Barge puts the kibosh on SSA turkey day crossings

Ongoing construction at the Woods Hole terminal played a part in ferries being cancelled on Thanksgiving night. - Rich Saltzberg

A construction barge delivered to the Woods Hole Terminal Tuesday has been blamed, in part, for the cancellation of Thanksgiving Steamship Authority crossings to and from the Vineyard from 6:15 pm onward. Exacerbated by wind, the barge presented a proximity danger that the SSA opted to avoid. At the time, only one slip was operational in Woods Hole. 

“[T]he tides and direction of the wind resulted in vessels that were docking in the southernmost slip getting too close to the barges in the middle slip to ensure the safety of those on board, so some trips were canceled due to the weather conditions,” SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll wrote in a response to questions raised by The Times. “The northern slip (Slip 3) was not being used, also due to the direction and speed of the wind. A new barge arrived at the site on Tuesday, and it was believed that the construction equipment on site would not cause any operational concerns, but the weather conditions proved otherwise. We will work with our marine contractor, Jay Cashman Inc., to see if another solution can be found, but with the work going on in the middle slip this season, it is entirely possible other conflicts could occasionally occur for vessels docking at either the southern or northern slip.”

An SSA passenger told The Times SSA personnel that evening informed them cancellations weren’t weather-related but had to do with a barge.

Driscoll said passengers got at least a half an hour notice the boats were to be canceled. Asked why the barge wasn’t moved, he said, “The weather conditions would have precluded the safe movement of the barge that evening.”

Driscoll later emailed that prior to service being canceled, ferries may have had to wait in Great Harbor “a short period of time (~15-20 minutes) to dock in Woods Hole.” 

At last month’s meeting of the SSA board, Marc Hanover, the Vineyard’s representative on the board, criticized some of the cancellations in October, and urged the SSA leadership to get the port captain involved in decisions.

“It’s very frustrating, to say the least,” Hanover told The Times Monday. Hanover said he plans to bring up the issue of barge-affected service at the next SSA meeting. He also said he plans to ask that board members receive monthly reports on cancellations, including material from SSA captains detailing why and when they opt not to cross.