Ketch catches fire in Vineyard Haven

Stacey Rupolo

A fire broke out aboard the 41-foot charter ketch Witch of Endor Tuesday afternoon while the vessel was moored in Vineyard Haven Harbor. Just before 2pm the Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard and the Steamship Authority reported a smoking vessel in the inner harbor.

Tisbury harbormaster John Crocker responded to find the ketch partway sunk with no one aboard.

Shortly afterward, Tisbury firefighters arrived on the scene in the Tisbury fireboat. Chief John Schilling called for mutual aid from Oak Bluffs soon after. Oak Bluffs firefighters took only ten minutes to round West Chop and motor alongside the ketch — a journey Oak Bluffs fire Chief John Rose described as “rough” with 6 to 7 foot seas. The combined departments used dry chemical fire extinguishers to snuff out the fire, a task completed by 3:30pm. A crew from the Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard then pumped the ketch out and placed a temporary patch on a broken through-hull fitting — the source of water intrusion. Professional diver Heidi Raihofer later made a more durable repair with a hammer and plug.

Mr. Crocker told The Times the fire was located in the forecastle, below deck. He said the cause was not apparent, but spontaneous combustion or a short circuit are being considered.

He also said it was unclear if the leak was connected to the fire or a separate issue. He said the fire damage did not look severe, but that further assessment is needed.