The new Vineyard ferry Islander arrived at Vineyard Haven yesterday afternoon, greeted with whistles from the Martha’s Vineyard, which lay at the dock, the whistles of the fleet of Taylor’s lighters, and blasts from assembled cars. All down-Island towns had displayed their flags throughout the day, and the visiting hours, together with music by the Vineyard Haven Band, followed during the early evening when more than 3,400 people inspected the boat. But this arrival – at 5:30, following the new boat’s first trip over the run, and terminating with the docking, so gentle that it wouldn’t have cracked an egg-shell – this was the real welcome to the boat and her skillful skipper, Capt. Alec Smith, not to mention Chief Jerry Healey, at the controls in the engine room.
Soon after the arrival of the craft, a short ceremony of dedication was held at the Seaman’s Bethel, with a prayer offered by Chaplain Austin Tower for the good of the Islander and those who will travel on her for years to come. Thus the old tradition of the port was linked with the new era through the sort of sacred dedication an Island vessel should have.
They Swarmed Aboard
A few passengers, and one car, the first to be handled by the ferry and owned by Albert Haas, consultant for the steamboat authority, constituted the “cargo” but the emptiness of the boat was soon changed as the crowd in waiting swarmed aboard. True, the visiting hours, as announced, had not yet arrived, but officers and crew, members of the Authority and all others, were in a genial mood and there were no objections.
Entrance to the main deck can be made at either end, as in any ferry, and prospective passengers will be pleased to learn that they do not board or land by the main gangway along with the cars, but through a side-gangway. This freight deck, lofty amidships, and lower on the sides, will hold fifty cars, or a mountain of freight. Although this deck is intended for cars and freight only, one of the main features of the boat is encountered right here. This is the emergency room, so designated by lettering on the door. S. C. Luce exhibited this room with pardonable pride. “I insisted on this,” said he, “for the benefit of those occasional passengers who are unable to climb stairs.” The room is small, but well-equipped for the comfort of several passengers, should there be a number to be accommodated, others are diverted to the saloon and boat decks.
As in all ferries, the saloon is on both sides of the boat, and should be pleasing to all riders. Salmon walls, with white trim and seats, arranged athwartships on the outside and fore and aft against the inner bulkheads, are upholstered in red with chromium trim and have comfortable cushions. Steel baggage racks line the bulkheads at a height which will not inconvenience passengers either standing or sitting, and life-preserver racks are prominently placed.
The boat deck is very spacious, containing the wheel-houses at either end, the enclosed lunchroom, attractively equipped and arranged, plenty of space for walking or sitting in the open air, in addition to the large, steel life-boats, rigged to their patent motor-operated davits. The Islander is licensed for eight hundred passengers at the present time, but this number may be increased, if desired, by shipping additional life boats.
Pilot Houses Are Bridges
The pilot-houses are actually complete bridges, wholly enclosed, spacious and equipped with all modern instruments and accommodations for the officers of the watch. The radar tower amidships, and the short, squatty stack, are remindful or certain features of naval craft.
Until the engine room is visited, no clear idea of the depth of the hull can be gained. It is seventeen feet from the main deck to the keelson, and the stairs leading down to the engine-room grating, make it seem even farther. Here, all is white bulkheads and sealing with the huge Diesels and generators, painted in battleship gray. Brass-rimmed gauges and black instrument panels relieve this combination, and the whole is as nearly air-conditioned as an engine-room can be made.
Engineer George Maury pointed out various features of this department to the visitors, and expressed himself as being well satisfied with all.
An examination of the Islander chiefly impresses the visitor with her apparent strength and weighty construction. She is an all-steel ship, the only wood employed in her construction being the rail-caps and inner doors. The loading-ports at bow and stern are closed with double-leaf doors, divided in the middle, so that the lower halves can be closed, leaving the upper halves open if desired. These doors close on hears, balancing so perfectly that a couple of men can push them in either direction, although they are equipped with rachet-wheels which may be used. The doors themselves close against heavy rubber gaskets, thus eliminating any chance of leaking, and lock with huge dogs and clamps which are tightened by means of screws and levers.
Whatever the Islander may do in they way of speed is not known. Heavy seas forced her to slow down on her trip north from the builders’ yards and her engines have never been driven to their capacity thus far, it being recognized practice to study the workings of new engines at reduced speed for a time. But she has made nearly fifteen knots on her trials, and is expected to greatly exceed this when she is fully “limbered up.” She will lay at Vineyard Haven today and go on the run tomorrow.
Proved Able and Stable
Already she has proved herself “able and stable” in heavy seas, and quick to answer her helm. Already also, she has been warped into her berth, steamship fashion, and has been found to work well. The most frequent comment heard last night was: “I never expected so much,” which is essentially what the Islander’s skipper and crew have to say.
The figure of 3,400 or more visitors to the ferry, clocked officially, represented certainly half the men, women and children now on the Vineyard, and topped the figure of 800 visitors at New Bedford and 250 at Woods Hole, an indication of what a stake the Vineyard feels it has in the ferry. At Woods Hole the school band discoursed music, but the concert at Vineyard Haven, under the direction of Rudolf Fiedich, was really something. The band took up its station on the main deck and gave the best it had.
Before the new ferry left New Bedford, an automobile was loaded through a side port, to prove that the original plan had been made good – that of a vessel capable of serving all ports of the line.
The Authority was represented on the whole trip by the chairman, F. X. Hurley, S. C. Luce Jr. of the Vineyard, and C. Edward Hall of Falmouth. Capt. Winthrop D. Hodges was aboard, and Harold Fradipietro, in charge of personnel, also.
Quick Docking Makes Impression
The docking of the ferry, accomplished in three minutes or less, made quite an impression.
Although a ferry-boat is just that and nothing more, and no amount of camouflage can conceal the fact, yet the Vineyard public was well pleased with the new boat and for good reasons.
Now wearing her white paint and darker trim, the Islander has a very shippy look as to general lines and design. Her loading ports, which close completely, in order to comply with Coast Guard regulation, operate with the precision and ponderous efficiency of a safe door and, once closed, are as secure against the weight of the sea as any other part of her hull.
The overhang along her guards is narrow, and baffled, after the fashion of the other steamers, but perhaps “eased” even more, to eliminate shock in a seaway, and everywhere is evidence of her rugged construction which makes her suitable for year round use in all local waters.
To clear up one point which has been variously discussed and argued, her two propellers, one each at bow and stern, can be used either singly or together. Her big Diesels are set on a through shaft, and double sets of reverse-gear. Thus, when required she can push with one propeller and pull with the other, or employ both screws in any combination desired.