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 reserved credit card and also insurance.
  • 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 for the comfort and safety of all our tenants. You can read about just why we think your animal is better left at home 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 if it becomes available at the last minute. 
    I strongly encourage our guests to purchase travel insurance to protect not just your rental lease but your other travel purchases. We offer access to a good travel insurance program on checkout.
    Some insurance only covers you if there is a medical emergency. None will insure you for a foreseeable event.
    Some credit cards will include insurance as part of the annual fee. Here are some other insurance options.

If you do need to cancel we will work hard to fill any of your reservation’s dates and try to make our guests whole as best we can. 

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

 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.

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 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: We charge an upfront estimated cleaning fee of roughly $50 per person. Most people pay $800 for cleaning. 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 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 have a very narrow driveway since cars did not exist when the house was built in 1840. Only experienced drivers should park the car up the driveway. 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.

If you must bring extra cars you can park up at the Harbor View hotel where you may need to tip the staff for valet parking.

There is no overnight street parking and a limit of a few hours for daytime parking.
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 received 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. You may save some money but 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 bar for you and ask only that you leave it better stocked 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. A guide to the seasonal weather pattern is here.

Q: How are Security Deposits handled?

Nothing can cause more heartburn than security deposits. I have found that regardless of the cause of a charge for damage each tenant will have a very different reaction. For some it is no big deal, for some it is treated as a personal insult. Let me give you a little background in order to put your mind at ease.

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? Be assured that I have given this subject a lot of thought and strive to be as transparent and fair as I can. 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 cash 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 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 in half between the two kitchens. We do this when only the front rents. We can then rent the back out. Please inquire directly to us about this unique feature of the Captain Morse House. This is a rare once a summer situation.

Q: Is there a Vacation Tax on my rental

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