Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis has again received high marks from the boat line board of governors, in his third annual review since taking the top job in 2017.

After filling out a 17-page review form for the chief executive, board members briefly recapitulated their thoughts during a public meeting on Zoom Tuesday morning.

“I commend Bob for all his hard work,” said Falmouth governor Kathryn Wilson, who graded Mr. Davis between 85 per cent and 90 per cent on the various elements of his job in a year that unfolded unlike any other.

“Covid was not on our radar screen . . . He pivoted as necessary and continued with the essential services,” said Ms. Wilson, who gave Mr. Davis high marks for successfully navigating the application process for government relief.

Barnstable governor Robert Jones apologized repeatedly for lowering Mr. Davis’s grade to 90 per cent, because of the slow progress toward a final design for the Woods Hole terminal building.

“It should have been completed a year ago . . . I almost feel guilty in doing that, because I know he’s above that grade,” Mr. Jones said.

Vineyard governor James Malkin gave Mr. Davis 90 too, praising his control of costs and Covid-19 management and noting that not all of the items on the manager’s 2020 action list were able to be undertaken due to the pandemic.

Mr. Malkin also noted that with recent hires at the senior management level, Mr. Davis should be able to detach himself from some of the operational tasks that formerly took much of his time.

“With the new senior staff, Bob should be able to delegate more . . . giving himself more breathing room, and allowing staff to develop,” Mr. Malkin said.

“Bob has an extremely high work ethic and would benefit from being less involved in day-to-day operations,” he also said.

Nantucket governor Rob Ranney chimed in with high marks. “I think Bob is doing a great job in a highly challenging environment,” he said. “As good as he is, there is always room for improvement. My overall (grade) number is 95 per cent.”

New Bedford governor Maura Tierney was not present at Tuesday’s meeting, which ended with a executive session during which Mr. Davis’s compensation was among the topics to be discussed, along with civil legal action and collective bargaining matters.

Traffic Picture Improves

In other business Tuesday, governors heard that vehicle and truck traffic aboard the SSA was up in October over the year before, when a series of storms canceled numerous ferries. Net operating income for the month was $91,000, about $80,000 less than budgeted, Mr. Davis said.

November’s numbers will be finalized later this week, treasurer/comptroller Mark Rozum told the board, noting that the boat line has now done close to 87 per cent of last year’s business.

“A month ago, it was only 77 per cent,” he said.

To prevent a repeat of the website crash and slowdowns that stymied countless Vineyard customers during the opening of the 2020 online reservation season, the boat line has invested in a new mainframe computer that is twice as fast as the old one, Mr. Davis told the board.

The website vendor has also moved session information into the cloud, to improve performance, and added a virtual waiting room where customers can see how long it will be until their turn, he said.

“That way they don’t have to be refreshing [the page],” Mr. Davis said. “We’ll be doing it.”

Curt Van Riper, the boat line director of information technologies, said his department has been load-testing the system to make sure it is ready for online reservations to begin next month.

“The only opening that really gets affected is the Vineyard opening,” Mr. Van Riper said.

Woods Hole Change Orders Pile Up

Also Tuesday, governors heard an update on shoreside work in Woods Hole, where the $60 million terminal reconstruction project is entering its third winter.

Unforeseen obstructions beneath the sea bottom continue to pose financial uncertainties, SSA project manager Bill Cloutier and contract architect Lian Davis both said.

Depending on how many more obstacles turn up, future change orders for the project — which already has surpassed $50 million in construction costs — could range from as low as $100,000 to nearly $1.5 million, according to an estimate prepared by Lian Davis.

“About 50 per cent of the time, we’re able to drive piles and get them in place in one try,” Mr. Cloutier said. The rest of the piles encounter obstacles that require them to be relocated or reinforced, adding time and costs.

“We’ve known this was going to be a problem from the onset,” Mr. Cloutier said. “We knew that we were going to get change orders.”

Before beginning work, Lian Davis said, the architects engaged in a probing project to explore what might lie below the sea bed in the terminal slip areas.

“Based on the information, we did relocate monopiles when we could,” he said.

However, he added, “there have been times when the probing did not encounter obstructions, but the piles did . . . The probing program is not perfect, but was the best tool we had available.”

Oak Bluffs Terminal Is Done

There was better news on the Oak Bluffs terminal redecking project, which is scheduled for final inspection this week.

“We’re not going to have any change orders,” Mr. Cloutier said. “We may not put all the decking on, because we want to protect the terminal during storms [but] everything is all fastened underneath.”

Contractor Coastal Marine performed the work for $752,524, Mr. Cloutier said. The final SSA inspection is scheduled for Dec. 18 and the contractor is expected to pull out its equipment and depart Dec. 21 and Dec. 22.

Continuing its pandemic-year policy of extending licenses by one year, instead of entering multi-year agreements, governors voted quickly to extend the license contracts for the Island Queen and Hy-Line ferry services to Oak Bluffs and the Pied Piper/Sandpiper ferries to Edgartown.

“We can reassess the [license] program again next fall, probably in the October-November time frame,” SSA general counsel Terence Kenneally said.

The ferry Eagle is in the final stretch of its stay at Thames Shipyard in New London, Conn., where underwater work has been completed, SSA director of shoreside operations Mark Amundsen said.

The $1.9 million contract will overrun its due date by one week due to the delivery of a new anchor windlass, which is due to ship Wednesday from Mississippi, Mr. Amundsen said.

Thames Shipyard will also get an $808,000 contract to repair and update the freight ferry Governor, after the lowest bid from Senesco Marine in Rhode Island was deemed non-responsive due to the presence on Senesco’s staff of a former SSA employee who is within a one-year cooling-off period required by state law.

Mr. Amundsen did not name the staffer. Former longtime SSA director of engineering and maintenance Carl Walker, whose position was eliminated in January, is now Senesco’s repair yard marine superintendent, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The Governor will enter its shipyard availability period Feb. 9, ending April 5, Mr. Amundsen said.