Patriot Party Boats owner Jim Tietje came to the aid of a number of people stuck off and on the Vineyard on Christmas Eve. The Steamship Authority shut down Saturday afternoon leaving lots of people with holiday plans on-Island and off-Island in a pickle.
“My phone just blows up when the Steamship stops running,” Tietje said. Saturday was no exception. “I think it’s the worst night they could stop running,” he said of the SSA.
Tietje, who was home with his family, was ultimately moved to action when he learned U.S. Postal workers and UPS workers were stranded after working holiday shifts on the Vineyard.
“That was the reason I wanted to go,” Tietje said. “My wife wasn’t too happy.”
At 7:30 pm on Christmas Eve, Tietje left Falmouth with 30 people who wanted to get to the Vineyard. His first mate was his grandson, Adam. Tietje described the weather and seas as “not bad,” mainly 25 mph gusts from the west, much of which were blunted because the Quickwater traveled in the lee of the Vineyard. The Quickwater pulled into Oak Bluffs at about 8 pm, dropped off the 30 people aboard, and collected 30 UPS and USPS workers. “They were very happy,” Tietje said.
The Quickwater was back in Falmouth by about 8:45 pm, he said.
Tietje said he was glad he could help all those people get home for the holiday: “It’s a big deal to be home Christmas Eve, and to wake up Christmas morning.”
Social media, particularly the Islanders Talk Facebook group, blew up with thanks for Tietje.
“Hats off to Jimmy Tiege and Patriot Party Boats,” Jeff Regan posted, “for doing what the Steamship Authority could not, or would not bring themselves to do this afternoon/evening.
Get a handful of us home to our families, for Christmas, after a long season of commuting to work, to help make ￼the Christmas dreams of many, realities. My personal journey home today began at 3:30, when we discovered that the 3:45 out of V.H. had been canceled. So had the 5. We were told the 6:15 MIGHT run, but no. Every ferry in the fleet had been shuttered for the night. The winds were gusting mid-30s, from the southwest … and that almost never shuts them down. It sure did tonight. That left an awful lot of us stranded —on both sides.
“Calls were made, and Jimmy fired up the Quickwater, picked up the awaiting souls in Falmouth, and made the trek across the Sound, then grabbed us in Oak Bluffs, and brought us home.”
The SSA had warned for days that cancellations were likely. Nonetheless, Regan criticized the SSA for shutting down and offering no other options.
“The SSA needs to set up a means to get people from point A to point B, when the seas get a little dicey for their top-heavy ferries,” Regan posted. “It makes no sense that one company will do whatever it takes to make it happen, and another will not. I implore the SSA board to bring an option to the table, for debate. In the meantime … I’m extremely grateful to be writing this from the comfort of my home, and wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas, or the happiest of whatever you celebrate — with your families, as I will now be able to do.”