The great National Football League Coach Bill Parcells, who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants and added instant credibility to the New England Patriots, once said, “You are what your record says you are.”
Well, if what Parcells says is true, the Steamship Authority is abysmal because its record is abysmal.
Through the end of April, 549 crossings between Vineyard Haven and Woods Hole were canceled due to mechanical breakdowns. To put that in perspective, only 26 trips had to be scrapped due to breakdowns in all of 2017.
To put it in football terms, the SSA right now is the Cleveland Browns of ferry service.
Even though it’s had plenty of experience with breakdowns and canceling crossings thus far in 2018, the SSA doesn’t seem to have learned from its experiences.
During Saturday’s breakdown of the MV Martha’s Vineyard, the Steamship Authority once again was slow to let customers know what was going on — their alerts came well after The Times had reported the breakdown, and we had details beyond what SSA was sharing with its customers. Once again, the SSA seemed ill-prepared to deal with the emergency it faced.
In Woods Hole, it had the MV Katama in the only other slip available as construction continues on a new terminal and slips there. The Katama had been down since Monday, April 30, and the SSA was playing with fire by leaving the freight boat in a precious slip while it attempted to fix an issue with the vessel’s generator.
Well, when you play with fire, there’s a good chance you’ll get burned.
And, once again, the SSA’s customers looking to make connecting bus schedules, attempting to get to appointments on or off the Island, or just looking to get home, were left stranded and frustrated.
At least with all of the problems in March, general manager Robert Davis would issue statements apologizing for the inconvenience. The alerts over the weekend didn’t even come with that courtesy.
Marc Hanover, the Island’s representative to the SSA’s board, appears to be the only one taking this complete breakdown seriously.
Hanover is justifiably upset with what’s happening to the Island’s lifeline. On Monday, after Saturday’s latest ferry fiasco, Hanover called for an emergency meeting of the SSA board. Unfortunately, the rest of the board has its head firmly implanted in the sand built up by the propulsion of SSA propellers near Vineyard Haven slip. (But that’s a story for another day. The SSA has other problems, far more pressing, to fix.)
So the board’s meeting stands at 9:30 am Tuesday, May 15, on Nantucket — NANTUCKET. The place is nearly impossible to get to from Martha’s Vineyard in the offseason. There are limited flights between MVY and ACK. And to take a ferry, you have to go to Vineyard Haven, take a ferry to Woods Hole, take a bus, taxi, or Uber to Hyannis, then get on another ferry to Nantucket.
The Hy-Line, which does offer service between the two Islands, doesn’t begin to do that until Memorial Day weekend, which is understable. You can get from Oak Bluffs to Hyannis and then to Nantucket, but not in time for the meeting. (By the way, the Hy-Line had a brief blip of its own this week and — hold your breath now — went to Twitter to let its customers know in real time. The Steamship Authority has a Twitter account, but its next tweet will be its first.)
So there won’t be a lot of voices from Martha’s Vineyard residents at that Nantucket meeting.
We’ll count on Hanover to bring the voices of the Vineyard to Nantucket.
Will you listen, Robert Ranney?
Ranney, the board’s chairman, appeared indignant at times at the complaints of Vineyarders. He said during April’s board meeting that Nantucket sometimes goes three days without ferry service because of cancellations due to weather conditions. Well, we certainly understand that. We have weather cancellations, too.
But this is different. These are mechanical breakdowns, on one boat that is brand-new and another where more than $18 million was spent to “upgrade” the ferry.
We’ve given up on Gov. Charlie Baker, whose press spokesman keeps referring to the governor having no appointing authority for the quasi state agency. The monopoly that the SSA has over Vineyard and Nantucket traffic was created by state legislation. Of course, state leaders can influence what’s happening with thousands of their residents and constituents. But you have to get up off the bench and get in the game.
FIVE HUNDRED FORTY NINE. A 2,012 percent increase in just four months over the previous year, and that’s if there weren’t another single mechanical issue, which there already has been.
Let that sink in. Then do something about it.
Because the only way to improve a record is to improve your performance. Just ask Coach Parcells.