Fire destroys two boats in Lake Tashmoo

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Updated June 26

An early morning fire ravaged two fiberglass motor vessels at the Tashmoo Boatyard on Sunday. The Lofty and the Schultz-Sea burned to their waterlines, according to Tisbury harbormaster John Crocker. Tisbury firefighters got the call at a little after 3 am, Crocker said. Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling confirmed a neighbor called in an explosion. Both vessels were tied to a pier at the Tashmoo Boatyard, Crocker said. 

“There were two other vessels close by, and they immediately cut them loose to keep them from the heat,” he said. One of the other boats suffered a melted plastic canopy.

The Tisbury fire boat wasn’t launched, Crocker said, because the fire was accessible from the land. 

Some of the pilings charred, but there were no fuel leaks and no injuries. Crocker described it as “the best possible outcome for a bad situation.”

A neighbor called Tashmoo Boatyard co-owner Michael Baptiste at about 3 am, Baptise told The Times. “The noise of that boom woke my father, because he lives a little closer than I do up the road,” he said. “So he was first down here, moving the work boat out of the way.” 

Kim Baptiste, the other co-owner of the boatyard, said he did hear the explosion, but thought it might be fireworks. Right afterward, his friend Kevin Maciel, an Edgartown firefighter, called him, having seen the page, and told him there was a fire at his boatyard.

Kim Baptiste said he was stunned to see the pier and boats lit up by the blazes when he turned the corner off Hvolsef into the boatyard. “I’ve never been through anything like that,” he said.

Michael Baptiste soon joined his father and started “shuffling boats out of the way.” Both boats were fully engulfed, he said. “It was bright,” with the only noise on the lake the crackling fires, he recalled.

The first boat Michael Baptiste moved out of the way was hot to the touch, so hot in fact that he said he “couldn’t even touch the aluminium outriggers.”

“The smoke was just going right against you,” Kim Baptiste said. 

Schilling said firefighters were able to bring a fire engine right onto the yard’s boat ramp and draft directly from the lake. 

Baptiste recalls firefighters dousing the boats with foam initially before switching to water. 

With the wind blowing toward shore, firefighters worked in billows of acrid fiberglass smoke with the aid of Scott airpacks, Schilling said. He tipped his hat to the Tisbury Police, whom he described as instrumental in helping get some of the boats away from the blaze. Schilling concurred with Crocker’s assessment that no fuel or other contamination spread into the lake. A modest amount of boom was placed around the fire area as a preventive measure, he said. 

Schilling said the cause remains under investigation, and the damage is thus far estimated at $500,000. 

The wreck of the Schultz-Sea, a 32-foot Pursuit, has been hauled up into the boatyard. John Packer of Offshore Engineering towed the wreck of Lofty, a 28-foot Cape Dory, to the R.M. Packer marine terminal and craned it ashore. 

“It could have been much, much worse,” Kim Baptiste said. 

Michael Baptise expressed the boatyard’s thanks to the Tisbury Fire Department. “Their response was very quick,” he said. “We owe them a lot.” 

Kim Baptiste extended that thanks to Crocker and Packer, as well.

Updated with new details from the boatyard owners, after breaking the initial story on Monday, June 24. Also updated to correct the date it happened.