Thick ice suspended Chappy ferry service Friday night

Captain Peter Wells turned to Yankee ingenuity to open the vital harbor link.

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Drone video coverage by Cornelius Sullivan


The blast of subzero Siberian air that descended on New England last week temporarily put the On Time ferry, the only connection between Chappy and Edgartown, out of commission. According to ferry owner Peter Wells, service was suspended from approximately 7:30 pm Friday night until 8 am Saturday.

“There were eight people stranded on the Edgartown side, and one person on the Chappy side,” Mr. Wells said. “I told them there was nothing we could do. Apparently the people on the Edgartown side went to the Harbor View and had a great time.”
Mr. Wells said the plunging temperatures had frozen saltwater and freshwater together, creating ice that was unusually strong and sharp-edged. He added that the ice thickened rapidly because of the lack of wind, and the lack of current in the harbor due to the narrowing Norton Point breech.

“At seven on Saturday morning, it was clear the ice wasn’t going anywhere, so we put our new excavator on a ferry and started cutting out a channel,” he said.

Mr. Wells said the large, floating chunks of ice give him the most concern. “Some of them were bigger than a pool table and a foot thick, and they weren’t melting,” he said. “I started to recognize some of them coming in and out with the tide.”
Mr. Wells estimated it’s been about 20 years since he’s seen ice that thick in the harbor. “We’ve had it easy for a long time,” he said. “If it’s not this cold next winter I’ll be surprised, and I’m not easily surprised.”