Martha's Vineyard welcomes new SSA ferry Woods Hole

Islanders had an opportunity Monday to tour the new passenger and vehicle ferry before she begins scheduled service.

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At noon Monday, the Steamship Authority officially commissioned the MV Woods Hole in a formal ceremony attended by boatline, local, and state officials. Three hours later, amid far less formal fanfare, the Woods Hole sailed into Vineyard Haven Harbor, as a cannon on board the tall ship Shenandoah boomed, and welcomed Islanders aboard for their first up-close look at the new boat.

“Nice boat,” John Alley of West Tisbury said as he ambled off the freight deck. Mr. Alley, a Dukes County commissioner and former selectman, had attended the ceremonies in Woods Hole and made the crossing, which he described as smooth sailing on the breezy, warm day.

Tristan Israel, Tisbury selectman, also attended the ceremony in Woods Hole. “It was a very smooth ride over,” Mr. Israel said. “It was very quiet. It’s a very impressive boat. I hope our town sees a good share of it.”

On Monday, scores of Islanders walked around the passenger deck. The forward deck features large tables and benches perfect for a quick nap, as well as single seats. There is a galley, and more seats on the back passenger deck. The partially covered freight deck features five vehicle lanes and no interior obstructions to navigate around. High sides will help protect the deck from spray.

Matthew Stackpole, who has Nantucket and Vineyard roots and is the former director of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, described the new ferry as “versatile.”

“I think she’ll run in a lot of good seas,” said Denys Wortman of Vineyard Haven.

On Tuesday, the Woods Hole was scheduled to visit Nantucket. “I think Nantucketers will be impressed,” Rob Ranney, Nantucket SSA member said. “And they’re going to love the whistle.”

The single-ended ferry is expected to enter service on the Vineyard–Woods Hole route on Friday, June 17. She will service the Nantucket route in the fall and return to the Vineyard for the winter season.

Carl Walker, SSA director of engineering and maintenance, stood on an upper deck and watched as Islanders streamed aboard. Mr. Walker, who had shepherded the project from its inception to its arrival in port last week, said the Woods Hole would provide the boatline with flexibility on both routes. Trucks would no longer have to back on, as they now do with the Sankaty, which would make for quicker loading.

Another advantage is the increased passenger capacity. On Friday and Sunday when there is less truck traffic, that capacity will come in handy.

She is also quite seaworthy, Mr. Walker said, and unlike the Sankaty, she will be able to handle the same conditions as the larger ferries. “I think it’s a great boat,” he said.

MV Woods Hole is a 235-foot-long passenger and vehicle ferry, and will serve both the Woods Hole–Martha’s Vineyard 45-minute route and the Hyannis–Nantucket two-hours-fifteen-minutes route, the SSA said in a press release. With a beam of 64 feet and a maximum draft of 10.5 feet, this ferry has the capacity to carry 384 persons on board, including crew, and the freight deck can accommodate 10 100,000-pound semi-trailers or a mix of trucks and cars. She is powered by two MTU 16V4000 M64 series, EPA Tier 3 diesel engines.

This vessel possesses the latest in passenger comfort and amenities, including Wi-Fi access, and is equipped with state-of-the-art radar, communications and navigation systems, multiple electrical outlets, cushioned chairs, bench seating, tables, a full-service snack bar and restrooms. The vessel also includes an elevator from the freight deck to the passenger deck for those in wheelchairs or who need extra help, two rescue boats, a Marine Evacuation Slide and Liferaft System with a capacity of 100 percent of persons on board, and emergency equipment exceeding United States Coast Guard requirements. Passenger areas throughout the vessel are adorned with historic prints and panels provided by the Woods Hole Historical Museum.

Built by Conrad Shipyard, LLC, in Morgan City, La., and designed by the Elliott Bay Design Group of Seattle, Wash., the vessel is expected to begin serving the Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard route at the start of the summer schedule, June 17, 2016.