If you’re cruising down-Island in the summer, soaking in the ocean air through rolled-down windows or circling the block to find a parking space downtown, you’ve surely spotted the Clambulance. You can’t miss this distinctive, eye-catching vehicle with a simple mission written on its side: “Emergensea Raw Bar.”

The mobile shucking operation has been up and running for four years on the Island, but for Clambulance founder Beau Begin, the idea germinated during his childhood summers on the Vineyard.

Beau Begin wants his Clambulance business to be carbon-neutral. His new electric van, along with a new solar array at his house, is helping him reach his goal. Ray Ewing

“I’ve had this idea for 20 years,” he said. “When we were kids, we’d laugh about it and say we needed to start a Clambulance.”

“We would sail over here every summer,” he said of his childhood. “Clamming was a big part of what we would do. I could shuck when I was four years old.”

In Beau’s teen years, he recalled, he picked up some part-time work shucking oysters for Teddy Karalekas’s raw bars. Teddy is a legend amongst Island shuckers, Beau said, and a veteran champ of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair oyster shucking competition.

When Beau moved to the Island full-time in 2009 after finishing graduate school, he put that experience to work and created his own raw bar service, Vineyard Sound Raw Bar. But he found that he couldn’t reach as many customers as he wanted.

“I wanted to democratize it, make it more for everybody,” he said.

For Beau, who lives in Tisbury with his family and works as a financial consultant and vice president at Rockland Trust Bank, the pandemic presented an opportunity. In 2020, he took inspiration from his childhood Clambulance pun, expanded his raw bar and put the operation on wheels.

Beau (left) gives Islander Owen Maloney (right) of Coastal Solar a lot of credit for helping him outfit his home with a solar array. On the Island, "Getting our energy systems and consumption toward net zero is going to take guys like Owen helping businesses like mine," Beau said. Ray Ewing

This summer, Beau said, the Clambulance is reaching a new milestone, as he transitions it to a carbon neutral operation with a new electric vehicle, powered by the solar array he has installed at his home. In fact, he installed a big enough array to power the van, make ice and offset the majority of his family’s personal power usage at home, since they also heat with wood in the winter.

“From the beginning, my goal was to make the Clambulance a carbon neutral program,” he said. “Conceptually I figured it would work, but I wasn’t going to go out and put the cart in front of the horse. So I waited.”

The new, fully electric Clambulance, a Ford E-Transit, is his third vehicle since he began. Driving on an Island can be hard on older vehicles.

“When I sold the very first one, that was hard,” he said.

Despite his sentimental attachment to his older vans, Beau is excited that the new electric van will be a game changer, allowing him to operate his ice maker, mini-fridge, electric griddle and car battery via solar energy.

Those capabilities, in turn, will help him continue his mission of introducing people to diverse varieties of Island shellfish — all while being environmentally conscious.

The Clambulance crew shucks oysters at the 2023 Martha's Vineyard Magazine Best of the Vineyard party. Ray Ewing

“The Clambulance is about eco-conscious partying within this beautiful and fragile ecosystem,” he said. Beau’s goal is to offer folks, even if they’re only visiting the Island for a single event, as many different kinds of oysters as possible during that party.

“A big thing that I do differently from other guys is that I have multiple kinds of oysters on the table,” he said, drawing from farmers in Katama Bay, the Lagoon and Menemsha, along with Cuttyhunk and Nantucket.

With oyster farming thriving on the Island, Beau wants to be a link between farmers and consumers, making sure that people are able to experience a wide variety of fresh, local oysters.

“Oysters are really coming of age. There are so many growers now,” he said. “Now it’s about getting them to people.”

Turning back and pointing at the Clambulance, he proclaimed: “This thing’s going to be able to do it.”


Thomas Humphrey is a writer and a former reporter for the Vineyard Gazette.


Giving back

Reducing its fossil fuel footprint isn’t the only way the Clambulance contributes to Island sustainability efforts. It also participates in the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group’s Shellfish (MVSG) Recovery program, last year contributing 479 gallons of oyster shells to the habitat restoration efforts.

MVSG has drop-off locations for participating businesses (restaurants, caterers and seafood stores) to return shells, which are collected, aged and used both as substrate in the hatchery oyster tanks for young oyster larvae to attach to and as building blocks for wild oyster habitats in the ponds. Since oysters are highly valued for their ability to filter excess nitrogen out of the ponds, the shell recycling program and habitat restorations contribute to cleaner waters.

Beau also gives his shellfish bags to the Vineyard Conservation Society to be repurposed as beach clean-up bags.