The early freight boat to Martha’s Vineyard is essential in the summer months, truckers and Islanders said Monday at a public hearing held by the Steamship Authority in Falmouth.

“I understand the plight of people along Woods Hole Road,” said Peter Goodale, who owns Goodale Construction in Oak Bluffs. “[But] the Steamship Authority was created to service the Vineyard and [Woods Hole] was the place that was chosen. There’s only so much capacity we have to work with. We do need every boat we’ve got.”

The comments came at a hearing about summer operating schedules for 2020, which include a 5:30 a.m. freight boat from Woods Hole. The meeting was required by law after 50 people signed a petition requesting public discussion of the schedules. About 60 people attended the hearing.

John Leite of JWL Transport in Oak Bluffs called the early freight “a necessary evil.” — Louisa Hufstader

Falmouth residents who signed the petition and spoke say their quality of life is damaged by the early-morning noise of freight trucks braking on Woods Hole Road as they head downhill to the first ferry of the day.

“I have to run air conditioners all night long to block the downshifting from the trucks to the early morning boat,” said Becky Conners of Woods Hole. Guests at her inn also complain about the truck noise, she said.

“The Vineyard derives almost all the benefit and Woods Hole receives almost all the hardship,” said Ben Smith, who said he has lived on Woods Hole Road in the past and expects he may do so again because “that’s where most of the affordable rentals are.”

But Martha’s Vineyard residents and regional truckers argued that the early morning boat is the best way to get needed supplies to the Island.

“We have a limited road system,” Tisbury selectman Jeff Kristal said. “It’s essential to have those boats come over early in the morning, so they can get through our narrow streets.”

The Steamship Authority was represented by governors Marc Hanover of Martha’s Vineyard, Kathryn Wilson of Falmouth and Robert Jones of Barnstable, with general manager Robert Davis, general counsel Terence Kenneally and former general counsel Stephen Sayers, who served as moderator.

Vineyard-based driver Stephen Araujo said they try to drive in quietly. — Louisa Hufstader

Governors Moira Tierney, of New Bedford, and Robert Ranney, of Nantucket, were unable to attend, Mr. Sayers said. SSA treasurer/comptroller Mark Rozum and recently-named director of shoreside operations Alison Fletcher were in the auditorium as well.

Apart from Mr. Sayers, the panel listened silently from the stage to the 21 people who had signed up at the door to speak. The boat line is also accepting written testimony, Mr. Sayers said, urging people to submit their comments as soon as possible so that they can be considered in time for the governors’ final decision on the 2020 schedule. The email address for written testimony is

“We are going to do our utmost best to consider all of the comments we have received today, and written comments,” Mr. Sayers said.

As Mr. Sayers called their names, truckers, business people and officials from both sides of the Sound took the microphone to explain—to both boat line management and Falmouth residents—why the early freight trip is essential during the summer months.

John Leite of JWL Transport in Oak Bluffs called the early freight “a necessary evil” and said dropping it would be “a real hardship for those who need and require services to the island of Martha’s Vineyard.”

Tisbury selectmen Jeff Kristal. — Louisa Hufstader

Falmouth resident Peter Francis, who delivers for a food service company, said “I would have a really hard time to continue to do my job servicing Martha’s Vineyard, the hospitals, the schools,” without the early freight boat.

“We try to come down into Woods Hole as easy as possible,” said Vineyard-based driver Stephen Araujo. “We’re not trying to cause a ruckus, we’re not trying to cause problems, we’re just trying to do a job … You’re messing with free trade.”

Mr. Araujo added that he hears truck traffic, too. “I live probably 100 yards from State Road in Vineyard Haven and I have trucks going by my house every day. It’s just part of the day.”

While the narrow topic of the hearing was the draft 2020 schedule, some Falmouth and Woods Hole residents sounded notes of longstanding discontent with the boat line and increasing concern about the growth in Vineyard-related traffic of all kinds.

“I can set my clock by it every day,” said Woods Hole resident Jonathan Goldman. “If you ram the 5:30 into Woods Hole again and there’s no concessions made, there’s no change of the impression the Steamship Authority is a bull in a china shop (that) has no regard for its community.”

Speaking late in the hearing, which lasted about 90 minutes, Susan Shepherd of Falmouth said “I’ve been coming to these meetings since the early 80s and it is déja vu all over again.

“We’re pushing more and more and more camels through the needle. It’s not working,” Ms. Shepherd told the panel.

Before the hearing began, Mr. Sayers gave a brief history of the 5:30 a.m. freight trip from Woods Hole. It began as a summer-only trip 2012, he said, but operated in the spring from 2013 to 2017 as well as in the fall from 2015 to 2017.

Since 2017, Mr. Sayers said, the 5:30 Vineyard-bound freight has run in summer only.

In 2018, he said, new policies were added aimed at minimizing traffic noise from freight: limiting the length of trucks to less than 40 feet, prohibiting early arrivals at the terminal and requesting that shippers not exceed the speed limits or 35 miles per hour, whichever is lower.

The 5:30 a.m. Vineyard-bound freight boat is on the proposed 2020 schedule for May 15 to Oct. 20, a season ending three days earlier than this year’s but otherwise “essentially the same,” Mr. Sayers said.

The board of governors will discuss the hearing testimony and the proposed 2020 schedules at its next regular meeting, Sept. 24 at the Nantucket Whaling Museum.