Four years ago this week, Menemsha harbor was a chaotic scene. Dark smoke from the west dock billowed out to sea and burning embers floated on the water. The wooden Coast Guard boathouse built in 1938 was completely consumed before the first fire truck arrived. A wooden pier and a wooden road leading to the boathouse, along with a truck and at least one boat, were also destroyed.
On Thursday afternoon, trailer trucks carrying steel beams were backing down the road toward the harbor, where the new Coast Guard boathouse is under construction.
“The first and second floor are totally up,” said Menemsha harbor master Dennis Jason, a former Coast Guardsman who witnessed the July 12 fire. “There is a crane there now that I believe is going to put the steel beams in place.”
A set of pilings was installed earlier this summer, and most of the masonry work is complete, he said. Mr. Jason has been helping the contractor, Mortenson Construction, and various subcontractors to navigate the harbor and docks since construction began in the fall of 2013.
Senior Chief Robert Reimer, who took command of station Menemsha in June, said the new boathouse will have the iconic look of a Coast Guard small-boat station, with white walls and a red roof. “There will be some structural differences from the previous boathouse, but it’s going to look very much like the previous structure,” he said.
“With the boathouse fire, we’ve been working out of temporary spaces,” he said. “Trailers are just kind of packed into our main station building and our barracks building, and that’s about a quarter mile from where we keep our boats.”
The new station will provide multiple indoor work spaces for the crew to maintain its equipment and to work on the station’s 25-foot response boat. The station also maintains two 47-foot motor lifeboats.
Currently, the crew needs to haul the response boat back and forth from Lobsterville to perform maintenance. “So to be able to do that right in the harbor at Menemsha, it’s going to save us an enormous amount of time, and it’s also going to give us a protected work space out of the elements,” Mr. Reimer said.
Mr. Jason said some residents of Chilmark are concerned that the boathouse will obscure the view of the harbor, but he pointed out that it will be built on the same piece of property as the original structure from 1938. The new boathouse will have three stories, while the original had two.
Mr. Reimer said he expects the boathouse to be completed this winter.