Authors Posts by Steve Myrick

Steve Myrick

Steve Myrick
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Vesper, an IRC 52 owned by Edgartown seasonal resident Jim Swartz, leads rival Sled, during Edgartown race weekend last year. — Photo by Michael Berwind

The Edgartown Yacht Club race weekend looks more competitive than ever this year, with at least seven top racing teams bringing boats in the 50-foot range for the three-day regatta.

A series of buoy races just off Edgartown Harbor is scheduled for Thursday and Friday, July 24 and 25.

The annual ‘Round the Island race is scheduled for Saturday, July 26.

Four IRC 52’s plan to mix it up on the water, including Vesper, owned and campaigned by Jim Swartz, a member of the home Edgartown Yacht Club and a seasonal resident of Edgartown. Vesper won its class in both buoy racing and the ‘Round the Island race last year. Other IRC 52’s competing are Sled, Interlodge, and Hooligan, all well known at top East Coast regattas.

Also scheduled to compete are Privateer, a Cookson 50; Rima2, a Reichel/Pugh 55; and Irie 2, a Kerr 55.

The weather forecast should throw challenges at the racers, with showers and thunderstorms forecast for Thursday, but clear conditions with moderate winds for Friday and Saturday.

The best viewing spots for the ‘Round the Island race Saturday are on the north side of the Island. The big boats should be a sight to behold from Gay Head, West Chop, and East Chop. The race beings off Edgartown Harbor, and the boats circumnavigate Martha’s Vineyard in a clockwise direction.

Hal Findlay, a seasonal resident of Edgartown, will be on the line for the ‘Round the Island Race with his 32-foot Aphrodite 101 named Arrow.

“Our typical Saturday afternoon is to sail out of Edgartown Harbor and beat or run back,” Mr. Findlay told race organizers. “We would never think of sailing 56 miles around the Island, so the ‘Round-the-Island Race is an opportunity to spread our wings a little.”

The big high-tech racing machines are not the only attraction for race weekend, however. The regatta includes divisions for all sizes of boats in IRC, PHRF, Double-Handed, Classic and Cruising divisions, and it always attracts sailors of all competitive levels.

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Matthew Tucci was arrested Tuesday after after a drug task force investigation.

For the second time this year, members of the Martha’s Vineyard Drug Task Force have arrested Matthew P. Tucci on charges that include dealing heroin. The latest arrest of Mr. Tucci, a convicted sex offender and drug dealer, was Tuesday on Seaview Avenue Extension in Oak Bluffs.

Matthew Tucci.
Matthew Tucci.

Drug task force officers that included Edgartown Detective Sgt. Chris Dolby were watching as Mr. Tucci walked toward the Island Queen ferry. “I started jogging towards Tucci and observed Det. Sgt. Dolby call Tucci’s name and take control of this right wrist,” wrote Oak Bluffs police Det. Jeff LaBell, lead investigator, in his police report. “I observed Tucci was attempting to swallow something and was gagging as he was doing so. Tucci continued to gag and attempted to swallow an object in his mouth, which officers believed to be drugs. I continuously told Tucci he was under arrest and to put his hands behind his back. He refused and was attempting to pull his left arm under his body. After a brief struggle, I was able to get his left wrist into a handcuff, followed by his right wrist.”

Mr. Tucci did eventually swallow the object in his mouth according to the police report. Police later recovered a backpack they believed belongs to Mr. Tucci. Inside police found 11 individually wrapped bags of a tan powder they believe was heroin. Police arrested Mr. Tucci on a subsequent offense of possession of heroin with intent to distribute, failure to register as a sex offender, and resisting arrest. In 2002, Mr. Tucci was convicted of raping a 15-year-old girl on Martha’s Vineyard, and ordered to register as a level 3 sex offender. He served a five-year prison term for that crime. He lists his address as Boylston, but police said he lives on the Island for extended periods of time, which would require him to notify police of his whereabouts, under the sex offender law. On March 19, police arrested Mr. Tucci in Oak Bluffs, and charged him with dealing heroin. On March 6, Mr. Tucci walked out of the Dukes County House of Correction. A little more than one year earlier, on January 23, 2013, Edgartown District Court Presiding Justice H. Gregory Williamsrevoked bail for Mr. Tucci following his arraignment on charges of dealing heroin and failing to register as a level 3 sex offender. At the time, Mr. Tucci was also free on bail from Worcester District Court, where he also faced heroin dealing charges. Mr. Tucci was sentenced to 2.5 years in the house of correction, 18 months committed. The Worcester charge netted him a one year sentence.

An earlier online version of this story incorrectly reported Mr. Tucci was arrested as he stepped off the Island Queen. He was arrested as he walked toward the ferry landing. Also, the rank of Mr. LaBell was incorrectly reported as officer. He is a detective on the Oak Bluffs police department.

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In a lawsuit filed July 9 in Dukes County Superior Court, a lawyer for fired airport employee Beth Tessmer makes 30 separate allegations against the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission, each of the airport commissioners individually, two former airport commissioners, airport manager Sean Flynn, airport assistant manager Deborah Potter, and the County of Dukes County.

The lawsuit charges slander and defamation, discrimination, retaliation under the Massachusetts “whistle blower” law, wrongful discharge, denial of due process, civil rights violations, and civil conspiracy.

The lawsuit also names the airport commission and Dukes County with negligent hiring, supervision, retention, and training of Mr. Flynn.

It is one of three legal actions that Ms. Tessmer has taken against her former employer.

In a summary of facts included in the lawsuit, Ms. Tessmer alleges that Mr. Flynn and Ms. Potter discriminated against her by telling her that her job might be in jeopardy because of her arrest on charges of operating under the influence (OUI) of alcohol in July, 2014. In the lawsuit, Ms. Tessmer said her arrest was not related in any way, and did not affect her job at the airport. None of the formal disciplinary actions by airport managers involved the OUI arrest.

Ms. Tessmer asked the court to award her triple the wages she lost as a result of her suspension in November, 2013, wages from the date of her firing on April 4, to the end of her projected professional working lifetime, unspecified punitive damages, as well as court costs and attorney’s fees.

On June 18, the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission granted Mr. Flynn an eight week leave of absence to address personal issues, under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

Nearly all of the charges relate in some way to Ms. Tessmer’s allegation that Mr. Flynn often worked while intoxicated as a result of taking prescription medications, beginning in December, 2012.

“The plaintiff (Ms. Tessmer) observed the defendant to frequently be unsteady on his feet, have garbled and often undiscernible speech and pin point pupils,” according to the lawsuit filed on July 9 by attorney Ted Saulnier. “The plaintiff also observed the defendant to be displaying significant mood swings and loss of control of his emotions on a moment’s notice.”

The lawsuit also alleges Mr. Flynn put himself at risk.

“In May of 2013, there was an incident, witnessed by the plaintiff and several other airport employees, whereby the defendant, Mr. Flynn, was walking on an active runway without the required communications equipment in his possession, while incoming aircraft approached. An airport employee rushed to the scene to warn the defendant, Mr. Flynn, to get off the runway.”

The lawsuit also alleges that the airport commission and Mr. Flynn fabricated disciplinary charges against Ms. Tessmer “for the purpose of laying the groundwork for discharging the plaintiff.”

The lawsuit also charges several violations of the Massachusetts open meeting law, and that Mr. Flynn conspired with former airport commission chairman John Alley, former commissioner Ben Hall Jr., and current airport commissioners Norman Perry, Constance Teixeira, Peter Bettencourt, James Coyne, and Denys Wortman, by meeting secretly to script the outcome of public disciplinary hearings against Ms. Tessmer.

Among the other allegations in the lawsuit, Ms. Tessmer charges that Mr. Flynn slandered and defamed her by falsely telling other employees she had sexually transmitted diseases, and falsely making statements about her reputation.

The lawsuit also names the airport commission and Dukes County in allegations that they breached their duty and negligently hired, supervised, and retained Mr. Flynn by allowing him to manage an airport under the influence of intoxicants.

Ms. Tessmer asked the court for a jury trial on all applicable issues.

Rosemarie Hagaizian, an Edgartown attorney who represents Mr. Flynn, declined comment on the lawsuit because she has not read it. Ms. Hagazian said she has not yet been served with a copy of it by the court.

Previously, on May 1, Ms. Tessmer filed a civil lawsuit in Dukes County Superior Court, asking a judge to order the Airport Commission to return her to her job, and award back pay. The airport commission has not yet responded to the initial lawsuit, according to the second lawsuit filed this month.

She has also filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, alleging sexual harassment and workplace discrimination against Mr. Flynn.

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Saturday's Vineyard Cup consisted of some close sailing. — Photo by Louisa Gould

Vineyard Cup competitors were tested in this year’s weekend regatta by the strong and unruly currents of Vineyard Sound, and over the first two days of racing, the current mostly won. A strong southwest wind flow picked up for Sunday’s pursuit race, providing plenty of breeze to challenge the fleet.

In Friday afternoon’s opening race, two entire classes of racing boats missed the time limit of three hours battling light air and very strong tidal currents. Under the rules of the race, the first boat in each of the three classes must finish in less than three hours.

All went well for Class 1, with Bob Cunningham’s J/30 Ruffian finishing first on corrected time.

The crew of the Morris 42 Jinji ride the windward rail running downwind in Friday's Vineyard Cup race.
The crew of the Morris 42 Jinji ride the windward rail running downwind in Friday’s Vineyard Cup race.

But with the current pushing hard to the west, the other two classes had a tough time on the last leg of the race, from a buoy outside of Woods Hole, back to Vineyard Haven Harbor. Against the wind, and against the current, the first boat was unable to finish in the three hour time limit, which effectively ended the race. All the boats in Class 2 and Class 3 were eliminated, despite sailing a long, challenging day.

There was some grumbling among the captains and crew of the 30 boats who raced but recorded only a “TLE” (time limit elimination), or withdrew from the race.

Domino, the first boat across the line missed the time limit by just four minutes.

“We finished before anyone else in all the fleets,” said Bill Maloney, who was at the helm of Paul Duffy’s Cal 33. “It’s one of those things you’ve got to get over.“

Race director Brock Callen said the situation was unfortunate, but he made a tough call not to shorten the course in mid-race, when the fastest of the boats rounded the mark for the final four-mile leg with one hour, 38 minutes left in the three-hour time limit.

The ferry Island Home honked its way through the middle of the fleet, forcing a few quick tacks among the Vineyard Cup competitors.
The ferry Island Home honked its way through the middle of the fleet, forcing a few quick tacks among the Vineyard Cup competitors.

Saturday’s race began with very flukey air, despite a good breeze blowing inside Vineyard Haven Harbor for the start. The wind vanished, however, when the fleet reached the first mark, near Hedge Fence shoal. After about 90 minutes of bobbing around, and in some cases going backward in the tidal current, a fair breeze kicked up.

“At the start, in a southwest wind, we thought, this is awesome,” said Andrew Berry who drove his Cal 33 Isobar to a fourth place finish on corrected time Saturday. “We got out past Hedge Fence, and it just disappeared. We spent an hour and a half drifting around. We were trying to get to the south side of the course, we couldn’t do it. Then the current pushed us there.”

Though many boats retired from the race, those who waited were rewarded with good air, and a mid-race decision to shorten the course. The fleet finished off Edgartown.

In Sunday’s pursuit race, the wind was strong and steady for the start, gusting to 25 knots throughout the day. Most of the fleet zipped around a short Nantucket Sound course in less than three hours.

“The 2014 Vineyard Cup proved to be an event that paid a premium to good seamanship,” said race director Brock Callen. “Sailors had a chance to prove themselves over three days where the conditions couldn’t have been more challenging.”

Despite the less than ideal conditions during the first two races, post race parties under a big tent at the Tisbury Wharf Company dock soothed some of the frustration.

“We’ve been coming from Salem for the event every year,” said Tom Tetreault, who raced his Bristol 355 Facet in the regatta.

“We love Vineyard Haven,” added his son Matt Tetrault, who served as crew. “Three days of racing, fantastic food, and great hospitality.”

The Morris 42 Jinji sports a colorful red spinnaker, racing alongside the J/30 Ruffian.
The Morris 42 Jinji sports a colorful red spinnaker, racing alongside the J/30 Ruffian.

After three days of racing, the cumulative scores showed the Nonesuch 33 Kitty Hawk, owned by Winthrop Sanford of Swansea, best in PHRF non-spinnaker Class 1. Kitty Hawk and crew won both the Saturday and Sunday race, according to scoring posted on the Vineyard Cup web site.

In the PHRF non-spinnaker Class 2 division, the Tartan 37 Toujours skippered by Brian Bush of Westborough took overall honors.

In the PHRF Spinnaker division, Francis Sutula won in his Hanse 355 Soma Holiday, besting Mr. Tetrault and crew aboard Facet by one point in the cumulative scoring.

In the Classic Division, the swift schooner Juno won top honors. Juno is a Gannon & Benjamin design skippered by Scott Dibiaso.

In a well attended Catboat race on Saturday, Andrew Staniar of Brewster skippered his 20-foot catboat Pandora to a win.

The home team Holmes Hole Sailing Association scored well, capturing one first, two seconds and two thirds in the overall scoring.

In all, 59 boats competed over three days of racing. Mr. Callen declared the Vineyard Cup a success, offering special thanks to primary sponsors The Black Dog Tavern, Morris Yachts, Sugarbush Resort, Gosling’s Rum, Sam Adams Beer, and Atlantic Subaru.

Proceeds from the Vineyard Cup, as well as the annual Seafood Buffet and Auction held Thursday evening, go to Sail Martha’s Vineyard programs. The organization provides sailing lessons for more than 400 kids each summer, helps with maritime studies at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, and sponsors the high school sailing team, among other activities.

 

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Most competitors fought a strong tidal current in Vineyard Sound for the opening race of the three day regatta.

Vineyard Cup competitors found the currents in Vineyard Sound a formidable opponent Friday. — Photo by Steve Myrick

Vineyard Cup competitors were tested Friday by the strong and unruly currents of Vineyard Sound, and for the most part, the current won.

Under the rules of the race, the first boat in each of the three classes must finish in less than three hours.

All went well for Class 1, with Bob Cunningham’s J30 Ruffian finishing first on corrected time.

But with the current pushing hard to the west, the other two classes had a tough time on the last leg of the race, from a buoy outside of Woods Hole, back to Vineyard Haven Harbor. Against the wind, and against the current, the first boat was unable to finish in the three hour time limit, which effectively ended the race. All the boats in Class 2 and Class 3 were eliminated, despite sailing a long, challenging day.

There was some grumbling among the captains and crew of the 30 boats who raced but recorded only a “TLE” (time limit elimination), or withdrew from the race.

Race Director Brock Callen said the situation was unfortunate, but he made a tough call not to shorten the course in mid-race, when the fastest of the boats round the mark for the final four-mile leg with one hour, 38 minutes left in the three hour time limit.

Racing resumed on Saturday at 10 am, and again Sunday at 10:30 am.

The best place to view the start of the races is from Eastville Beach, near the Lagoon Pond drawbridge. Depending on the course and the weather, other good viewing spots are The East Chop Light on Telegraph Hill, and Joseph A. Sylvia State Beach.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the race director as Brock Callahan. It was Brock Callen.

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Families enjoy an outing on a quiet Norton Point Beach on Tuesday. — Photo by Steve Myrick

Increased police patrols and enforcement of beach regulations are cutting down on rowdiness at Norton Point Beach, according to Edgartown police and The Trustees of Reservations (TTOR), which manages the pristine strip of barrier beach for Dukes County.

Police said they began getting complaints, and dealing with crime, last summer.

“Toward the end of the summer, there had been a gathering of early 20-somethings, going down to Norton Point and starting a party,” said Edgartown Det. Sgt. Chris Dolby. “They had a DJ set up with generators. Beachgoers were complaining to The Trustees about the excessive noise from the DJ, and the excessive partying.”

The rolling party happened on Sundays, and involved mostly Island residents, according to police. A month ago, a woman who attended the party told police she blacked out, and woke up hours later in a local hotel room, with no memory of how she got there. On the same day, a man was treated for seizures after leaving the beach party. Police suspect both people ingested methylone, an illegal drug commonly known as “Molly.” The synthetic drug has been associated with mass illnesses, including at an electronic music concert at the TD Garden in Boston earlier this month, where dozens of young people were taken to hospitals suffering from seizures and loss of consciousness.

Det. Sgt. Dolby said the police department has dealt with a number of calls stemming from the beach party, including an 18-year-old man distributing marijuana, a fight, damaged vehicles, and several people taken into protective custody for intoxication.

Beach patrol

In June, Edgartown police met with TTOR, the Dukes County Sheriffs, Massachusetts State Police, and the Massachusetts Environmental Police, and formed a plan for regular patrols aimed at enforcing beach rules, which prohibit alcohol, and any activity that endangers the public or causes a nuisance. Det. Sgt. Dolby said it is a difficult area to police.

“We don’t have the staffing to be on that beach with the amount of area you have to cover and the amount of staff you have to have for eight weeks,” Det. Sgt. Dolby said.

For the past month, Edgartown police officers and deputy sheriffs have regularly patrolled the beach on the weekends, using four-wheel-drive vehicles, to reinforce normal patrols by TTOR staff.

“People pay a lot of money to come here to have a nice family vacation,” Det. Sgt. Dolby said. “You want adults to be able to enjoy themselves, but there’s a line there,” he said. “It’s a family atmosphere that we want to maintain.”

TTOR superintendent Chris Kennedy said he is trying to achieve a balance of enforcement and fun beach days. “I think they’ve handled it well,” he said. “I don’t think they’ve gone overboard. People knew there was an officer available.”

Mr. Kennedy said the past several weeks, including the busy 4th of July weekend, have gone smoothly.

Norton Point, a barrier beach approximately two miles long, separates the Atlantic Ocean and Katama Bay. The beach is popular with over-sand vehicle users who often drive out to spend the day fishing, picnicking, or clamming. A TTOR vehicle permit is required to access the beach.

Facing the music

Mr. Kennedy also spoke with Adam “AP” Iacovello, a well-known Island DJ who performs at clubs and parties. He has organized music for the beach parties. “I’ve spoken to him, and explained that this is a family beach, intended for all community members, not just people at a DJ sponsored party,” Mr Kennedy said.

Mr. Iacovello has a different view of the beach parties. “I’ve been doing Norton Beach parties for two years, a free service for the community,” he said. “It wasn’t chaos, it was just a good community beach party.”

Mr. Iacovello said he has not performed on Norton Point Beach this summer. “When I went out there to set up, they told me I couldn’t DJ on the beach,” he said. “I haven’t been able to play on the beach at all, so anything that’s going on is unrelated to me. It’s a public beach, it’s not my duty or my job to police the beach.”

Dukes County has an application process for beach parties. Private parties of more than 225 people are required to pay a $250 fee, a $300 refundable cleanup deposit, provide four portable toilets, and may be required to hire a police detail.

Mr. Iacovello said he is establishing a nonprofit organization to sponsor beach parties, and he hopes to return to Norton Point this summer. Under the county rules, fees are waived for nonprofit organizations.

“This is supposed to be a positive thing,” Mr. Iacovello said. “I’m trying to do this the right way now.”

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A new law will hike the Mass minimum wage to $11 in three steps, beginning on January 1, 2015.

On June 26, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a measure that increases the minimum wage to $11 an hour over the next three years. Massachusetts, which enacted the first minimum wage law in 1912, will now have the highest minimum wage in the nation. At the current  minimum wage of $8 an hour, Massachusetts is one of 11 states that already exceed the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

The bill also includes a hike for workers who rely on tips, from the current $2.63 to $3.75 an hour.

“This is a step in the right direction,” Cape and islands state Senator Dan Wolf told The Times in a telephone conversation. “It’s important to all of us when the economy has gotten as out of balance as it has.”

The hike in the hourly wage will have less of an impact on the Cape and Islands than in other regions of the state, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, which describes itself as a non-partisan research organization which analyzes budget issues that affect low and moderate income families. Because of a shortage of workers and other factors, many hourly workers in the region already earn more than the new minimum wage standard.

“We didn’t get that much push back on the full minimum wage,” said Sen. Wolf. “Fast food workers, big box stores, there are some people making $8 an hour. In this region, there are very few people who are making minimum wage.”

Island business people contacted by The Times said they did not expect the change to have much of an effect on the Vineyard.

Uta Kirchlechner, owner of the Island Art Gallery on Main Street in Tisbury, said the new minimum wage is a moot point. She once employed three people at $10 an hour, but since the downturn in the economy four years ago, she has not hired any employees, and covers all the store hours herself.

“If you get $9, you can’t live on that,” Ms. Kirchlechner said. “They need $12, but I can’t pay that because the economy is not good enough. I’m looking at it from both sides. I believe they should raise the minimum wage, it ought to be even higher.”

Petey Berndt, owner of the popular Coop de Ville restaurant on Oak Bluffs Harbor, said the increase in wages for tipped workers will not have a large impact on his business.  “That shouldn’t be too big a problem,” he said. “The cost of living is so expensive, with housing, they should get a raise. It’s tough for the seasonal worker.”

At $3.75 an hour, a minimum wage tipped worker would earn $30 for an 8-hour day, but could earn 10 times that amount or more in tips in busy establishments, several people connected to the hospitality industry said.

Paychecks will increase

According to the MassBudget, about 605,000 workers in the Bay State will see an increase in their paychecks beginning January 1, 2015.

The law will increase the current minimum wage of $8 an hour to $9 in 2015, $10 in 2016, and $11 in 2017. The increase for tipped workers will also be implemented over three years.

The developments on Beacon Hill prompted a group that has already collected 80,000 signatures to get a minimum wage hike on the November ballot, to cancel its initiative.

“That’s a pretty good bill and a pretty good compromise,” Governor Patrick told the Statehouse News Service. “In fact, it gets to $11 faster than under the proposal that some of the ballot initiative activists have pressed, and I think it’s a good solution.”

According to MassBudget, which issued regional data on the effect of a minimum wage hike, about 7,000 workers will be directly or indirectly affected in a region that includes the western and eastern parts of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. That represents 16 percent of wage earners in that region, among the lowest of the regions studied.

Opponents of the measure said a minimum wage hike will kill jobs.

“This is a one-sided piece of legislation that largely ignores the pleas of the small businesses for balance, and instead ensures that Massachusetts will continue be one of the most expensive and difficult places to operate a retail business in the nation,” wrote Jon Hurst, president of Retailers Association of Massachusetts, in a statement.

Sen. Wolf, owner of Cape Air, rejected that argument.

“Even if there were a very small impact on jobs, it will be way, way, way overbalanced by the positive stimulation of the economy on the low end, which we know is going to be spent immediately,” he said. “Many of the workers getting minimum wage are living paycheck to paycheck, and spending everything they have every week.”

The new minimum wage for tipped workers may have a significant impact in this region, because of the many tourism-related businesses, including restaurants, bars, and hotels.

The Senate version of the bill would have increased the minimum wage for tipped workers to $5.50 over three years, but the compromise that emerged from the House-Senate conference committee set the rate at $3.75. “We are a hospitality economy in a lot of ways,” Sen. Wolf said. “We heard from a lot of restaurant owners.”

The new law includes unemployment insurance reform, which may offset the wage hikes for many small businesses, according to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

“Under this bill, nearly all employers in the Commonwealth will see unemployment insurance cost savings in 2015, with the vast majority experiencing an average savings of more than 25 percent,” said Paul Guzzi, president and CEO of the chamber.

The new law will also establish a council to investigate labor and wage issues in the underground economy, including building trades, to make sure that businesses are complying with unemployment insurance, workers compensation, and tax laws. The council will have no enforcement authority, but can refer its investigation to the attorney general for prosecution.

“This is aimed at businesses that might be taking advantage of or exploiting employees, and employees who are not declaring what they are making,” Sen. Wolf said. “That not only has an impact on the Commonwealth on the revenue side, but it would also impact workers relative to workers compensation, social security, and other benefits.”

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Weather forecasters predict a close brush with Martha’s Vineyard late Friday, but the Island will escape the worst of the storm.

A view of Hurricane Arthur from the International Space Station. — Photo courtesy of NASA

Hurricane Arthur, the first named storm of the summer season, is moving quickly up the east coast, and is expected to bring heavy rain to Martha’s Vineyard beginning Friday evening, July 4th. The storm could dump 2 to 4 inches of rain on the region in 24 hours, producing flash flooding in some areas. The weather service also advises swimmers to beware of dangerous rip currents along ocean beaches through the holiday weekend.

The current National Weather Service forecast calls for winds building to 31 to 36 miles per hour by Friday evening, then decreasing through the day Saturday, and clearing by Saturday night, just in time for the Edgartown fireworks.

The weather service calculates a 30 to 40 percent chance the Island could experience tropical storm conditions, with sustained winds higher than 39 miles per hour. While the National Hurricane Center predicts the storm will be losing strength by the time it brushes Cape Cod and the Islands late Friday Evening, Arthur will still be rated as a hurricane, with winds greater than 74 miles per hour near the eye of the storm.

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Local sailors got together for a weekend of friendly competition, and a celebration of the traditional wooden boat.

Diana Dozier (left) skippers 'Twas Brillig, with crew Dianne Durawa. — Steve Myrick

Legendary boat designer Nathanael Herreshoff was never much of a “people person,” according to historical accounts. But even the gruff old Captain might have smiled if he happened upon sparkling Menemsha Pond over the weekend, where local sailors gathered for friendly competition and a celebration of the 100th birthday of the Herreshoff 12-1/2.

The traditional wooden boats never looked better.

“I like the sound of the water and the wood,” said Edward Miller of Chilmark, who was one of the hosts of the weekend gathering. Mr. Miller, who owns a home at the head of the pond, went to great lengths to acquire his boat, Crow Dancer. “I bought a wreck of a 12-1/2,” he said. “Only a nut, as my wife told me, would get a wooden boat.”

But such is the devotion to the classic day-sailer. For some, it is love at first sight. The traditional lines and forgiving nature of the design make it easy for kids to learn sailing. The same characteristics make it enjoyable for sailors who have put wet and wild racing behind them.

Diana Dozier of Edgartown bridges both worlds. Her boat is named “Twas Brillig,” a phrase from Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem Jabberwocky.

“It was the first thing I ever memorized as a child,” Ms. Dozier said. “This takes me back to my childhood. It’s just a kind boat. It does stand up to weather. It’s a great family boat.”

With a light sea breeze filling from the southwest, Charlie Shipway dominated racing on Saturday, and did well enough on Sunday to take top individual honors for the regatta aboard Southwind. “There’s a little local knowledge involved,” Mr. Shipway said. He is a competitive sailor in a variety of small boats at the highest levels, but he likes the traditional Herreshoff 12-1/2 for teaching.

“I love the gaff rig,” he said. “I love the 750 pounds of lead in the keel. I love the friendly competition.”

The Menemsha Pond Racers topped the Edgartown Yacht Club in team competition, to win the inaugural Vineyard Herreshoff Cup. There was far more congeniality than competition, as suggested in the racing rules.

“The Vineyard Herreshoff Cup is intended to be a Corinthian competition between like-minded devotees of both recreational racing and the Herreshoff tradition. Competitors are discouraged from aggressive maneuvers and/or threats intended to intimidate other sailors.”

Sailing with the mind’s eye

Capt. Herreshoff supervised the construction of the first Herreshoff 12-1/2 in 1914, and 100 years later, the stout gaff-rigged sloop maintains a worshipful following among New England sailors. Don McLagan of Edgartown is president of the H Class Association, which is charged with promoting activity and interest in the Herreshoff 12-1/2. He said Capt. Herreshoff didn’t put the original design down on paper for the first boats he built in Bristol, Rhode Island.

“He took a piece of poplar, and carved a half model,” Mr. McLagan said. “Here’s a guy who has the ability to close his eyes and imagine how the shape he was carving would take to the water.” After taking precise measurements from the original model, Capt. Herreshoff gave his skilled boatwrights detailed instructions and supervised the building process down to every last brass block.

The original idea was to build a boat that kids could handle, one that would introduce them to the kind of boat they might sail as adults. The design proved so versatile, however, that it became popular with sailors of all ages.

Approximately 360 of the vessels were built under the supervision of Capt. Herreshoff, according to the H Class Association. Production ended in 1943.

Capt. Herreshoff’s custom was to classify his designs according to the length on water line (LWL) known in his day as load waterline length. The length on waterline is 12 feet, 6 inches. The overall length of the boat is 15 feet 10 inches.

W.C. Forbes, a Boston financier, bought four Herreshoff 12-1/2s from the first order of 20 boats, according to records at the Herreshoff Marine Museum. Those same four boats are still sailed by his descendents, tied up to the same dock in Hadley Harbor on Naushon Island, where they were delivered in 1915.

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Under fire from the county, Norman Perry stepped back from a lead role, but will remain on the airport commission, as will his fellow members.

The Martha's Vineyard Airport commissioners have changed their leadership. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

In the face of withering criticism from the Dukes County commissioners, The Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission changed their leadership on Friday, June 27. The airport commissioners also rebuffed a call by the county to resign, and defended their recent actions as consistent with their statutory authority and the open meeting law.

Norman Perry, chairman of the airport commission since April, relinquished the chairman’s post at a 9 am meeting of the airport commission Friday morning. Mr. Perry notified his fellow commissioners of his decision to step down from the leadership post but remain on the commission in late-night email.

“It is with regret that I am resigning my position as Chairman due to personal reasons, effective immediately,” Mr. Perry wrote in an email to fellow commissioners at 11 pm, the night before the regular June 27 meeting. “However, I look forward to continuing to work with each of you as Airport Commissioner for the best interests of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. While my tenure as Chair was brief, it was fulfilling and I thank each of you for your support. Connie Teixeira, as Vice-Chair, will immediately assume the role of Chair.”

Ms. Teixeira opened the June 27 meeting with a stern tone.

“I have assumed his position as chair,” Ms. Teixeira said. “The meeting today will be governed by Roberts Rules of Order, which gives the chair custody of who is allowed to speak,” Ms. Teixeira said. “Anyone not acknowledged by the chair will not be able to speak at this meeting. There will be some changes in committees. At this time I’m not ready to make those changes.”

Newly appointed airport commissioner Christine Todd, who is also a county commissioner, questioned the process. The airport commission has no bylaws spelling out the process of succession.

“I was under the impression that we would elect a new chair,” Ms. Todd said. “I’m just wondering what the process is.”

“The process is, the vice-chair steps up, and we elect a new vice-chair,” Ms. Teixeira said.

The meeting was tense at times, but less confrontational than meetings held earlier this year, which drew widespread criticism of airport commissioners by members of the county commission.

Best practices

Members of the county commission have been highly critical of the airport commission for its handling of several public disciplinary hearings involving an airport employee.

At a county meeting on June 18, county commission chairman Leonard Jason Jr. asked the seven appointed members of the airport commission to resign. The longtime county commissioner modified his call in a letter dated June 19 addressed to the airport commissioners  in which he suggested that commissioners find something else to do. Mr. Jason asked for a response by July 1.

Airport commissioners approved a response but did not discuss the text of the letter or read it aloud. In response to a public records request, assistant airport manager Deb Potter provided a copy of the letter to The Times.

“We understand that your request that we ‘channel [our] energies in pursuit of a different endeavor’ is because you do not agree with recent decisions made by the Airport Commission,” chairman Teixeira said. “Your request is based on unspecified ‘behavior,’ ‘actions,’ and ‘conduct’ by any or all of the Airport commissioners. The Airport Commissioners have considered your request, and assert that it has at all times conducted itself in conformance with the requirement of the Open Meeting Law and consistent with long-standing Airport Commission best practices.

“Both the Airport Act and the Grant Assurances (which were signed by the County Commission) place the responsibility for the care and management of the Airport solely and exclusively in the hands of the Airport Commission. Collectively and individually, the Airport Commissioners understand what is at stake to the travelling public and the community. And collectively and individually, the Airport Commissioners intend to continue to discharge their responsibility until the completion of their statutory terms.”

Ms. Teixeira, Mr. Perry, Peter Bettencourt, Denys Wortman, and James Coyne voted in favor of the response.

Newly appointed airport commissioner and former airport employee Richard Michelson abstained. Mr. Michelson said he would send his own response to the county commission.

“As you know during the appointment process I explained my interest in helping the airport commission and airport management in improving and changing relationships with the employees, tenants, county and general public,” Mr. Michelson wrote in his undated reply provided by county manager Martina Thornton. “Although I feel we are starting to show some progress with some of these issues there is far too many things that need to be worked on. Therefore I will continue to focus on the future as one of your appointees on the MV airport commission.”

Ms. Todd voted against sending the response. She said she has already sent her own response.

The airport commission also distributed a draft of an airport employee policies and procedures handbook for discussion. Airport policies and procedures have been a sharp point of contention during recent disciplinary hearings and meetings. Beth Tessmer, a nine-year airport employee who was twice suspended and then fired earlier this year, has contended in a workplace discrimination lawsuit that the airport commission did not follow disciplinary procedures established for Dukes County employees.

Airport commission attorney Susan Whalen, speaking by conference call, advised commissioners to keep the document confidential, not to distribute it electronically, and not to share copies with outside advisors. Though distributed at a public meeting in open session, she maintained it is not a public record, because it falls under an exception to the Massachusetts Public Records Act concerning formulation of public policy.

“I would recommend that the commissioners keep their copy privileged and confidential,” Ms. Whalen said. “You’re obligated to maintain the confidential record of the public body.”

“I don’t see anything that is so secret, secret, that no one else in the world can look at it,” said Mr. Michelson, who has spoken forcefully in recent meetings about the need for a policies and procedures manual.

Ms. Potter denied a public records request to provide a copy of the draft manual.

“Under the advice of counsel, the draft administrative handbook and personnel policies is exempt from the public records law,” Ms. Potter wrote in a letter to The Times. “Accordingly, the administrative policy handbook will be available for disclosure after the next Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission meeting when it will be substantively discussed and voted on.”

The airport commission’s next meeting is scheduled for July 25.

The commissioners agreed to review the document and send comments to Ms. Potter by email.

The meeting was not without its lighter moments.

The commissioners agreed, at the suggestion of Mr. Michelson, to send an electronic survey to all airport stakeholders, including tenants, employees, pilots, and others, to gauge what they think about airport operations. Ms. Potter suggested using the popular Internet-based survey software known as Survey Monkey.

“I can see the headline,” said Mr. Coyne. “‘Commission creates monkey committee.’”