Occupied vessels cause Tisbury shellfishing closure

Segment of Vineyard Haven Harbor impacted by boats used for long-term occupancy.

The area in red is conditionally closed to shellfishing. — Courtesy Town of Tisbury

Updated 1:43 pm

A couple of boats used as housing are blocking shellfishing in a portion of Vineyard Haven Harbor. 

The Tisbury shellfish department announced Thursday, March 16, that a portion of Vineyard Haven Harbor has been conditionally closed to shellfishing as of Friday, March 17. The area is described as “westerly of a line from the old Seafood Basin Pier to the end of the Vineyard Haven Harbor breakwater.” The only exception is for “bay scallops harvested for the adductor muscle only.”

Town staff recently met with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries to discuss potentially closing off a part of Vineyard Haven Harbor to shellfishing. Tisbury town administrator John Grande said in a previous story the discussion was held based on a site visit the division did at the harbor area. Ewart told The Times the state came to sample the harbor water on Feb. 21. 

According to the announcement, this is a conditional closure. The area will remain closed until it is re-examined by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and given approval to reopen. 

Tisbury shellfish constable Danielle Ewart said the closure was because the area did not meet the requirements of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program. “Generally, the harbor is only open during the winter/spring when the number of boats is less than 20, but this is a closure based on use,” she said in a text. 

When asked to comment on the situation, Tisbury harbormaster John Crocker referred The Times to town administrator John Grande. According to Grande, regulation changes in 2019 required that division staff carry out site visits at various harbors and mooring fields across the state. Grande said the harbormaster told him the water tests came out fine, but the division approached the town because of two vessels deemed “occupied.” 

Grande said using a vessel as a long-term abode was a violation of the town’s waterway regulations. A part of the issue was that Tisbury’s pump-out facility, which is used to dispose of a boat’s sewage, was not currently available, and the town did not have the staff to operate one during the off-season. 

“We’ve been geared for years as a seasonal boating community,” he said, adding, “We’re going through a process, but at the end of the day, it’s a violation of our waterway regs to use a vessel as a long-term abode.” 

Grande said town staff are developing a plan regarding the occupied vessels and the mooring holder. The town plans to meet with these individuals soon. 

“In addition to our local restriction on use of [vessels] as an abode, the DMF and regulation changes from 2019 make this critically important to resolve to mitigate shellfish closures,” Grande said. 


  1. We should have houseboats on several waterways on MV that are not vulnerable to gale winds. Houseboats exist in Holland and many countries and they would solve some of the housing crisis. Inexpensive fully useable houseboats moored permanently.

    • What are the life cycle costs of floating homes versus on land?
      Have you ever owned an accomodations vessel?
      Are you an economist by trade?
      How much less are floating homes versus land based homes in Holland.
      You are big on generalities, short on verifiable facts.
      A Real Conservative.

    • Edgartown has/had a prohibition against houseboats for decades.
      Would you call that government overreach?
      Think of your beloved Vineyard Haven Harbor with two or three hundred houseboats on permanent moorings.
      The laundry drying on the rails, the poop boats, you are the Island’s true visionary.

      The most expensive real estate in the world is where the land meets the sea.
      Dont muck it up with ugly houseboats.

      • Alert— do you think that house boats could not be “pretty” ? of course we have noted that beauty is in the eye of the beholder before..
        For you to think that any houseboat would be”ugly” confirms the concept of “implicit bias”
        I was in Sausalito in the 80’s —
        Here is what it’s like now :
        Don’t get me wrong . This is not likely a thing for the Vineyard, but …

      • As to the two “houseboats” in Woods Hole, they are not houseboats, they are party barges, its where Woods Hole kids go to drink, very few stay overnight but they do use the berths.

        • I think Don is talking about floating houses, not house boats of which there are at least 7 in woods hole, maybe 12 in the summer

  2. The harbors are a wasted resource when it comes to housing.
    Just a quick google search turned up a number of small used cruise ships.
    The one I reference here is about 240 ft , has 63 passenger cabins,38 berths for crew, a restaurant, pool, and great views of the harbor. It’s under $5 million. or $80,000 a cabin.
    I am sure a lot of the young summer people would love it.
    Of course, it’s a ridiculous idea because we need to have space for the uber wealthy to dock their superyachts.

    • The reason that they are $80,000 a cabin is it will cost north of that a year to maintain, and provide utilities, generator fuel and maintenance, fuel barge, garbage barge, and poop barge, to name a few.
      Do you have any idea how much it will cost to to modify your ship to accommodate a families of four with reasonable cooking facilities?
      5 million wont get you half way there.
      Look at the cost of the minor conversion of the SSA’s most recent vessel buys

  3. Andy, have you ever lived on houseboat?
    What is the cost, per square foot, of a houseboat versus a house on land?

  4. I thought with the appointment of the new Editor and a request for suggestions, this site would be opinion based and no attacks. I am wrong.

  5. Albert, stop your attacks. The facts are easy to find. Houseboats are much more affordable than a land side house on Martha’s Vineyard. Read into the costs of maintenance. The “poop boat” is free to operate from the town via the clean water ways act. Stop your attacks and do some reading. True liberal fashion from you.

  6. Living aboard is a good way of life. We have a housing shortage. Would a year-round pump out boat in VH Harbor could be an option? This is an opportunity to solve a problem with a positive outcome for housing.

    • Have you ever lived aboard, I’ve done so for twenty plus years.
      It ain’t cheap, mark it marine and mark it up.
      How much will a poop boat cost?
      Who will pay for it?
      The government?
      Where does government get it’s money?
      There is no free lunch, or poop.

  7. I lived in Portland, OR for 10 years, not long ago. There is a string of houseboats upriver, Willamet River. The drawback to the owner is insuring them.

    • The drawbacks of a houseboat are initial cost, annual maintenance, insurance and dockage.
      Of course you don’t need dockage, moorings are cheaper.
      A houseboat that accommodates four people needs a twenty KW generator.
      That would cost about $8,800 a year in fuel and about the the same for the maintenance/repair/overhaul/replacement.
      The real down side of houseboats is that they are considered to be the trailer trash of the sea.
      Your better towns don’t allow live in trailers, your better marinas don’t allow live aboard houseboats.

  8. Times have changed, and the waterways have changed and looking at your map and the area covered in red. I would never want to eat any shellfish out of that area as who knows what is in all that sand and muck.

  9. The red area on the map was was drawn by a politician, not a scientist.
    No measurements were taken.
    Just an observation that there that there are accomodations vessels there.
    No discussion of them being occupied.
    No discussion of their use of a holding tank.
    We know what is in all that sand and muck, dead fish, fish poop and septic system runoff.
    Fish poop is everywhere.

  10. There is no shellfishing in the Harbor anyway, so no big deal. DMF is doing this everywhere there are more than 20 moored boats. It’s complicated and has to do with enforcement of Federal regs. The Waterways Committee is in the process of revising the regulations to allow year round living aboard on a vessel on a private moorings but not Town moorings. Houseboats will not be allowed. The Rouse is classified as a vessel, not a houseboat but grandfathered in anyway.
    Sound like harassment of one individual. And why is the Town Administrator speaking for the Harbormaster? He seems to be doing that a lot lately.

  11. There aren’t any houseboats in VH harbour so throw that argument out. You would think if the shellfish constable and harbormaster who has an office at the base of OP dock understood there responsibility’s and regulations a little bit they would have made this apparent between now and and the past 7 years. TOT Lacking proper employees. 🙂

  12. Allowing trailers would make more sense than allowing house boats.

    The new comments policy seems to have the result that a few “regulars” dominate almost all threads.

  13. Thank you Lynne. Is there a way road run off and fertilizer run off can be detected accurately in water quality tests?

Comments are closed.