The school vacation week in February and the few days before and after seems to be the very quietest time for the Chappy Ferry as well as for the rest of the Vineyard. This is as close as we get to the “dead of winter.” Even so there have still been some interesting outdoor activities. The Poucha Pond dolphins departed after a couple days of exhibition rollicking. We were relieved to learn that the dead dolphin on the beach was most likely not one of them. Channel marker bell buoy 21A came ashore on Cape Pogue elbow. Folks had a chance to pose next to it and marvel at how large these objects really are. The Edgartown Highway Department has been trimming and chipping along the main road. Paint marks on the pavement indicate that plans are underway to repair the edges of the asphalt that crumbled during the thaw last month.
On Saturday the Chappy Ferry maintenance crew replaced the wood deck section on the Edgartown ramp. The steel supporting the old crosswise wooden planking was rusting away. We removed the remaining steel and installed new lengthwise planking resting directly on the beams. During the day-long operation we kept the traffic flowing by laying down thick sheets of plywood to keep vehicles from falling into the open center of the ramp. As cars and trucks clattered over the loosely laid sheets we had to reassure several concerned drivers that the plywood was only temporary. I must say that the new planking is quite good-looking.
On Tuesday the Edgartown Planning Board visited the Schifter house out at Wasque to observe the site first-hand. Later that same afternoon, their hearing to consider plans to remedy the situation was well-attended by Chappaquiddickers. We learned the details of the very complex house-moving project and freely exercised our democratic right to voice our concerns. There is still plenty of talking to do before the barge arrives from Baltimore with a vast array of gear to do the job.
A surveyor working for the highway superintendent set up his equipment at the ferry point at the beginning of the week. He found the half-century-old concrete markers that delineate the limits of the town ownership and set a row of stakes along the property lines. Over time property bounds get buried. One of the bounds that he dug up is two feet below the level of the pavement. The hole filled up with water during the high tides.
The purpose of the surveying work is to provide an accurate plan for the parking lot improvements recommended by the CIA transportation committee. You will recall the meetings last summer when the proposals were presented to the public. We will vote at the annual town meeting in April whether to appropriate funds for the work. The major item in the proposal is to upgrade the surface of the dirt parking area. As an experiment, two 20-foot squares of gravel were installed last fall by the highway department. The gravel is spread over a grid made of recycled plastic. The concept is that the grid keeps potholes and puddles from forming by preventing movement of the gravel. Google “ECOGRID” to read all about it.
I noticed that many people stopped to talk to the surveyor during the two days he was here. He remained patient with all of us as he endeavored to complete his task. I am reminded of my own experiences while working on a survey field crew two decades ago. Passers-by are naturally curious when they come upon a surveyor. Usually our projects didn’t really concern them, but the presence of a surveyor is often the first indication that something is about to change in the neighborhood. Since humans are innately averse to change they really wanted to know what we were doing. Toward the end of the work day we would of course be tired from the physical labor. But if we had also had constant interruptions from the neighbors, our patience would wear thin and we found ourselves answering their inquiries with some pretty wise guy replies.
Often someone would pull up next to us on a private back road and ask in a sarcastic tone, ”Can I help you?” and I’m not proud to reveal that my reply might be, “Sure. There’s another shovel in the truck, I’ll show you where to dig. Thanks.”
My favorite witty retort was when someone would ask, “Why are you doing this?” I would furrow my brow and in a very apologetic voice reply, “I’m only doing this for the paycheck. You should see the stack of bills I’ve got back home.” Of course, it was a whole lot funnier to us than to them and sometimes they would call the office to inform our boss that he had hired nitwits. I remember my boss saying to us more than once as we headed out some mornings, “Please try not to talk to anyone while you’re out there. If someone has a question, tell them to call me.” We would sheepishly agree, wondering all the while which matron in a Mercedes the day before had squealed on us.
So knowing first-hand what the surveyor at the busy ferry point had to deal with, I’m happy to report to his boss that as far as I know he was a perfect gentleman.
Don’t forget that you lose a whole hour of sleep this weekend when the clocks spring forward to Daylight Saving Time. Try to get to bed early Saturday night.