If you haven’t discovered it yet, there is a real crunch happening in and around the boating industry this summer.

Simply put, marina space, dinner reservations, and even boats are in short supply all along the New England Coast. Worse yet, many of our favorite restaurants have gone “take out only,” or closed down.

Back in May I discovered the problem when I went to book our traditional Island Tour to Cuttyhunk, Menemsha, and Oak Bluffs for late July. I was able to book Cuttyhunk for Saturday night, but both Menemsha and Oak Bluffs were sold out.

I called both Harbormaster’s and they told me the same thing – “We’ve never seen anything like this – all of our slips are sold out for every weekend this summer.”

I juggled our dates and ended up with a Saturday- Tuesday trip stoping in Vineyard Haven rather than Oak Bluffs on Sunday night and hitting Menemsha on Monday night.

NBB Sold Out!

We have a tradition of visiting Nantucket for a long weekend around Father’s Day so I immediately booked Thursday through Monday at The Nantucket Boat Basin.

I was declined, but only due the beam – which I have set at 17’ to avoid narrow slip assignments. I called Sarah (Operations Manager) and told her our beam was actually 15’11”. We chatted a while and I asked her about the boating crunch. She told me they’d never seen June bookings this high.

I then made dinner reservations for Thursday through Sunday night and noticed a lot of the prime time spots were already gone – this was May 19th.

I love the Nantucket Boat Basin – the staff is always great…

And I love Nantucket in June because the weather is just getting warm, everything is open, and the crowds aren’t crazy yet. That is until 2021!

For the first time in history, NBB sold out for Father’s Day weekend. Sadly, Doc Ruel – who originally turned me on to this great destination got shut out and had to settle for spending his weekend in Vineyard Haven.

No Boats for Sale

The reason the marinas are all sold out is because so many people have turned to boating as a result of the government’s pandemic shutdowns in the cities.

A quick check on the used boat selling clearinghouse yachtworld.com shows no used Back Coves on the market in the northeast, a very old 26 and 29 for sale in Maryland, and just three in Florida. Typically, there’d be pages of Back Cove resales.

I’m going to go on record saying that 2021 is probably the best year to sell your boat and 2022 will be the best year to buy one.

As we all know boating isn’t always “living the Jimmy Buffett lifestyle.” Operating a boat is very expensive, the weather is unpredictable, and if you planned to book a slip any weekend this summer – you could be out of luck.

Yes, I think the realities of our beloved lifestyle are going to lead to plenty of newbies dumping their boats next year.

The Politicians are Killing Our Restaurants

If you know me, you know I hold strong political opinions, but I seldom share them on My Buzzards Bay.

But this is a bipartisan rant – both our so-called republican governor (Baker) and our democrat president (Biden) have conspired to kill this summer’s restaurant business by making government unemployment benefits more attractive than working for many of the young people who typically fill summer restaurant jobs.

Here are a few examples…

Toccopuro in Oak Bluffs Closed
MV Chowder Company doing Take Out Only

On Menemsha, The Homeport Restaurant is closed due to lack of workers and Beach Road in Vineyard Haven is also doing take out only.

Truth be told, the excessive unemployment benefits aren’t the only reason for the labor shortage. Many summer restaurants rely on foreign workers who can’t enter the US due to government Covid restrictions and island housing is always a problem.

But here’s what a major restaurant owner on Oak Bluffs told the Martha’s Vineyard Times

“The simultaneous opening up of the state and continuance of the unemployment checks is a big part of what keeps people from coming back to work. “There’s some confusion there. I think the percentage of people who are collecting unemployment is affecting people doing ‘the right thing’ and coming back to work. You can’t have both,” said Abdelnour. He also thinks COVID may have negatively affected people’s work ethics because of the environment it created, such as work-from-home.” Doug Abdelnour, owner of Nancy’s Restaurant and Nomans in Oak Bluffs

I even see it here on the mainland – from a local restaurant in Marion…

A Silver Lining?

I am happy to say that there may be glimmer of hope coming out of this government induced mess. Most of the American workers lazing around on unemployment are in their early twenties, but there is an emerging group stepping up to take their place…

High School Kids To The Rescue!

Kids in their late teens can’t sit home and collect unemployment – they’re not eligible.

When we were at Coop deVille in June, we met an impressive young man named Emanuel…

He’s only sixteen, but he’s doing a great job as the sidewalk barker recruiting customers on the Oak Bluffs boardwalk. He’s planning on studying engineering and he’s working to save up and put himself through college.

Of course you may recall the story about Straight Wharf on Nantucket hiring 8th graders…

Based on interviews I had with the staff, I’m not sure this story was “on the up and up.”

But last weekend we had lunch at The Inn at Shipyard Park in Mattapoisett and couldn’t help but notice that the girls serving water to our table did indeed look like 8th graders.

It took a while for our real server to arrive and take our order, but I’m happy to report that our service was excellent thanks to Emma…

Emma was probably the second oldest server there. I asked her to recommend an IPA and she said “Sorry, I’m only 19…”

The interesting thing about both Emanuel and Emma was that they were extremely competent – something you don’t always find in restaurant workers.

Having started my own career picking apples at the age of 13, I know that great careers usually begin with a lousy job as a kid. I think a less-than-ideal first job motivates you to find a real career.

So maybe there’s a silver lining to the 2021 labor shortage. Maybe it’s the start of a new generation of hard working Americans.

One can only hope…