Islander may sail again, but in New York
The retirement and last voyage of the venerable Islander in March, after more 56 years of faithful Steamship Authority service between Woods Hole and Martha's Vineyard, was a poignant moment for many Vineyard residents and seasonal visitors. But the next chapter in the Islander's story is about to be written.
Vineyarders worried over the fate of the honorable double-ended ferry. For many, a last sail to the scrap yard, a very real possibility, was an unthinkable end. This spring the Steamship Authority (SSA) put the vessel up for sale for $750,000. Tuesday was the deadline for bids.
Yesterday, Wayne Lamson, SSA general manager, told The Times that the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC) bid $500,000 for the ferry.
The Islander approaches Vineyard Haven on one of her last trips. Photo by Ralph Stewart
On Tuesday, the SSA board members will be asked to vote to sell the vessel to the New York state agency responsible for managing a large portion of the historic island just south of Manhattan.
In the future, nostalgic Islanders on a visit to New York City and New Yorkers yearning for the Vineyard may have the opportunity to ride the Islander against the skyline of Manhattan.
Marc Hanover, SSA Vineyard member, said he was pleased to hear about the offer and to know that there may be a future for the ferry to serve a historic attraction. "I am thrilled that she may be able to continue to serve the general public, and people may still be able to sail in her," said Mr. Hanover in a telephone call Wednesday.
The Islander was replaced on the Vineyard run by the newly built $33 million Island Home. SSA officials said that after half a century the vessel was no longer capable of meeting the future needs of the boatline. Maintaining the vessel as a backup ferry was judged to be too costly.
Should the sale go through, it would mark something of a return gift. In March, 1998, the Steamship Authority placed its newest ferry, the Governor, into service on the Vineyard route. The uncovered double-ended freight carrier was envisioned as a workhorse with the capacity to carry more cars and trucks than any other SSA vessel at the time.
The Governor, a 44-year-old vessel at the time, had served ferry companies in California, Washington State, and most recently, New York harbor and was a gift to the SSA from the federal government, which was shedding her as surplus equipment.
If the Islander sale is completed, her new home is a 172-acre island slated for redevelopment in the heart of New York Harbor, 800 yards from lower Manhattan and 400 yards from Brooklyn.
Governors Island was one of the first settlements of the Dutch West India Company back in 1624 and became a strategic coastal fortification in the early 1800s for the new American military, according to information provided on a web site. The northern half of the Island, consisting of approximately 92 acres, is designated as both a National Historic Landmark District and a New York City Historic District.
The Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation is responsible for the planning, redevelopment, and ongoing operations for 150 acres of Governors Island. GIPEC has been charged with "creating great new civic spaces, enhanced with educational, historical, artistic and cultural, and other public-benefit uses, that benefit the island's rich history and harbor setting."