Woods Hole returns to service after propulsion system glitches

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The MV Woods Hole is having mechanical problems again, this time affecting Nantucket runs.

Updated July 11, 3 pm 

The MV Woods Hole, which these days is working the Hyannis–Nantucket run, returned to service Wednesday afternoon after being sidelined in Hyannis due to issues with its controllable-pitch propeller system.

“Steamship Authority personnel, working with onsite representatives from Prime Mover Controls and Hundested Propeller, determined the root cause of the pitch alarm for the starboard propeller on board the M/V Woods Hole was the feedback potentiometer, which is part of the propulsion control system that provides a signal to the control system of the propeller’s position,” Steamship Authority spokesman Sean Driscoll said in a release. “The potentiometer had an intermittent loss of signal, and was malfunctioning, so the device was replaced and the vessel’s controls were recalibrated and tested at the Hyannis dock before undergoing a sea trial loaded with trucks and vehicles on its trip to Nantucket. Following that trip, the system performed as expected, and the Coast Guard cleared the vessel for normal operation.”

The Steamship Authority expects the Woods Hole to make its three scheduled runs between the Cape and Nantucket Wednesday, albeit two hours behind schedule.

Problems arose when the starboard propeller pitch alarm went off Monday aboard the vessel, according to Driscoll.

“When the alarm occurred, engineering and maintenance staff replaced the actuator,” he wrote in an email. “When docking in Hyannis upon the completion of its last trip of the day on Monday, the MV Woods Hole had a recurrence of the pitch alarm for the starboard propeller.”

Divers inspected the Woods Hole shafts and propellers late in the evening Monday, and found nothing amiss, according to Driscoll.

“The Steamship Authority has canceled the remaining trips for the MV Woods Hole [Tuesday],” Driscoll wrote, “which include the noon departure from Hyannis and 2:45 pm return from Nantucket and the 5:30 pm departure from Hyannis and 8 pm return from Nantucket.”

The MV Sankaty and the MV Gay Head made additional trips Tuesday to compensate for the loss of ferry service.

“Technicians from Prime Mover Controls and Hundested Propeller are expected to arrive in Hyannis later today to assist in repair efforts,” Driscoll emailed Tuesday.

Reached by telephone in Denmark, Mogens Christensen, managing director of Hundested, said it was “news” to him Hundested techs were en route to the Woods Hole.

Built by Conrad Shipyard in 2016, the $46.6 million Woods Hole is the newest vessel in the Steamship Authority fleet, but has been beset by problems this year that forced numerous cancellations on the Martha’s Vineyard–Woods Hole runs.