In SSA deal, Shenandoah will move - a bit
The Tisbury selectmen voted Tuesday night to accept an agreement designed to forestall any action by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers that might have forced the Vineyard Haven schooners Shenandoah and Alabama to relocate outside the inner harbor.
The agreement is between the Steamship Authority (SSA) and Capt. Robert S. Douglas and his Coastwise Wharf Company, owner of the two schooners that have been familiar to Islanders and visitors for nearly four decades.
The compromise calls for Shenandoah's mooring radius to be shifted 50 feet away from the designated federal navigation channel in Tisbury Harbor that SSA ferries use entering and leaving their slips. The shift will be accomplished by moving the mooring 25 feet farther from the channel's southern edge and shortening the mooring chain by 25 feet.
Although the Steamship Authority had fretted from time to time about the proximity of the schooners' moorings to the channel the SSA vessels use, the issue came to a head in January 2007, following a series of cancellations that the SSA blamed on the schooners' location. For his part, Captain Douglas said that prevailing winds rarely cause the schooners' sterns to approach the channel boundary, and besides, the SSA vessels could shift to the north rather than the south slip on such intermittent occasions.
The SSA contended that when the wind blows hard from the southeast or south the sailing vessels swing on their moorings and extend their sterns toward the ferry channel. When that occurs, SSA captains have limited room to maneuver when approaching the Vineyard Haven terminal, Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, said.
Mr. Lamson sent a letter to the New England district office of the Army Corps of Engineers to ask about the status of the mooring permits issued to Captain Douglas, owner of Coastwise.
It was the first step toward invoking a special condition in the Corps' mooring permit, issued on March 2, 1999, that allowed the schooners to reach just outside the 280-foot wide federal navigational channel, but it also contained a special condition under which the SSA could request that the moorings be relocated.
Mr. Lamson, SSA general manager, Vineyard SSA member Marc Hanover, and Tisbury Port Council representative George Balco were present at the Tuesday selectmen's meeting, when Steven Sayers, SSA general counsel, presented an overview of an agreement that took years to construct.