Recreational boat traffic in Vineyard harbors was off during the first weeks of summer, but harbor masters report that all changed last Friday, when all four harbors were suddenly full for Independence Day weekend.
“I don’t know if it is the weather, the price of gasoline and the economy,” said Dennis Jason, Chilmark harbor master. “It could be all three.”
The price of gasoline may well be a factor; Edgartown harbor master Charlie Blair said he is seeing more sailboats this summer. And Vineyard Haven harbor master Jay Wilbur has seen a shift in the use of the town dock at Owen Park — there are fewer powerboats, he said.
Mr. Jason, who is in his ninth season as harbor master, said Menemsha generally does not attract many short-stay transient powerboats. Menemsha has 10 transient moorings.
It also has a spanking new West Dock and the connecting pier, rebuilt after the huge fire destroyed the Coast Guard boathouse last July. A dedication ceremony is planned for July 12; the boathouse has not yet been rebuilt by the Coast Guard.
In Vineyard Haven Mr. Wilbur noted the change at the Owen Park public dock. “It is one day before the Fourth of July, and we have only a couple transient boats tied up at the dock,” he said on Sunday. In summers past, Mr. Wilbur said he could expect a good number of powerboats to come over for the day and tie up at the dock. Their owners would go into town for lunch and shopping and then leave. Now he said the day-trip boaters are scarce, although the overnight boaters still come. The 60 transient moorings — 30 in the inner harbor and the 30 in the outer harbor — were full for the night.
This is Mr. Wilbur’s 20th summer as harbor master. He agreed that poor weather in June contributed to the slow start to the season on the water and echoed Mr. Jason’s thoughts — blame it on some kind of mix of bad weather, high price for gasoline and the economy.
Oak Bluffs harbor master Todd Alexander agreed. “Spring has been horrible,” he said, adding that business on the waterfront is “all weather related.”
There are 81 slips and 50 transient moorings in Oak Bluffs harbor. Advance bookings are as strong as they were a year ago, Mr. Alexander said. He said he is telling himself to be cautiously optimistic about a good summer.
Meanwhile, the economy and price of gasoline is turning back the clock in Edgartown harbor — it’s becoming more of a sailor’s harbor, Mr. Blair believes, thanks to the high price of fuel. The price of gas is more reasonable on the mainland, he said, and the noisy powerboats just aren’t showing up.
For the first time in quite awhile, this weekend the harbor was full, Mr. Blair said. “We had to turn some people away [for transient moorings in the inner harbor],” the harbor master said. Many of those disappointed sailors wound up anchoring in the outer harbor, not such a bad assignment when the fireworks began to go off at nightfall on Monday.
To meet the needs of the transient boaters who visit for the day and can’t find a town mooring, Mr. Blair said he is putting them on private moorings.
The Edgartown harbor is a busy place indeed. On Saturday, the channel that divides Memorial Wharf from the Chappaquiddick ferry point was full of choppy water, caused by both the strong currents and the wake of moving boats.
With the holiday falling on a Monday, some harbor masters noted that the weekend skippers began leaving yesterday.
And for many it was back to work on Tuesday.