The Isle of Wight has always been associated in my mind with the “Southampton, Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Company Limited” thankfully known to everyone as “Red Funnel”.
Sometimes it seems the longer the company name the fewer the ships, but the “Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority”, though it has no steamships, does currently have nine interesting vessels. They run from Woods Hole and Hyannisport on the Massachusetts mainland to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, historic island communities now resorts south of Cape Cod.
It is reckoned their ferries make about 22,000 trips a year, but this June, one didn’t quite make it. Iyanough, their only fast ferry, arriving at night at Hyannis, Cape Cod, from Nantucket, ploughed her way onto the breakwater. The skipper seems to have confused mooring buoys, lights and markers for those denoting the entrance to Hyannisport. So the aluminium hulled catamaran crashed and several passengers and crew were injured, some taken off by helicopter before the hulk was hauled off to be repaired. But pity the poor skipper if misreading the lights and buoys is the best excuse he can come up with for the expensive and embarrassing debacle.
But It has led me to review their other vessels and a varied, interesting, but typically American bunch they are to my eye. The US Jones Act means that US ships must be built and manned by Americans, a newbuilding therefore costing seriously more than an equivalent European built or ordered craft and this means that US ships have longer lives as they are costlier to replace than to repair or refit.
The latest ro-ro vessel is Woods Hole ’16 and can be seen as a development of the earlier Island Home ‘07, Martha’s Vineyard ‘93 , Eagle ’87 and Nantucket ’74. Three freight ferries are former (US built of course) oil rig supply vessels which they still strongly resemble: Katama ’81, Gay Head ’81 and Sankaty. While Governor is a veteran of ’54 mainly used for freight and as spare vessel.