It was the Vineyard’s first resort season hurricane and Edgartown harbor paid dearly for its popularity Monday afternoon.
The last great tropical storm to wrack the Edgartown harborfront came in 1944. Then, the town was still mostly a fishing village, and the lumber on the beaches was made up of timber piers and the shacks of working men.
In 1954, two hurricanes savaged the harbor. The first, Carol, showed what a terrible storm could do to a popular anchorage if the season was still late summer. The second, Edna, didn’t hit as hard, and it didn’t strike until after Labor Day, when most of the pleasure boats were long out of the water.
But Bob hit early, and it did hit hard. It hit Edgartown after Hollywood and the Kennedys and the booming 1980s put the old whaling town on the map. It was estimated on Tuesday that some 300 to 400 boats lay on moorings and were tied to piers before the storm dashed up from the south, though perhaps 100 smaller yachts were hauled out of the harbor late Sunday afternoon and up to high noon, the hour the storm struck Monday.
Even so, a good guess at the number of boats damaged and sunk and lost is appalling. When Edgartonians first heard the figures on the street Tuesday, many stood and blinked for a moment, unable to speak.
Harbor master Robert Gilkes estimated that 84 boats were on the beach. Thirteen to 15 more were sunk. An unknown number were missing. Several people, each of whom has known the harbor for a lifetime, said the damage was in the tens of millions of dollars.
It was the worst hit harbor on the Island. People will be rebuilding wharves well into the next year, and several large yachts may never be rebuilt at all.
The worst of the storm came between noon and 2:30 Monday afternoon. One man, bent almost like a jackknife, fought his way down Davis Lane toward South Water street at about 1:45 p.m. Salt water raced in sheets over rooftops as far inland as the Charlotte Inn on South Summer street. At North Water street, the wind sizzled through the trees and power lines. It sounded as if bacon were frying on a skillet.
At the parking lot leading out to the Edgartown Reading Room, people crouched with their arms around their knees. The wind cried through the rigging of sloops just to the east. Fifty-footers swayed on their mooring posts, making great S-turns in the wind, heeling 45 degrees to one side, then just as hard to the other.
Acres of spray and spume were ripped off the top of the harbor water. Waves five feet high broke into seawalls, flooded lawns on South Water street, battered the south side of the Edgartown Yacht Club. Everything turned white with spray. Sand hissed against foul-weather jackets, and still the wind rose. At the worst of it, one man by the Reading Room turned just enough into the wind to yell to his friend. “100.“
The Miss Asia lay against the boat-rental whard at Harborside Inn, impaled on a piling, battering herself against the wooden pier. Scott Morgan, an employee of Edgartown Marine who watched the storm from near Tower Hill on the south side of the harbor, saw how it happened.
The Miss Asia, a historic 62-foot Long Island Sound commuter that once belonged to John Astor, lost her mooring when a sailboat ran her down. She came racing westward with three sailboats strung off her wooden hull, Mr. Morgan said. The yacht, distinctively narrow and beautifully varnished above the main deck, aimed for the mooring stakes between the Reading Room and the yacht club.
“She just swallowed up Walter Eberstadt’s Shields,” Mr. Morgan said. The Shields, a white 30-foot racing sloop named Persephone, sank on her mooring. The other three sailboats let the Miss Asia go, and Gerrett Conover’s elegant motor launch, built in 1923, sailed through the stakes.
“She looked just like a ghost ship,” said Louise V. Oliver, who saw her coming from the second floor of the family compound. We said, ‘My God, it’s the Miss Asia.”
Mr. Conover, owner of the Charlotte Inn, said that the mahogany interior of the yacht had been devastated. Wood preserved over a period of 67 years had been ruined.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do, frankly, at the moment, Mr. Conover said Monday, after the Miss Asia was more gently secured to the Harborside wharf.
On hundred yards south of the Miss Asia lay the sloop Panacea of Boston, driven bow-first onto the stone sea wall at the South Water street home of Paul Ronan. An ugly black scar ran along her port side from stem to stern, and it was thought that she had scraped along the Chappaquiddick ferry On Time II, moored a half-mile down the harbor.
And just to the north, her port quarter resting on the broken wharf fronting the Junior Yacht Club, lay another sloop, the Bacchus. Her stern rested on the porch of the Navigator restaurant at the Harborside Inn complex. The Bacchus smashed a window at the Edgartown Yacht Clup as she flew ashore. The window was some 10 feet above mean low water.
Water inside the club rose about a foot and a half above the floor, just above the marker for hurricane Donna in September 1960, and just below the marker for high water in the blizzard of 1978.
Drama was rife at the Victor family compound. Boston Whalers and parts of piers were carried off. The Upbeat, a large cruising sloop belonging to Owen Smith, crashed into the compound’s sea wall and turned broadside to the oncom­ing waves. Just off her bow, the brick foundation to the waterfront home belonging to Robert W. Sheehan was mostly washed away.
To the north of the yacht club, in front of the clothing store Irresistibles on Dock street, lay a Wellcraft power boat, the Sweet Lorraine. Half the length of pier in front of the town parking lot was torn up. One of the finger piers near the Sweet Lorraine was splintered.
Just behind the Sweet Lorraine lay a 30-foot Cape Dory cutter-rigged sloop, the Suhama. Her stern rested on a wharf, her bow on the stone wall and pebble pavement. Tuesday morning saw her owner standing on deck, asking for a crane to get the Suhama off.
In a nook on the south side of the Memorial Wharf parking lot, two power boats were destroyed. The Escape, a 24-foot inboard, had her port side crush­ed against the stone bulkhead. Another power boat could not be identified because she lay bottom up with her star­board side stove in two places.
At the end of the wharf fronting the Seafood Shanty restaurant, a large sloop, the Rainbow’s End out of Lexington, lay bow down in the calm water Tuesday. Her stem was on the wharf to keep a hole under her transom from filling with water.
At the town landing on North Water street lay the Cascade, a 41-foot Bristol sailboat, belonging to Sal and Anne Giordano. Another boat had cut her mooring line and drove her broadside on­to the gravel road at the foot of the landing.
The harbor anchorage looked badly thinned in the morning after the hurricane.
Near Chappaquiddick Point, Rhodes 19 sailing sloops lay upside down on the moorings. The hulls of larger sailing vessels were scraped fore and aft, victims of other boats that had run them down the afternoon before. Moorings were missing, leaving holes of open water where there should have been boats. On a light southerly breeze, the whole of the harbor smelled of green leaves, sweet woods and diesel oil.
The destruction was worse the farther one traveled down harbor, to the south.
From the Chappaquiddick home of Gilbert Roessner, high over the entrance to Caleb’s Pond, the panorama was almost ti unbelievable.
Five sloops, each of them more than 35 feet long, lay along the Chappy shoreline to the north and west. Al Virginia Mattern’s home, a large sloop came ashore just in front of a boathouse. Mrs. Mattern’s small beachfront shed flew 75 yards down the beach and crush­ed an eight foot wooden pram, the Beach Bum. A 45-foot Boston sloop, the De­fiance, ran her nose up to the front of William and Elizabeth Pettit’s boathouse.
II Gabriano, a Herreshoff belonging to Mrs. Mattern, was run over by a loose power boat. It snapped the mast, shat­tered the protective wooden coaming around the cockpit, carried away the rig­ging and then sunk the boat.
At the home of Dr. DavidJ. Kohn on Chappaquiddick, the Gale Force, a large sloop that John Kaiser had been work­ing, on all winter, came ashore west of the boathouse, The Horizon Bound, a 36-fool Cape Dory sloop, smashed through a wharf and stopped on the other side of the boathouse, leaning her mast against its roof. A marine surveyor on the scene pointed to a hole in the hull the size of a basketball, and estimated the damage to be near $90,000. 
Farther south, a large sloop put her belly on the wharf of another Chappa­quiddick home, crushing it. The wharf of Sinclair Armstrong was destroyed from the second set of pilings outward into the harbor. Some of the posts leaned 45 degrees to the west, pushed there by the wind, and the planking was twisted and splintered.
In the harbor, the bow of the party boat Ranger was mangled from the stempost aft five or six feet. Part of her name was obliterated. Here too, whole fields of mooring balls appeared to be missing, and no one could say whether the boats attached to them had been hassled, or were lost.
South of Caleb’s Pond, three large sail­ing yachts were on the mud. The Zorra leaned to port about 50 yards off shore. A second, whose name was obscured from the vantage point of the Roessner house, was a little farther out, and a third rested almost 100 yards inland, on the marsh. Coastwise folk at Edgartown Marine were saying Tuesday afternoon that it might take a helicopter to lift her 35 tons back into deep water.
On Chappaqsiiddick Point lay the Griffen, a large, blue sloop; the Fresh Air, a small cabin cruiser; the Froggy, a 27-foot Boston Whaler with twin 225 horsepower outboard engines; the L’Allegro, a 25-foot inboard; and the Bo Fis Ka, a 38-foot sloop which dragged her cement mooring block lathe water’s edge on her rough ride west.
The yacht Claire belonging to Mr. and Mrs, Rex Kaiser came ashore hard just to the south of Edgartown Marine, wedged against the home of Leonard Greene. At the boatyard on Tuesday, workers were complimentary and thankful that boat owners were keeping calm the morning after. “I think People are still a little spaced out about the whole thing,” said one employee.
One of several small Herreshoff sloops was driven onto the beach just below North Water street. Many of the 12-footers, With their distinctive brown gaff-rigged main sails, were wounded badly by the storm. Masts were snapped at the deck as other boats sped by in the foamy water. One Herreshoff was tucked into a crevice formed between the beach and the wooden bulkhead where the spare ferry is kept at Chappaquiddick Point.
A quick survey Tuesday afternoon suggested that only one Edgartown fishing boat was badly damaged by Hurricane Bob. The Alison Lee, bright red, lay on her port side near the walk out to the Edgartown lighthouse.
Most of the rest of the Edgartown fishing fleet raced over to the Lagoon in Vineyard Haven Sunday evening and Monday morning. That was the other difference between Hurricane Bob and the great storm of 1944. Bob gave us a day’s warning.