Menemsha Fire Aftermath

A badly damaged lobsterboat lies on its side on the ramp adjacent to the boathouse.. Photo by ##http://newenglandboating.com/author/tom## Tom Richardson##

July 23, 2010: New England Boating just returned from a trip to the village of Menemsha on Martha’s Vineyard, and saw how the harbor was faring since the devastating fire on July 12 that destroyed the Coast Guard boathouse and much of the pier, along with 5 private boats. Several other vessels were badly damaged in the blaze.

Considering the intensity of the blaze and the fuel lines running along the pier, it’s a miracle that no one was injured and that more buildings and boats weren’t destroyed.

We spoke with Chilmark Harbormaster Dennis Jason, who told us that Menemsha Harbor is open for business and operating “pretty close to normal.” Jason said that the harbor’s transient dockage has been reduced by about half to make room for some displaced resident vessels, but that it still has room for about 15 boats, depending on vessel size. In other words, be sure to call ahead if planning a trip. Fuel is available, and all local businesses are open.

Indeed, save for mangled remains of the boathouse, all seemed normal in the idyllic harbor, with tourists buzzing around the docks and visiting the shops and markets. At the slips next to the Menemsha Fishmarket, charter skipper Scott McDowell had just returned from a fishing trip and was busy filleting some stripers for his party, some of whom were posing for photos with the charred remains of the boathouse in the background. (One wonders how many similar photos taken over the years included the boathouse.)

During our visit we idled around the harbor, getting a look at the damage. The boathouse is gone, completely destroyed. Only a heap of twisted beams and blackened timbers mark the site of the historic building. The burned and melted shells of a sportfishing boat and a lobsterboat rest on a ramp adjacent to the pier. A couple of soot-blackened pleasure boats remain tied to charred pilings. Orange containment booms surround the perimeter. Considering the intensity of the blaze and the fuel lines running along the pier, it’s a miracle that no one was injured and that more buildings and boats weren’t destroyed. If the wind had been blowing from a westerly direction, it’s likely that many other structures would have been lost, said Jason.

The fire, which began at 2:42 p.m. and burned for 7 hours, is still under investigation by several agencies. Also unknown is when and if the boathouse will be replaced. Clearly, a lot of work remains to be done in terms of simply removing the debris, which will have to be done by barge and crane. Stay tuned to New England Boating for more information as it becomes available.

Information:

Contact the harbormaster’s office at (508-645-2846) Town of Chilmark Harbormastor’s Webpage.

To read a full report of the fire and its aftermath, see this article in the Martha’s Vineyard Times: July 15, 2010 Article.

New England Boating Video:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wYSFo2KcLU

New England Boating surveys the results of the July 12 fire that destroyed the Coast Guard boathouse in Martha’s Vineyard’s Menemsha Harbor.

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