Comparing the Ferries

Nine months ago, the Steamship Authority ferry Island Home replaced the ferry Islander on the Woods Hole-Vineyard Haven route. Now that Vineyarders have had some time to ride the new vessel, how does she stack up against her venerable predecessor? In what ways does the vessel excel the Islander, and where does she lag behind?

Comfort: Island Home. True, the new vessel lacks those long Naugahyde benches that could accommodate the full stretch of a construction worker or tradesman catching up on sleep after a long day. On the Island Home, their boots stick out into the aisle. But not only are the booths on the new boat comfortable for sitting, there are a lot more of them, not to mention much more space in general.

Restrooms: Island Home. No comparison. How women in particular put up with the Islander’s dingy facilities in the vessel’s latter years is a continuing mystery. The Islander, however, did offer electric plugs to assist mid-trip grooming.

Water fountain: Islander. The Islander had one. The Island Home doesn’t.

Snack bar: Island Home. Much larger and more inviting than the Islander’s snack bar even before the mood lighting is thrown in. If the seas are calm, passengers could momentarily forget they’re on a boat. The boat line, in fact, dubs this snack bar a cafe. The 1950s ambiance of the Islander’s snack bar carried a certain retro charm, but not much.

Stability: Island Home. The Islander would roll with a vengeance, making for exciting rides whether the passengers wanted excitement or not. In contrast, the massive Island Home hardly rolls at all, making for trips easier on the stomach if less adventuresome.

Privacy: Island Home. The new ferry is cavernous enough, especially in the off season, to allow its passengers to really spread out. The Islander was an inherently communal vessel, which made running into old friends enjoyable but enduring obnoxious teenagers less so.

Weather deck: Islander. True, the Island Home is one deck higher than the Islander, offering more distant views. But the crew quarters divide the deck in half, channeling stack exhaust down the narrow sides and creating a strange feeling of being hemmed in. The Islander’s more open deck created a floating amphitheatre, the better to appreciate nature’s passing show.

Overall winner: Island Home. In ways the Islander never could match, the Island Home allows passengers to take the trip without feeling the trip. Despite the affectionate nostalgia that surrounded the departure of the Islander, most riders prefer the new boat.

Still, a water fountain would be nice.