Freshly back from a $17 million midlife refurbishing, the ferry Martha’s Vineyard lost propulsion off its namesake island Saturday night, stranding 78 passengers on their way to the terminal at Woods Hole, Mass.

After losing power around 8:30 p.m., the ferry captain anchored the vessel outside Vineyard Haven and called the Coast Guard around 9 p.m. Passengers and crew waited until the ferry could be towed back by three tugs, with the Coast Guard 87’ cutter Hammerhead and a response boat from the Woods Hole station standing by. The Woods Hole, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard Steamship Authority ferry Woods Hole responded early in the incident as well, in case passengers needed to disembark, according to the Coast Guard.

But all passengers and crew stayed on the Martha’ Vineyard until it returned under tow at around 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Later Sunday, Coast Guard and Steamship Authority officials said the ferry was undergoing repairs and sea trials before returning to service.

A new pilothouse was part of a $17 million upgrade for the ferry Martha's Vineyard. Steamship Authority photo.

A new pilothouse was part of a $17 million upgrade for the ferry Martha's Vineyard. Steamship Authority photo.

The 230’x60’ Martha’s Vineyard was delivered to the Steamship Authority in 1993 by Atlantic Marine, Jacksonville, Fla., and serves on the seven-mile run between the island and Woods Hole. Powered by twin EMD 3,000-hp engines, it runs at 12 knots carrying up to 1,274 passengers and crew and 54 vehicles.

The midlife refit at Senesco Marine LLC, North Kingston, R.I., included sweeping rip-out and refitting of passenger and crew accommodations, a new pilothouse, new seating, expanded decks, new bow doors and three new generators. With the work completed around Feb. 21, the vessel returned to service the first week of March.

It was the second mishap for the Steamship Authority in one week, after the Woods Hole briefly grounded on soft bottom in Vineyard Haven March 15 as it approached its slip.

The Martha’s Vineyard engines were successfully restarted and tested Sunday. Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis told the Martha’s Vineyard Times that recent difficulties with weather and mechanical issues have been “an anomaly.”


Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.