It’s gotten to the point where we show up at the ferry terminal with one eye open, because we just can’t bear to look. Will there be an orange gate across the end of the ferry ramp? Will Steamship Authority employees be telling us the ferry is broken? Will we have a missed appointment? Be late for work? Have difficulty visiting family?
It’s got to end.
We can take the occasional cancellation for weather conditions, and anything with an engine is susceptible to periodic breakdowns. We get that. But what’s happening with the SSA ferries over the past two weeks is ridiculous and needs to end.
The most recent occurrence was Wednesday morning. People showing up for the 6 am ferry in Vineyard Haven were being told the Martha’s Vineyard, which just returned from being repaired — was again canceled because of “mechanical issues.”
That followed the latest snafu with the MV Woods Hole the night before, when an alarm code forced that vessel out of service.
It was clear to people turning the corner at the ferry terminal in Vineyard Haven that something was wrong. None of the walk-on customers were moving, and vehicles were in their lanes, idling.
“Don’t rush,” a woman called out while moving in the other direction. “It’s broken. Again.”
You’d think with this many breakdowns in recent weeks that the Steamship Authority and its employees would have the procedures down. You would be wrong.
Because the long line of people waiting for the Woods Hole snaked in front of the second slip at Vineyard Haven Harbor, SSA employees had to move customers out of the way to make room for an incoming freight ferry to unload its passengers. The line was cut in half, and the SSA employee had those people queue up next to a truck facing in the direction away from the slip where the freight boat was coming in.
Everyone in line could see what was coming — except the Steamship employee.
Sure enough, once the employees set up barriers for the line to queue up in, about 100 people who showed up after the people lined up near the truck were now ahead of those customers in line for a boat with a capacity of fewer than 175 people.
There was swearing. There was muttering. There was absolute frustration.
Would it be so hard for the Steamship Authority to have a plan in place when there’s a boat canceled? Maybe they could have numbered cards — similar to what you get at the Registry of Motor Vehicles or a supermarket deli — that secure your place in line. It seems like a simple solution that would eliminate the kind of hard feelings that were mounting even as customers, most of them regular commuters, stood in line trying to stay warm. Another dinner with family was about to be delayed, a committee meeting missed, and a connection to Boston blown.
“I’ve been taking most of these in stride,” said a woman in line. “Now I’ve had it.”
We do have to give SSA general manager Robert Davis some kudos. He came up with a pretty good solution when his two biggest vessels on the Woods Hole–to–Vineyard Haven route wound up on the shelf during the same three-day period. Bringing in the SeaStreak was a stroke of genius, and it was well-received by regular commuters, who enjoyed the ride across the Sound in less than half the time it typically takes. (Something to explore?)
Davis also did his best to get freight to the Island by adding trips late Friday and early Saturday morning, then bringing in the MV Gay Head from Nantucket on Sunday to provide some additional room for vehicles.
So it hasn’t been all bad. Just mostly. Get it together, SSA. Enough.