Island Home penciled in for ‘very expensive’ engine work

Largest SSA ferry underwent long and expensive overhaul at Senesco this year.

With high winds in the forecast, a travel alert has been issued for Sunday. —Gabrielle Mannino

After suffering a string of malfunctions this year, even after returning from a big overhaul that lasted about four months at Senesco Marine, the MV Island Home is anticipated to need more work in 2019. The vessel will have one, or possibly two, of its engines overhauled. The bid package has yet to go out, therefore costs and dates haven’t firmed up yet, but Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis told his board on Nantucket on Sept. 25 that the work, like all ferry engine overhauls, would be pricey.

One reason for this year’s delay in returning to service was that the new bow thrusters installed in the Island Home (to the tune of approximately $1 million) wouldn’t properly interface with the ferry’s engines, an engineer for Tees White Gill previously told The Times.

Once the engines are overhauled, will they, in turn, have difficulty interfacing with the bow thrusters? The Times has reached out to the Steamship Authority on the matter, and expects to hear back at the beginning of next week.

Davis told the board drydock expenses for the Island Home were more than anticipated this year.

“The drydock expense for the MV Island Home was up $195,000,” he said. “That’s a timing issue. The boat was in drydock earlier this year, and we just had to settle on some change orders for that vessel.”

Steamship Authority treasurer and comptroller Gerald Murphy told board members overhauls on SSA vessels are forecast to go up in 2019. Vessel overhaul, engine repair, and parts expenses are expected to increase by $1.2 million with work on the Island Home and the Iyannough, a ferry that operates on the Nantucket line, as the driving forces, he said.

Davis said it’s the overhauls that are prompting the need for rate increases. “Some of these cost estimates that we have, that we’ve incorporated, include drydocks for vessels that are 16 and 18 months out in the future,” he said. “And what happens in that intervening time, how much steel work that ends up needing to be done once you take a boat out of the water and things like that. All of our vessels, as you may have noticed, are getting older, so they require more and more maintenance. This year, for 2019, Gerard pointed out that we have engine overhauls for the Island Home being done, as well as two of the engines for the Iyanough being done. So they reach a certain number of hours — in the case of the Island Home, we actually physically take the engines out of the vessel during its repair period. We’ll be doing two next year and two the following year. But that’s every four or five years we end up doing that. That’s a very expensive proposition to be doing overhauls on these engines.”

Asked why Murphy said one engine would be overhauled and Davis said two, Steamship Authority spokesman Sean Driscoll told The Times if the MV Nantucket does not need to be overhauled in 2019, those funds can be budgeted for a second engine on the Island Home. If the Nantucket does get overhauled, it is then likely the Island Home will only have one engine worked on.


  1. Why does the SSA not have it’s own dry dock facility and repair crew since it seems one boat is almost always out of service?

    • hanley–what do you think a dry dock of their own would cost ? Only a small percentage of the repair work needs a dry dock.

      • I don’t know; that’s why I asked. It does seem like the SSA has a boat out of service all the time. Continuous usage is one criterion for considering in-house repair capability. I just wonder if the possibility has been studied (!).

        • hanley– while I think the possibility of a drydock is impractical, I certainly assumed they had their own mechanics. But, since you bring it up– yeah, who knows ? it would make a lot of sense to have mechanics on the payroll. Good point.

        • Going from both sides:
          With a large enough fleet, one could rotate having one in dry dock. Except boats should not require that level of maintenance often enough. An option might be to associate with other ferry fleets and share the cost.

  2. Floating dry docks and the assorted equipment to support them are expensive. They also need people to support them, full time, year round, at union rates.

  3. Am I reading this correctly ? They spent a million dollars for bow thrusters that don’t “interface” with the engine ? What the fence does that mean ? And they (we) paid it ? And now they (we) are paying to fix it ? Is there a “lemon law” for boats ? How about managers ?

    • Makes my head hurt thinking about how to gear bow thrusters with the main props going between forward, neutral, and reverse.

  4. On most boats the “interface” between the thrusters and the engine(s) is the operator. The more complicated anything gets, the less reliable it is in service. Seems the SSA likes complicated.

  5. Those lovable SSA governors, such capable stewards of their responsibilities to Islanders! Bridget Tobin for Governor!

  6. Could part of the problem with poor choices lie with the judgement of the mechanical team? Anyone compare (with same boat bull design) with the power plant and thrusts on the Washington State Ferry Systems three versions of the Island Home

  7. The Bridge is looking better and better. At the current rate of fare increases a round trip for a car will require you to get a second job.

    • It’s a bit more than 2.5 miles between Falmouth and Vineyard Haven. The new Tappan Zee across 3.1 miles of Hudson River finished last year cost $4 billion. Too rich for me.

        • The new Tappan Zee is a twin-span structure, four lanes each direction. Build one bridge, two lanes in each direction and the cost drops to 2 billion. Hope that’s more affordable for you. Math is fun.

          • 2 lanes of traffic in each direction. Think about that. Time to build more roundabouts, a nice shopping mall, and a few high rise resort hotels on south beach— a trump tower hotel would look really great on Squibnocket. Perhaps a flyover at 5 corners, and a 4 lane highway going into Edgartown directly into the 6 story parking garage where the wharf parking lot is now. It will be so beautiful.

          • new Englander– lets have some more fun with math.
            let’s say there are no maintenance cost with this $2 billion bridge. And no interest on the construction loan. — Just to keep it simple.
            And lets say we charge $100 per round trip.
            That means we hit a break even point after 20 million cars go over it. If we expect to get the money back in 20 years, that’s 1 million cars a year, or 2740 per day. Every day, for 20 years.
            I think I will put up with some inconvenience with the ferry, thank you.

      • New Englander– Most of the Tappan Zee bridge is an artificial reef about 2 miles off of Long Island. The Mario Cuomo bridge spans the Hudson river.

    • Let’s say we break up this monopoly. The parking splits off from operating the fleet, the terminals split off, and maintenance splits off. No more Piece A helps pay for Piece B, each piece must make a profit; you just hugely increased the cost of getting between here and there.

  8. Wow, ok easy on the drama, mvtimes included:
    1 No, they can’t afford their own dry dock, that’s impractical
    2 yes they have their own mechanics, they are called engineers. However they are usually not trained or allowed to do this kind of work by the engine manufacturer. The overhaul cost is usually equally in parts ( ex new cylinder heads are not cheap) and it’s extent is dictated by running hours.
    3. This is not a failure of the ssa. This is based on running hours of the engine. The only thing ssa could have done differently would be scheduling it during their first dry dock, but that would usually require much more notice. Again, running hours dictate engine overhauls.
    4. Thrusters are not typically ‘geared in’ . I assume it’s automation between the thruster and the operators control or power management that is not cooperating with their existing system. I.e computers( not operator )
    5. Ssa gets a lot of things wrong but this isn’t one of them, expect maybe who they bid it out too or who chose their thruster interface.
    6. Yes boats do require this level of maintenance, especially passenger vessels. However if the maintenance is completed right the first time then what happened at the beginning of the year doesn’t happen.

  9. DonDonDonDon12
    Your rates for the Bridge are way off. If you include trucks the average is closer to $250.00 per round trip as the ferry charges now(before the rate increase). Charging high rates does two things, decreases car traffic and makes the payoff much sooner. As for five corners the bridge would not come into the harbor area so traffic at five corners without ferry traffic would be much better.An another Win Win.

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