It may well be a quirk of the two Islands that the people who live there care so passionately about the names of their ferries. But they do, and following a vote by Steamship Authority governors on the Vineyard this week, the new freight ferry, which is yet to be built, will have a quarterboard made with the name Woods Hole. It marks the first time that a ferry will be named for a mainland place, and it’s a fine choice. Although there could possibly be some confusion among first-time passengers about where they are heading when the purser rattles out his spiel over the scratchy microphone as the outbound ferry gets under way. This is the Woods Hole. Next stop, Woods Hole. But come to think of it, those spiels are not so common on the utilitarian freight ferries used primarily to haul large trucks and overflow from the standby lines.
Beyond the matter of naming rights, a far more serious point was raised by Tisbury selectman Melinda Loberg who attended the meeting of the governors this week. Mrs. Loberg sounded a note of caution about the boat line building extra vehicle capacity into its new ferry and the future impact this could have at Five Corners, the most notoriously congested intersection on the Vineyard. The concerns are well founded and the Steamship Authority would do well to address them with a clear analysis of just how much added traffic this extra capacity will bring to Vineyard Haven, the Island’s only year-round port.
There are also continuing concerns among some in Tisbury about the decision by the Steamship Authority to not build the new freight ferry as a double-ender with two wheelhouses. The advantage of two wheelhouses is that the ferry does not need to turn around in the harbor. The town may in the end lose that argument given the added cost and other factors. And while it is true that the town adopted a policy some years back during construction of the Island Home requiring new ferries to be double enders, it is doubtful that the policy can be enforced since the boat line is a state agency, and wasteful for the town to spend legal money trying.
Better to get a conversation going with the Steamship Authority about shared concerns and responsibilities for mitigating traffic congestion in the harbor and on the roadways — whether it be Woods Hole or Vineyard Haven.