The harbor town of Vineyard Haven on Martha’s Vineyard includes two scenic harbors with ample facilities for boaters. Each, however, is also a delicate marine ecosystem, and the town takes great care to protect the habitat for fish, shellfish, and shore birds.
Vineyard Haven Harbor is the Island’s year round ferry port, with Steamship Authority vessels traveling from Woods Hole from 6 am to the 10:30 pm on most days. The ferries move faster than you might think, and it’s wise to watch advancing or overtaking ferries closely, and give them a wide berth. The rules of the road do not require the ferry to alter course if it would force them out of the navigable channel, even if you otherwise have the right of way.
Vineyard Haven is very much a sailing harbor, with many classic wooden boats bobbing in the calm waters of the picture postcard mooring basin to the west of the Steamship Authority piers. Many of the boats were built by the Gannon & Benjamin boatyard, one of the premier wooden boatyards on the east coast. There is great shopping, dining, and sightseeing, right on the harbor, but it’s usually quiet as a summer breeze after 9 pm.
The town does not take advance reservations for moorings, it’s first come, first serve, and the harbor fills up very quickly on summer weekends. The rate is $50 per night, and the moorings cannot accommodate boats longer than 40 feet. Showers and bathrooms are available at the harbormaster’s headquarters.
Hail the Vineyard Haven harbormaster on marine radio channel 09. If there is a town mooring available inside the breakwater, the harbormaster will direct you to the spot. All moorings inside the breakwater are fairly well protected from weather. If there are no spots left, the harbormaster will direct you to call one of the commercial boatyards which maintain moorings in the outer harbor, which can accommodate larger vessels. These moorings are generally quite calm, except when the wind backs to the north or northeast. Then it can get very rough.
Anchorage is designated on navigation charts, generally outside the breakwater, clear of mooring fields, channels, and the causeway to Lagoon Pond Bridge.
Discharge of sewage is strictly prohibited, and will result in a stiff fine. There is a free pumpout boat which operates daily, and answers on marine radio channel 09.
Currently, there is no marine fuel available in Vineyard Haven Harbor. Launch service is available during July and August, by hailing marine radio channel 72.
Several commercial marinas have slips available for transient vessels. In July and August, a flotilla of mega-yachts takes up residence. Many people will tell you that the 164 foot M/V Vango, with a helicopter on the top deck, belongs to Oprah Winfrey. It does not.
Lagoon Pond provides good anchorage, especially if the wind kicks up from the northeast. Entrance is through a drawbridge, which opens on request during designated times: 8:15 am; 10:15 am; 3:15 pm; 5 pm, and 7:30 pm. The channel under the drawbridge is 9.5 feet at mean low tide, but the current can be tricky. Clearance is about 13 feet when the drawbridge is down. Hail the Lagoon Pond Bridge Tender on marine radio channel 16, and follow his instructions. Unless you know the water, a chart is essential inside the lagoon.
Lake Tashmoo is a second option for boaters. The entrance is around West Chop, to the west of Vineyard Haven Harbor. The channel is 5.5 feet deep at mean low tide, and subject to surprise shoaling. Ask for local knowledge, post a hand on the bow, and nose your way in carefully. If you do hit bottom, it will be soft sand. Once inside there is plenty of depth. Town moorings are available, and there is ample anchorage, marked on the charts. Showers and bathrooms are at the tennis courts up the hill from the Lake Street dock, but there is little else in the way of amenities. It’s a pleasant one mile walk to town through residential neighborhoods.
Vineyard Haven Harbormaster (Ch. 09): 508-696-4249
Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard (Ch. 73): 508-693-0400
Black Dog Wharf: 508-693-3854
Tisbury Wharf Company: 508-693-9300
Vineyard Haven Marina: 508-693-0720
Maciel Marine: 508-693-4174
Tashmoo Boatyard and Crane Service: 508-693-9311
The Loft/Sail Making and Repair: 508-693-3312