Notes On the 50th Derby (Part 5)

By Nelson Sigelman

The Derby Ends with a Collective Sleep Deficit
The fiftieth Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby closed with a ring of the weighmaster's bell. It had not been a particularly dramatic derby and the last day held few surprises. Bob Milne managed to find a striper over 40-inches that would eat a fly cast from a boat. Paul Schultz, who knows all the Wasque bluefish by name, hooked himself a winner. But there was no last minute blitz. All the drama was reserved for the awarding of the fiftieth derby's grand prize, a 20-foot center console Ocean Scout boat, 115 hp Yamaha engine, and trailer.

Eight fishermen had won the chance to pick a key and try to open a lock held up to a microphone. Each fisherman would have the opportunity to insert that key into the lock while everyone watching at the awards ceremony collectively held their breath. Some of the leaders awaited their turn with a stunned "I-can't-believe-I'm-up here" expression. A few looked around as the first key was tried like they were in line for a root canal. They were excited and happy, just nervous.

First, Chip Bergeron, a surrogate for an off-Island Mark Drinkwater, tried to see if the fishing luck that had brought him a fly rod shore grand slam award was transferable. It was not. Next, Mike Alwardt, who had caught the largest shore striper, did his best to open the lock. "Nope," he announced despite his best efforts. Eric Brown, a member of the Memorial wharf butterfish gang and long-time wharf rat, had caught the biggest shore false albacore on Tuesday of the last week. He tried his key.


Eric shyly raised his arms in celebration as a smile swept across his face. Lori Vanderlaske, the next in line, gave him a big hug. Christina Brown, Eric's mother, and Martha Tello, his aunt, were slightly more exuberant. "We've finally got a boat in the family," bubbled Martha. For his part, the 26-year-old Eric, a sous chef at the Harborview Hotel, said, "I've been shore fishing all my life. I guess I'll have to rethink where I'm going to fish."

All agreed that the grand prize had gone to a very nice Islander.