Woods Hole gangway intermittently useless 

Passengers walk onto the freight deck of the Island Home at the Woods Hole terminal during a recent low tide. — George Brennan

When the Steamship Authority’s largest ferry, the Island Home, is in Woods Hole passengers cannot always use the multimillion dollar gangway. During certain tidal conditions, passengers must board or disembark on the freight deck where vehicles load and off-load.

“That’s been an issue ever since they finished the middle slip,” Woods Hole resident Nathaniel Trumbull said. 

The new slip, Slip 2, is one of three constructed as part of the $52 million Woods Hole marine side terminal project. The SSA is also building a new terminal. The entire project has been heavily criticized for chronic cost overruns arising from change orders. 

Trumbull, a frequent SSA critic, described the slip construction as being too high and resulting in a “dangerous situation” where passengers routinely mix with cars and trucks to leave or enter the Island Home. 

In an email to The Times, SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll wrote  that the ferry line designed a floating platform to adjust to tidal fluctuations affecting the gangway. However, he noted platform use was delayed to ensure railings were in place. 

“The gangway off the fixed pier is only able to be used as an accessible route in certain tidal conditions by design,” Driscoll wrote. “The floating platform at the end of the pier was added to compensate for that. That platform only had railings installed earlier this season so the landside crews are still working on best practices for its use.”

Use of the freight deck is often a last minute decision by crew members. Passengers lined up at the exit have been rerouted by crew members saying it would be unsafe to use the gangway.

Trumbull alleged one of the reasons the gangway isn’t used is because folks have been banging their heads against the doorway to the ferry and added terminal staff told him the gangway was unsafe. 

“I refute that it’s unsafe,” Driscoll said in a telephone conversation. “If it was unsafe, we wouldn’t be using it at all.”

Driscoll followed up by saying the gangway indeed can sometimes be unsafe because some tides put it at “a steep angle.” He said there have been no reports of people hitting their heads while entering the ferry from the gangway.

“There is no safety issue other than the angle of the ramp at certain tides as we spoke of previously,” he wrote in a text message.

Passengers have reportedly been told to use the freight deck when the ramp is almost flat from the dock to the ferry door.


  1. I was delayed for about 10 minutes about 2 weeks ago because vehicles could not exit until all passengers had disembarked.
    Come on– this really can’t possibly be “by design” can it.
    I can just imagine the conversation about that one–

    • Bill– I survived, but sometimes people are on schedules and can miss connections.
      While 10 minutes may not seem like much in the big picture of our lives, there were likely about 100 people sitting in their cars. That translates into a total waste of about 16 hours of people’s time, whenever there is a “certain condition” — that being high tide. How often does that happen ? Do the math about what a “total waste of time” the steamship imposes on us “by design”. Also since the ssa employees don’t bother to enforce their rule about only starting your vehicle when instructed to, many of the vehicles are just idling in a semi enclosed space for the entire time. I wonder if the EPA would consider that good air quality?
      I may have survived this time, but I , long with dozens of other people) was forced to breath unhealthy air for that 10 minutes because of the steamship’s callous disregard for the comfort and safety of it’s passengers. Someone going to a doctors appointment with respiratory problems is not helped by any of this.
      To design a situation such as this is just ______ ( fill in the mad lib. )

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