger well before the storm.

“This is a storm to take seriously,” said Lieut. John Mansolillo at the Coast Guard command center in Boston on Friday.

Before the storm hit, the Coast Guard flew more than 700 miles in the storm impact area, making sure mariners were aware of the storm warning. The Coast Guard pre-staged a 210-foot cutter and a 175-foot buoy tender off the New England coast to respond to any emergencies.

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The weather-related cancellations are rolling in.

National Weather Service radar image from 6 pm Saturday evening.

Updated 12:15 pm Sunday, February 15, 2015

Forecasters expect heavy snow to end by mid-afternoon on Martha’s Vineyard, but a blizzard warning, and a wind chill advisory remained in effect at noon Sunday.

After an initial burst of snow Saturday night, and a relatively calm night, the winds picked up and heavy snow moved over the Island shortly after dawn. The National Weather Service predicts temperatures hovering near zero degrees later this evening and overnight, with wind chill factors as low as 20 below zero.

“Conditions will remain dangerous for travel through this evening due to blowing and drifting snow, reduced visibility and dangerously cold wind chills,” forecasters wrote in a wind chill advisory issued at 9:21 am Sunday morning. “Power outages can be expected at some locations due to very strong winds.”

Winds were less severe than forecast, with sustained winds peaking at 36 mph, and gusts peaking  at 53 mph at the height of the storm Sunday morning.

The Steamship Authority cancelled all ferry service to and from Martha’s Vineyard on Sunday, and advised trips Monday will be on a trip by trip basis.

Though state officials did not declare a driving ban, police departments across the Island urged residents to stay at home, so snow removal crews can clear roadways.

Official snow totals for Martha’s Vineyard are not yet available, and the blowing and drifting snow made official totals almost irrelevant. The fickle nature of the storm also illustrated wide variations in its impact. In Falmouth, weather service observers reported about 6 inches of snow, while observers in New Bedford reported more than 20 inches of snow.


Edgartown asked drivers to use town parking lots after 10 pm, and avoid parking on downtown streets. “Please make preparations to stay indoors and do not travel during the height of the storm and allow plows to clear the roads,” police said in a statement distributed through social media. Katama Road was closed for a time Sunday morning.

Tisbury declared a parking ban on downtown streets beginning at 10 pm Saturday evening.

First Congregational Church of West Tisbury has cancelled Sunday morning worship service. If you have any questions, please call 508-693-2842.

The West Tisbury Library and the Vineyard Haven library will be closed on Sunday, February 15 due to inclement weather. They will also be closed on Monday, February 16 for the holiday, reopening at 10am on Tuesday February 17th.

Polly Hill Arboretum has cancelled their winter walk scheduled for Saturday February 14. There will be another walk on March 14, weather permitting.

The Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse has postponed their Wicked Good Winter Cabaret show, “Love and Valentine’s,” scheduled for Saturday February 14 to next Saturday February 21.

Featherstone has postponed their “I Love Ewe” opening scheduled for Sunday February 15 to next Sunday February 22 from 4 to 6 pm.