Ferry AC fizzles during weekend heat wave

Lines and buses vex Steamship commuters and cause missed trips.

The Martha's Vineyard ferry was sidelined Sunday. -Rich Saltzberg

Passengers in a portion of the MV Martha’s Vineyard suffered without air conditioning over the weekend when a compressor went kaput — it’s the same ferry that recently underwent a more than $18 million refurbishment.

According to Lenore Correia, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Norton, Martha’s Vineyard Airport reached 86° Saturday with a real feel of 91°, and Sunday hit a high of 91°, with a real feel of 103°.

Steamship Authority spokesman Sean Driscoll said a portable air conditioner was brought aboard the ferry Monday, and will remain until repairs are finished.

“A control panel that operates the compressor servicing the 02 deck near the concessions area is not functional, and is in need of replacement,” Driscoll wrote. “Replacement parts have been sourced, and are expected to arrive Tuesday.”

Ferry commuters took to social media Monday to gripe about problems stemming from too few Steamship Authority staffers at the Woods Hole ticket counter.

“Here’s my rant for today …” Dick Fiscus posted on Facebook. “First commuting day of the month, you have to recharge your commuting card … But they only run buses from the Palmer lot down to the boat on a later schedule … And with only two ticket agents and a line out the door, there is no possible way to make the 8:15 … it almost seems like the Steamship Authority is purposely inconveniencing regular commuters.”

Fiscus later posted, “I know at least 13 people who need to catch the 8:15 were inconvenienced by the SSA new bus schedule … if we were tourists parking at [Thomas B. Landers], we would have made it in time to get tickets and the 8:15 … I call BS!”

“I was on the same bus and ferry with Dick,” Ellen Cooper posted on Facebook. “We got to Palmer planning for the 7:45 ride to WH, which would have given us ample time to recharge our passes. But new schedule? Bus leaves at 8 now? Then, only two cashiers on the first workday of the month! Needless to say, there was a line. The 8:15 left actually on time, but also left a handful of us commuters needing to go to OB instead. Planning for the first of the month ought to be a no-brainer! End rant.”

Melissa Walley Lewis posted on Facebook, “Family of 4, 4 cards, got off Palmer bus to boat. Dad’s card was out of trips. He had to miss boat because there wasn’t time to buy a ticket/recharge card. All the other cards had plenty of tickets, but they wouldn’t let him use a card twice. Rest of family went over. These cards are a terrible policy. Family lives up-Island so they had to get car from park and ride then drive over to [Oak Bluffs] to pick dad up. They didn’t complain, nor am I, but it’s just not right.”

There were no apologies from the Steamship Authority. Just an explanation.

“One of the three ticket sellers was redeployed to the Thomas B. Landers parking lot this morning to sell tickets to customers as they board the bus to Woods Hole, which is new to our operations this year and is being done to alleviate lines at the terminal building itself,” Driscoll wrote. “Lines this morning did not appear to be extraordinarily long, and the move to the RFID cards for monthly commuter passes has made the transaction of renewing them much quicker than in the past. Additionally, customers are able to renew their monthly passes online prior to the start of the month, and renew at the terminal up to a month in advance.”


  1. Please re-think the commuter card policy. Mechanical breakdowns are excusable, missing a boat because everybody in the family needs a card is not.

  2. steamship motto “we’re not happy until your not happy.”

    so when does the really expensive advisory team start ?

  3. oh well, nobody died– considering the disfunction, I expect someone will–
    but in the meantime , if the ac doesn’t work, go on the outside decks and enjoy the view, and the freshy air

  4. In case there was any doubt, let me remind you of the SSA’s own Mission Statement. “The Steamship Authority’s statutory mission is to serve as the “Lifeline to the Islands” for everyone from year-round residents, who depend on the ferries for all commerce and transportation to and from the mainland, to a significant seasonal population, to the tourists who visit for a day,
    a week or longer.” This is at a point where travelers need a “lifeline” from THEIR “lifeline”. Shame on all those SSA governors that they accept a single dollar in pay while this debacle continues.

    • If someone really wants to stir the pot, find a publish the salary schedules for the SSA verybigs.

  5. Why do they not have an app for this? No lines, immediate recharging, and this problem disappears.

  6. The tone deaf responses from the SSA in this article continue to reflect the attitude that the customer is always wrong. Basically “lines are lines, we make changes, screw you….oh, and we have new technology which makes everything better.” Ha. Clueless on customer service, but what are our options?

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