At last, the namesake ferry of Martha’s Vineyard and the newest addition to the Steamship Authority’s fleet has arrived.
The MV Martha’s Vineyard survived the rough trip up the coast from Florida and sailed magnificently into Vineyard waters this week.
At 2:30 on Monday afternoon, she arrived in Woods Hole. In front of a cheering crowd of SSA employees, Capt. Ed Jackson showed off the boat’s powerful new bow thrusters by performing a quick turnabout before pulling the vessel into the slip.
“It was a beautiful pirouette, said SSA spokesman Ray Martin.
On Monday, the Martha’s Vineyard will be open to the public from noon to 2 p.m. at the Woods Hole terminal.
But on Tuesday, the Martha’s Vineyard will receive her rightful welcome from Islanders, the people who will ride her most, and, after a time, know her idiosyncrasies as well as any steamboat captain.
All Islanders are invited to gather at the Vineyard Haven terminal dock on Tuesday morning to greet the Martha’s Vineyard. She is scheduled to leave Woods Hole at 10 a.m., pull in bow-first to the Tisbury terminal’s south slip at 10:45, and then be opened for tours at 11 o’clock. She will depart at 1 o’clock to return to Woods Hole.
The official ceremony will begin at noon, with Mrs. Alfred F. Ferro, the widow of the late longtime SSA governor, commissioning the boat. The tall ship Shenandoah will offer a cannon salute, the Martha’s VIneyard Regional High School band will play, and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy color guard will perform.
It will be a colorful ceremony for a colorful new boat.
While the Martha’s Vineyard has a hull identical to the Nantucket, this ferry boat is unlike any other in the fleet.
This $12 million, state-of-the-art passenger ferry has upright airplane-style seats with cloth upholstery. She has luggage racks overhead, with individual reading lights. She has a huge light-filled lunchroom, large bathrooms with diaper-changing stations, rubber floors, an expansive freight deck (no more climbing out the car window!), freight deck doors that open upwards, and distinctive black anchors hanging from her bow.
She even has purple curtains in the lunchroom.
The Martha’s Vineyard has a wheelhouse that one captain described as “enormous.” But she also has a profile that another captain said had the nice qualities of a small boat.
The vessel has an elevator and is completely handicapped accessible.
Gone are the light bulbs behind metal cages. The new light fixtures are something you might find in an office. Gone are the blue bucket seats found topside. Now you can sit outside on white benches that won’t collect water. Gone are the steel walls covered with lumpy layers of mint green paint. Now the walls are a bright sandy color, and they’re made of some kind of smooth plastic.
Some Islanders may think it all a bit fancy, but so far the vessel has been met with overwhelming enthusiasm.
“The shipyard says it’s the finest passenger vessel in North America,” said Barry O. Fuller, general manager for the Steamship Authority.
Vineyard governor Ronald H. Rappaport, who toured the boat on Wednesday, said, “I’m extremely impressed and please with the new boat. It obviously represents a tremendous amount of work. In particular, credit is due to E.B. Collins. His efforts show in the final product and he deserves our thanks, along with everyone else who worked on it.”
Mr. Rappaport added, “I think the boat will be very popular and well received.”
The Martha’s Vineyard hit some stormy weather on her way north from the shipyard in Jacksonville, Fla. Off Cape Hatteras last weekend, she hit wind, rain and high seas that left a large window broken on the mezzanine deck and crushed a bench on the upper deck.
“It was rough,” said Lefty Boswell, an able-bodied seaman who has worked for the Steamship Authority since 1968.
Mr. Boswell was having a cigarette and cup of coffee down in the galley of the Martha’s Vineyard.
Francisco Graca, the chef known as Sam who has worked for the SSA since 1954, said he liked the new vessel just fine.
“There’s plenty of room,” he said from behind the counter. “You can work without bumping into someone.”
Mr. Graca added, however, that he likes the freight boats better because of the smaller crew to feed.
Mr. Boswell said he is also accustomed to working aboard the freight boats.
“When we first came on, we couldn’t find our way around,” he said. “It’s real comfortable, though. I think it is for the passengers, too.”