Boats Here Plucked from Water as Isabel Moves to Mainland

By CHRIS BURRELL

Spillover from Hurricane Isabel was forecast to hit the Island today with 10-foot seas and wind gusts up to 45 miles per hour.

And while landfall came yesterday on the North Carolina coast, many Vineyarders who own boats took no chances: They hauled out.

Boatyards worked overtime this week, but if you were expecting the exodus to dry land to spell the end of the boating season, think again.

"We're going to be putting those boats back in," said Geoffrey Banfield, president of Maciel Marine in Vineyard Haven.

With more than a month left in the Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, plenty of the boats plucked from the water this week will sit in dry-dock for just a couple of days.

That's a boon for boatyards that are charging between $200 and $500 per boat for the haul-out work.

"It's a lot of work, and we've busted our tails for the last three days," said Mr. Banfield.

Next door to Maciel's, Alice Seaton was also playing it safe, but her decision to pull her fleet of six motorboats and two sailboats out of the Lagoon means pulling the plug on her boat rental business, Island Water Sports.

"I could definitely use the extra income, but I'd rather be safe than sorry," she said. "I hadn't planned on the season coming to an end so quickly."

But Ms. Seaton isn't complaining too badly because she enjoyed a strong summer, renting kayaks, skiffs and motorboats.

Elsewhere on the Island, the threat of Isabel's ripple-effect was felt in the weekend calendar. Organizers of the Kids' Mini Derby in Oak Bluffs decided yesterday afternoon to postpone the annual event at the Oak Bluffs SSA wharf to next Saturday, Sept. 27. The Firefighters Muster set for Oak Bluffs on Sunday was still on as the Gazette went to press. And the Vineyard Conservation Society was counting on the weather to clear in time for Farm Day festivities tomorrow at five farms across the Island.

On the waterfront, mariners kept close watch on the weather channels, musing over the forecasts with a mix of nonchalance and real urgency.

"You gonna tell a 600-pound gorilla where to go? I won't be satisfied until this thing is deep in Pennsylvania. I just don't trust 'em, been through too many," said one man standing around the Maciel's office.

Down at Owen Park, Vineyard Haven harbor master Jay Wilbur said, "We're still concerned, but less and less so."

Outside his second floor window, the inner harbor was still full of sailboats, nearly all of the 150 moorings occupied. Mr. Wilbur didn't expect the fallout from Hurricane Isabel to put a damper on the boating shoulder season.

"There are a lot of locals in the shoulder season who come from the ponds and the outer harbor," he said.

About the only impact from Isabel, he said, might be fewer transient boaters coming up to the Island this fall from points south.

Over in Oak Bluffs harbor, fisherman Craig Coutinho was seeking refuge from Menemsha for his boat, Viking.

"I hope this is where I stay. I'm tired of moving around," he said. Mr. Coutinho spent much of Wednesday lashing his boat up to the bulkhead and starting to prep Viking for a paint job.

He was hardly anxious about Isabel. "I think this is going to be a little breeze," he said.

Assistant Edgartown harbor master Scott Mallegol echoed that sentiment as he watched his neighbors from Edgartown Marine Associates pull boats and even floating docks out of the harbor.

"By Saturday, the majority of this will be gone," he said.

Mr. Mallegol was also betting that Hurricane Isabel would hardly put a dent in the last of the Vineyard summer. "This is just the bare beginning of the derby," he said. "The majority of people will put their boats back in."