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Island Home wows press contingent with her size and splendor
The Island Home charmed local media representatives and other guests Monday morning, showing off her bright spaciousness and well-considered amenities, which promise to make the Vineyard Haven to Woods Hole crossing a pleasant adventure. Steamship officials greeted about two-dozen media day visitors
Outside decks offer 422 seats. Photos by Susan Safford
Senior captain Ed Jackson, project manager for the Island Home who had overseen her building from start to finish smiled broadly and accepted congratulations. Wayne Lamson, SSA general manger, recalled the long process that began more than 10 years ago with planning for a new ship. He listed statistics showing the ship's superiority to her predecessor in many areas, stressing her speed, safety, and passenger conveniences. Carl Walker, director of engineering and maintenance, delivered an informative power point presentation about construction of the boat at VT Halter Marine shipyard in Moss Point, Mississippi, which was flooded by Hurricane Katrina, pushing completion of Island Home back nine months. The audience gasped while watching a video of the vessel splashing into the water at her July 21, 2006 launch. Everyone from the new ferry's captain, Sean O'Connor, to Gina Barboza, manager of reservations and community relations, exuded confidence and heady excitement.
Interior seating for 625 passengers is comfortable and varied.
"There would be no problem making the trip in under 30 minutes if you needed to," Mr. Lamson said.
Double-ended Island Home has one propeller forward and another aft, along with thrusters at each end. An anchor may be deployed from the bow, or Woods Hole end.
Comforts and amenities
Captain Ed Jackson, Island Home project manager.
Spaces everywhere are generous, ceilings high, with interior decoration by Directions in Design, a St. Louis company. A quiet cell-phone-free area includes a study space - two long writing counters with straight-backed chairs and desk lamps, - "for Falmouth Academy students," said Capt. O'Connor.
The food service area is all gleaming metal, and welcoming. And although the menu produced by Boston Culinary Group will be exactly the same as on the other ferries, the setting may make it taste a bit more like gourmet fare. Island Home diners may choose high stools at small round tables or benches at long tables. Still, some will miss morning coffee and conversation at those odd, round stand-up tables in the center of the Islander lunch room.
Captain Sean O'Connor.
Comfort and safety features range from new evacuation equipment, ubiquitous life preservers and airplane-style slides leading to linked life rafts, which Mr. Lamson said would make it possible to empty the ship filled with 1,200 passengers in 30 minutes, to two elevators making the ship fully accessible to the wheelchair bound and those unable to climb stairs. In case the breezes off the water are not cooling enough, the entire ship will be air-conditioned in summer, and there is wireless computer access throughout.
Captain O'Connor led one group on a tour of the ship from bottom to top, including a look at areas usually off-limits to non-employees - the crew's quarters with spare bunk rooms, the roaring engine room with its massive motors, the control areas, past tanks for fuel and water. The captain said that although the ship carries a payload 50 percent more than the Islander she is very efficient, burning only a little more fuel.
Each of two hydraulic lift decks (one seen at left) will accommodate eight vehicles above the freight deck.
On the freight deck, the captain demonstrated the powerful doors that slide open nearly noiselessly, and close so tightly that sea water does not splash in during rough weather. One lift deck was stowed aloft, the other deployed with one end tilted down at a gentle angle. Drivers will drive up onto the decks and be able to walk out of their vehicles and directly into the passenger deck seating area.
The gleaming new food service area is ready for hungry passengers.
Mr. Lamson said that despite the big vessel's larger capacity and greater speed, there is no plan to reduce the number of scheduled trips. However, since Island Home will be berthed overnight in Woods Hole, unlike Islander, which spends nights in Vineyard Haven, beginning with the March 28 spring schedule change, she will make a new early morning trip at 6 am, and be ready for the regular 7 am trip from the Vineyard. However, a late night 10:45 pm weekend crossing, which has been the mainstay of many a late-arriving, homeward bound Vineyarder, will be eliminated, he said.