Several people were injured and others suffered property losses when a high-speed ferry returning weekend tourists from Martha’s Vineyard to New York was disabled by a freak wave.
Passengers on the Seastreak evening service were sprayed with shards of glass when the wave detached a heavy metal box containing life jackets from the bow of the vessel and drove it into a front window.
The boat put into New London, Conn., where it was met by ambulances. Two passengers were treated for minor cuts and elected to continue the journey by another boat. One man required two stitches for a facial cut and later was driven to the city.
Several bicycles which had been stored on the bow also were damaged, and other passengers reported damage to electronic equipment, mainly cell phones, when seawater flooded in through the smashed front window.
Seastreak manager Mike Glasfeld said the boat was carrying just fewer than 300 passengers on the run, which left Oak Bluffs at 4 p.m.
Although the wind was blowing over 30 miles per hour at the time, he said the boat had following seas and winds.
“It was smooth running up to that wave and it was smooth after that wave. It was just one wave that created the mayhem,” he said.
The incident happened about three hours into the journey.
Mr. Glasfeld said the captain had seen a “rough patch” before the boat hit it, and had throttled back to about 50 per cent power. Still the wave smashed over the bow, carrying the metal life jacket container with it.
“When the window broke, it obviously caused some drama,” Mr. Glasfeld said.
“Thankfully, there were no serious injuries. We were also fortunate in that we were very close to New London, Connecticut, where there was a sister ship preparing for a trip back to New York.
“So we moved the people on to that boat and they went on without incident.
“There were three people injured. One had a cut leg and one a cut face, but they continued on to New York. One gentleman had a cut face and wanted a doctor to look at it. He got off in New London, was given two stitches and then checked out. We got him a car to New York and got him there about an hour and a half later.”
He said the Coast Guard has since checked the damage, before the boat traveled on to New York.
“Clearly for those aboard it felt pretty dramatic, but all in all we feel pretty fortunate,” he said.
One passenger, Chris Fohlin, raised on the Vineyard but now working as a Web designer in New York, said there were screams as the window exploded.
“One row of seats is directly below the front windows, backs facing the windows. There are then three rows of seats immediately facing the windows. All people in those four rows were hit with water and shards of glass,” he said in a posting on his personal Web site.
“People scurried toward the back of the boat as some rushed to help. Some passed me with cuts on their foreheads or arms from the shattered glass which covered the floor.
“My girlfriend and I, along with a few others, had our bicycles severely damaged in the accident as they were dislodged from where they were secured on the front deck. The Seastreak crew quickly assured us that anyone who had anything lost or damaged (bicycles, electronics, etc.) would properly be reimbursed,” he said.
“At least one man was escorted off the boat on a stretcher with apparent cuts as his clothes were bloodied.”
Mr. Fohlin said the crew had been “very attentive and helpful,” but questioned whether the trip should have been undertaken in such conditions. He noted that the Steamship Authority stopped its services out of Oak Bluffs shortly after Seastreak left.
While the SSA did stop running out of Oak Bluffs, it did not stop service.
Boat line general manger Wayne Lamson said yesterday services were instead diverted to Vineyard Haven.
“It just became too rough,” he said.
“The freight boat canceled earlier yesterday. In the early afternoon. Then the Martha’s Vineyard [passenger service] tried last night and was unsuccessful getting into Oak Bluffs and had to divert to unload.”
The rescheduling caused logistical and timetabling problems as vehicles had to be redirected to Vineyard Haven.
“It’s been a tricky situation, with all the trucks associated with the carnival [Agricultural Fair] and everything else,” Mr. Lamson said.