With all of the major holidays behind us, we finally have a chance to catch our breath. I recommend naps for everyone. In my lines of work I never know when I will have to stay up all night. Both the ferry service and the fire department experience events that can cause me to miss my bedtime. I’m much happier and a whole lot smarter when I’m well rested.

The ferry captains have been on a Christmas cookie and fudge diet this past week. I know that they appreciate the goodies and the sentiments. As the weather turns colder, their coats and gloves get thicker. They start their day in the dark, salting the icy decks, checking the engine fluids, topping off the fuel and making sure that the bilges are clear. You’ve probably noticed that they open all of the hatches at each crew change. We’re not big on surprises at the ferry so we like to check below often. When the captains go home after working the night shift, they are on standby to respond in a hurry to your emergencies here on Chappy. They work a long day out in the elements, so be sure to give them a smile and to give yourself a little extra time when heading for the ferry.

You may recall that I have mentioned in the past that every problem that gets solved at the Chappy Ferry creates at least two more problems. Last spring, at the request of the CIA Transportation Committee and with the aid of the highway department, we made a small change to the waiting line on the Chappy side. In order to provide more room for vehicles leaving the parking area, we pulled back the beginning of the waiting line about two and a half car lengths. The adjustment worked well and had the hoped-for result. Drivers are now able to make the turn without backing up and trying to stay clear of the vehicles waiting in line.

However, while one problem gets solved, two new problems appear. Unfortunately, after dark the cars waiting obediently in line with their headlights as well as their parking lights off are difficult to spot from the Edgartown side, even with the webcams. The waiting vehicles are now out of range of the ferry ramp lights, which we recently changed from 500 watts to only 60 watts to reduce electricity use and light pollution. The streetlights that had previously illuminated the waiting line were relocated over the parking area when the old utility poles were removed, which leaves the waiting line in the pitch black. Some of you have realized that leaving your parking lights on will let us know that you are there. Unfortunately, some of those parking lights are just about as bright as low beam headlights and just as blinding to the ferry captains.

So, while the transportation committee comes up with an overall lighting plan for the point, we are experimenting with solutions to this problem. For starters, we attached a little solar light to the first “Headlights Off” sign. That worked well enough that we bought a brighter solar light and put it on a taller pole. A motion detector activates the light. The light shines down on your vehicle making it visible to the ferry captain. That way, even with all of your lights off, we can still see you. Just make sure to pull up far enough so that it detects you and shines on the front of your vehicle. The captains can also see when the light comes on, but since rabbits and skunks activate the light, actually seeing your vehicle is what counts.

By the way, have you noticed how bright the parking lights are on the newer cars? I remain baffled as to the reasoning behind the need for increasingly brighter lights on motor vehicles. Perhaps it’s because when driving at night we need more candlepower in order to overcome being blinded by the brighter lights of the cars approaching us from the opposite direction. It’s an escalating war of wattage.

There is also a comical side to it. New vehicles have light switches that don’t seem to have any direct control over the lights. With some vehicles the headlights automatically shut off after a few minutes. Others will shut off if you push down on the parking brake and remove the key from the ignition. Only a few seem to respond to clicking your heels together three times and repeating, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”

But seriously, in our highly-valued rural setting of Chappaquiddick these ever-brighter automobile lights are inappropriate. It’s unfriendly and un-Chappaquiddicky for us to blind each other while driving or walking at night along the roadside.

For those of us who venture out onto the water at night, bright lights from shore make the safe operation of watercraft more difficult. Mariners know from experience not to shine spotlights into each other’s eyes. It takes just seconds to lose your night vision and minutes to get it back. So when you are driving near the water after dark you’ll want to avoid shining your lights out over the water, and shut them off as soon as you no longer need them. Even in mid-winter there can be boats out there and in these colder times it’s even more important for mariners to be able to see in order to avoid floating obstacles and to stay out of trouble on the water. A mariner’s vision is affected not only by the light itself but also by the reflection of that light off of the water and surrounding wet surfaces. As island dwellers we need to practice island courtesies.

Because next Tuesday is New Year’s Day, there will be no potluck supper at the Community Center that week. The next scheduled potluck is on Jan. 16. Then it’s back to the usual first and third Wednesdays.

In the Chappy column last week there was a typographical error. Margaret noted that the CCC had its beginnings many years ago; the correct number being 25 years ago. What you read in the paper was that the planning for the CCC began 85 years ago. All of the people on that committee were still twinkles in their mothers’ eyes, even Joe Cressy.

The Christmas Eve dinner at the CCC was well attended. There was plenty of good company, food and refreshments. It was wonderful to see so many of our younger generation there. These holidays present an opportunity for our island community to recall and to marvel at the adventures and accomplishments of our Chappy children. Whether they have traveled far and experienced unfamiliar surroundings or stayed close among us and discovered their roles in their own neighborhood, their bravery in facing up to the world is admirable. It is our good fortune that so many have returned to us. Being a daily part of their lives makes our own lives so much richer and broader. I look forward to this new year and wish them a sense of belonging.

A good friend confided to me that he had not been feeling well for a few weeks. He said that he had all of the signs and symptoms of someone who wasn’t long for this world. He should know, since he specializes in the diagnostics of human malfunctions. Eventually he was assured by an associate that he was going to survive quite a while longer. I was greatly relieved to hear this.

His story reminded me of a joke. A guy goes to his doctor complaining that he is feeling poorly. The doctor ran a slew of tests and then called the guy back into his office to give him the bad news. The doctor started out by recommending to his now-confirmedly very ill patient that he should get his affairs in order. The guy asked how long he had to live and the doctor replied that he figured six months, tops. The patient then asked if there was anything that he could do and the doctor replied, “You should go to live with my mother in Chicago”. “How will that help?” asked the doomed man. The doctor shrugged his shoulders and answered, “Well it really won’t help at all, but those six months are going to seem like forever.”