Harbormaster has what it takes


To the Editor:

I would like to comment on the June 5th article in the Vineyard Gazette, “Despite Concerns, Menemsha Harbor Master Reappointed.” I believe the two selectmen who voted to reappoint Mr. Jason acted wisely. I should preface my comments by stating that I have worked as assistant harbormaster for Dennis Jason for the past 14 years, and have the utmost respect for him as an individual and his capabilities as harbormaster.
Moreover, I have seen him in action in numerous emergency situations, specifically: towing burning vessels during the massive fire in the harbor involving the Coast Guard boathouse, the drive-on dock and docked boats in the harbor; minimizing further damage after Robert Kennedy’s 60-foot sailboat crashed into six transient yachts docked in the harbor after losing power due to a fouled prop; the skill and quick thinking that he displayed in avoiding a collision between the docked 70-foot Relemara and a towed fishing vessel, as it entered the harbor on a strong flood tide; and the removal of a panicked family of four, desperate to get off their vessel moored outside the harbor in heavy seas.

I could go on and on with the numerous other emergency incidents that have occurred over the past 14 years. My point is that Mr. Jason’s superb seamanship skills and ability to show leadership in emergency situations are a great asset to the town, and were seemingly overlooked by the selectmen. I for one would like the selectmen to know that this is the man you want at the helm when the harbor has to respond to an emergency situation.

Mr. Jason’s years of marine experience and ability to think quickly under pressure are exactly what the town of Chilmark needs from their harbormaster. The town of Chilmark is very fortunate to have him.
While we all have our strengths and weaknesses, I hope the selectmen recognize that his strengths far outweigh his weaknesses. Contrary to what I read in the Gazette article, I have a hard time believing that 50 percent of the town is unhappy with his performance. I say that from my 14 years tenure at the harbor, and knowing that he is a very fair man and treats everyone equally.

In enforcing harbor regulations, you are not attempting to win a popularity contest, and are bound to have individuals who are not happy with your enforcement action. I find it ironic that those individuals unhappy with his performance do not confront him directly to voice their concerns and allow him to defend himself. You cannot respond to your critics or improve your job performance if you do not know the specifics.
Menemsha Harbor is fortunate to have many repeat transient boaters who generate significant revenue for the town. I am confident that if the selectmen surveyed these boaters, that Mr. Jason would receive a 95 percent approval rating. The majority of the selectmen acted wisely in retaining Mr. Jason as harbormaster, and I hope he will be reappointed in years to come.

Richard E. Steves