From the Coast Guard to harbormasters and fisherman, to kids playing with crabs, to couples listening to the Dock Dance Band, there was something for everyone at the Menemsha docks Thursday evening.
After two years off due to the pandemic, a fishy aroma lured in a large crowd to this year’s Meet the Fleet with lots of activities, food, and, of course, fish through the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust (MVFPT). Visitors were greeted with a table of Island oysters brought in by the Clambulance, an emergency on-the-go raw bar, shucked right there and ready to eat for $3 each.
Just around the corner from that, there was a demonstration by Isaac Richards and Pete Lambos with the Seafood Collaborative on how to filet a fish. The two assured watchers that while it may look like it takes a lot of skill to cut the fish, a sharp knife will be any chef’s best friend. That wasn’t all on food, as Larsen’s Fish Market was open and maintaining a steady line, the buttered lobster rolls looking especially tempting.
For activities, many little kids could be found over at the green crab races, led by Pierce Aymond, an intern with Shelley Edmundson, executive director of the MVFPT. (If that name sounds familiar it should. He’s my brother.) Racers would pick a crab and get set up in a spot on a wooden course, lured into racing by bait on a string held by the kids. If racing crabs wasn’t enticing enough, anyone could tune in to their artistic side at the fish print table, where real, but dead, fish were painted with all sorts of colors and patterns, the paint transferred onto a cloth as a souvenir to take home. Valeriia Vakhitova, another one of Edmundson’s interns, was at this table, and helped with this transfer process. She gave some advice for best results, explaining that less paint is better to see more detail from the fish.
Throughout the event, more people trickled in, and a larger crowd formed around the Dock Dance Band when they started playing around 5 pm. The band members even made a plea for Edgartown residents to encourage the town to let them play at Memorial Wharf again for a dock dance revival. A little later, there was a staged Coast Guard rescue, and a net-mending competition, followed by a sea scallop shucking contest with $1,000 on the line for a prize, given by an anonymous donor.
Aaron Williams, from the FV Tradition in Stonington, Conn., took the cake on net mending. For the shucking, Otto Osmers, a Vineyard fisherman, won for speed, and Curt Robinson, a crewman on the Menemsha Rose, won for weight. Osmers and Robinson split the money prize.
Edmundson commented on these competitions and the rescue drill, saying how they “highlight the skills needed to work on the water, and the lifesaving demonstrations with the Coast Guard and Environmental Police show how risky this work is, and how critical it is to work together.”
Luckily for all the visitors, the event had a parking lot down the road from the docks with shuttle service to accommodate the large number of people, making it easy to come and go with ease, and less parking congestion. “It was a big turnout, but that is normal,” Edmundson. “Celebrating our working waterfronts and connecting with all the fishermen who work hard to harvest our seafood is so important for the community.”