They were born and raised on the Vineyard, owned their own homes and had full-time jobs here. Then one day a couple years ago, Sharon Amaral and Shirley Fauteux each arrived at the same decision: Sell their houses, cash out and move to the Cape.

A drastic move, but both women kept one thing in their lives constant - their jobs on the Vineyard.

Ms. Fauteux and Ms. Amaral are part of what appears to be a growing number of one-time Islanders who have pulled up roots, crossed the Sound to buy a home, but still commute by ferry back to the Vineyard for work.


For many of them, the impetus is as clear as the balance on their monthly bank statements. It's about money and taking a stand against the high cost of rent, the mortgage or even gas and groceries on the Vineyard.

"My girlfriend was in real estate, telling me what people were getting for houses," said Ms. Amaral, who is 43 and an employee at the Martha's Vineyard Cooperative Bank in Vineyard Haven. "I never thought in a million years I would get that much money, but I figured I would just put it on the market and see what happens."

She sold her house in Edgartown nine months later in August 2003, and bought a three bedroom Cape in Falmouth. "I paid off all my debt and still ended up with a little nest egg in case the furnace broke," she said.

The sale of Ms. Fauteux's Vineyard Haven house happened just a month earlier.

Ms. Fauteux, 57 years old and the health agent for the town of Oak Bluffs, said "I really left because I was over the Vineyard. It's expensive, and it's too isolating."

The financial payoff was immediate.

"I was able to purchase a brand new home with no mortgage and still had money in the bank," she said.

Other one-time Islanders remember being stuck in the cycle of renting houses and having to move every summer or losing a rental deal when real estate prices tempted landlords to forfeit a lease and put a house on the market.

"At that time, they called us economic refugees. It was a housing crisis at the wrong time of the year," said Dave Greenlaw, who three years ago was managing the Portuguese-American Club in Oak Bluffs.


"It happened in the springtime. We lost our rental. We had all our eggs in that basket. We planned on buying that house, but then the housing market blew," he said. "Prices went through the roof."

Mr. Greenlaw and his wife, who worked as an accountant in the Oak Bluffs town hall, ended up buying a house in Mashpee from someone they met at the PA Club. He now commutes back to the Island to work for Mid Cape Home Centers.

There's also Josh Faye, a 33-year-old plumber, who had rented houses on the Island for nine years, moving every six months as the seasons shifted - the so-called Vineyard shuffle.

"It was horrific. You don't own anything. What you do own is in storage forever. You just move around living out of a dozen boxes," he said.

He and his wife now own a three-bedroom house on a third of an acre in Falmouth. "We bought it for basically $50,000 less than the cost of a quarter-acre lot on the Vineyard," he said.

Oak Bluffs school teacher Kathy Flynn rented for years on the Vineyard with little hope of ever buying a house here. So she bought an acre in Falmouth and built a home in 2001.

Even as a homeowner on the Island, Ms. Amaral said the stress of trying to make ends meet had begun to wear on her, influencing her decision to opt for a self-imposed exile from the Vineyard.

"I didn't want to be living on the edge all the time so when the fridge broke down, I'd have to call my father for help. That's crazy," she said.

To supplement her income, she rented out rooms in her three bedroom house in Edgartown during the summer months.

"It's a total drag to have strangers in your house. And trying to pay the taxes," Ms. Amaral said. "My sister is there, too. She's single, working two or three small jobs and putting tenants in her house. It gets to the point where you're working for your house."

If there's one chord that runs through these stories of commuters, it's the sound of fiscal relief.

For others, however, the decision to leave the Island had less to do with money and more to do with convenience.

Anson Krickl, who works as a warehouse manager for Granite Hardware in Edgartown and acts as an advocate for handicapped-access issues for Dukes County, sold a house in Edgartown and moved over to a second home in Falmouth so his wife could be closer to medical facilities.

Vineyard public schools psychologist Martha Mulcahy rented on the Vineyard for five years but bought a house in Sandwich eight years ago because her family already owned a place on another island - Nantucket.


But once these former Vineyarders have taken the plunge off the Island, why do they keep coming here to work?

For Mr. Faye and Ms. Amaral, the answer again is wrapped in cash. Wages on the Island are higher than the Cape, they said.

"The money on Martha's Vineyard is fantastic," said Mr. Faye, as he spoke from his mobile telephone while riding a Steamship ferry back to the mainland.

"You can earn three or four more dollars an hour on the Vineyard," said Ms. Amaral.

"Ninety per cent of the people come to the Vineyard [to work] because of the pay premium," said Mr. Greenlaw.

Friendly bosses and flexible workplaces have also kept these people punching the clock on the Island. "I have a really great job. It would be hard for me to switch," said Ms. Flynn, who teaches computer technology at the Oak Bluffs School and helps draft curriculum Islandwide for the schools.

"I'm so established here it doesn't make sense to start over over there," said Daryl Bowling, a carpenter, who sold his Vineyard Haven gambrel two years ago, moved back to his duplex in Falmouth but keeps his tool trailer and clients on the Island.

Oddly enough, a lot of these commuters actually enjoy the daily ride back and forth across Vineyard Sound, either aboard a Steamship ferry or the Patriot ferry, which operates between Falmouth and Oak Bluffs harbor.

"I love being on the water twice a day. It's the best part of my whole day," said Cindy McIntosh, who left her home in Edgartown after a divorce and now lives in West Falmouth, commuting everyday to her administrative job at the Martha's Vineyard Hospital.

She rides the Patriot, a small vessel with room for 39 passengers, nearly all of them men who work in the building trades. The 5 or 6 p.m. boats back to the mainland are full of guys clutching bottles of beer and smoking cigarettes. In some ways, it's an odd juxtaposition. Commuters like Ms. Flynn and Ms. McIntosh are dressed up in skirts or pressed slacks, happily gabbing with rank-and-file laborers.

"I've made some great friends. It's a boat family. Mike's like my brother," said Ms. McIntosh, pointing to her benchmate below decks, a Hyannis plumbing and heating contractor named Mike Koumbouris.

"We all know a lot about each other, watch out for each other," she added. "And we've had some wild rides. We've been on this boat when you can't see out the windows."


It costs $60 a week for a book of commuter tickets on the Patriot, or about $240 a month. Riding with the Steamship Authority is cheaper, $100 a month, but most of the SSA commuters also pay $750 a year to park a car in the Woods Hole lot.

Then there's the car on the Vineyard. "I leave it at the school," said Ms. Mulcahy, who's not convinced the commute is the best arrangement.

"I keep doing it on a year-by-year basis. How much can you stand?" she said.

There are other downsides.

Mr. Krickl calls the socioeconomic trend troubling. "Unfortunately, as Nantucket has gone, we shall also go," he said. "The cost of living will just force those people who would rather stay off the Island."

For some who have left the Island but still draw a Vineyard paycheck, there's also a tinge of bitterness.

"I have a little bit of resentment because of the fact that I was born and raised on the Vineyard," said Ms. Amaral. "But I was able to buy land back in the eighties before things got so out of control."

Straddling two worlds is also difficult, said Ms. McIntosh, who lived on the Island for 25 years.

"That's the only thing that I have a little bit of hard time with," she said. "I still spend so much time here yet I don't live here. It's hard being involved in my community [in Falmouth]. I have to work extra hard to build relationships."

But many of those who shed their Islander status cite advantages.

"I just wanted a little more, a bigger world," said Ms. Fauteux. "And I just paid $2.15 a gallon for gas. The groceries, utilities, restaurants are all half the costs. I eat out at least two times a week."

Mr. Greenlaw said his neighborhood in Mashpee is more stable than the one he used to live in on the Vineyard.

"The Vineyard neighborhoods are so changeable with the mix of year round places and investment rentals. I found our neighborhood changing rapidly," he said. "Here it's a real fifties and sixties neighborhood where the sense of community is greater."

But as much as Mr. Greenlaw is embracing his new life and home on the Cape, there are still some ingrained Vineyard habits that he's trying to shake.

"We went to Wal-Mart and I was grabbing six of these and 10 of those. I still had that hoarding mentality," he said. "Sue looked at me and said: ‘Dave we're only 20 minutes away.'"