Authors Posts by Tony Omer

Tony Omer

Tony Omer

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Suz Slezak and David Wax make up David Wax Museum. — David Wax Museum

The indie-Americana-folk-rock group David Wax Museum featuring David Wax and Suz Slezak return to play Flatbread Thursday evening after a successful engagement there last summer.

David Wax incorporates instruments and musical forms from a broad range of traditional styles from North and South America, defying easy classification. Mr. Wax likes to call his blend of music “Mexo-Americana, bringing together a lot of traditional musical things that become new forms.”

At last summer’s show the band’s fusion of traditional Mexican folk with American roots and indie rock kept the crowd dancing through the night to rhythms that inspired members of the audience to break out the tango and samba dance moves.

The band incorporates a wide array of instruments, including Mexican guitars, an accordion, a Cajun drum box, and a donkey’s jawbone. The repertoire usually includes older hits, as well as singles from their newer albums. Knock Knock Get Up is their newest album, released in 2012.

David Wax immersed himself in Mexico’s rich traditional music culture, son mexicano, during trips south of the border, including a yearlong Harvard fellowship, learning from the form’s living masters.

Suz Slezak was homeschooled by her father on a small farm in rural Virginia and reared on old-time, Irish, classical, and folk music. The two met in 2007 and began blending their unique musical perspectives to form the band.

David Wax Museum has released four albums: Its first in 2008, I Turned Off Thinking About; its second, Carpenter Bird in 2009; and the critically acclaimed album Everything Is Saved in 2011, featuring the song “Born with a Broken Heart,” which was named Song of the Year at the Boston Music Awards.

The band, which is often featured on the local folk music station WUMB, won a contest for a spot at the 2010 Newport Folk Festival and was the winner in the Americana category in the 2010 Boston Music Awards.

Island musician Nina Violet is the opening act, and blues harpist Natalie Lurie will also perform. The show is produced by TPS Presents.

David Wax Museum, Thursday, August 14, 9:30 pm, Flatbread Company, M.V. Airport, Edgartown. 21+. $25; $18 in advance at For more information, visit

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The Workout & Vineyard Tennis Center (VTC) in Edgartown recently replaced the lighting at its two year-round indoor tennis courts with energy efficient fluorescent fixtures. Not only are the courts bathed in brighter, whiter light, but the upgrade will also reduce the center’s energy costs by over $5,000 a year.

The old lights used 23,000 watts to light the two courts. The new lights need only 11,450 watts.

The lights and the installation cost $29,900. Program incentives of $23,970 from the Cape Light Compact (CLC), a public electricity aggregator and advocate for energy efficiency, reduced that cost to about $5,930. CLC subsidizes energy saving projects with funds generated by the energy conservation charge that is a part of electrical bills in Massachusetts.

The new lights were installed last month and replaced metal halide bulbs and fixtures that were state of the art when they were installed almost 20 years ago, VTC owner Connie McHugh said.

Playing tennis on Martha’s Vineyard during the cold, dark months of winter or during the stormy days of summer became a comfortable possibility when Ken Martin and Connie McHugh opened The Vineyard Tennis Center with two indoor courts in 1996.

“The old lights were better and brighter than most of the indoor courts on the Cape and were as bright as any tennis court lighting I had seen,” Ms. McHugh said. But they came with a cost. Ms. McHugh said that the tennis center’s monthly electrical bill averages over $3,000 and a big chunk of the bill is the cost of running the lights.

Ms. McHugh expects the savings from the new lights will cover her out-of-pocket costs within a year and a half. “It was a no-brainer,” she said. “Not only will we save money in the long run but the new lights are brighter and whiter and easier to use, and the bulbs last longer and we can turn them on and off whenever we want.”

She said the light from the old metal halide lights would turn yellowish as the lights aged giving the courts a dingy look and the lights often had to be left on, an additional cost, even when no one was playing because it took five to 10 minutes for the lights to reach their full intensity when turned on.

When the old lights were shut off it took about 15 minutes for the lights to cool down before they could be turned on again.

“When the power went down, not an uncommon occurrence on the Vineyard, there was nothing we could do but wait,” Ms. McHugh said. “Now we can turn them on and off whenever we want and the new lights reach full brightness within a minute.” Another advantage of the new lights is that they do not need the heat and noise generating ballasts that covered a large section of one wall that the old lights required.

The old light bulbs had to be replaced every 18 months to two years. She expects the new bulbs to last between four and five years.

Energy audit

The idea for new lights resulted from a no-cost commercial energy audit conducted by CLC, similar to audits offered to all NSTAR customers. Information on audits is on the CLC website The audit pointed to the replacement of the old metal halide lights as a way of conserving a significant amount of energy, according to CLC program coordinator Briana Kane.

Ms. Kane said the project qualified for a CLC retrofit program that is designed for commercial and industrial customers to help replace aging, inefficient equipment and systems with energy efficient technologies.

The retrofit program provides customers with incentives and technical services that facilitate the installation of premium efficient equipment, including refrigeration, motors, air conditioning and water heating systems and almost anything that uses electricity. Ms. Kane said the cost of the audit was also covered by the energy conservation charge. She said audits, energy-efficiency programs and services, rebates and incentives are ways the conservation charge is returned to the customer.

Brighter courts?

Whether the new lights are any better than the old lights will ultimately be determined by the players, Ms. McHugh said. “I think they are better and tests conducted at other tennis facilities off-Island that have switched to the new lights indicate that these lights are brighter.”

Ms. McHugh said that Michael Anderson, the vice president for sales at Think Lite, an international lighting efficiency company with headquarters in Natick that designed the new lights, conducted tests last week and suggested that some fine-tuning could improve the court illumination even more. “We are somewhat of a test case for them and they are interested in making it right,” Ms. McHugh said. “He recommended increasing the wattage of some of the fixtures with brighter bulbs and repositioning some of the fixtures.” She said that the tune-up work will be done in September at no additional cost.

VTC employee and tennis player Steve Mussell said that he thinks the new lights are brighter and whiter. “They are more like natural sunlight,” he said.

Twelve-year-old tennis player Hannah Rabasca said she likes the new lights as she walked off a court with her doubles partner, her grandfather, Peter Norris. Ms. Rabasca will be 17 when the new bulbs need to be replaced.

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The special election will fill the post left vacant by the murder of Pat Gregory.

West Tisbury selectmen are mulling the future use of the town's former police station. — File photo by Michael Cummo

West Tisbury selectmen voted unanimously at their weekly meeting on July 30 to choose a new town moderator at a special election held in conjunction with state and federal elections on November 4. Voters will be asked to choose a replacement for longtime moderator Francis “Pat” Gregory, who was murdered while hiking in northern California in May.

Mr. Gregory was found dead of a gunshot wound on May 16 on the Iron Canyon Trail off Highway 36E, north of Red Bluff, Calif. A companion who was hiking with him was wounded. They were robbed before being shot. Police continue to search for the murderer.

In other action Wednesday, selectmen discussed the use of the old police station building next to the Mill Pond, vacated when police moved into their new station on State Road this spring.

The 1,000-square-foot building is on a small lot and comes with a parking restriction of three vehicles. The lot is so small and so close to the Mill Pond that the septic system was sited on a neighboring residential lot owned by Peter and Beatrice Nessen with the condition that the lot would only be used for the police station.

Selectman Richard Knabel said that any change of use could invalidate the terms of the septic agreement and would give the Nessens the option of disconnecting the system. Chairman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter said the Nessens have indicated that they would be willing to consider new tenants for the building.

Last month, a committee appointed by the selectmen to study the building’s use recommended that the building be leased to a nonprofit group but was not more specific.

Town administrator Jennifer Rand said that in order to meet state guidelines for the rental of municipal property at less than the best price, a request for proposals (RFP) would would have to identify specific public benefits as determined by the selectmen.

“The state is quite clear that if it is to be disposed of, and a lease is considered disposed of, for less than fair market value, a valid public purpose must be defined,” Ms. Rand said. “The primary purpose must be to promote the public welfare with a fair and open disposition.”

She said the board would have to determine what their goals are. She said that she will keep the Nessens informed of the town’s decisions.

Mr. Manter asked that the issue be put on the agenda for the next selectmen’s meeting, on August 6.

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From left: Cindy Kallet, Ellen Epstein, and Michael Cicone, scheduled to perform at the Fern and Feather concert on August 3. — Alison Shaw Photography

Headlined by songwriter, singer, and guitarist Cindy Kallet, four accomplished folk musicians will perform together to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fern and Feather Day Camp at Felix Neck, a Massachusetts Audubon Society wildlife sanctuary in Edgartown.

The show, at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury this Sunday, August 3, will raise money to support an Island family scholarship program for Fern and Feather, a natural history day camp. Ms. Kallet is a former volunteer and employee of Felix Neck.

As a songwriter, teacher, singer, and guitarist with five solo albums to her credit, Ms. Kallet has performed extensively throughout North America in coffeehouses, concert halls, house concerts, and music camps. She has appeared on A Prairie Home Companion and WFMT’s Folkstage.

Her first album, Working on Wings to Fly, was voted one of the “Top 100 Folk Albums of the Century” by WUMB Boston radio listeners, and Ms. Kallet’s Leave the Cake in the Mailbox – Songs for Parents and Kids Growing Up was chosen for a 2004 Parents’ Choice Gold Award.

She has recorded three trio albums, with Ellen Epstein and Michael Cicone, who will join her for the first part of the concert.

For the past nine years Ms. Kallet has joined musical forces with Grey Larsen, who will join her for the second part of the show. They have recorded two albums together and many of the songs they perform were composed by the duo.

Mr. Larsen is noted for his fluency on the Irish Flute and tin whistle. He is also highly accomplished on the concertina, harmonium, and fiddle and is the author of books on Irish music and has more than a dozen CDs to his credit. Since 1989, he has been the music editor of Sing Out! Magazine and has devoted himself to the traditional fiddle music of his native Midwest and Appalachia since the 1970s.

Ms. Kallet has had a long relationship with Felix Neck and is proud of what she learned from former director Gus Ben David. “I started volunteering at Felix Neck as a teenager in the early 1970s,” Ms. Kallet told The Times, “and fell completely in love with that piece of the Island, and with what the Sanctuary meant to the preservation of land and habitat on the Vineyard. I learned so much from Mr. Ben David, who is and was one of the great teachers of this world.”

Ms. Kallet eventually joined the staff as a teacher/naturalist, trail clearer, window washer, floor sweeper, and as a counselor at Fern and Feather before moving to Maine, where she lived for 18 years.

Ms. Kallet and Mr. Larsen now live and work out of Bloomington, Ind.

Folk Singer Cindy Kallet and friends, Sunday, August 3, 7:30 pm, Grange Hall, West Tisbury. $25 in advance; $20 for Mass Audubon members; $30 at the door. For more information, visit or call Felix Neck at 508-627-4850.

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— Mae Deary

West Tisbury selectmen last week discussed the shortage of maintenance and custodial help necessary to maintain town buildings caused by the additional needs of the new library, the new police station and the town hall.

“The library maintenance needs seem to be the most substantial, particularly related to the composting toilets,” town administrator Jennifer Rand told selectmen at the July 23 meeting.

The toilets must be raked, and wood chips added monthly, library director Beth Kramer told The Times, a job that she has taken on but would like to shed. Ms. Kramer said that the real issue is the increased complexity of all of the new systems at the recently expanded facility. “It’s the same issue we have with the new police station and at the town hall,” she said. “Our contract with the cleaning service does not meet our needs.” She did say that she thought the cleaning service is doing a fine job.

Ms. Rand told selectmen Wednesday night that the town has tried to fill the position of facilities manager more than once and that the latest plan is to have Joe Tierney take on the responsibility of managing the facilities when he becomes the building inspector. “But to take this on did not mean, necessarily, dealing with composting toilets,” she said.

She said that she thought the facilities manager should be responsible for keeping up with the systems’ needs of the buildings, including maintenance schedules and agreements.

“The library’s needs are fairly extensive and I am not sure how we are going to go about it,” Ms. Rand said. “They have some systems that are fairly complicated and will need attention.”

In particular, the toilets must be maintained.

“I truly believe at the top of this list and probably what started all this is the composting toilet issue,” Ms. Rand said. “Because they put them in without a clear picture of how they were going to maintain them and now somebody needs to deal with them and apparently it’s not a great job and it is a hard job and who’s going to do it?”

Ms. Rand said that the town under-estimated the time that cleaning the new buildings require. She said that Ms. Kramer is requesting a full-time custodian.

Ms. Rand added that she thought the town hall is in a similar situation with general cleaning and maintenance and toilets. She said town hall is never clean enough and that the cleaners hired by the town are limited by the amount of time the town has contracted them for.

“It’s a real issue for these heavy use buildings,” she said. “The town is understaffed for this sort of thing.” She said that she has had to call in outside help to clear stopped up toilets in the town hall on several occasions.

Selectman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter suggested looking at an estimate of the costs and seeing if the necessary funds have may already be in the 2015 budget or if money will need to be taken from a reserve fund transfer. Both selectmen Richard Knabel and Cynthia Mitchell agreed with Mr. Manter that a more thorough study should be made of the needs and that adjustments may have to be made to the 2016 budget to cover the increased needs of the town, including the possibility of a adding a new full-time position to the town payroll.

In fiscal year 2014, which ended June 30, West Tisbury paid cleaning contractors $35,400 for regular cleaning services for the town hall, fire department, police department, and the library. The new police department and library were only occupied in the last three months of the last fiscal year.

“We estimate that in FY 2015, with the new library and police station in use for the full year, that the expense will probably increase to a little over $50,000,” town accountant Bruce Stone told The Times in a telephone call Wednesday.

In other business last week, selectmen voted unanimously to approve a new banking agreement with the Edgartown National Bank that will cost the town about $7,400, $2,400 more than last year. The new agreement covers the current 2015 fiscal year, which began July 1. The charges will be paid from funds added to the tax collector’s budget from a reserve fund transfer.

Town treasurer Kathy Logue presented the new agreement that includes a new $200 per month fee. She explained that the bank’s fees cover general checking services and include lockbox services, primarily the receipt and processing of tax payments for the town.

Ms. Logue said the town’s banking costs in the previous agreement were met by charges to interest earned on a minimum balance of town funds kept in an account with the bank. These charges to the earned interest are also a part of the new agreement, but with prevailing interest rates so low the bank’s payments were not covering the costs of the services provided, she told selectmen.

“The bank said that the new fees will still not cover the entire cost of the services provided by the bank until interest rates increase, if they ever do,” she said. The monthly payments in the new agreement will increase to $400 the second year and $600 the third.

“This gives us the incentive to look into other ways to do things that may save money,” Ms. Logue said. She told The Times that West Tisbury has begun looking into accepting tax payments by credit card, as the state of Massachusetts and the federal government do, which may reduce processing costs. “We are working on it, hopefully within the year,” she said.

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Amy Goodman, award-winning journalist and host of Democracy Now!, will speak at the Katharine Cornell Theatre on Saturday. — Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Comm

This Saturday, July 26, join Amy Goodman and Charlayne Hunter-Gault at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Vineyard Haven at a benefit for the WVVY 93.7-FM, the Island’s community radio station, and public broadcasting’s Democracy Now! The event is co-sponsored by Martha’s Vineyard Community Television, Channel 13, and the ACLU of Massachusetts.

Ms. Hunter-Gault, a Vineyard summer resident and renowned author and journalist will introduce Ms. Goodman, the award-winning host of Democracy Now! The largest public media collaboration in the United States, the pioneering show is broadcast on Pacifica, NPR, on public access, PBS, and satellite television, among other outlets including the Internet.

According to its website, Democracy Now!’s War and Peace Report provides access to people and perspectives rarely heard in the U.S. corporate-sponsored media, including independent and international journalists, ordinary people from around the world who are directly affected by U.S. foreign policy, grassroots leaders and peace activists, artists, academics and independent analysts. It hosts real debates between people who substantially disagree, such as between the White House or the Pentagon spokespeople on the one hand, and grassroots activists on the other.

Ms. Goodman will sign copies of the book, “The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope,” which she co-wrote with Denis Moynihan, with a foreword by Michael Moore.

WVVY 93.7 is a community station on Martha’s Vineyard that began its low wattage broadcasts in 2007. It boasts an eclectic collection of shows featuring music and commentary, most produced by locals. An interview with Ms. Goodman by West Tisbury resident Rob Myers will be broadcast on WVVY daily at 8:05 am, 11:05 am, 4:05 pm, 8:05 pm, and 11:05 pm leading up to the event.

Amy Goodman and Charlayne Hunter-Gault Benefit for WVVY and Democracy Now! Saturday, July 26, 7 pm, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. $10, tickets available at Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven, online at, and at the door.

There is a special pre-event catered reception from 5 to 6:30 pm, on the same day, with Ms. Goodman and Ms. Hunter-Gault at the Beach Plum Inn in Chilmark. Tickets to the reception are $75 and include entry to the lecture.

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Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian David McCullough said libraries have shaped his career.

David McCullough thanks several main contributors the the library's success, including (from left) Tim Boland, Dan Waters and Beth Kramer. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The West Tisbury library board of trustees and the library foundation Sunday dedicated the new community program room of the newly renovated and enlarged West Tisbury public library to David and Rosalee McCullough. Hunter Moorman, chairman of the West Tisbury library foundation, thanked the McCulloughs and, in particular, Mr. McCullough for his four years as honorary chairman of the library foundation. A full presidential term, he noted, to laughs from the full house.

The McCulloughs, West Tisbury residents, were instrumental in raising funds to help pay for the $6 million dollar project. They were early donors to the project and in his role as honorary chairman of the foundation, Mr. McCullough, an acclaimed historian and author, drummed up support and funds; the library foundation ultimately raised over a quarter of the construction costs. The town picked up almost a quarter and almost half of the project’s cost was funded by matching funds from the state. The old 5,640-square-foot library was enlarged to 13,000 square feet and opened on March 22, after a 14-month construction period.

Mr. McCullough, a former West Tisbury library trustee, has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for “Truman” and “John Adams,” along with two National Book Awards, for “The Path Between the Seas” and “Mornings on Horseback.”

A narrator, historian, and lecturer, he is also a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian award. Mr. Moorman cited the McCulloughsmany contributions to the library. These included a fundraiser for the library at the Agricultural Hall three years ago where Mr. McCullough, the guest speaker, spoke to a full house about his latest book, “The Greater Journey.”

“The McCulloughs gave the fledgling library foundation the faith and the courage to persist in what then seemed a daunting, uncertain task,” Mr. Moorman said. “They have lent their names, their fortunes and their warm and gracious encouragement to the foundation all along the way.”

In addition to the McCulloughs, Mr. Moorman thanked the library’s many other generous donors and praised the work of all who helped bring the project to its current stage, including library director Beth Kramer and her staff. He singled out the work of the library building committee and its countless hours of inspiration and work.

Mr. Moorman also noted the need for continued support from the public to complete unfinished details, such as the landscaping. He then introduced town selectman Richard Knabel and library trustee Dan Waters.

Mr. Knabel praised the McCulloughs — his neighbors — for their help with the library and for their contributions to the community as town residents.

“Our appreciation of their efforts and support for West Tisbury in general over many, many years, and especially for this library expansion project are deep and heartfelt,” he said. “Without their help we might not be sitting in this wonderful space. A jewel of a place such as this is a big part of the glue that holds our community together and is a necessary pillar for a functioning democracy.”

Mr. Waters, who guided much of the fundraising efforts, recalled a breakfast meeting with Ms. Kramer and the McCulloughs in the early stages of the fundraising drive. The McCulloughs told him they were prepared to give a sizable donation, the biggest donation they had ever given to an organization.

“They paid for breakfast,” Mr. Waters said, “and we thank them for that. On the way out the door, David tugged on my elbow and said, ‘this project will succeed.’

“He said that with that gravitas that only his voice has and it sort of sunk in. During the fundraising campaign we always had his words to fall back on, ‘this project will succeed.’ It was like a lesson from one of David’s history books.”

A personal history

After Mr. McCullough, with Ms. McCullough by his side, received a symbolic key to the library, he spoke about the time he was a library trustee, when the library was in the small building on Music Street across from the McCulloughs’ home. As a trustee, he had a key to the library.

“And for a number of years when we would have friends over for dinner, in our modest way,” Mr. McCullough said, “I would say, ‘would you like to adjourn to the library with a little brandy?’ And yes, we would cross Music Street and have a grand evening. It was a wonderful time.”

He spoke about his time living in West Tisbury. The McCulloughs now live in Boston for part of the year. He got a big laugh when he mentioned the time he drove his unwilling daughter to preschool in Edgartown. To cheer her up he began to sing, “I wish I were in the land of cotton.” She interrupted, “You would.”

Mr. McCullough emphasized his personal connection to West Tisbury and to libraries during the 35 years he has lived there.

“It would be unfair of me not to emphasize the degree to which the formative stages of both our marriage and my working life were all here,” Mr. McCullough said. “I am a library devotee. I believe in them. And of course they are also a part of my working life.

“I really believe in communicating with those to whom you’re writing, and I believe in giving credit to the many people who make the kinds of books that I and others write possible. One person gets a name on the dust jacket and that’s really not accurate or fair. And while I praise the existence of the institution of public libraries in our country, and I stress the importance of books above all as part of the learning process, I want to give credit where I think it is never sufficiently given, and that is to the librarians, the staff of libraries. I tell students I have worked with: don’t just go into a library because you are looking for some aspect of your research; talk to the librarians. Tell them what you want to do, what you are looking for. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you don’t know because that is why they are there — to help you. And very often they know as much or more than many of the books that they are taking care of in the library.

“So I want to say to you, Beth, and to all who work with you: here’s to you, for the very important role you play not just in the town and in the Island community, but to the children, to the young people you are shaping in this library.”

Mr. McCullough talked about the effect that working in a library had on his career. He said that one summer while researching a paper in the Yale University library, where he was a student, he realized that he liked the work and for the first time begin to think there might be something like this he could do for the rest of his life.

“Every subject I have undertaken,” he said, “without exception, has been one that I didn’t know much about and if I knew all about it I wouldn’t want to undertake it, because for me the research, the detective casework of it, is the pulp. That’s the adventure. It’s going to a new continent you have never set foot on before and it builds, the more you do it. And almost all of my work has been in libraries.”

Mr. McCullough talked about his current project, the story of the Wright brothers from the small town of Dayton, Ohio — the first to fly. “They had a bicycle shop,” he said, “so they are commonly thought of as clever good ol’ small town mechanics who knew how to do anything, and of course they could figure out how to build something that could fly. And there is some truth to that, but it is far from what the reality was. Those two men were brilliantly educated, brilliantly motivated — geniuses — and they never finished high school.”

Mr. McCullough said that they grew up without any modern conveniences, in a small book-filled house. Their father, an itinerant minister who believed everybody should have books and should read, encouraged his sons to visit the public library whenever a book they needed wasn’t at home.

“The brothers were trying to figure out about propellers. Should a propeller be like a propeller on a ship? So they went to the public library, only to find that there was no theory about propellers on ships or on airplanes. There were no airplanes, so they had to work it all out themselves.

“Never doubt,” Mr. McCullough said, “that the public libraries have figured importantly in our history.”

He said that reporters would comment to Orville Wright late in his life, “‘It’s wonderful to think you grew up under such disadvantages’ and he would get quite angry. He would say, ‘no disadvantages. We had the greatest advantages anybody could ever have. We had access to books and a father who encouraged intellectual curiosity.’ What more does anybody need to get ahead in whatever it is they want to do?

“So, thank you, Beth, and thank you all who have helped keep this an emblem for what we believe in here in dear old, wonderful, exemplary West Tisbury.”

Owner Robert Colacray poses on his boat, Mad Max, which has not only comfortable seating outside but also a roomy indoor cabin. — Photo by Michael Cummo

In 20 years of sailing, the 60-foot catamaran Mad Max has carried over 100,000 passengers, averaging 5,000 a season, according to the boat’s owner, Robert Colacray.

Docked in Edgartown harbor, Mad Max is a state-of-the-art catamaran, a sailing boat consisting of two parallel hulls. Its mast towers 70 feet above a spacious deck which is almost 1,500 square feet, 60 feet long and 25 feet wide. “It was crafted for adventure with passenger safety and comfort in mind,” said Mr. Colacray. “The twin hulls are engineered to create smooth and graceful movement across the water.” The boat can carry as many as 49 passengers.

“We are proud of our safety record; we haven’t lost anyone,” he said. “We have helped create memorable moments for many people. I love to hear passengers say, ‘This is the best thing I have done here on the Vineyard.’ You get a totally different perspective of the Island from the water.”

Mad-max-full-sail.JPGMad Max sets sail twice a day at 2 pm and 6 pm for two-hour trips. On a good day with a southwest breeze, Mr. Colacray said the Mad Max can sail to Oak Bluffs and back. Another popular route is to follow Chappaquiddick out to Cape Poge, taking in the beautiful sights along the way.

Mad Max is also available for private charters for up to 49 passengers. The boat has its own marina in the harbor where other boats can dock.

Mr. Colacray started sailing when he was a student at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “My first boat, appropriately, was a small catamaran, a Hobie 16,” he said. “I would sail it off the beaches of Malibu. It was wet and exciting launching through the surf and riding them back in.”

He later moved up to a Bristol 29′ which allowed him to sail to the Channel Islands off the southern California coast, and later, as he gained experience, from Los Angeles to San Francisco singlehanded. He was lucky, he said, to have some good teachers and mentors along the way.

While on the West Coast, Mr. Colacray got his captain’s license, after six months of study. When he returned home to the east coast he worked in the business world for about 10 years, saving enough money to buy a 35-foot sailboat.

One summer he got an itch to try something new and sailed to Edgartown. He docked at the Harborside marina and put up a plywood sign that read, “Sailing Charters.” Before too long he was taking up to six people out four times a day.

Each fall he would sail the boat down to Key West, where he continued to make money chartering his boat through the winter. It was here he got the idea for “Mad Max” after seeing large catamarans capable of carrying 49 passengers.

In 1993 he contracted Gold Coast Yachts in St. Croix to build a new boat.

“The name came from the ‘Mad Max’ movies,” he said. “It seemed to be a perfect fit for a big red catamaran.”

Last fall, the Mad Max was sailed to Maine for a complete overhaul and refitting to commemorate her 20th anniversary. New paint, new logo and graphics, new stays, and all hardware was replaced. “The boat has a new look and looks better than she did 20 years ago,” he said.

“Everyone along the way has been extremely supportive, the town, harbormaster, and we are lucky to have some great employees,” Mr. Colacray said. “I have been blessed over the years to do something I love and have the opportunity to follow my passion, to travel abroad in the off-season. It was on one of my journeys to Colombia four years ago that I met my soul-mate Yudy, and we are now married.”

“I hope to be doing this for many years to come. There is no need to retire. I have been semi-retired these last 20 years, working six months and having six months off. I am living the dream.”

For more information go to,, call 508-627-7500, or stop by the boat in Edgartown. It is hard to miss.

— Photo by Michael Cummo


The Old Sculpin Gallery, across from the Chappaquiddick Ferry ticket office and Memorial Wharf in Edgartown, is the showcase outlet for The Martha’s Vineyard Art Association (MVAA), a group of about 60 member artists that is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year.

Jane Messersmith, a watercolorist and a retired art and science teacher from the public school system in Florida, became a member when the organization was only 10 years old. She and her late husband, Fred, first came to the Vineyard on the invitation of Ruth Mead, an artist and a charter member of the MVAA who knew Fred from Florida. Fred taught painting at Stetson University in Florida and Ms. Mead wanted him to teach a summer course in watercolor painting at the Old Sculpin Gallery.

“It’s been a wonderful part of our family,” Ms. Messersmith said. “We came here with six children in 1964. This is my 50th year. We fell in love with the Vineyard and the gallery. We even bought land here our first year. We bought our acre and a tenth that summer in the woods in Edgartown and have pretty much been here every summer since.”

In addition to teaching, Fred eventually became director of the gallery and was honored for his 30-plus years of service this summer when the Fred Messersmith Gallery was dedicated at the museum.

Ms. Messersmith also taught at the gallery for five years. Her son, Harry, a sculptor, and daughter, Patricia Turken, a former art teacher at the Lincoln Center in New York, are both MVAA members and have shown their work at the gallery.

“The MVAA has always had children’s art classes, adult painting classes and also life drawing classes. We also give scholarships, three this year to art students at the high school for the college of their choice.”

The gallery is an unusual building for today’s Edgartown. It is over 240 years old — few buildings of its vintage still exist. It is not painted white and would never be mistaken for a whaling captain’s house, and it seems top heavy with its distinctive shingled tower. The building has at various times housed a sail loft, a whale oil processing factory, a grain store, and a boatbuilder’s shop. It has wide, well-worn floorboards and hand-hewn beams. The building itself is worth the visit.

Incorporated in 1954, the MVAA opened for the benefit of the Island community to “increase facilities of art education, create interest in the arts, make an art center for the whole island, establish a permanent collection, and preserve an old landmark.”

About 30 of the member artists will be showing their work at the gallery this summer, along with pieces from the group’s permanent collection and, for the first time, work from non-member artists will also be included.

Six special events are planned to celebrate their 60th anniversary. A 60th anniversary traveling exhibit, featuring selections from the MVAA’s Permanent Collection of over 100 works of art, is touring Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, Vineyard Haven, and West Tisbury this summer. The exhibit will be at the Vineyard Haven Library for the month of August and includes work from the following Vineyard artists: William Abbe, Francis Chapin, Mary Drake Coles, Julius Delbos, Gilberta Goodwin, Joseph Hazen, Patricia Reeve Mead, Ruth Appledoorn Mead, and Vaclav Vytlacil.

There will be three MVAA member themed shows this summer: “Reflections: Celebrating our MVAA Heritage,” “Island Bounty: From Food to Art,” and “Our Golden Age.” A list of artists on display is available on their website,

“Painting the Vineyard,” MVAA’s 2nd annual plein air fundraising event will be from July 15 through the 20th, in partnership with the Preservation Trust. Artists will be painting outdoors at some of the Vineyard’s most iconic and favorite places. This event marks a turning point in the organization’s history. It is the first time non-members will be invited to paint alongside members and to exhibit their work in the gallery to sell. The gallery will show the paintings from this event from July 19 to 25.

The first Old Sculpin community show with works by non-member artists as well as member artists will be curated by Edgartown artist Margot Datz beginning at the end of August.

In June, the MVAA dedicated the Fred Messersmith Gallery honoring the former director’s 30-plus years of service to the organization. Also in June, Flatbread held a benefit night with proceeds going toward academic art scholarships, awarded annually to local students.

The Old Sculpin Gallery is open Monday through Saturday, 10 am–6 pm, and on Sundays, 12 noon–5 pm, in season. There is no charge for admission. Dock Street, Edgartown. Call 508-627-4881 or email for more information.

Sandra Lippen of Tilton Rentall. — Photo by Michael Cummo

When Vineyarders have needed a tool, maybe a log splitter or a floor sander, impact driver or a floor nailer, or even a cement mixer, Tilton Rentall has been the place to find it, for the past 40 years. Sandra Lippens has run Tilton Rentall and Tilton Tent and Party Rentals at the corner of Barnes Road and Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road for more than 30 of those years.

Ms. Lippens, known as Sandy to most, is a hands-on owner who usually answers the phone or meets customers at their cars when they drive in to pick up a tool. One day last week Ms. Lippens, looking nowhere near her 74 years, leaned down and grabbed one side of a cement mixer she was renting to a 200 pound, 6-foot-tall man who grabbed the other side. Her knees were bent, her back acceptably vertical. The two lifted the mixer into a pickup truck. She didn’t break a sweat.

She keeps her inventory in her head. She will quickly answer any question about whatever tool anyone might request. She knows the condition of the tools, how to use them, and how to repair many of the hundreds of tools she keeps on hand.

wave.jpgOn the tent and party rental side of the business, she provides everything a party might need, from tents to chairs, tables and table cloths, dishes and cutlery, and also will help customers plan parties. She will, if asked, suggest venues, caterers, and is adept at helping customers navigate the sometimes tricky ways of the Vineyard.

Tilton Rentall was started by M. Thurston “Tebby” Tilton in 1974 who began renting equipment he had used in his construction business along with a few things he had built himself, such a log cutter with an unprotected blade that measured more than two feet in diameter.

In 1980, Ms. Lippens moved to the Vineyard from Worcester where she’d worked for a printing company for 20 years, to begin a job as a massage therapist. Soon, she began helping Mr. Tilton. “I loved my work as a therapist and I met a lot of Vineyarders and learned my way around making house calls,” she said.

“When I first came to help Tebby, there was no party business and we didn’t have many tools,” she said. “The number of tools we had would almost fill one column on a sheet of paper. Most of the tools had MT Development Corporation painted on them, Tebby’s business name. He was an Island builder who built the first few homes in Sea Glen before he quit building to rent out his tools and go fishing for scallops and conch.

“I started to advertise – that was new concept – and people would call and ask for things. ‘I need a…do you have a…’ And Tebby and I would sit down and decide if we could afford to buy the tools people would ask for, if we didn’t have them.

“I used to tell people if you want me to get something, have six of your friends call and I’ll see if I can get it in here. I have always tried to satisfy the needs of the community.

whiteparty.jpg“It became clear to me early on that if I were to be a part of this community I had to respect those people who were earning a living. I don’t want to be in competition with people who have certain tools, especially big equipment. I used to say ‘if you ride on it or tow it behind I do not have it.’” She does have a couple of cement mixers that are tow-behinds, but other than that the rule stands. “I don’t want to be in competition with the landscapers or the builders.

“I am more tuned to the homeowner, but I have pumps and generators and many small tools that big construction companies need one more of, or only need occasionally or when something breaks down. Our company has participated in building most of what you see on this Island in one way or another.”

She said it was at some point during her first year at Tilton’s that an Edgartown family wanted to know if she had what was needed for a wedding. “We didn’t have anything,” Ms. Lippens said. “I went out and bought everything they needed for their wedding. They wanted a yellow and white-striped tent. I bought a yellow and white striped tent. That was the start of the party rental side of Tilton’s. Everyone up-Island wanted white tents. Now we have white tents.”

She said the tent and party rental part of the business is now more than 50 percent of the business: “We try to provide a full range of assistance to groups and people putting on parties.”

A car drove in and a woman said she needed a lawn mower. Ms. Lippens found a lawn mower, explained the basics. Told her how to start it and helped her load it into her car.

“I really hope that people consider Tilton Rentall to be a part of the community,” she said.