As captain, I never drink and drive although I may occasionally have an adult beverage at lunch while cruising. My go drink is a Captains and Diet Coke in a tall beer glass with lime. The rum is watered down to safe levels and the caffeine provides a little pick me up. I suspect this may be why I have not visited Vineyard Haven since the 1980’s. You see, this charming port was always a dry town – not serving or selling any alcohol in it’s first 180 year history.

On July 15, 2005, they changed the law to allow beer and wine sales, but still no Captains and Diet! Still, Mrs. Horne heard that the shopping was excellent in Vineyard Haven and as we know “happy wife, happy life”, so we headed there in September of 2016 with out California guests Theone and Bruce.

Harbor Master Where Art Thou?

Okay, it was September, but barely a week after Labor Day. It was blue skies, high 70’s, and virtually no wind. You’d think the Harbor Master would be working this nearly full port; but no.

After pulling up to all the inviting piers looking for a friendly dockhand, we came up short. The pier with the picture of the little black dog was the most inviting, so we decided to turn our focus there.

According the lovely Black Dog Wharf website, they monitor channel 72, so I try to hail them there with no avail. I also tried calling them at 508-693-3854 — also no luck. Finally a young lady comes out on the pier and holds her hand up to her mouth like she’s talking on a VHF. Mrs. Horne shouts back “what channel?” and she holds up fingers making a 7 and a 2.

She did a great job helping us tie up and off we went to eat. That day, we ate at The Copper Wok (click HERE to read my review). Later in the fall, we returned and ate the original Black Dog Tavern.

As a former marketing executive, I have a certain level of appreciation for effective brand management. Clearly, The Black Dog has become a major international brand and while commend them for that, I must lament the loss of innocence they had back in the 90’s when they were just a tavern with a gift store.

For those of you who miss the “Old Dog”, or those simply looking for an authentic Martha’s Vineyard tavern, I’d hardily recommend the original (click HERE to read my review).

Tackling Bare Pilings

A word of warning — Black Dog Wharf is all old school bare pilings; no floating docks, not even bumpers on the piling faces. It is a fairly well protected harbor, but I can imagine some teeth mashing in a blow.

A few weeks ago, I emailed them at and asked if we could tie up there in the preseason. Impressively, they got back to me in less than a day:

Hi Dave,
Yes you’re welcome to come and tie up but we are not staffed.  If you have any questions please call – thank you,
Morgan Douglas
Manager – The Black Dog Tall Ships Co.

(c) 774.563.0185

Thursday was our first day trip on our new Back Cove 41 – Vigilant. Since it was May 4th, none of the usual summer spots were open yet, so we took up Morgan’s offer and made way the The Black Dog Wharf.

Anyway, it was an odd wind day, blowing out of the north, but only about 10 knots. Nevertheless, it was pushing is straight into the pier.

It was also our first landing of the season and like everyone else, we didn’t have our MOJO quite yet. Nevertheless after a few stumbles, we got ourselves tied up and fended off from the bare pilings.

The next day Mrs. Horne and I were walking our Westie Daisy and we started brainstorming what to do the next time we go. The biggest challenge is trying the bumper over the piling and getting the height just right to protect Vigilant’s beautiful gel-coat.

Unlike virtually every other fender scenario, bare pilings require the fender be attached to the piling, not the boat. This is very difficult to do while standing in your boat, so the first mate needs to hop on the pier, affix the fenders to the piling and then jump back in.

If you have small fenders who loops on both sides, it’s fairly straight forward, but both Tenacity and Vigilant have large fenders designed to hand from the railing just below the rub rail.

As we walked, we agreed that the next time, we’ll prepare the fenders for a quick tie up by making loops on the bottom so that they can be quickly tied off.

The next challenge holding the boat in position without hitting the pilings before the fenders are set. Vigilant has amply powered bow and stern thrusters, so avoiding banging the dock isn’t difficult, the problem is staying put and not drifting off.

We concluded that the best way to accomplish this would be to cleat a line around a piling near midship with 3-4 feet of play so I can hold the boat away from the pilings without drifting off.

So far, this is just a theory. I’ll update here once we actually try it!

By the way, if you’d like another opinion, here is a link to a Cruising World piece on this subject.

Reasonable Price

When it comes to Dock and Dine, there is no free lunch, well at least most of the time. That said, when the marina owns the restaurant, it can be close to free. The Chartroom at Kingman Marine is $10 plus tip. The Sail Loft at South Wharf in Padanaram is kind of free, but they typically send out 3 dockhands and unless, you have three $5 bills handy, it can be expensive.

The Black Dog Wharf does have a limited number of old school fixed pier slips, but they’re hardly a marina. I’m not sure what they charge overnight, but I the Dock and Dine fee was only $30, a good deal.

Vineyard Haven is probably the biggest town on Martha’s Vineyard. At least they seem to have the most serious stores. They have a decent Music Store and a great home and kitchen store LeRoux Kitchen. This all means it’s probably the most active town during the winter and shoulder seasons. This leads me to my final reason for loving Black Dog Wharf. During the off season, they have an honor system box. I’m not sure what the overnight rate was, but Dock and Dine is a mere $15.

What a deal…