From the Oct. 31, 1969 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

The new three-car Chappaquiddick ferry boat, the On Time II, was launched on Sunday before a crowd of about 159 interested spectators. The launching was carried out by Lynn Murphy of Menemsha, who was recently celebrated or cited for launching another object into another pond.

Three years ago, when Jared Grant, the ferrymaster, set about building the boat in his back yard in Katama, the project seemed as unlikely as the New York Mets ever winning a World Series. But it was clear, even then, that a two-car ferry boat from which cars had to back off, would one day be inadequate for the traffic to Chappaquiddick.

This summer the demand for faster ferry service reached epic proportions with clamoring reporters and yammering gawkers; it was a summer in which it was not unknown for someone to get off the steamboat, hire a cab, be driven from Edgartown, ferried to Chappaquiddick, and taken to the Dike Bridge where he would gape a few moments then stuff some sand in a bottle and be returned to the steamboat and thence to the mainland.

Mr. Grant persevered and the project grew from a set of Coast Guard-approved plans to 20-odd tons of ferry boat, a 55-foot long and 17-foot wide vessel that sat proudly in a backyard on Hillman Road in Katama. It was a fine sight and a masterful achievement, but there was this problem of how to get it into the sea. Mr. Murphy was called into the case at this juncture. He is reputed to be able to get anything into or out of the water, size and weight being mere matters of adjustment.

The massive boat was jacked up into the air, and Mr. Murphy’s trailer was squeezed under it. When the boat was balanced nicely on the trailer, buttresses, struts, braces, angles and boards were nailed on, but only to the trailer, never to the boat, which finally rode as firmly and snugly as an apple cradled in a hand. Then the jacks were lowered and the boat gave one ponderous shrug, sending workmen scattering like shotgun pellets from under it, then settled into its cradle. Mr. Murphy half expected the tires to pop like squeezed grapes, but they proved equal to the weight and all was well.

The first lap of the trek to the sea was accomplished on Saturday afternoon, with the flashing blue lights of a police car leading the way. A motorist who was driving toward the mechanized behemoth pulled far off the road and sat there awed until it had lumbered by.

On Sunday morning there was brilliant fall weather as Mr. Murphy, Mr. Grant and a crowd of helpers hauled, pushed and wheedled the boat into place near the water at Atwood Circle in Katama. Mr. Murphy rigged up a straightforward, uncomplicated pulley system designed to pull the boat — trailer and all — into the water on one hand and prevent it from skidding off on its own on the other hand.

At the announced time of 11 o’clock (the On Time II had to be on time), Mr. Grant’s wife Dottie lashed out at the propeller cage with a bottle of champagne which shattered beautifully, christening Dottie, a few spectators, and most importantly, the boat. Instantly, the On Time II began to move smoothly off toward the water.

Then there was trouble. Someone had fastened the pulling cable with a shackle, which would not readily go around the drum of the winch. The boat halted in mid-launch, only half in the water. Spectators watched with some dismay as the 20-odd wheels of the trailer seemed to settle into the yielding sand.

Mr. Murphy — who is at his calmest when he appears to be flailing about maniacally on boat or truck — leaped into action. He cut off the motor of the truck which powered the winch, dashed back to see the source of trouble, raced back to the truck and found the engine was dead. At full speed, he tore over to a nearby jeep, rammed it up next to the truck and connected both batteries with cables, knocking over an air compressor-powered bull horn which caused wires to cross, short circuit and burn.

Oblivious to all but the launching, Mr. Murphy started the truck’s engine, reversed the action of the cable until the shackle could be removed and the cable tied instead, then started pulling the boat out into the water again. There was some breath-holding as the line went taut and the boat seemed to resist the pull, but then it moved steadily and safely into the water. Launched.

The audience applauded both the performance and the boat, and Mr. Murphy put out the small fire in the jeep and managed one medium-length blast of the horn to commemorate the occasion.

After some jockeying about in the water, to free the trailer from the boat, the On Time II was towed to the Town Wharf by the Althea M, skippered by Bob Morgan, the harbormaster of Edgartown, who remarked in passing to Mr. Murphy that he hoped Mr. Murphy didn’t think he had established any kind of precedent about launching harbormasters.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox