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Vineyard Haven: The working harbor

The ferry approaching Martha's Vineyard
Vineyard Haven harbor has been the main port in the Vineyard since the 18th century and home to many traditional sailing vessels. The harbor is surrounded by a charming New England town known as Tisbury and West Tisbury, but it did not always have such a charming reputation. The Great Fire of 1883 caused an "eclectic" rebuilding of the town and ushered in an era of ferry and vehicular traffic that tarnished its reputation.

The in the 1990s, shipwrights and preservationists began restoring and building a broad collection of wooden craft, including pulling skiffs, schooners, and tall ships. Commensurate with this movement came a revitalization of the waterfront.

Today the mooring field contains more than 100 wooden vessels, among them more than a dozen schooners and the scent of sawdust rising from the sheds holds the promise of more to come. Visit Gannon & Benjamin or the Coastwise Packet Company to view some eye candy in progress.

What to do

Vineyard Haven in August. Dinghy dock bumper boats, megayachts, and crowds make for fun in the summer sun.
Tisbury, being a dry town, gives visitors a different experience from the standard New England seaside port. Although they prohibit the sale of liquor, consumption is permitted, so BYOB.

Tisbury is a mariner's dream. Everything is within walking distance. Groceries, the post office, B&Bs, eateries, movies, the library, church, bike rental, tour bus, taxis, shuttle bus, supplies and souvenirs can be found within minutes after landing. Tisbury Wharf is a main attraction for the visiting yacht and conveniently located to several restaurants including the Black Dog Tavern, where "brown bagging" has been the tradition for more than 30 years. No visit to Martha's Vineyard is complete without a visit to this fabled destination made infamous as the retreat favored by former President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

Just a short walk away are swimming beaches, bike rentals, boutiques, shops, a theater, a great hardware store, and A&P right on the waterfront, Black Dog bakery and merchandise shops, and entertainment. It is also located close to transportation options from bikes, to buses and cars. For a walking tour of Vineyard Haven, please click here to view the Vineyard Gazette.

Navigating the Harbor


Tisbury town moorings are available on a first come, first served basis, $30.00 per night in 2006. Contact the Harbormaster on channel 9. Town moorings are two-ton blocks with heavy chain and are maintained regularly. Please be considerate and run generators and engines between 9 am and 9 pm only.

Private moorings are available to rent outside Vineyard Haven inner harbor. Contact V.H. Launch Service on channel 72 or Vineyard Haven Marina on channel 9.

Click here to enlarge view.


Please note the wide ferry channel designated on the charts. Anchorage is allowed outside the inner harbor, to the northeast of the fishing pier or outside the breakwater well away from any moorings.

Dinghy docks are available at Owen Park Town Dock or the Steamship Dinghy Dock, each on the north side of the pier. Dinghies may be beached north of the Owen Park pier, except on property marked private. The Steamship Dock is just feet away with taxi stands, pay phones, public restrooms and the information station.


The Town Dock at Owen Park is intended for temporary tie-ups only. The Harbor Master or one of his assistants will collect $3.00/hour for boats tied up at the dock between 10 am and 4 pm; $5.00/hour for boats over 25 feet. After 4 pm the charge is $1.00/foot. Overnight dockage is only accepted after privately run marinas are full. No charcoal grills, barbecues or other open fires may be used on the dock or aboard any boat tied up. No generating equipment units on a vessel may be used while the vessel is tied to the dock, or rafted to another boat tied to the dock.

Fuel is available at the Vineyard Haven Marina and the Tisbury Wharf Co. in Vineyard Haven Harbor and at Maciel Marine in Lagoon Pond (gasoline only). Water is available at the Town Dock in Owen Park. Boats may tie-up to the "T" at the end of the dock for up to 15 minutes with no charge (MLW 7 feet).

Vineyard Haven Marina on channel 9 have deep water slips and can accomodate vessels up to 200 feet in length with shore power and cable. On site fuel, showers, restrooms, laundry, car rental, private lounge, sandy beachfront, and restaurant complement the 24-hour concierge service.

A home with a harbor view!

No discharge

Vineyard Haven Harbor, also known as Tisbury, and connected ponds form a most fragile aquatic system. In spite of ever increasing use and misuse by man, the harbor remains an important spawning and feeding ground for several species of edible fish and bait, while the lagoon and Tashmoo pond provide an excellent locale for breeding and harvesting shellfish. All heads must be sealed in Tisbury waters. Free pump-out service is available to mariners in Vineyard Haven Harbor, Lagoon Pond and Lake Tashmoo. To hail the pump-out boat in the harbor or lagoon, call Vineyard Haven pump-out on channel 9 between 9 am and 5 pm, seven days a week.

Only "gray water" from showers and dishwater without food particles may be dumped within three miles of shore. Dumping is subject to fine and arrest (up to $25,000 for each violation). Dumpsters and recycling bins are provided at Owen Park and Lake Street for mariners' convenience.

A Few Cautions

Dinghy's sunning their bottoms.

Tisbury's waters are busy. Vineyard Haven Harbor traffic continues well into the night with Steamship Authority ferries making regular runs from Woods Hole and the Schamonchi coming from New Bedford. Fishing boats and fuel barges also regularly traverse these waters. So be careful, especially when maneuvering in your dinghies at night.

Speed is limited to 4 mph in Lake Tashmoo, the inner harbor and in the Lagoon Bridge area. The no wake zone includes all the area out to buoy #6, in the harbor, and all areas within 150 feet of moored or anchored boats, floats and swimming areas. Lake Tashmoo is headway speed only; most of Lagoon Pond is also headway speed only.

Lake Tashmoo

Shoaling commonly occurs in the channel leading into Lake Tashmoo, and in other areas of the Lake. Lagoon Pond is well marked, but shoals quickly in some places outside the channel. If you draw more than 5', you're taking a chance of grounding. The entrance is very tricky because of the shoaling right in front of it. Last year, you had to come up by the beach and make a sharp left. Who knows what it will be this year. Be especially watchful during times of low tide.

On Saturday nights there are fleets of novices who don't know how to anchor. On one night there were five big ones rafted up on two little lunch hooks. The wind shifted and you can guess what happened. They all started drifting down on us. People were yelling at them to break apart, but they didn't get it. Lucky for us they went right between us and another boat. They were lucky to only cause some minor damage and no injuries. Take heed.

In Tashmoo, the dinghy dock is at the Lake Street Landing. The landing has a ramp, pay phone and beach area for dinghies.


The inlet to Lake Tashmoo can be a great place for beginning flyfishers to try their stuff. This is a small inlet that often has plenty of small stripers (and some big ones, too!) working the bait along the rocks. Wading anglers can also fish the flats on the left as you look up into the pond. Take care to avoid the holes and dropoffs, but fish the edges of them. Concentrate on any areas where the tide sweeps over a flat into deeper water.The last three hours of incoming water just around daybreak is the best time to fish for the Bonito and Albacore, so study your tide chart carefully to determine when the best times will be.

Bonito arrive at the very end of July, and can be taken with a live mackerel, bucktail jig, or small metal lures by spin fishermen. Flyrodders should use small white deceivers or sand eel imitations. False Albacore arrive mid-September. Use a small bucktail jig or metal lures, or for a flyrod choose a small white deceiver to imitate the silversides which get thick here in the fall. Have a couple of white bunny flies in the box; bonito and albacores go nuts for these at times.

Related Links

  Tisbury (Vineyard Haven)
  Maciel Marine
  Tisbury Wharf
  Vineyard Medical Center
Vineyard Haven 508-693-0410
  Tourist Map of Vineyard Haven
  Click here to view a street map of Vineyard Haven (large file).


Mooring field crowded with lovely boats.

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