Nantucket sidelined with mechanical issue

Vehicles were backed up in Vineyard Haven Sunday after several crossings of the Nantucket were canceled. - Rich Saltzberg

The Steamship Authority ferry Nantucket suffered an issue linked to its rudder midday Sunday and remained out of service for the rest of the day.  

The malfunction involved the rudder indicator,” Geoff Spillane, a spokesman for the SSA emailed. “It occurred as the vessel was leaving the slip on its 12:00 departure to Vineyard Haven.”

Spillane said the Gay Head was brought over from the SSA Fairhaven facility to assist with service.

Sunday evening just after 5 pm. a backlog of vehicles could be seen staged in Vineyard Haven. 

In a follow email Spillane wrote that repairs have been made to the Nantucket and the U.S. Coast Guard has cleared it for service. Spillane wrote the Nantucket was expected back in service Monday morning. On Monday, Spillane wrote that the Nantucket was in service all day. 


  1. I have been utilizing the services of the Steamship Authority my whole life, 50 plus years.

    • The maintenance of the boats is THE MOST IMPORTANT job the Steamship must see to.
    • Second is informing riders of what is going on so they can communicate with their families and adjust their plans.

    Yesterday November 7th we pulled up just after 4:00 PM for the 5:00 PM ferry. There were two SSA employees at the booth they handed boarding pass and receipt and said “lane 12”. Never once was there an announcement that the 5:00 PM would not run. When someone finally answered the telephone they let me know that there was mechanical issues and the 5:00 PM would not run. This was about 5:15 or so. I asked when we would have gotten that information. The person said they did not know and thought that someone was sending out an email message. We never received an email. I did eventually access the SSA website with information of canceled boats after 5:15 PM.
    The WIFI in the SSA lot was not accessible. If SSA expects riders to get an update of situation on the SSA website and we are all within 50 yards of terminal we should be getting WIFI.

    At this point we started realizing that it was not something that just happened. Apparently the 2:00 (something) Nantucket also did not run as that was the trip the fail occurred on.

    These vessels should be documented into a system that clearly shows amount of vehicles that will fit. When the check-in booth produces a boarding pass that should automatically register into data to clearly indicate to whoever is looking at the screen how the process to fulfill this passage will happen. I understand that when a trip fails to run due to mechanical failure that the process is to keep the arriving vehicles for the next trip on schedule and to make the un-run trip into “standby”. This keeps from having a domino effect of unsettling more passengers. At this point though when your only extra vessel is ½ or less (I don’t have this data) the capacity of the original you must start crunching the numbers. This information of how many boats can and will run and how many vehicles will be accommodated is a SSA must. So when you have that magic number the unfortunate folks who came later than the final capacity vehicle can make alternative plans.

    There were many families with small children and school teams that were kept waiting with no explanation. If we had been told about the issue when we arrived it would have given the community options about how to manage our time. Families could have planned about meals and child activities. Please communicate better with the public and residents who count on your services to get home.

    We were some of the lucky ones. We did get on a boat home last night about 5 hours after arriving. I have experienced SSA difficulties in the past but at this stage in the process it should run smoother.

    • We were also supposed to be on the 5 pm boat. Its 2021 & the SSA (Islanders lifeline to their homes) is run like its 1980. Changes need to be made & there has to be some accountability!

  2. “These vessels should be documented into a system that clearly shows amount of vehicles that will fit.”
    You don’t know how many vehicles will fit until you know how long and how high they are.
    I assume that the SSA gets the lengths for the trucks but not the cars.
    And then there is the problem of the no shows.
    I assume that they overbook like the airlines to maximize their load factor.

    The way to make the process to run smother is for the SSA to have some peer competition…
    Been there, done that.
    That is why the SSA exists.

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