Cold snap: Ferry stuck at transfer bridge in Vineyard Haven


Updated 1:50 pm

The Steamship Authority ferry Martha’s Vineyard was stuck at the Slip 2 transfer bridge at the Vineyard Haven terminal Saturday morning after a cable broke.

“Cold weather caused a cable on the transfer bridge to break while the vessel was docked,” SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll emailed at 9:50 am. “Maintenance is en route.”

The cable broke shortly before 8am while the vessel was loading, Driscoll wrote. 

It’s unclear to what degree the weight of the bridge impacted the vessel. At about 10:40 Driscoll told The Times the Martha’s Vineyard was free of Slip 2 and was moving into Slip 1 to make the 10:45 run to Woods Hole with a delay that is expected to be lessened during the crossing. At 11:15 am Driscoll said the vessel was underway. At about 1:20 pm Driscoll said the bridge had been repaired and operational.  In May of 2020 a cable snapped and trapped the Martha’s Vineyard at the same slip. That cable held up a 20,000 pound set of counterweights. Both sets of counterweights were aloft when a reporter went to the terminal at about 10:20 am and a maintenance truck was parked in front of the transfer bridge. On Nov. 26, 2021, a cable snapped on the same bridge, crippling it. The next day a gap opened up between the bridge and the ferry Island Home while a minivan was crossing the bridge to the ferry. The minivan occupants were not injured and eventually boarded and crossed without further problems.  

The SSA downplayed any connection between the minivan incident and the cable break at a board meeting in December.

All of this comes as the SSA was forced to suspend all crossings on Friday night because of heavy winds.


  1. Spoiler alert— Cold weather does not snap cables.
    It is a factor of course, but poor engineering and/or poor maintenance is ultimately responsible.
    You can’t fix a systemic problem until you admit you have one.
    I am disappointed but not surprised the ssa blamed the weather..

  2. Cold does not snap cables. Lack of maintenance or undersized cable causes breaks.

    Minimum Operating Temperature

    The steel that is used in steel wire rope can be used at extremely low temperatures (minus 200°C or less) without any significant effect on the characteristics of the steel. However, at temperatures of only minus 25°C – 50°C oil and grease will lose their ability to serve as lubricants and protect against rust. This makes the fibre cores easy to damage.

    Provided that the steel wire rope does not have a fibre core and that oil and grease are not required as protection against rust or as lubrication, such rope can be used in operating temperatures of approx. minus 200°C. If these conditions cannot be met, the minimum temperature is approx. minus 25°C.

      • Jim — I am amazed at your question.
        First, I will just answer it–
        200c, which is not referenced here , is equal to 392 Fahrenheit
        – 200 C, which is referenced in this comment thread is equal to -328 Fahrenheit.
        I am sure you are impressed at my astounding intellectual ability to come up with this conversion– but i will humbly give credit to a website called “google” — you should try it sometime —
        I went there and entered ” convert Celsius to Fahrenheit” , put the numbers in and wo- lahlah — got the result in less than 3 nanoseconds
        And while we are off subject– Could you explain to me why the systems of measurement we use in the U.S are in place ?
        For instance , why are there 5280 feet in a mile, as opposed to 1000 meters in a kilometer ?
        128 ounces in a gallon as opposed to 1000 milliliters in a liter
        or 1000 grams in a kilogram as opposed to 456 ounces in a pound.

        But back to the point Jim ===why do you ask about the conversions ?
        Do you think that if we only referenced an archaic system with no rational basis that this cable would not have snapped ?

        And just for the record, Jim– why does the scale in the U.S peg the freezing point of water at 32 degrees and the boiling point t 212
        rather than the freezing point at zero and the boiling point at 100 that the rest of the world uses ?
        Believe it or not, you can find this explanation on “google”

        • I’m well aware of how it all works. Even google. My point is, on the United States the standard unit of temperature is the Fahrenheit scale. So lets use that.
          Now let me ask you a question. Is there any article or comment on the MV Times website that you don’t feel the need to comment on?

          • Jim– If you look at the link that Ashley posted, you will see that she was quoting from the spec sheet of a company named “Randers Reb International A/S ” They are based in Denmark.
            Denmark, like most of the world, uses the centigrade scale.

            There are plenty of articles I don’t comment on, and if you don’t want to read my comments, you don’t have to.

          • Pretty silly argument/nit pick. It isn’t uncommon for specs like Ashley quoted to be in metric because that is the measurement system used in most of the world.

    • Ashley– It seems that in the current environment of lies to avoid accountability, the SSA could just defend themselves from any responsibility by telling us that the temperature was actually less than minus 25 C. The supporters of the “Make the steamship great again” movement would be more than happy to debate that. Who believes the weather service , after all ?

  3. SSA should have invested their money in better maintenance of their equipment to help keep passengers safe. Instead they probably put that money towards the bonus that went along with that ridiculous vaccine mandate.

  4. Everyone seems to be missing the point. Someone could easily been killed or severely injured by this “accident” which was really a maintenance and safety failure.
    Worse yet it was willful negligence since the Ssa had the same thing happen a few years back.
    My nephew was working on the transfer bridge and the cable snapped. It just missed hitting him.
    The cable was well worn and rusty and should have been replaced long ago.

    Now they did it again?

    Where’s OSHA on this?

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