Authors Posts by Tony Omer

Tony Omer

Tony Omer

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The 90-foot wooden scow had to navigate state bureaucracy and Beach Road.

Mark Barros held up a utility line as the Seeker moved up Beach Road. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Just after sunrise Tuesday, Bob Hayden and his crew of three from Hayden Building Movers of Cotuit managed the seamless move of the 32-ton, 90-foot-long schooner scow Seeker from the lot owned by Ernie Boch Jr. near Five Corners in Vineyard Haven where it has been under construction for the last three years, to temporary quarters on Ralph Packer’s property about a quarter of a mile east on Beach Road.

As the early morning sky lightened Tuesday July 15, a team of movers backed the Seeker off the Boch lot where she has been under construction for almost three years.
As the early morning sky lightened Tuesday July 15, a team of movers backed the Seeker off the Boch lot where she has been under construction for almost three years.

After weeks of fits and starts over permitting requirements, the Hayden crew arrived in Oak Bluffs from Falmouth on the 4 am Patriot. Minutes after Mr. Hayden and his crew drove up to the Boch lot and announced, “We’re here,” the rumble of an engine broke the stillness of the morning.

Dale McClure of Watercourse Construction in Vineyard Haven started up his 10-wheel tractor that was already hooked up to an I-beam trailer that had been constructed beneath the unfinished boat. It wasn’t yet 5 am.

The sun was scheduled to rise at 5:18 am, but the overcast sky was already slate grey at 5 am when a state police officer directed a Tisbury policeman in a patrol car to close Beach Road at Five Corners. Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) Vineyard supervisor Edward Panek blocked the other end of the road with his truck.

It took a little time to maneuver the 24-foot-wide boat back and forth out of the lot where it had sat for almost three years. Once on Beach Road the Seeker moved along smoothly like a float in a parade, the blue flashing lights of the state police car leading the way.

Members of the moving crew used long fiberglass poles to lift low-hanging utility wires above the boat as it moved down Beach Road at a brisk walking pace. The spectacle attracted a crowd of about 20 spectators. Many recorded the move. Two bystanders had small video cameras strapped to their heads.

Mark Barros held up a utility line as the Seeker moved slowly onto Beach Road.
Mark Barros held up a utility line as the Seeker moved slowly onto Beach Road.

Prior to the move, Vineyard videographer Dan Martino placed a small video camera on the upper rail of the Seeker to add to his 100-plus hours of video documentation of the project.

By 5:25, only 25 minutes after it began, the move was complete.

Mr. Hayden said the load weighed in at 40 tons, including the trailer. The boat will remain on the trailer until it is ready to be launched.

Boat owner Ted Box built the boat as a teaching project. He said the plan is to create a teaching boat aboard which children can learn about boats and the sea.

Mr. Box was pleased that the move went so smoothly. He said he has not been granted much time before it must be moved from the Packer lot. His plan is to complete as much of the hull as he can before launching the Seeker into the Lagoon.

Mr. McClure said Mr. Packer has plans to move the boat down to the Lagoon boat launching area by the end of August.

Tuesday morning workers began cleaning the Boch lot of leftover debris.

Bob Hayden of Hayden Building movers, left and Dale McClure of Watercourse Construction, center, helped supervise the move. Mr. McClure drove the truck.
Bob Hayden of Hayden Building movers, left and Dale McClure of Watercourse Construction, center, helped supervise the move. Mr. McClure drove the truck.

The move began in earnest last month when Mr. Boch told Mr. Box that he must vacate the lot he had occupied for three years and Mr. Boch, a seasonal Edgartown resident, offered to pay for the move.

Mr. Hayden’s crew began preparing the scow for its move, but they ran into a reef of permitting hurdles. DOT policy limited the width of a boat to be moved on a state road to 16 feet. The Seeker is 24 feet wide.

Last week, DOT said it would allow an exception and granted a permit but scheduled the move to begin at 8:30 am. A sign was placed in front of the lot that cautioned people to expect traffic delays beginning at 9 am.

Concerned about the disruption of traffic flow at that time, and the arrival of the 9:30 am ferry into Vineyard Haven, local officials pressed DOT to reschedule the move at an earlier hour.

DOT Island superintendent Edward Panek spoke to his superiors and convinced them that an early morning move would be the best scenario. And that is how it all worked out.

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A 1965 painting by Thomas K. "Tokey" Barnes of David playing at Munroe's on Circuit Avenue in the early 1960's. The women behind David, at the piano, is David’s mother. Tokey is the man in the checked jacket with a cigarette. Restaurant owner George Munroe, is wearing the chef’s hat. — Thomas K. Tokey Barnes

Pianist David Crohan is celebrating his 70th birthday and 50 years of performing on Martha’s Vineyard with a benefit concert that will include some of the most important people in his long, storied musical life. The concert at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs on Sunday, July 13, at 6:30 pm is planned as a tribute to those he learned from. It will benefit The Perkins School for the Blind and the New England Conservatory of Music, two of his alma maters, Island Elderly Housing, and the Martha’s Vineyard Cancer Support Group.

Island favorite David Crohan turns 70 this month and celebrates with a benefit concert on Sunday, July 13, at the Tabernacle.
Island favorite David Crohan turns 70 this month and celebrates with a benefit concert on Sunday, July 13, at the Tabernacle.

The concert features both Mr. Crohan’s stellar mix of classical and jazz piano with guests and a special second set with some of his Island musician friends playing popular music with some folk and rock thrown in. The show will include the spectacular voice of teenager Caroline Sky and David’s son, Phillip, on guitar.

Among the musicians joining Mr. Crohan are Wade Preston, who played in the Broadway show “Movin’ Out” featuring the songs of Billy Joel; Henry Santos, Stephen McGhee, David Hinds, Caroline Sky, Tom Billotto, Merrily Fenner, and Hugh Taylor.

Harry Santos, Mr. Crohan’s music teacher at Perkins, taught him to play the first movement from Robert Schumann’s “Piano Concerto in A” during his senior year of high school. The 86-year-old Mr. Santos, who Mr. Crohan later learned was the Reverend Martin Luther King’s roommate at Boston University and who has been an advocate of little known 19th century black composers during his career, will accompany Mr. Crohan on the Schumann piece on a second piano. It will be the first time in 52 years they have played together.

Mr. Crohan said he has a particular appreciation for turning 70 since not one of his three older siblings lived to be 70. His actual birthday is July 11.

Mr. Crohan was the former proprietor of and nightly pianist at David’s Island House, a restaurant and bar on Circuit Avenue that he operated during summers from 1978 until 1997. During the winters, he played at top-shelf Boston hotels and restaurants, including the Copley Plaza, the Parker House, Hotel Le Meridien, and the Bay Tower Restaurant.

Mr. Crohan now lives in Lake Worth, Fl., and has played for 12 years at the tony Cafe L’Europe in Palm Beach. He spends July and August on the Vineyard and has played at The Boathouse in Edgartown, Wednesdays through Saturdays, for the last five years. He usually has at least one concert performance on the Island every summer.

Blind since birth, Mr. Crohan was born in Providence, R.I., and spent 13 years as a boarding student at The Perkins School in Watertown, the oldest school for the blind in the United States, where Helen Keller’s teacher, Anne Sullivan, taught.

He showed musical promise before attending Perkins, being able to pick out popular tunes he heard on a piano before turning four, but it was at Perkins that his musical gifts grew. He then spent eight years at the New England Conservatory earning three degrees while performing in Boston and on the Vineyard.

“In those days the only important things for me and my friends were girls and music, and sometimes the music came first,” he recalled.

In 1962, after graduating from Perkins, the 17-year-old Mr. Crohan was invited to spend a week on the Vineyard with an aunt and uncle who had a house in the Campground in Oak Bluffs.

“The first night we were there I took a walk with my uncle to Circuit Avenue,” he said. “There was a piano in what they called the Topside at the Ritz. No one was playing so I sort of took over for that Friday and Saturday night. The third day I was there we went for dinner at The Boston House, a place more commonly known as Munroe’s after the owner George Munroe. It was June and the pianist they hired hadn’t come yet. So I played.

“Mr. Munroe said, ‘I can’t hire you this year because I have already hired someone else. I would if I could. I’m not going to pay you for tonight but I am going to give you an unlimited gift certificate but I am dating it next year.’ He said he hoped I would think about playing the next summer.”

Mr. Crohan’s mother thought he was too young to take a job like that so she had him wait for another year, until he was 19.

“It was the summer before The Beatles took off,” he said, “and I was playing the popular music of the time. There was a big mix of ages at Munroe’s and I was playing a wide variety of music including my usual classical music. There was a sing-along almost every night. That was the start of 50 years of magnificent times and great joy, and everything that can be said good about my life on the Vineyard.”

Mr. Crohan does not consider himself a composer, but he and his wife rent a house on the Vineyard from a friend who accepts payment in the form of an annual song he writes for the friend. The house is big enough for his extended family to visit. “It’s a great deal,” he said. “Each of us thinks we are getting the best end of the bargain, and it allows me to afford to play on the Vineyard every summer and to spend time with my family.” His three grown sons and five grandsons all live in the Boston area.

Music: David Crohan in Concert, 7:30 pm, Sunday, July 13, Tabernacle, Oak Bluffs. Doors open at 6:30 pm. $30 benefits Island Elderly Housing, M.V. Cancer Support Group, The Perkins School, and New England Conservatory of Music.

Wila Vigneault, 15, is one of 20 other students entered in a U.S. State department summer scholarship program.

Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School freshman Willa Vigneault missed the last two weeks of school, but with good reason. The 15-year-old student left the Island on Monday, June 16, to travel to Amman, Jordan, where she will study Arabic for the summer on a United States Department of State National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) Scholarship.

The daughter of Sarah Vail and David Vigneault of West Tisbury, Willa is one of only 625 students selected nationwide to study less commonly-taught languages in summer and academic-year overseas immersion programs. She is one of 20 students and two supervisors in the Jordan program. She is living with a local host family during the 45-day program, until she returns home early in August.

“I have studied French for three years,” Willa wrote recently in an email to The Times. “I am interested in Arabic because my father is part Lebanese and because I’m interested in foreign relations and hope to do something with that in my career.

“The U.S. needs better relations with Arab-speaking countries. I thought it would be a good place to start. There is a lot of conflict in the Middle East.”

Willa has a longer-range goal of learning many languages, and she is interested in studying engineering and foreign relations and international politics in college. “Engineering may be a way to make life easier in developing countries,” she said.

Willa said she is excited to meet the other students as well as live and learn in Jordan. All 20 students in the Jordan program are United States citizens, Willa said, and some have multiple citizenships. “I’ve counted eight languages in total that we can speak,” she said. “Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Croatian, and of course, English.” They will be adding Arabic to the list.

The group has taken several tours to see various parts of Jordan. “I was amazed with how many people can speak English,” Willa said, “and how willing everyone is to help us learn their language and culture and to ask us about ours.”

Her host family has two children. “Zaina, my 11-year-old host sister, has lent me her room during my stay. It has a great view and it’s pink and covered with flowers and a Barbie bedspread,” she wrote on a blog she is keeping, ”My host mother and sister speak almost no English, and we are relying quite heavily on charades and Google Translate to communicate. They tried to teach me an Arabic card game and I won even though they gave the directions in Arabic and I had no idea what they said.”

Willa’s father, director of the Dukes County Housing Authority, said he and Willa’s mother have concerns about their daughter traveling to a part of the world where safety can be a concern, but the fact that the state department is overseeing the trip allayed their fears.

“It’s her world, an international world that our children are growing up in,” Mr. Vigneault said. “The decision to support her educational travel was easily made. We felt comfortable that the program is being run by the State Department rather than a private group.”

A friend’s daughter was involved in the same program in the Middle East a few years ago, and the State Department made a last-minute change in her destination due to security concerns. “That made us comfortable thinking that they are actively on top of it,” he said.

The NSLI-Y program is funded by the U.S. Department of State and provides merit-based scholarships for eligible high school students to learn less commonly-taught languages in summer and academic-year overseas immersion programs, according to a press release. The program gives students the chance to study Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Persian, Russian, or Turkish overseas.

Launched in 2006, the program seeks to increase the number of Americans who can engage with native speakers of critical languages by providing formal instruction and informal language practice in an immersion environment. The goals of the NSLI-Y program include sparking a life-long interest in foreign languages and cultures, and developing a corps of young Americans with the skills necessary to advance international dialogue and cross-cultural opportunities in the private, academic, and government sectors.

Applications for 2015-2016 NSLI-Y programs will be available at in the early fall. For information about U.S. Department of State-sponsored exchange programs, visit

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Virginia Dautreuil is the new superintendent of the 5,343-acre Manuel F. Correllus State Forest. — Michael Cummo

Virginia Dautreuil, 35, is the new superintendent of the 5,343-acre Manuel F. Correllus State Forest. She fills the position left vacant by the unexpected death of John J. Varkonda in late December at the age of 55 after 26 years in the job. The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) appointed her to the job following two interviews.

Ms. Dautreuil is only the third person and first woman to hold the post. The first was Manuel F. Correllus, for whom the forest is named.

Ms. Dautreuil, a native of Newtown, Conn., is an experienced naturalist with knowledge of the Cape area. She currently lives in South Yarmouth with her husband. She said she has a lot to learn.

“At this point I’m looking with open eyes,” she said, “taking it step-by-step and hoping to learn about the forest and the Island. I am looking forward to getting involved in the Island community. I spent all of my summers growing up on Cape Cod and had an internship at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, studying whales.”

Ms. Dautreuil cultivated an early interest in nature and conservation. From the age of 12 until she was in her early twenties she worked as a seasonal volunteer at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster. She earned an undergraduate degree in wildlife science at Virginia Tech.

After college she did surveys assessing freshwater stream health for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and worked as a technician in West Virginia, in a forest used for logging, studying salamanders. She also studied the effects of hydroelectric dams on freshwater fisheries projects in Virginia. Ms. Dautreuil worked in Texas for five years as a civilian field biologist with the Texas National Guard, dealing with wildlife and fire management. She received a masters degree in aquatic biology from Texas State University where she studied the effects of wildfires on aquatic life.

The state forest was created in 1908 as the “Heath Hen Reserve,” in an attempt to prevent the bird’s extinction. The last heath hen was seen in 1932. Today it is managed for passive recreation, mostly hiking and cycling on its 14 miles of bike paths.

“We’re excited to move to the Island and are looking for a place to live,” she said. “My husband, Marc, and I both love to fish and go claiming. We like to hike, camp out, kayak, bird watch, and bike. Really almost anything outside.”

She said she is in training for the new position. “I’ll be shadowing other supervisors, learning about the department, doing orientation, that kind of thing,” she said. One of her first jobs, she said, is working with a regional resource manager to learn about the forest and to meet with the local fire control people to get up to speed on the Island’s fire fighting and prevention plans.

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A moving crew jacked up the 32-ton scow, fabricated a steel frame under it, then inserted a dolly to carry it when it is moved. — Photo by Michael Cummo

There was a flurry of activity this week surrounding the Seeker, the unfinished wooden scow schooner that has taken shape slowly on a vacant lot on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven, a stone’s throw from Five Corners. Told by lot owner Ernie Boch Jr. that he must vacate the lot he has occupied for three years, boatbuilder Ted Box has been preparing to move the 32-ton vessel about a quarter of a mile east to land owned by the R. M. Packer Company on the Lagoon side of Beach Road.

It will be no small undertaking. The Seeker is close to the width of two traffic lanes. Mr. Box said he will move the boat as soon as he receives a state permit authorizing the move which will require state police supervision to temporarily close Beach Road. Mr. Box said he expects the move to take less than one hour.

In summer heat and humidity last week, workmen from Hayden Building Movers jacked up an I-beam frame welded in place under the scow, which will be moved on two eight-wheel dollies. Watercourse Construction of Vineyard Haven is also assisting in the move.

At some point, a tractor truck will haul the boat to its new location.

Mr. Packer, a longtime supporter of the project, said the boat will be placed parallel to the road in front of one of his warehouses to facilitate a final move to the town launching ramp in the Lagoon for the christening when the boat is ready to float.

Plug is pulled

Ernie Boch Jr. plans to improve the long moribund lot along Beach Road in Vineyard Haven.

The scow project, which began in 2011, is well overdue. Originally, it was expected to take one year to complete.

After several delays and deadlines, Mr. Boch, a seasonal Edgartown resident and the chief executive of Boch Automotive Enterprises, literally pulled the plug on the project. Electrical power was turned off to the lot. At a meeting in Norwood, location of the Boch main offices, Boch representatives told Mr. Box that he would have to move the boat and clean up the property.

Mr. Box said he was told that Mr. Boch was unwilling to continue to pay for the liability insurance to cover the project on his land. Mr. Boch offered to pay to move the Seeker.

Mr. Box said he paid only a nominal rent to use the lot and that he was grateful for the support he has received from Mr. Boch.

“I take as a sign of Mr. Boch’s support for the project that he offered to pay for the move,” he said. “Their point is well taken. I have seen kids climbing around the boat at night.”

Mr. Box said that short of enclosing the project with a fence there is no way to make it completely safe.

Boch representatives also asked Brian Abbott, co-owner of Gannon and Benjamin boat builders adjacent to the Boch property, to move anything of theirs off the Boch property as well. “They told me their insurance company freaked out when they saw the condition of the property,” Mr. Abbott said.

No end in sight

In a telephone conversation with The Times Wednesday, Ernie Boch described his support for the project. “I love Ted and I love his mission. I have supported him the whole, entire time,” Mr. Boch said. “I’ve supplemented his rent. I’ve taken extension upon extension but it just seemed to me that there was no end. I wasn’t crazy about the conditions there. I didn’t think they were that safe. So Ted and I talked and he decided to move the boat.”

Mr. Boch said he would like to improve the property, which includes a long derelict building. “I would like to develop the property. That whole area will be developed eventually. I would like to do something that everybody agrees with and everybody would like, a nice beautification program and make it a nice place.”

Mr. Boch said that he has no specific plan in mind and is willing to work with interested groups to do something everyone would like. “I am just checking it out now,” he said as he prepared to visit the lot Wednesday afternoon.

Long haul

Mr. Boch first asked that the land be vacated last September. Mr. Boch told The Times then that he wanted to clean up and develop the long vacant waterfront lot, beginning with the demolition of the derelict Entwistle building.

Mr. Box subsequently dismantled the structure that sheltered the project and announced he planned to move the unfinished hull to another lot owned by Mr. Packer next to the Tisbury Shell station, also on Beach Road. That plan was thwarted when Tisbury building and zoning inspector Kenneth Barwick told Mr. Box that the lot was too small to allow for the necessary setbacks and would create a safety hazard.

Mr. Box was unable to find another place to move the boat and continued his work on the hull until he met with the Boch representatives last week and Mr. Packer made his latest offer.

The Seeker project has missed several completion dates set by Mr. Box. His latest scheduled launch date of this August, three years since the start, has now been delayed by the impending move, he said.

“I would like to finish as much of the work on the boat as I can while she is on dry land,” he said. He said a launch date of next spring would be ideal, but he doesn’t know how much time Mr. Packer will give him. When asked by The Times, Mr. Packer did not give a deadline.

The Seeker project has nonprofit status but has been financed primarily by Mr. Box. “I would not have gotten as far as I have without donations of labor, materials, and other support — including the help from Mr. Boch and Mr. Packer and other members of the community,” Mr. Box said.

He plans to use the boat as an educational vessel to teach children about the sea and boats.

The project began in 2011 with a case of mistaken identity according to Mr. Box. Mr. Boch’s friend Livingston Taylor of West Tisbury asked if another friend could work on his boat on the lot. Soon after that request, Mr. Box, knowing nothing about the previous request, presented his plan to build the Seeker to the Boch office. It was accepted.

“They thought I was someone else. I was an innocent imposter,” Mr. Box said, “Even after the mistake was recognized, Mr. Boch stayed true to his word. I admire his generous spirit.”

The project began under a temporary wood-frame, plastic-sided shed with a corrugated steel roof, big enough to hold the Seeker. Most of the work was contained to the shed but the unfenced lot filled up in short order with an array of tools and timber — a band saw large enough to rip whole trees, equipment to move whole trees, and massive tree trunks and piles of lumber.

The lot is now clean and the Seeker is ready to move.

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Barking dogs housed in the kennel behind Animal Health Care on Airport Road have been a source of neighborhood disturbance. — Michael Cummo

West Tisbury selectmen, meeting Wednesday June 25, unanimously approved a plan designed to reduce the volume of sound from barking dogs boarded in the outside kennel space at veterinarian Steven Atwood’s Animal Health Care Associates (AHC) located adjacent to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport.

Almost one year ago, a group of neighbors from the Coffin’s Field subdivision across nearby Edgartown-West Tisbury Road, represented by homeowner Elaine Friedman, asked the board for relief from the barking dogs. The Coffin’s Field group and AHC agreed to attempt to reach an agreement but differences in the data presented by each side’s audio experts lead to differing conclusions and no agreement.

Mr. Atwood’s attorney, Rosemary Haigazian, and an audio expert, Lawrence Copley, hired by Mr. Atwood, presented a plan at the Wednesday meeting to enclose the kennel wall facing the subdivision, hang a vinyl curtain across the longest open wall and apply sound damping material to an interior back wall and the kennel’s ceiling.

Ms. Haigazian said the project would cost between $5,000 and $8,000. She said AHC hoped to get some financial assistance from the neighbors. There were no offers of assistance at the meeting. At the selectmen’s meeting a week earlier, the Coffin’s Field group proposed that Mr. Atwood provide a 12-foot wall made of soundproofing material which AHC argued was too expensive.

Selectmen gave AHC 60 days to complete the work.

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Brett Leonard stands on the lift of his automobile trailer next to a customized 1967 MGB GT with a 4.6 liter Rover V8 engine, he picked up in South Carolina and brought to the Vineyard for a customer. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Like the captain of a sailing vessel, long haul trucker Brett Leonard of Vineyard Haven has to be aware of the tides when leaving or returning to Martha’s Vineyard. He transports cars, mostly expensive cars, five to eight at a time — a one-man, 10-wheel operation called Motor Age Transport. If the tide is either too low or too high, his long, low-slung trailer will hang up on the ramps leading up to the ferries even when empty. He has a habit of returning to the Island without a reservation and waits, sometimes overnight, until there is space for him on the right boat on the right tide.

Brett Leonard sits on the upper deck of his 53 foot long car trailer that can carry as many as eight cars.
Brett Leonard sits on the upper deck of his 53 foot long car trailer that can carry as many as eight cars.

An affable man with an indestructible smile, Mr. Leonard looks younger than his 56 years. His business is hauling cars in his enclosed trailer. He carries just about anything on wheels that will fit, from bicycles and motorcycles to small trucks, but he mostly carries expensive cars costing on average around $150,000, from coast to coast or from Boston to Florida and anywhere in between.

He recently transported a car worth $1 million, a new Bentley worth around $500,000 and three 1970s project cars worth about $3,000 each.

His home base is his home, on a quiet, tree-shrouded residential street off the Vineyard Haven-Edgartown Road where he lives with his wife, Barbara. They have two children and one granddaughter.

On the left of his single story house is a built-in one-car garage where he parks his Island car, a restored 1970 MG. There is a two-car garage on the right where he once restored English sports cars for a living. Next to that is the classic 1967 Autocar tractor he uses in his trucking business. In front of the garage is a long, black, stealth-like, 13-foot, 4-inch tall trailer that extends 53 feet to the road. It has no visible markings.

Brett Leonard stands next to the 1967 Autocar tractor he rebuilt.
Brett Leonard stands next to the 1967 Autocar tractor he rebuilt.

When Mr. Leonard is not on the road, the trailer dominates the front corner of the small yard. It dwarfs the boats that many Vineyarders keep as ornaments in their yards, but it is partially camouflaged by trees that are so close it looks as though they grew up next to the behemoth. This might explain why his neighbors have not complained.

The trailer can hold as many as eight small cars. His usual load is five to seven at a time.

Trucking cars allows him to combine his love of trucks and cars. He attributes his truck fascination to a cross-country road-trip he took with his parents and three siblings when the family moved from California to the East Coast in a Volkswagen van.

“I know for a fact that I had no interest in trucks until my family took that big road trip when I was 13,” he said. “By the time we got to the East Coast I was interested in trucks. None of it makes sense. You can’t figure these things out, but I have good memories of that trip.”

Not many of the cars he moves end up on the Vineyard. In the spring he usually brings a few cars to the Island from warmer climates, cars he trucks back when their owners head back after a winter in the south. Much of his freight is collectible cars going to or from auctions, and renovation projects headed to new owners, and even a few cars parents send to their kids in college. Mr. Leonard makes 10 to 12 roundtrips most years, moving some 150 to 200 cars.

It usually takes him three weeks on the road to California or Arizona and back, and a week to Florida, his most frequent destinations. He sleeps in his truck most nights on the road, avoiding truck stops at night because they get too crowded.

He said the going rate for car transport is about 70 cents a milem, but it can vary with size and schedule requirements. He pays $2,000 a year for his license plate and over $10,000 for insurance. The fuel for his last trip to Florida cost him over $2,000 dollars. He averages about 6.5 miles to a gallon.

The Autocar tractor is a classic. He restored it eight years ago after literally pulling it from a scrap heap at John Leite’s junkyard in Oak Bluffs, now called MV Auto Salvage, where he had been eyeing it for years.

“I first saw the truck sitting in a field in Falmouth over 30 years ago,” he said. “We got it running and ran it out of John Leite’s for a while but it had constant engine problems so it was left in the junkyard for almost 20 years. I kept my eye on it, and in 2005 I hauled it out and began rebuilding it.” He said that if the truck hadn’t been made mostly of aluminum it wouldn’t have been salvageable.

He replaced the original engine, drive train and suspension system with more modern ones taken from a Freightliner that had tipped over. The sleeper behind the seats he described as old style, small and without many of the amenities of newer trucks with larger sleepers, but he said it fits his style.

Mr. Leonard has only put 450,000 miles on the engine, which he said isn’t much in the life of a truck. He does almost all of his own work except the heavy lifting. “I leave the heavy lifting for the guys at Leite’s.”

He sculpted an impressionist winged figurehead for the hood from a piece of the old aluminum frame. It resembles the “Spirit of Ecstasy” Rolls Royce hood ornament.

His all black trailer is a custom conversion from a furniture trailer. It has a hydraulic lift system that allows him to stack cars two high. His usual load is five or six cars, but he can carry up to eight if they are not too big. He paid about $70,000 for the trailer eight years ago; it would cost him over $300,000 to replace today.

After moving east, Mr. Leonard’s family settled in East Falmouth. He studied electricity and residential wiring at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School because they didn’t have a course in trucks. “I wanted to learn about trucks. The whole time, every spare moment I had I was around trucks. It was what I was really interested in.”

While a senior in high school he got a job at a garage in Falmouth working on trucks, and it wasn’t long before he was sent to help out with some truck work at John Leite’s shop in Oak Bluffs. He began spending more time on the Island. He drove a tow truck and transported crushed cars off-Island.

By the time he was 21 and could legally drive a truck he was trucking tomatoes from Florida to Boston on a regular route. He had his own refrigerated truck not long after.

When he and Barbara, a Vineyard native whose family owned and ran Tony’s Market in Oak Bluffs for many years, married and had kids, he wanted to work closer to home. He gave up his trucks, temporarily as it turns out, and began restoring British sports cars in his garage for almost 20 years.

He financed the truck rebuild and trailer by selling two cars he had restored, a 1968 Triumph TR4-A and a 1954 Ford pickup. His Island car today is a cherry 1970 MGB he rebuilt from three cars he found in The MV Times Bargain Box. He got the cars when he offered to take them away at no charge.

When at home, Mr. Leonard keeps a garden, plays a little tennis with his wife and friends, brews his own beer, and works on his truck which requires occasional trips to the junkyard. “The junkyard has always been a fun place for me,” he said with a smile.

The Pedler house in West Tisbury is one of only one hundred certified passive homes in the US.

Daryl Owens, builder Farley Pedler and their daughter Kazmira at the kitchen counter/dining table of their new home. — Photo by Tony Omer

Certified passive is not a psychological condition. It is the highest energy efficient standard used in home building today, according to Farley Pedler, owner of Farley Built, Inc. (formerly Drews Cove Builders). In May, Mr. Pedler, his wife, Daryl Owens, and their twenty-month-old daughter, Kazmira, moved into a finely appointed 800-square-foot, certified passive home he built on Doctor Fisher Road in West Tisbury. The home is one of one hundred certified passive homes in the United States.

“I have built seven homes on Martha’s Vineyard in the last couple of years that use energy efficient design and construction elements that far exceed the building code requirements,” Mr. Pedler said. “But our house is more energy efficient than any of those.”

Few cost saving measures were used in the modern looking interior of the architect-designed house. Mr. Pedler said the house would cost over $400,000 if he hadn’t built the house himself. He said the energy efficient aspects of the house added about ten to fifteen percent to the total cost.

The Pedler’s new certified passive house has a fifteen foot high interior peak giving it a sense of being larger than its 800 square feet of floor space.

The Pedler house has a large multipurpose room that incorporates a living room, kitchen, and dining area with a half bath. There is an expanse of windows on the south side, facing a large yard of new grass and woods beyond. The bedroom is a separate room with a full bath that takes up about a third of the total floor space. There is a loft area above the bedroom. The mechanicals are in the full, partially finished basement along with laundry and storage areas.

The house uses a energy recovery ventilator that is connected to a geothermal system. Tubing buried around the perimeter of the house maintains a constant exchange of air with little heat loss, but also conditions the air by removing excess moisture. The heating requirements for the house, even in the dead of winter, are so minimal that a water source heat pump designed to heat a small boat was used.

Mr. Pedler said that he expects to incur only about $1,600 in total energy expenses per year in the new house, while the owner of a conventional built house its size could expect to spend at least $4,000.

The house is wired and plumbed for solar panels that Mr. Pedler said he plans to add in the future. The panels could produce more energy than the house uses, eliminating energy costs.

A passive energy efficient home is built to optimize heat gain in the winter by locating the building so that the windows allow the most amount of sunlight possible. It is super-insulated to retain that heat for as long as possible. In the summer, when the sun is higher in the sky, less sunlight hits the windows and an awning system will be used to block the sun and keep the building cool.

To be certified passive, a house must meet standards set by the non-profit Passive House Institute US (PHIUS), a national organization committed to making high-performance passive building the mainstream market standard. “Only about 100 houses have been certified to date in the United States, and there are at least that many now under construction,” Michael Knezovich, PHIUS director of communications, told The Times.

Mr. Knezovich said PHIUS uses standards first developed in Germany, where thousands of houses have met the stringent requirements. They also use a German computer-modeling program to determine the design’s passive capabilities before construction begins.

The upstairs loft of the house.

In order to achieve the certified rating, Mr. Pedler was required to hire a PHIUS certified consultant who helped guide the process from design through construction, and a third party PHIUS certified inspector who made multiple inspections during the course of construction. The house plans had to meet minimum standards when cranked through the computer-modeling program. Four blower door tests, where a large exhaust fan is used to detect leaks, were conducted to test the efficiency of the construction at key points during construction.

Mr. Pedler hired an architect with certified passive design experience, Steven Baczek of Reading, who is now working on his fifth certified passive home design. Mr. Baczek told The Times, ”Mr. Pedler’s house is an energy efficient house on steroids.” He said there are four major areas of concern when designing passive homes that breed success or failure: the mechanical elements and materials, air sealing, windows and doors, and insulation.

Mr. Baczek said that meeting with the building team before the design is complete is an important step in getting everyone on the same page. “We try to keep our window of heat loss for the entire project to less than the size of a playing card. Any mistake during construction can open that window.” He said that he hopes his designs will not only help set a new standard for energy efficiency, but will produce homes that will still be relevant in 150 years.

The house’s southern exposure has the most glass to increase the solar heat gain in the winter. The lower walls are 20 inches thick and filled with insulation.

The Pedler family wanted to buy land in Chilmark, where they rented for four years, but real estate in Chilmark was more than they could afford, so they settled on four plus acres just north of the West Tisbury school in West Tisbury. “Our new house will become our guest house when we win the lottery and build our big house,” Mr. Pedler said, half joking. He said for him, the new house is as much a learning exercise for the future main house as it is a place for them to live. He hopes to begin on the main house in a couple of years.

— Photo by Michael Cummo
Paul Adler
Paul Adler

Alternative energy generation on Martha’s Vineyard has been confined primarily to windmills and stationary solar panels.

West Tisbury builder Paul Adler researched the latest innovations in solar technology and chose to install two fully automatic devices mounted on separate posts that use computers and motors to keep them pointing directly at the sun.

The systems sit on Mr. Adler’s grassy, landscaped, south-facing hillside front yard, above his design-award winning tennis court, and give the appearance of a set from a James Bond movie. Mr. Adler says the two systems are among the most advanced systems on the Island.

One is a 15-foot-diameter reflective parabolic dish that he installed three years ago. It sits atop a 12-foot post supported by a concrete footing 3 feet square and 9 feet deep. The dish concentrates the sun’s energy on a small box and generates temperatures of up to 1,500 degrees. It heats water circulating through a radiator in the box to about 200 degrees, providing all of his hot water needs for his home and his swimming pool.

The second system is a 22- by 24-foot array of photovoltaic panels, mounted on a similar post with a similar footing, that tracks the sun on two axes. Mr. Adler said that it was designed as a commercial system and he was told by the manufacturer that his was the first in the state.

“I feel the tracking principle is paramount,” he said. “I am able to gain an extra 30 to 40 percent more sun hours than with any stationary panel system.” He said they are ideal for small locations like his, without a lot of land, for a large array of panels.

“The solar panels produce all of my monthly electrical needs, which cost me almost $300 before and I sell almost $200 of electricity per month. That’s a $500 per month savings,” he said. The installation cost $28,000. A combination of state and federal tax credits brought the out-of-pocket cost down below $18,000 so he expects to have it paid for in about three years.

“The results are stunning,” Mr. Adler said. So stunning that he received a letter from the Massachusetts CEC (Clean Energy Center) suggesting he was cheating, that his system could not be producing as much as he was claiming. The CEC is a state run office that manages the program that tracks and pays for solar energy credits. Mr. Adler provided proof that his system was providing 40 percent more electricity than the CEC expected and he was exonerated.

Mr. Adler said the payback period for active solar was too long to be worth the investment, until recently. “If a clean energy system can pay for itself in seven years or less, it becomes viable and marketable,” he said. “In the recent past, the average life of active systems was 10 to 14 years, and the payback period was 10 to 20 years. When the system paid for itself, it was time to replace it.” He said that active systems today have a life expectancy of 20 to 25 years, and cost half as much as the older systems and, with government rebate programs, the payback can be from two to seven years.

Mr. Adler said that his interest in alternative energy began as a student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the late 1960s. “I have incorporated passive energy saving concepts into houses I have built for several decades,” he said. “My first active alternative energy project was a large water heating panel array I installed to heat the water in my swimming pool.” He replaced that system with the concentrator.

Mr. Adler, who has a distribution arrangement with the manufacturer of the solar concentrator, has sold several to foreign countries. “It’s ironic; the biggest buyers of the concentrators are the middle-eastern countries, who have the most oil,” he said. “They claim they want to conserve their oil by using solar energy, and then sell their oil to us westerners for high profits. It sure makes you wonder about our energy policy when Arabs are buying our energy products.”

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The old West Tisbury police station, next to the Mill Pond on the West Tisbury-Edgartown Road, has been vacant since the police moved to their new station in March. — Photo by Michael Cummo

West Tisbury selectmen voted two to one at their meeting on June 11 to accept the recommendation of animal control officer Joan Jenkinson and require dog owner Marina Sharkovitz to keep her husky, Kota, penned and muzzled whenever it is outside her Otis Bassett Road home.

The decision last Wednesday followed a public hearing in which Angela Aronie, Ms. Sharkovitz’s neighbor, filed a complaint with Ms. Jenkinson in which she claimed that Kota killed some of her chickens.

“This is not the first call I’ve gotten from Angela,” Ms. Jenkinson told selectmen, “but this is the first formal complaint that has been filed. We just don’t have any patience for livestock killing in this town. It happens a lot. More than we would like to talk about.”

“Short of recommending euthanasia,” Ms. Jenkinson told the selectmen, “I recommend that the dog be put in a contained area, also a muzzle on the dog when it is outside.”

She said the dog was not licensed at the time of the offense but is licensed now.

Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter, a selectman and town police sergeant, voted no. “I am voting no, as I always do on these matters because I think dog owners should be held to a higher standard,” he said.

In a followup conversation by phone, The Times asked Mr. Manter to explain his comment.

“I think dogs that attack animals should be euthanized,” Mr. Manter said. “I think once they have done it it becomes a habit. We should send a message that we support our farmers. We should send a message that this is what’s going to happen if you move to West Tisbury. I think people will be much more responsible for their dogs.”

In other business Wednesday, selectmen agreed to complete an audit of the town’s streetlight needs before entering into an agreement to have some of the town’s lights replaced by more energy efficient fixtures, a free service offered by the Cape Light Compact (CLC).

Selectman Richard Knabel suggested looking into areas that might benefit from new streetlights, for example the North Tisbury business district. Mr. Manter said that he thought there are areas where unnecessary streetlights could be removed.

The selectmen acknowledged the town’s historic district commission vote on Monday, June 9, to keep the 50-year-old admiral’s hat lights in the historic district and to replace the old incandescent bulbs in those fixtures with new more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.

Selectmen voted unanimously to accept the West Tisbury old police department reuse committee report presented by committee member Bea Phear. The committee concluded that the old police station next to the Mill Pond would be best used by a nonprofit, perhaps as a gallery. She agreed to discuss the building’s future with Christopher Scott, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, which owns and maintains historic Island buildings.