On the Woods Hole, sanitation hiccups

Cleaning log on vessel was blank.


The Steamship Authority has touted the cleaning regimens for its vessels and terminals in its effort to thwart the spread of coronavirus infections. Two recent trips on one SSA ferry revealed cleaning positives, cleaning negatives, and cleaning mysteries. 

Aboard the ferry MV Woods Hole Friday night on the 7:15 pm crossing, the vehicle load was light, and passengers were few. The return crossing also had few people, and a modest load of vehicles. Inside the vessel, numerous notices about coronavirus were posted, including one from Tisbury health agent Maura Valley. Valley’s notice indicated the Vineyard has limited medical facilities, shuttered restaurants, and is largely in emergency mode. 

“We all love our Island — keep us all healthy and safe — sadly this is not vacation time,” the final line of the notice states.

Crew aboard the Woods Hole for the 7:15 pm run to Woods Hole and the subsequent return to Vineyard Haven were readily visible mopping throughout the passenger seating areas. However, during each of the two trips, no crew member could be seen disinfecting higher surfaces like tabletops, railings, or seats. In the men’s room, a “Cleaning Log Form” posted on the back of the door was totally blank. Cells for the date and time cleaning was done, by whom and supervised by whom, were empty white spaces. However, the restroom appeared tidy to the naked eye, and on one of the two crossings, a crew member could be seen replacing the trash bag. 

When later asked about the blank log and a lack of observable disinfection of higher surfaces on the two crossings, SSA officials expressed mea culpas about the log, but also defended the crews, who they said were under stress. They also stood by the sanitation aboard the vessels, but couldn’t answer why the log was blank. 

“The fact that the cleaning log was blank is a fall-down,” SSA board chairman Jim Malkin said. “The crews on the Steamship Authority boats, and on the Woods Hole, are stressed, and working very hard to follow protocols and cleaning instructions. They are cleaning the boats. And clearly someone missed filling in that log, or people missed filling in that log. It should have been filled in. This is not up to the high standards of our staff, and I’m sure it will be rectified. The boats are clean. We have protocols for very vigorous and thorough cleaning; if things are missed, we’ll welcome anyone bringing that to the attention of the crew, and they’ll be tended to immediately. And we appreciate everybody’s efforts helping us keep the boats safe for the passengers as well as the crew.”

SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll said much the same. “I have every confidence that the work was getting done,” Driscoll said. “I’ve seen the work getting done. We’ve all been on the boats, we’ve seen the work getting done. So the fact they didn’t fill out that log is regrettable, and it’s something that we’ll address …”

Driscoll went on to stress SSA crews were engaged in extra work and under a lot of pressure. 

“I think it’s something that we will address, but it’s not indicative of the work that’s being performed on the boats,” he said. The captain is ultimately responsible for “everything that happens on that boat,” he said. As far as direct supervision, Driscoll said he was unsure precisely who oversaw the ordinary seamen in that capacity, and would look into it. 

Driscoll said surface cleaning occurred “between and during” trips. He said surfaces are cleaned between trips, but qualified that by saying fewer people on the boat may alter how frequently certain surfaces are cleaned: “If you clean a surface and no one sits in a specific zone, they’re using their judgment about when it needs to be cleaned again.”

He also suggested surface cleaning could have gone on in areas not observed by the reporter onboard. 

“Surfaces are getting cleaned, and if [a reporter] saw a coffee ring on one of them, if that’s the most we can report back, I’ll take that every day and twice on Sundays. I mean, that’s a pretty clean boat,” he said. 


  1. There are more people in Cronigs market at any given time than on the SSA boats as of late.
    I have seen the crew spraying and wiping down everything all the time. As they should.
    Be safe, but please keep the frenzied talk and the end of the world discussions down.
    It’s starting to scare the kids… and the snowflakes

  2. The Purser is responsible for the OS’s on the boat who are in the passenger area. Too bad the Spokesman for the SSA doesn’t understand the personnel structure of the SSA.

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