This is pretty much as close as we will get to the dead of winter here on Chappy. Aside from the burst of activity at morning and evening rush hour, traffic is light at the ferry. Perhaps this is a good time to take a moment to reflect upon the integral role that the Chappy ferry plays in life on Chappaquiddick. I know that it can be a love/hate relationship. As the ferry itself serves to create the solitude and separation from the rest of the world that we value on Chappy, it is also a source of frustration.
During the period of time that the On Time III was out of service for inspection and maintenance, many experienced more than the usual degree of disappointment with vehicles cutting the ferry line. I know how it feels. After waiting in line during which seconds already seem like minutes, you finally see that you will be on the next boat when up rolls a truck in the cut line and takes your spot on that trip. Now the minutes really drag on as you calculate how late you are going to be for your appointment or if you’ll miss the big ferry. I’m familiar with this situation. I wait in the same line as you do. In order to reduce the confusion surrounding cutting, I have printed a clarification of the use of the cut line and handed it out to those who use it. It is a reiteration of the established functioning of the cut line already in place when I assumed operation of the ferry.
Here is the text of the handout: “Vehicles in the cut line are loaded as follows: Vehicles in the cut line will always see the ferry depart at least once before loading, unless there are no cars in the waiting line or a cut vehicle is the only vehicle on hand that will fit. Vehicles are taken from the cut line every other trip. There may be instances in which cut vehicles miss two trips. Only one cut vehicle per trip, unless another cut vehicle is the only vehicle on hand that will fit. There is no cutting in the cut line. First come, first served. From the Edgartown side the following vehicles cut: school bus, U.S. mail, FedEx, UPS, VNA, highway, Verizon, NStar, concrete trucks, trash trucks, fuel trucks. From the Chappy side the following vehicles cut: school bus, U.S. mail, FedEx, UPS, VNA, highway, Verizon, NStar, concrete trucks going back for more concrete. Emergencies, fire, police and ambulance loaded immediately.”
Nearly all of the cut line users have received a copy and know that we are going to be sticklers in the proper functioning of the cut line in the future. A vehicle that ordinarily uses the cut line is always free to pull into the regular waiting line, for instance when there is less than a boatload of vehicles waiting in line.
Please feel free to speak with me anytime that you see me at the ferry or anywhere for that matter. I always appreciate the opportunity to explain what’s happening or to address an issue. I invite everyone to share their concerns and suggestions. Harking back to the days of Debbie and Roy, I have copied their example and have planned an open forum at the Chappy Community Center for Saturday, Feb. 8 at 10 a.m. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend. If you can’t be there or don’t feel moved to speak, there are several options; Feel free to send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to P.O. Box 1917, Edgartown, MA 02539. My cell phone number is 508-627-1577. Leave a message if I can’t answer when you call. There may be a delay in my response if I am out of cell range or in a place too noisy to be able to hear. Additionally, I have mail ordered a pair of weather-proof suggestion boxes, which will be attached to the ferry house on the Edgartown side and to the waiting shed on the Chappy side when they arrive. The ferry service gets more complicated all of the time and I appreciate your constructive input and feedback.
I was fresh out of Maine Maritime Academy 40 years ago when Jerry Grant first hired me to drive the ferry. Looking back from this perspective, life certainly seemed more carefree then. Even during a summer day there were hours when the On Time II crew would be riding back and forth aboard the On Time III waiting for enough traffic to warrant the use of the extra ferry. Sometimes our idle hands got us into trouble. Way back then there was a tradition of throwing the new deckhands overboard. More often than not they were aware of what was in store for them and accepted their dunking as a badge of honor. However, one exception in particular stands out in my memory of a new deckhand on his first day.
During the midday lull while waiting idly in the Edgartown slip, we old timers thought that perhaps this was the appropriate time to heave the new guy overboard. He did not respond positively to the sudden attention we lavished upon him, and as our intentions became apparent, he employed the tactic of passive resistance and went completely limp. He stuck to the deck as if he was a magnet and the boat was iron. It was all we could do to hoist him up onto the seat and over the rail. However we persevered, not wanting to deprive him of this rite of passage. He remained limp even as he dropped headfirst overboard, bouncing off of the hard rubber bumper, then belly-flopping into the water alongside of the ferry with a great splash. He rose to the surface where he floated facedown motionless. We gasped in unison and instantly switched out of mischief mode and into rescue. We were standing elbow to elbow on the seat, armed with a boat hook, just about to snag our victim as he started to drift toward the Daggett House pier when we were startled by Jerry’s voice behind us. Having just gotten out of his car, he was standing at the fence overlooking the ferry slip with a quizzical expression.
“What’s going on?” he asked. We were speechless. We all knew that we were in big trouble and there really was no time for talking anyway. His brand new employee was floating apparently lifeless in the water alongside the ferry and all three of us were just about to leap overboard to save the life of this hapless young man whose welfare had so recently been entrusted to us. Fortunately at the moment that Jerry joined us in peering over the side, our faker rolled over onto his back grinning from ear to ear then began a leisurely sidestroke towards shore. He had successfully turned the tables on us and added a new aspect to an old tradition. Thankful that we had not murdered our newest shipmate, we hid our smiles of relief in anticipation of hearing that our careers at the Chappy ferry were over. With a slight frown of disapproval on his face, Jerry said simply, “I thought I told you guys to stop doing that.”