The Steamship Authority board of governors is expected to declare the Islander surplus and put the vessel up for sale when it meets next week.
The general manager of the boat line, Wayne Lamson, said he would recommend the board invite potential buyers to submit sealed bids, with a view to disposing of the 57-year-old ferry within three or four months.
"The recommendation will be that we consider them, perhaps at the July meeting," he said.
If there were no acceptable bids, another option would be to salvage equipment from the Islander, for spares for the other SSA ferries.
In the meantime, the Islander would be moored at Thames Shipyard in New London, Conn., where a condition survey would be carried out, and an appraisal done of her market value.
"It would be a similar process to that which we have used to dispose of other surplus vessels, including the Flying Cloud," Mr. Lamson said.
"It will be an open process," he said. "Everyone will know who submits bids and have a chance to comment."
He said he could give no estimate of the sale price before the appraisal had taken place.
"She will still be available in the meantime, just in case something catastrophic happens which takes one of the other boats out of service for a long time," Mr. Lamson said.
But he said it was hard to foresee any circumstances which might require the Islander to go back into service. The boat line could deal with most emergencies by running extra freight boats, or using the extra space on the new Island Home ferry, which has replaced the Islander on the Vineyard run.
"There is reserve capacity on the Island Home," Mr. Lamson said. "There are the lift decks which can be brought into service."
"So unless it was the new boat which was the problem, it is very unlikely we would have to bring the Islander back," Mr. Lamson said.
Vineyard board member Marc Hanover of Oak Bluffs said he thought it most likely the old boat would be scrapped, but only after relics of historical significance had been saved.
"I have promised the Martha's Vineyard Historical Society they can have the wheelhouse and some other bits," Mr. Hanover said.
"The cost of keeping it, unfortunately, is prohibitive," he said. "I'm sure when the board meets on March 13 we will vote to scrap it or sell it.
"Personally, I now hope they scrap it. I don't want to read about it sinking at some mooring place, or being sold to Indonesia and going down with 300 people aboard, or something.
"I mean, it's 57 years old, for heaven's sake. It's tired."
One person hoping the SSA gets no bids is Barbara Plesser of Oak Bluffs, who already has spoken to the chamber of commerce officials and various media outlets in an effort to garner community support to save the vessel and keep her on-Island as what she called a "multi-purpose recreational vehicle" or "fun-raising boat."
She envisions the establishment of a charitable fund to buy the Islander for her scrap value, and to moor her at Eastville Beach, where she could be used for community activities and rented out for weddings and other purposes.
She said she had been told by Authority sources that the Islander's value as scrap metal was between $750,000 and $1 million.
Ms. Plesser noted the SSA had a poor record of trying to sell used boats. The once-vaunted fast ferry Flying Cloud, for example, didn't attract any bids when put up for sale last year, and sits unwanted at the Authority's Fairhaven marine facility.
"What I'm hoping for," she said of the Islander, "is no sale."
She said that apart from talking to people about her plan, "I haven't in any way, shape or form got beyond the idea," but was glad to hear she probably had until July to get nostalgic Vineyarders to put their money where their hearts are.
The Authority board will meet at 9:30 am at the Candle House on Water street in Woods Hole.