The Steamship Authority freight ferry MV Gay Head was taken out of service Sunday morning for a mechanical problem and missed six trips. At the end of service on Saturday, “irregularities with the vessel’s throttle controls” were detected, according to Sean Gonsalves, an SSA spokesman. “Upon inspection by maintenance and engineering overnight,” Gonsalves emailed, “the cause was identified.” Gonsalves didn’t immediately illuminate what that cause was when queried by email.
“The USCG gave permission for the vessel to return to Woods Hole at daylight without passengers so that the throttle controls could be replaced,” he emailed. “The replacement of the parts on the MV Gay Head necessitated the cancellation of its first three roundtrips between Vineyard Haven and Woods Hole on Sunday December 29 (5:30am/6:30am, 7:30am/8:35am, and 9:50am/11:05am sailings).”
The Gay Head was called into service on Dec. 23 as a stand-in for the MV Katama after it went out of service for a steering malfunction. Emailed alerts on Sunday morning from the SSA stated the Gay Head would miss the 7:30 am, the 8:35 am, the 9:50 am, 11:05 am, and 12:20 pm crossings.
Shortly after 11:00 am, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Nathan Mendes told The Times the Gay Head was poised for sea trials and would reenter service. Just before noon, the Gay Head pulled into Slip 1 at the Vineyard Haven Terminal with an empty freight deck. Passengers waiting to board with vehicles at the Vineyard Haven Terminal earlier in the morning told The Times they received a call from the SSA at 9:00 am informing them their 9:50 am crossing was canceled. They said they were advised to hasten to make a 9:30 am boat. When they arrived, they said they were told that it was canceled, too. The SSA has given no indication that a crossing was canceled and the passengers may simply not have been loaded. Those passengers declined to be identified but said they lived in Vineyard Haven. Another passenger, Beth Tessmer of Edgartown, said she felt something was amiss in the way cars were chosen to board the other ferries that came to the terminal while the Gay Head was down. Tessmer later texted she had finally pulled aboard the Gay Head, albeit about 20 minutes late for the 12:20 crossing.
“Efforts were made to contact customers with reservations on the impacted trips and the lift decks on the M/V Island Home were placed into service,” Gonsalves wrote. “The repair was made and following a sea trial the vessel was put back in service at approximately 12:15 pm, leaving Vineyard Haven shortly after 12:30pm. We apologize for the inconvenience this created for our passengers.”