A smidge to the left, please
Between March 4 and March 10, six days of data, The Times website hosted more than 253,000 page views. The Times webcam accounted for more than 77,000 hits. These are magnificent numbers, driven to a large degree by visitor interest in the retirement of Islander and the beginning of Island Home's career. In general, patronage of mvtimes.com pleases us, but it also poses questions. For instance, why were we surprised that the changing of the ferries inspired enormous interest among folks with a well developed Vineyard connection? And, who are all these people? What's the nature of their Vineyard link? Is it something more than ferries?
Happily, lots of The Times' extended webcam family wrote to us about their experiences, so we got to know them a bit, heard their stories a bit, and began to understand their connection to the Vineyard and how satisfying a contribution the webcam made to that connection.
Of course, first we had to get over the visitors' insistence that we adjust the webcam's aim to suit them. We had positioned the camera for a broad view over the Gannon and Benjamin boatyard toward the east and the center of the inner harbor. Folks could see the Island Home approaching the inner harbor, out by the jetty, but they couldn't see her in the Steamship Authority's south slip. That's what they wanted. So, after a flurry of e-mails asking us to shift the camera, we did. But, naturally, you can't please all of the people all of the time.
Web visitor Peter Jones wrote, "Thanks for moving your web cam so that one can see more of the ferry in the dock, but I think you moved it too far. The old orientation was a pretty picture (which I would look at from my office in Boston each morning). Now the frame is more cluttered with buildings and stuff on the beach. Could the camera be aimed a bit more to the right? The ferry status is important, but so is a view of harbor and beyond. Cheers."
There were other, similar e-mails, so we decided to post a note on the webcam page to explain ourselves: "Thanks for your interest in the MVTimes webcam. From time to time, we change the view the webcam offers. To do this, one of us dangles from the widow's walk on the roof of The Times building and wiggles the camera a few inches this way or that. Given the horrifying risk attached to this work and the demands of putting the paper together each week, it is not possible to do this in response to requests to "move it a little to the left" or "move it a little to the right." But, keep that feedback coming, and we'll try to vary the view from time to time and, in the future, put up some additional webcams to show other favorite Vineyard haunts."
As soon as we did this, one of our most diligent webcam watchers, John Richards, an extremely knowledgeable ferry design enthusiast, struck just the sympathetic note we were looking for.
"Sunday greetings from the PNW," Mr. Richards wrote. Island Home was designed by Seattle naval architects, and she resembles, in miniature, some of the ferries in service in that area. Mr. Richards is intimate with them all and has treated us to an e-mailed catalogue of members of the fleet.
"I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated seeing the ferries come and go this past week, especially our new Seattle's own "Baby Jumbo," he wrote on March 10. "I had no realization on how much work and bravery has to be done to change the angle. Thank you very much for what you've done."
Selden Bacon of New Jersey also struck the appropriate note. "Well," he wrote, "I just say that I approve of the 'new' adjustment to the VH webcam. As risky as it may have been, that tweak to the left really opened things up. My request for another webcam would be one at Woods Hole, overlooking the dock and loading area."
In constant, craven search for attaboys from the reading public, we were gratified by what Gene Isaacs of Jackson, Mich., had to say. "Thank you for your corrections to the Web Cam. The picture and changing of direction have improved my ability to view the harbor and the activity as it changes. Keep up the good work."
Inflated by comments like these, naturally we had to prepare ourselves for some deflation, as well. Donald K. Isburgh of Rexford, N.Y., obliged. "Concerning your webcam view of the Vineyard Haven harbor, I have noticed that your camera has been aimed more toward the Steamship wharf than it used to be, thus denying me a view of the tall ships Shenandoah and Alabama. I am sorry to see this readjustment as I have a wonderful remembrance of many trips on Shenandoah back in the 1970s and 1080s. Also, while the note under the picture says that it refreshes every 30 seconds, the actual refresh time is 60 seconds. No big deal right now, but that's a different story during warmer weather when the harbor is so much busier. Hope you'll reconsider changing back to the old view. Thank you very much." (We did fiddle with the refreshment script a bit. Just trying to keep everyone happy.)
We had some other technical issues, none of which escaped webcam viewers, such as Mr. Isaacs. "I am a misplaced Native Islander [Mr. Isaacs knows where he is. We know where he is. We know he meant displaced.] who looks forward to reading The Times every week. I also would enjoy being able to view your webcam of the harbor. I click on it and all I am able to see is about an inch of the top. Is it possible that I do not have the right equipment in my computer? During the construction of the Mansion House I was able to view their webcam with little trouble. Would appreciate your help. You are my lifeline to home and memories. Thanks."
For Bob Cascarino of San Jose, California, we had it right. He wrote, "Every morning I jump to your site and go to the webcam, for a daily MVY fix. Thank you for the view of the ferry and the terminal. The views of the boat repair yard were getting old. My brother, Richard, lives in W. Tisbury, and I join him each year for the Striper/Bluefish tournament. He actually works at the beauty salon right next store to your offices. Thank you again for the webcam."
Now that the ferry change is complete and Island Home is on the job, we expect webcam visitorship to decline. Still, the past two or three weeks remind us that people are watching, that what we do affects lives, not just down the street but across the country. Indeed, yesterday, John e-mailed with an Island Home alert. (That's John Richards from Seattle. We're kind of on a first name basis now.)
"This evening when I was watching the Island Home making her final approach into her MV slip, I see that her navigators made an error. They forgot to have her running lights on. You normally see the forward masthead light on the wheelhouse visor, the aft masthead light on the mast the other end, the stern light at the aft, and red and green side lights. If you have time, print this message and the pictures (LV20070313230903000N, LV20070313230933000N)[John included screen captures from the webcam] and run these down to the dock to show the crew their boo-boo. Seattle's watching! Have a great day."