The ferry Martha’s Vineyard was out of service and undergoing inspection Sunday after the vessel lost power off East Chop Saturday night and had to be towed back to harbor.

Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis said there were no injuries in the incident, which left more than 80 people waiting aboard the anchored vessel into the early hours of Sunday morning. The cause of the power loss remains under investigation.

Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis walks aboard Martha's Vineyard Sunday afternoon. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“For both engines to go at once is unusual,” Mr. Davis told the Gazette Sunday by phone from Vineyard Haven. A short time later Mr. Davis was seen boarding the Martha’s Vineyard before the vessel was towed out of the harbor by the tug boat Roy Boys. The ferry's anchor was still dangling into the water.

Mr. Davis said the Martha’s Vineyard lost power to the main engines about 15 minutes after the vessel left Vineyard Haven for the 8:30 p.m. trip to Woods Hole. An emergency generator maintained power to the ferry but was not able to generate propulsion, he said. The ferry dropped anchor to keep from drifting.

The boat was just off East Chop when the incident took place. There were 72 passengers, 11 crew members, three food service employees, and 12 cars aboard.

The emergency generator maintained power to the ferry but was not sufficient to keep heat on in the vessel, Mr. Davis told the Gazette. Passengers were required to put on life jackets as part of standard emergency procedure.

Ferry Martha's Vineyard was towed back to Vineyard Haven Harbor early Sunday morning. — Mark Alan Lovewell

The Coast Guard cutter Hammerhead and a response crew from station Woods Hole responded to the scene, as well as tugboats from Tucker Roy Marine Towing and Salvage in New Bedford and Tisbury Towing.

The first of three tugboats arrived at about 10 p.m., Mr. Davis said, but it took until 1 a.m. for the tugboat from New Bedford to arrive. After the crews maneuvered the Martha’s Vineyard into the right position the boat was towed back to Vineyard Haven, arriving shortly before 2 a.m.

Passengers disembarked without incident, according to the Steamship Authority, and the boat line arranged hotel lodging for passengers who needed a place to stay overnight

Mr. Davis said he came over to Vineyard Haven on the 6 a.m. ferry Sunday to talk with passengers as they came back to the ferry terminal to head off-Island. “From all accounts they were all saying that in light of the situation some things were going well. The crew was keeping them informed and things like that.”

On Sunday Steamship Authority personnel and engineering staff, as well as the vessel engineer, were going through the systems, Mr. Davis said. The main engines and the generator were operating and were being tested in Vineyard Haven, he said, and the crew would also perform maneuvers at the request of the Coast Guard.

The Martha’s Vineyard will later sail to Woods Hole, where it will be met by the Coast Guard and inspected again before the vessel is cleared for service.

Mr. Davis said the ferry would be out of service until at least early Sunday evening. The freight ferries Katama and Sankaty have been running in its place.

Three tugboats towed the Martha's Vineyard to port. — Timothy Johnson

Mr. Davis said the boat line apologizes to the passengers onboard, and he thanked the Coast Guard and tug companies for their assistance. Further information about the cause of the incident and when the vessel will return to service will be released as it is available, he said.

The 25-year-old ferry had recently returned to service after a $17.4-million, top to bottom refurbishment.

The incident Saturday night came on the heels of a series of ferry incidents for the Steamship Authority. The ferry Woods Hole briefly grounded and was out of service for several hours on Thursday, and went out of service again Friday and Saturday after an onboard operating error. The Woods Hole was cleared to return to service late Saturday, Mr. Davis said.