SSA continues to wrestle with Woods Hole ferry design fix

Proposed fall 2017 freight schedules feature delayed Woods Hole departures and efforts to modify traffic impacts.

Ferries are being cancelled because of dense fog and wind. - File photo

The Steamship Authority (SSA) members met Tuesday in Hyannis and heard the latest option for correcting a design flaw in the new $41 million freight boat Woods Hole. SSA management has been working with the boat designers and builders to find a fix to a bow wake that rises up in front of the boat, particularly at higher speeds and in shallower waters.

Last month, meeting in Oak Bluffs, SSA general manager Wayne Lamson said captains had “been experimenting with different ballasting weights, particularly when the vessel is lightly loaded, that appear to have addressed the problem for the short term.”

On Tuesday, according to a meeting synopsis provided by management, Mr. Lamson reported that the Woods Hole “is operating pretty much as expected and that the biggest issue continues to be the bow wave that is created when the vessel travels at 14 knots in shallow water (a depth of ten feet or less below the keel).”

Mr. Lamson said the problem is not affecting boatline operations, and the contract with Elliott Bay Design Group “was for a vessel that could travel at 16 knots fully loaded.”

Mr. Lamson reported that earlier this month, Elliott Bay ran some computer models with slightly changed hull forms — without the bulbous bow and/or the spray rails. “The initial modeling indicates that we would not see a huge benefit by changing either the shape or the size of the bulbous bow, but the model simulations got progressively better with the more the spray rails were cut back all the way to nine feet,” he reported.  

Tuesday night, SSA maintenance employees were scheduled to complete the modification.

In other business Tuesday, the board approved management’s proposed 2017 winter operating schedules for the period from Jan. 4 through March 16, 2017. The schedules are substantially the same as this past winter.

The Woods Hole will be the freight boat on the Nantucket route during the winter schedule through Feb. 20, 2017 while the Eagle is in repair, and will then be the freight boat on the Martha’s Vineyard route for the remainder of the winter schedule while the Island Home is in repair.

The members also reviewed a preliminary version of the proposed 2017 early summer, summer, late summer, and fall operating schedules. The most significant changes would affect freight trips on the Vineyard route, particularly in the fall when the first trip will be moved up from 5:30 am to 6:15 am in deference to noise complaints from Woods Hole residents.

The SSA is proposing to start the early summer, summer, and late summer schedules two days earlier than this year and to end the late summer schedule four days later, which will also result in the fall operating schedule starting four days later.  “If approved, the proposed schedules will basically provide the same level of service as we are providing during these same periods this year,” Mr. Lamson said.

The SSA is proposing the following changes in vessel assignments:

During the 2017 summer schedule (June 15th through Sept. 6th) on the Martha’s Vineyard route, the SSA is proposing to operate one freight boat — the Governor — and three large passenger/vehicle ferries: the Island Home, the Martha’s Vineyard, and the Nantucket, which will replace the Woods Hole. The Woods Hole will in turn replace the Nantucket on the Nantucket route.

“While the Woods Hole does not have as much passenger capacity as the Nantucket, we think the Nantucket route will benefit by its ability to carry more trucks in the center lanes of its freight deck,” management said.

During the late 2017 summer schedule (Sept. 7th through Oct. 15th), the SSA is proposing to keep the Woods Hole on the Nantucket route with the Eagle and the Gay Head, and assign the Island Home and the Nantucket on the Martha’s Vineyard route with the Governor and the Sankaty, as the Martha’s Vineyard will be leaving at the beginning of this schedule for its mid-life refurbishment.

During the early summer, summer, and late summer schedules, the SSA is proposing to continue operating the 5:30 am freight trip from Woods Hole with the Governor, as it is a drive-through vessel that minimizes the need for trucks to use their back-up alarms. However, during the proposed fall schedule, when the Sankaty will be the freight boat on the Martha’s Vineyard route, the first freight trip from Woods Hole will be at 6:15 am.

During all of the schedules (beginning May 16th), the SSA is proposing to adjust the times of some of the freight boat departures on the Martha’s Vineyard route during the day so that, instead of arriving and departing 15 minutes after the larger passenger/vehicle ferries, they will arrive and depart 20 minutes later, a difference of five minutes. This will provide more of a break in traffic between the vehicles that are unloaded from the larger ferries and the vehicles that are then unloaded from the freight boats.