SSA board to consider festival charters

The Sandpiper is one of the vessels that will operate as a water taxi. — Corinne Brennan

With a Steamship Authority ferry diversion off the table, Beach Road Weekend promoter Adam Epstein has cobbled together a series of charter ferry services to accommodate concertgoers leaving the Island after each of the three-day concerts, which are scheduled Aug. 26-28.

One of those charter services is the Cape & Islands Transport Inc., which runs the Pied Piper and Sandpiper passenger ferries from Falmouth to Edgartown. A license agreement to offer the Beach Road Weekend charter service is on the SSA board agenda for Tuesday. On the concert nights, the ferries would do additional runs between Falmouth and Tisbury Wharf in Vineyard Haven where the concerts are being held.

“I’m doing what they said,” Epstein said of the charter services. “I’m happy to see the Steamship Authority is considering the request.”

The private charters would essentially be four round trips and would not accept other passengers. Some passengers will still use the SSA ferries in Oak Bluffs at 8:30 pm and in Vineyard Haven at 9:30 pm, but those who select the charters would be guaranteed seats. The Pied Piper and Sand Piper ferries have a combined capacity of 500.

In addition, HyLine is offering a ferry to Hyannis at 9:30 pm each night and SeaStreak, out of New Bedford is offering a ferry at 10:30 pm. 

Sean Driscoll, a spokesman for the SSA, the SeaStreak and HyLine trips don’t require approvals. “SeaStreak’s license permits them to run the extra trip. Hyline is delaying a trip, not running extra service, so they did not require approval.”

Epstein, who got significant pushback to the idea of having the SSA’s 8:30 pm ferry diverted from Oak Bluffs to Vineyard Haven to accommodate concertgoers. Despite reaching out to port council member John Cahill in February and asking Cahill to loop in SSA board member James Malkin, the SSA board rejected the diversions by consensus saying the request was coming too late in the process. The proposal was sent to Oak Bluffs select board, but that board took a pass on making a decision and put it back in the SSA’s hands.

Since then, Epstein said he’s worked diligently to help concertgoers without accommodations on Island get back to the mainland. “This will give our customers some certainty,” he said.



  1. Selling the soul of the island isn’t that hard. All it takes is chutzpah, ambitious greed, and sticktoitiveness—-and lots of arrogant bullying if there is objection. Sharing expertise on greedy manipulation is free, as described in another thread. It helps to get non-profit status.

    Islanders remember with sweet longing the big sigh of relief the week after the fair. But greed doesn’t care because it can never have enough. Money to be made takes precedence over islanders’s quality of life.

    Are these proposed ferry runs free of charge? They must be, lol. But maybe the charge will be deducted from profits from $1500 tix or crummy t-shirt and beach chair merchandise? Shame on blighted me for asking, right?

    • Shame on you for not educating yourself before you throw baseless aspersions about greed.

      You know absolutely nothing about the festival, it’s budget, it’s benefits, it’s challenges and the good people that work on it.

      You judge from your cave and slander without regard for anyone except yourself.

      That is why you should be ashamed. Educate yourself before you speak and slander.

  2. The steamship authority was started for islanders to be able to get to the other world it is their highway !the steamship authority is becoming a business and not for what it was designated for.they need to stop !!!! and remember why they started in the first place.

    • Yes.
      The SSA exists to provide year-round transportation service to the Vineyard. I believe it is basically an extension of the state highway system. The more the SSA has gotten into the business of promoting the Islands and drawing more traffic via advertising, as opposed to serving existing needs, the bigger its problems, and the Islands’ problems, have grown. And the more it has found itself in conflict with large swaths of the Island community. I have a feeling that these conflicts are only going to get worse if the SSA gives way to the wishes of private promoters whose activities are not particularly welcome by many Islanders.

      Because the SSA has the basic responsibility of providing YEAR-ROUND transportation to the Islands and also of breaking even (it is not subsidized), the state has given the SSA the right to exercise a certain amount of control over potential competition—people who want to make money on lucrative summer business but disappear in the winter.

      If private operators think they can make money on these special runs, they can apply to the SSA for license to operate special late-night and other trips.

      As for the public safety argument made in the MVTimes editorial on this subject, my understanding is that the SSA turned Mr. Epstein’s request down in February but he continued to sell tickets to his event, until a major crowd was in prospect. Thus, a situation was created on the ground that public safety officials were obliged to respond to. In my book this is a weak argument for the Times to make. I am sure that Epstein can get his customers to OB safely on chartered buses. Where is the danger in that? In fact, Mr. Epstein could well approach the VTA and see if they can run some extra late buses to OB. That would also bring extra income to the VTA.

      And, why is it OK that all of the passengers who expected to board a ferry in OB now to have to make their way to VH? Is someone chartering a bus for them? Is this a public safety issue?

      • You’re missing some key facts. As early as December of 2021, Epstein said the bulk of the three-day packages had sold out. And the “SSA” didn’t turn him down, they pretty much ignored his request to talk about possible solutions. It was the public safety chiefs of Tisbury and Oak Bluffs who thought it would be a good idea to divert the boat.

        • Being turned down and being ignored equals the same thing in this case: Epstein went ahead and sold out (pun intended) without securing the SSA transportation go-ahead or any alternative that satisfied the public chiefs if OB and Tisbury. Greed and arrogance put the cart before the ferry horse. Whining about it after the fact and entitlement seem to go hand in hand here. What am I missing?

          • A correction to my typos: “… that satisfied the public safely chiefs of OB and Tisbury.” Sorry.

          • Ignoring public safety requests from town officials is not the same thing as being turned down.

            I did not tell anyone to stay in Falmouth, anymore than AG fair tells people to stay on island.

            Your argument is ignorant and seems to authorize the ssa to determine who and when people can be where they want.

            I know you want to tell everyone what to do, but this authoritarian thread through all of your posts are undemocratic at their core.

            How much power do you want to put in the hands of these beaurocrats who don’t live on this island, operating a private business for profit deciding what qualifies as relevant to your lifeline?

            Your abdication of control of the islands quality of life to this “authority” is sad.

      • The SSA just diverted the boat for the OB fireworks to VH with five days notice. As recently as last FRIDAY the ssa schedule still had the 8:30p departure leaving from OB. Where is your concern for the inconvenience for those ferry reservations changed to VH for the fireworks?

        Are they offering to shuttle people to VH for that trip?

        All the Town of TIsbury public safety officials asked for Beach Road were equal consideration be given to their request as are offered to oak bluffs for their diversion request.

      • We have gone to the VTA. They’re understaffed and stretched thin.

        Plus, we don’t need to rely on them. Our system is adequate.

        No money is being made by offering private charters. We could not charge anywhere near what the vessel fees are, but it’s not about the money. It’s about helping alleviate any pressure on the steamship terminal traffic by offering alternatives.

        The more alternatives offered the less likely it will be that the 9:30p boat has too many people trying to get off island.

        I could have just let them go about their business, and not engage in planning with the SSA, but we believe in collaboration and cooperation to manage crowds like happens at concerts and Pats games and Red Sox games just a short ride from mv.

  3. As an extension of the State highway system the SSA is obligated to provide transportation to all, even concert going day trippers.

    • Not so, you should resrech a subject prior to jumping into a grown up situation, as the saying goes,“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

        • Gee, Jackie, where’s the outrage over the expense incurred by Tisbury taxpayers for the oak bluffs fireworks carnival experience?

          I’m tired of other island towns profiting from Tisburys generosity in hosting the Steamship terminal and all of it’s drama.

          It’s embarrassing that you come after us but ignore the carnival riding roller coaster that West Tisbury and Oak Bluffs have become.

          Are you on the payroll of those towns?

    • No.
      As an extension of the Mass Highway system, the SSA is not obliged to change schedule or ports to accommodate concert-goers or any other group.

      • Correct. Not obliged. But they do for the OB fireworks. Why do they do that? Why do they do it for the Falmouth Road Race?

        Where are your objections in those instances?

        Why doesnt OB or Falmouth pay TIsbury for its out of pocket costs and the extra resources they utilize, why they profit off Tisbury’s generosity?

        It is hypocritical to suggest that Tisbury should not be afforded the very same consideration when it’s officials make the same ask.

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