2023 by the numbers

—Jeremy Driesen

Here are some of the top news stories in 2023 on Martha’s Vineyard, by the numbers:

First: On March 28, the Oak Bluffs select board appointed Emily deBettencourt to the position of town harbormaster, making her the first woman harbormaster on Martha’s Vineyard.

2 – 1: On September 5, a land court judge ruled in favor of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional School District. The school committee had appealed a decision by the Oak Bluffs planning board to reject a special permit request to build an artificial turf athletic field. A little over three months later, the planning board decided in a 2-1 vote to appeal the court’s decision. 

Two: The number of dead humpback whales that were found washed ashore on the Vineyard in June. 

Three: The number of plane crashes and emergency landings on the Vineyard this summer. On July 15, the passenger of a small private aircraft took control of the plane and crash landed it at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport after its pilot suffered a medical emergency midflight. The pilot died in hospital less than a week later. On July 23, a small plane departing from Katama Airpark was forced to land in the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest after experiencing engine problems. No one was injured. Earlier in the summer, on June 15, a U.S. Coast Guard plane had to make an emergency landing at Martha’s Vineyard Airport after experiencing mechanical and electrical issues. Nobody was injured. 

Three days: On July 27, the Steamship Authority freight vessel MV Sankaty broke loose from its mooring and traveled a short distance before coming to rest at a nearby Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution dock. MV Times reporting uncovered months later that there’d been a number of warning signs leading up to the untethering, including concerns raised three days prior about the ferry boat crew’s failure to follow standard operating procedures when securing the vessels. 

Quadrupled: By 2023, officials with the Island Grown Initiative say that the number of people using the Island’s food pantry more than quadrupled from 2019, as Massachusetts residents receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits saw a significant decrease in their monthly funds and food insecurity continued to increase. 

Fourth: On April 13, state officials announced the arrest of Tevin Porter, the fourth and final suspect in the 2022 Rockland Trust Bank robbery. 

Five hours: Due to a power malfunction, the Lagoon drawbridge in Vineyard Haven was stuck in the upright position for this long on June 2.

Six months: On February 17, pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced the discontinuation of the Island’s Lyme Disease vaccine clinical trials, less than six months after the first experimental drug was administered on the Vineyard.

8th Grade: Seth Hyde, then an eighth grader at the West Tisbury School, won the Islandwide spelling bee on March 17 with the word “quirky.” The win earned him a spot on the Scripps national stage alongside 200 of the nation’s best student spellers.

20: The Harbor Homes winter shelter’s 20 bed capacity was reached for the first time in nine years soon after opening for the season on Nov. 1.

July 23: A multiagency search for a missing person on July 23 resulted in the recovery of the body of former President Barack Obama’s family chef Tafari Campbell the next morning. He had drowned while paddle boarding on Edgartown Great Pond. 

24 years: That’s how long Warren Doty served on the Chilmark select board. In January, he announced he was passing the torch after eight terms. 

25 years: In August, the Polly Hill Arboretum celebrated its 25th year as a public garden. 

26 out of the 30 residents of Windermere Nursing & Rehabilitation Center tested positive for a new COVID-19 variant between January and February. None resulted in serious illness or hospitalizations. 

29 years: Shortly before the New Year, longtime MV Times owners/publishers Peter and Barbara Oberfest announce they will be passing the torch on after 29 years.

31 inches: The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and its Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board voted in favor of an emergency action in May, lowering the upper end of the striped bass slot size for the year from 35 inches to 31 inches. 

65: A structure fire at the Summercamp hotel in Oak Bluffs over the third weekend in May triggered the evacuation of 65 guests who had to be relocated to other lodging facilities. 

100 mL: At their respective town meetings, voters in two towns — Oak Bluffs and Edgartown — approved a new bylaw prohibiting the sale of single-use containers of alcohol under 100mL, also known as “nips.” The Islandwide ban goes into effect May 1, 2024. 

15,000: In December, a group of “guerilla gardeners” from Tisbury began their work planting 15,000 daffodils Islandwide. 

About 18,000 pounds: The weight of fish that were weighed in during the 78th annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby this fall. That’s roughly 2,000 fish caught. 

$100,000: On January 30, a lottery ticket purchased at Vineyard Haven’s Cumberland Farms cashed out for this much money.

$1.7 million: That’s what the Island Grown Initiative paid for a new Oak Bluffs warehouse that will serve as the new and permanent home for its food pantry.

$2.3 million: Reports from LINK, the Island’s primary multiple listing service, indicated this spring that the average sale price of Vineyard properties reached an unprecedented $2.3 million

$20 million: Steamship Authority reps announced in March that the cost to convert the SSA’s three new freight boats — the Aquinnah, Monomoy, and Barnstable — would likely be more than double what SSA officials originally expected, or roughly $20 million per vessel. 


  1. You forgot:
    23.9 Million: After listing her 20 acre Vineyard Sound and Lake Tashmoo facing estate, known as “Chip Chop” for 24 million, former ABC News Anchor, Diane Sawyer, sold her long time Vineyard home to Boston based real estate investor and short term rental mogul David Malm for 23.9 million dollars. Mr. Malm, no stranger to controversy, was in this paper’s headlines numerous times this year surrounding his fights with neighbors surrounding his renovation and expansion plans on one of his ten Edgartown properties. Surely, Chip Chop is in good hands.

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