October was a tough month for Steamship Authority ferries, particularly those crossing between Martha’s Vineyard and Woods Hole.
At the SSA board meeting Tuesday, Marc Hanover, the Vineyard’s representative, criticized some of the recent decisions not to run ferries, particularly on Sunday, Oct. 27, when the SSA canceled for the full day, but the wind subsided for a time.
“We’re all aware the weather’s been terrible this past month, but we’ve had an awful lot of cancellations,” Hanover said. “I would never recommend that anybody — any captain — take a boat he’s not comfortable with. But we really blew it on Oct. 27th when we canceled for the rest of the day, and we had a two-hour lull in the winds. Islanders coming back from the Patriots game and from their weekend off are standing in Woods Hole, and it’s dead calm.”
It also affected people leaving the Vineyard after spending the weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Food & Wine Festival, he said. “Needless to say, my phone was ringing off the wall,” Hanover said.
SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll told The Times 174 total trips were canceled due to weather — 126 to and from Vineyard Haven and 48 that were scheduled in and out of Oak Bluffs. That’s 11 percent of the 1,527 possible crossings that were missed through both ports.
By comparison, during the same month in 2018, there were 24 cancellations, Driscoll wrote.
SSA general manager Robert Davis said it’s been left up to the captains whether to operate when the weather is bad. He acknowledged the Oct. 27 mistake. “We contacted the National Weather Service, all the charts, and we may have jumped the gun a little bit on that one,” he said. The thought was it would give people an opportunity to make contingency plans, Davis said. “Obviously, in hindsight, there was a little bit of a lull — a lee — in the middle there where we probably could have gotten a couple of runs in there.”
Hanover called for the port captain to be in consultation with ship captains to make the decision whether to cross.
“It’s important that we have captains with more experience on this route when the weather looks dicey,” Hanover said. “It may not sound like a lot to someone who doesn’t depend on the boat — I know us Islanders think the boat is a bridge — but missing a doctor’s appointment you’ve been waiting for three months, missing a flight for your vacation, not getting to work on time … It’s imperative that these boats run as much as possible with safety in mind.”
Davis said the SSA doesn’t like canceling trips. “We’re sure our customers don’t like it either.”
Then Hanover deadpanned, “Islanders, we enjoy rough rides. It’s only 45 minutes. We talk about it at cocktail parties.”
“War stories,” Davis said.