Ferry traffic down dramatically on Memorial Day weekend

Monday's sunset at Menemsha didn't draw its typical crowd. - Irene Ziebarth

The usual crowds for sunset at Menemsha were nonexistent on Monday night, Main Street in Vineyard Haven was quiet, and one longtime Island resident described the weekend in one word — ”quieeeeettttt.”

According to statistics provided by the Steamship Authority Tuesday, the numbers bear out that it was a much quieter Memorial Day weekend on Martha’s Vineyard. Passenger traffic from Thursday to Monday of the holiday weekend was down 65 percent. In 2019, 51,715 passengers took the SSA ferries. This year, it was down to 17,690 passengers.

Vehicle traffic was down 33.5 percent — dropping from 7,082 vehicles in 2019 to 4,706 this year.

The only category where there wasn’t much of a drop was in trucks, which dipped only 1.5 percent.

Hotels and inns have not been cleared to reopen yet, and short-term rentals are also prohibited. The restaurants on-Island that are open are only serving takeout, though more were added to the mix over the past week, including fine dining restaurants like Garde East.

On Saturday, 3.5 inches of rain fell on the Island, according to the National Weather Service, causing street flooding — another thing that kept crowds at bay.

The Island Queen’s familiar horn was back in the Oak Bluffs Harbor, but it’s unclear how many day-trippers from Falmouth used the ferry service. Todd Bidwell, the Island Queen’s general manager, could not be immediately reached for comment.

A staff member who lives in Edgartown said there were definitely more people than there had been in recent weeks, but “nothing too crazy.”

Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee said officers had to break up one loud party on Sunday night on High and South Summer streets. The officers reported a group of young adults, some underage, at a pool house, not social distancing or wearing masks. Police had them pour out the alcohol, and the group was dispersed, McNamee said. “The officer located a mother who was asleep, and didn’t know there was a gathering,” he said.

Another Times employee said she noticed Soft as a Grape had opened on Main Street in Vineyard Haven Monday, and was doing curbside pickup from a stand outside.

And several employees mentioned the lack of boats in Oak Bluffs Harbor, although a familiar sight did make one staff member feel better: ”the usual crew at Inkwell — a group of older folks who always gather on the sidewalk with a big, red cooler. It was nice to see.”

Bike paths were packed, with some cyclists and walkers wearing masks, others not. And one staff member put mask usage at about 70 percent for the weekend, though some of the people were covering their mouths, but not their noses.

According to the SSA stats, Nantucket saw even fewer visitors over the weekend. Passengers were down 72.6 percent from a year ago, and fast ferry passengers were down 86.2 percent. There were 12.3 percent fewer vehicles on the ferry, and trucks were down 12.8 percent.


  1. Common sense, compliance with regulations, and a fair share of hostility toward off-islanders in reader comments probably explain this.

  2. Could certainly have done without the older woman who yelled DUMB at my family because we didn’t have masks on while riding bikes 6+ feet away from her. But other than that, a pleasant weekend.

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