Frequently Asked Questions

Reservations, Rates and Booking Information

  • The fastest way to book a stay is to fill out the Booking Form.
  • Rates for the Entire House are based on an occupancy of 16 or less. There is small per person per night surcharge for persons over 16.
  • Wings are priced based on 8 people.
  • Guests are encouraged to #bookdirect with us. The use of third parties such as Realtors, Travel Agents, Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway result in added fees.
  • The typical stay is one week. Long weekends in the off season are around 3/4 of the weekly rate. Wedding parties in spring and fall will often take the property from Wednesday until Tuesday the following week.
  • The security deposit is taken by placing a hold on a credit card. We also apply damage insurance to each rental.
  • Special events and wedding parties are subject to a higher deposit. – more info.
  • The estimated cleaning fee is includes all towels and linens. All the beds are made on arrival.
  • Animals are permitted on a case by case basis. Here are some good reasons to leave your pet at home. Click Here.
  • All reservations made within 90 days of a lease start date are subject to a tenant application and reference checks.
  • Check-in is at 3 pm and check-out is at 10 am on a Sunday. Special times can be accommodated only with advance notice.
  • Check out our discussion of Affordability. We compare favorably with the local hotels.
  • Sharing the cost of the house among friends? Check out my suggestions.
  • Off-season Only – Here are our shared room rates.
  • All rates, terms, and availability are subject to change without notice. Your terms are confirmed only after a lease and payment have been received.


What are the minimum nights

We can always consider custom stays, it is part of what makes us different.
In the prime months of July and August, we normally require a seven-day stay and go Sunday to Sunday.
Guests can book fewer days but there is only a small reduction in price from the standard weekly rates.
Weekday nights are much less expensive than a weekend or holiday night.
For example, an entire week might be $10,000 and a four day stay $8,000.
In the shoulder months, we look for a four-day stay. Most weddings will come in on a Thursday and leave Monday.
A week-long rental with a Monday check out usually runs Tuesday through Monday for 6 nights.
Occasionally people will do Friday to Sunday but the rate they pay is still the four-day rate.

Is a wing of the house an entire house

This question came from an Airbnb inquiry
“Just wanted to clarify if the renting is really available to the whole house, or if it is only about part of the house.
I am asking because, although I clicked on “Entire House” to filter my search, in your house description there is a “west wing” mention.”
Good Question: Our house is pretty unique and does not have a specific category on Airbnb. Airbnb gives me only 3 choices:
  • Entire Home
  • Private Room
  • Shared Room

The closest choice to the reality is the Entire Home. A person renting a wing of the Captain Morse House will have the exclusive use of an Entire Home that happens to share a common wall with another Entire Home. Sometimes such an arrangement is called a townhouse. Here is the Merriam definition of a house.

I discussed this with Airbnb and they suggested the “Entire Home” category. Anyone on Airbnb searching for private accommodations that are more than just a room will want to see our house hence we list the wings as “Entire Home”.
The descriptions of the wings of the house are accurate in every detail.
Even though I am discussing Airbnb here you should remember that your best bet is always to #bookdirect
More information on the rental of wings is here:

Cancellation Policy and how to protect yourself

Our cancellation policy is outlined in the lease and is strict because our house is typically booked well in advance. It is very hard to book the house at the last minute.
I strongly encourage our guests to purchase travel insurance to protect not just the rent but your other travel purchases. We offer access to this travel insurance program on checkout.

You can choose from “cancel for any reason” (CFAR) or standard insurance that only covers you if there is a medical emergency.

Other options for you

If you need to cancel write us an email saying so. Once your booking is canceled we will work hard to fill any of your reservation’s dates and try to make our guests whole as best we can. If you booked with an OTA like Airbnb you need to contact them to cancel. They will not refund your booking fees. We cannot rent your reserved time until you are canceled.

Consult your lease for your specific cancellation terms. More information on cancellations and insurance is available on our blog.

All about our lease

We have hosted guests at the Captain Morse House since 1955 and have booked over 300 visits. We do 60% of our rentals directly with our guests and the rest through various other Realtors and OTAs (“online travel agencies” such as Airbnb and VRBO) We always use a lease to formalize the agreement between a guest and a host regarding the use of the house and what is expected from either party.
We use a lease adapted from the standard Martha’s  Vineyard lease written decades ago by island realtors. While some OTAs have their own agreements they do not own this property and the OTA is not staying in the house. It is preferable for both of the principle parties to have an agreement directly between them rather than rely on a third party.
If there are any questions regarding any portion of the lease please let me know. I am sure that I can answer your questions to your satisfaction.
Here is a link to a sample lease for you to review.


 Q: How many couples do you have double beds for?

A: Eight couples (16 people) can have double bed accommodations. There are two rooms on the first floor; A queen bed with en-suite bath and a front room with a very comfortable pull out queen bed. There are 4 rooms with double beds on the second floor. There are two rooms on the third floor; One with a Queen bed and one with a Full bed. We do not allow beds to be moved together. If you need more double beds we have the ability to add two more Full Size beds to the 3rd floor. We are just waiting for the right tenant to make this change. Ask and we will certainly give this consideration. Make this request well in advance of your arrival.

Q: Is the house appropriate for kids?

A: Yes.  My brother and I grew up in the house from the age of 1 and visited the house with our two boys from that age as well. We were all pretty active and energetic (boys) but we didn’t break things or draw on the walls. If your kids are generally described as wild animals and need constant supervision then this is probably not the house for you. You will find yourself being a guard rather than enjoying your stay. Perhaps bringing a caregiver might be the answer. The right frame of mind is to pretend that you are visiting Grandma and Grandpa. Other things to keep in mind: tall stairs that are not safe for all kids. Upper porches that are not to code and need to be kept secure with provided hooks. The house is on a busy corner and an ambitious unsupervised toddler could wander off the property. With all that said two generations of Johnson’s have survived and loved the house.

Q: Are the better rates available on other websites?

A: No – you are dealing directly with the owner and can negotiate terms that are the most favorable. There will also be no additional 3rd party fees or credit card charges.  We use Airbnb, VRBO, Home Away and other “middlemen” sites to bring business to us but their algorithms are very difficult to get to quote accurately. $1,500 is our default rate but this low rate applies only to off-season rentals. For example 3 days in April or November. Our lowest rates are $700 per night for a week during the offseason. In the summer there is only the weekly rate available. If you want to stay for three or four days you may want to extend your stay as those extra three or four days are practically free. More information here.

Q: What does the cleaning fee cover?

A: When you arrive the house is completely ready to go with all of the beds made and towels in the bathrooms. Due to the size of the house there will probably still be a cleaner working in the laundry to finish the sheets and towels. The estimated cleaning fee is to return the house back to the condition it was at the beginning of the lease. Additional mid-stay cleaning can be arranged directly with our cleaning service. This is typical of vacation rental homes. Any additional cleaning required will be deducted from your security deposit.

Q: How Much Parking is there?

A: You can park 3 to 4 cars at the house. We also have available parking for additional cars just down the street.  Our driveway is a single file lane becuase cars did not exist when the house was built in 1840. Only experienced drivers should park the car up the driveway. That said, you do not need cars on island and should leave as many on the mainland as you can. We have people who do not bring a car at all. Most everything is within walking distance and the Taxi service is excellent. The local taxi companies mostly use vans (11 to 14 passengers) so you can move all at once, say to a restaurant. The local police are strict on DUI so don’t take the chance. There is also Uber on the island and many are using this popular service. A discussion on parking at the house is in our house manual.

There is no overnight street parking and a limit of a few hours for daytime parking during the high season. If you have ever stayed in a walled city in Europe you will be familiar with the situation in Edgartown.
See my longer discussion on making your Vineyard vacation auto-hassle free here.

Q: Can I bring a pet or animal?

A: Not unless you have paid the pet fee which activates a clasue in the lease that gives you specific permission in writing. Animal information is here.

Q: Should I bring my own food

A: There are excellent markets on island and even some wonderful farms and specialty grocery and meat stores. It is not worth bringing your own produce unless you have sepcific needs. Even the liquor stores are pretty reasonable.

Q: Can I drink the water

A: Yes. The Town of Edgartown is supplied with water of the highest quality from five groundwater supplies ranging in a depth of 60 to 120 feet. They all withdraw from the Martha’s Vineyard Sole Source Aquifer. See their latest water reports here: https://www.edgartown-ma.us/departments/water

Q: What is an Honor Bar

A: We provide a fully stocked bar for you and ask only that you leave it better stocked (quality not quantity) than when you found it. This area can also be locked and made inaccessible upon request.

Q: What is the weather like?

A: Martha’s Vineyard is an island well off the coast of New England. The weather can change quickly from hot to cold. It is always a good idea to check the weather forecast before venturing out and to bring a wide variety of clothes to the island. Islanders where practical clothing and you will find few occasions to wear fancy clothes unless you are attending a special event or club.
Off season we recommend sweaters and slippers for inside use. You will need to wear more clothing inside than at home. A guide to the seasonal weather pattern is here.

Q: How are Security Deposits handled?

Nothing can cause more heartburn than security deposits. To make it easier for everyone we no longer use cash and now use a credit card hold. Your credit card is not charged. The bank simply reserves a portion of your “credit line”. This means that funds are available to us in the rare case that there is damage that it is not covered by the damage insurance. This is similar to what happens when you stay at a hotel or rent a car.

Credit card security deposits are controlled by the bank that issued you your credit card. They only last for about a week so you may see them automatically renewed from time to time. The hold will be released once the cleaners have reported to the owner and the owner has reported to us which is about a week after you leave. This has practically eliminated the need to hold cash as a security deposit.

If you think about it having 20 or more guests in your house means 20 people that you cannot control yet are responsible for. You know what you did but do you know what those friends or distant cousins did?
More Detailed Information is available here: 
Security Deposit Info

Q: Can I use an insurance program for my Security Deposit?

We automatically provide security deposit insurance for your stay that insures your security deposit. We still require a security deposit that is paid in advance. Special events and wedding parties are subject to a higher deposit. Detailed Information is available here:  Security Deposit Info

Q: How do I host an event at the house

A: Any event at the house that is less than 30 people total requires no notice or permission. Events over this amount can be held but you should let me know so you don’t inadvertently violate the terms of your lease which states the “Premises shall be used for living purposes only and shall not be used for large events, corporate functions, meetings, receptions, parties or any other similar event involving more than 25 people unless approved in writing by the LANDLORD.” We are foremost a vacation rental and then secondarily an event venue. In other words, you can rent the house and have an event. You can’t have an event unless you rent the house.

If you choose to hold an event the cost of the tent, floor, setup, tables, glassware are all your responsibility. You can choose whatever vendor you want.

The fees “allow” the setup. The fees are a way for us to control the use of the house and pay for the depreciation of the property from hosting an event. We have installed some infrastructure for tent anchoring without stakes and safe electrical service plus two kitchens to make the caterer’s job easier.

Complete information on events is here.

Q: How many people can I host at an event at the house

A: 200 would be the absolute max for a two hour cocktail party. 150 is a more comfortable number. Around 100 is comfortable for a seated dinner and has been mentioned as the perfect number. If you go over a hundred by a bit dinner can still work well with a buffet
We can provide pre-wedding planning services for you. Finding out what vendors are available for your date is the key.

Q: Which churches are walking distance to the house

A: There are several churches all within walking distance. By proximity they are:

  • St. Andrews – Episcopalian
  • St. Elizabeth – Catholic
  • Whaling Church – Flexible on denomination. Originally this was Methodist. Captain Morse helped build it
  • Federated Church – Unitarian so they are flexible on denomination.

Q: How do I do my own clambake at the house

A: As far as clambakes go the individual cost of the bake and bake master can be quite high and the fancier you try to make it the cost goes up.
An inexpensive way to do a clambake is simply order the lobsters steamed from Edgartown Seafood or Edgartown Meat Co.. They do this (or at least they did) at no charge so you pay just the cost per pound. You then use the large coolers (in my basement) to pick up the lobsters and deliver them to the back yard at the appointed time.
My parents used to do this with great success for groups of 15 or so and it can easily scale up to about 40 or so.
Add to the lobsters some steamed corn, large tossed salads, chowder and bread and you have a “bake” for around $25 a head.
Some beer and large format wine (Our Market delivers and takes away unopened liquor) and you are done.

Q: What if I do not need the entire house? Do we rent out rooms

A: We can divide the house into wings, each with their own entrances and kitchens. See this link.

Q: Is there a Vacation Tax on my rental

A: The State of Massachusetts and island towns impose a tax on all short term rentals less than 32 days. The tax will be added to the cost of your rental.

Q: How do the drains work

A: The Pease Bedroom on the 1st floor (bedroom #11) has a hidden floor drain. This allows for a zero curb entry for folks in wheelchairs. A squeegee is provided to remove any standing water. Some of the other drains have a pop-up style of drain. Push down to close, push again to open. Some have traditional plugs with chains. If you notice any slow draining drains please let us know. Typically this is just a build up of hair.

Q: What if the water is off

A: We have a system that senses broken pipes. If it has activated please let us know and we can reset it.

Q: What if the water is cold or electricity is off

A: Please let us know and we can reset it.