Trying to get people's thoughts on the new Island Home ferry during its maiden voyage Monday afternoon was kind of like asking a child what they thought of their new stepmom or stepdad the same day their parents got divorced.
In an acute case of "out with the old, in with the new," most passengers on the initial voyage of the Island Home were the same who had come over on the final trip of the Islander, the venerable and reliable ferry that has served the Vineyard for the past 57 years.
As passengers poured up the staircase of the $32.1 million, 255-foot, 6,000-horsepower Island Home, many stopped to look down on the Islander, docked in the adjacent slip, and the last of its passengers, who meandered on her upper decks, seemingly in no rush to disembark.
With the sentimentality for the Islander hanging in the air like ocean fog, it was hard to find anyone gushing about the new state-of-the-art ferry - at least on this day.
Even if the Island Home had made her first trip across the Vineyard sound in less than five minutes, and every passenger were to have received a lifetime supply of champagne and Beluga caviar, it was clear many people's loyalty will remain with the Islander for the time being.
Even after the Island Home left the dock and made her way to open waters, a group of well-wishers stood on the back deck to catch a last glimpse of the Islander before it faded both into the horizon, and their memories, forever. Some took pictures, some choked back tears and some quietly shook their heads.
Few seemed to care they were traveling on a larger and faster ferry that offers every imaginable amenity to passengers, including plush seating, air-conditioning, television sets and Wi-Fi connections - just to name a few
Islanders Wayne Iacono and Doug Seward were among the people who stood and watched the Islander as she faded into the horizon. Like many others, both said it was too early to offer an opinion on the new Island Home.
"I don't have anything against [the new boat]. It's just going to have to earn people's trust the same way the Islander did," Mr. Iacono said.
"[The Islander] never let you down," Mr. Seward said. "It was as reliable as any ferry could be. It will be a while before anyone can say that about the new boat."
Richard Limber was another longtime Islander withholding judgement on the Island Home for the time being. Mr. Limber has an interesting relationship with the Islander - he was the first scuba diver to examine her hull after the vessel struck submerged rocks in the Oak Bluffs wharf in March of 1980.
Even though he was a relative novice at the time (he had made only one previous ocean dive at the time), he was able to find several elliptical holes running over the ribs in the watertight bulkheads.
Speaking of the new ferry, he said, "I like it so far - I'll say that it's pleasant, and my dog seems to like all the space. I just haven't really formed a relationship with [the Island Home] yet. That sort of thing takes time."
If you were to strip away all the emotion and sentiment of the day, the Island Home clearly earned high marks by all objective standards during its first official voyage.
Sean O'Connor, the Island Home's senior captain, said the vessel completed the trip from Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven in 42 minutes, a good time considering the unfavorable currents and headwinds. He anticipated her first trip from the Vineyard back over to Falmouth would take about 30 minutes.
Captain O'Connor said that there were some minor problems with electronics, alarms and other systems during the first trip, but overall it was an impressive first run.
"The main engines were great, the steering was phenomenal," he said. "She handled like a dream, even in the wind. We couldn't have asked for a better trip."
Although many of the broken-hearted were hard-pressed to offer praise for the new boat, there were subtle hints they were already forming new relationships with the Islander's replacement.
One woman, who proudly declared she was one of the last to disembark the Islander, extolled the virtues of the Island Home's larger, cleaner and more sanitary bathrooms.
"I could actually see what I was doing in there," she said. "It was a pretty pleasant experience, and I can safely say I would never say that about the Islander."
Tony Teixeira, who along with his wife Connie and several of their friends traveled to Falmouth specifically to take the first trip of the Island Home, unabashedly praised the new boat, and said it will serve the Island well.
"I think she's beautiful, both inside and outside," he said. "I'm excited about having a new boat, I think we needed it."
Let the record reflect that Mr. Teixeira was the first paying customer to set foot on the Island Home.
"I guess I'm part of history," he quipped minutes later, as he waited in the line in front of the new state-of-the-art snack bar.
Joe Costa, a longtime Steamship Authority employee and manager of the Trade Winds airport, said he understood people's attachment to the Islander, but offered a pragmatic view of the new boat.
"It's a better ride for the passengers, and it's easier to load," Mr. Costa said. "I can remember when we had to deal with the old side-loaders, and that was no picnic. As time goes on, the boats get bigger and the boats get better."
Longtime Islander Lee Fierro said she also found time to say goodbye to the Islander while also saying hello to the Island Home.
"It's sad to see the Islander go, but this is also a day to celebrate," she said. "The [Island Home] is a big, generous boat that will serve the people of Martha's Vineyard well for many years."
Bernie Holzer, the longtime purser on the Islander, also advocated for celebration over lamentation.
"You can't deny it's a beautiful boat," Mr. Holzer said. "I can understand why people want to hold on to the Islander. That boat was part of their lives for over 50 years. But lets not overlook what we have here right in front of us."
Mr. Holzer noted that a lot of people complained about the Islander when she first came on line 57 years ago.
"They complained it wouldn't fit into the dock, they said it wasn't conventional," he said. "It took a while, but they finally grew to like her. And that probably will happen with [the Island Home]. In 50 years the same people who turned their noses up will be the same ones carrying on when they take her out of service."