Groundhog Day came early for Steamship Authority customers seeking summer reservations for their automobiles.

The boat line’s website crashed as soon as seasonal reservations became available online, at 5 a.m. Tuesday.

By mid-afternoon the site was back up, after a harrowing day for customers and SSA managers alike.

“I apologize to all our customers for the inconvenience this has caused,” said general manager Robert Davis, speaking to the board of governors at their monthly meeting Tuesday and promising a full accounting of what went wrong.

Customers who set their alarms for the early-bird start were frustrated by the failure, which mirrors a crash at the beginning of the 2018 season.

Well past noon, visitors to the site were still being greeted with a bright blue message reading "Sorry About That" and a red-lettered announcement that “we have run into an error we weren’t able to recover from.”

In 2019 and again this year, the boat line staggered its Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard opening dates in order to manage website traffic and keep the site from crashing.

Nantucket’s opening earlier this month went smoothly, Mr. Davis said, but Vineyard travelers account for three to four times the volume of website traffic from the smaller island.

“Despite the extensive preparation and load testing that had occurred prior to the opening date, this (crash) has occurred, preventing our customers from making reservations for travel,” Mr. Davis told the boat line board Tuesday morning.

The website developer, the SSA’s information technology staff and representatives from its software and server vendors have all been working to resolve the crash, Mr. Davis said.

“This is obviously an unacceptable result on our biggest reservation day of the year,” he told the board.