Mechanical problem diverts Islesboro ferry to Rockland

Posted July 03, 2012, at 11:35 a.m.
Last modified July 03, 2012, at 11:57 a.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — Islesboro residents and visitors will have a much longer commute for at least the next few days.

Due to a mechanical failure at the Lincolnville Beach terminal, the ferry — loaded with cars and passengers — couldn’t dock at the ramp. Instead, the boat had to turn around and head back to Islesboro, with perplexed or frustrated people both onboard and on the mainland.

And the Maine State Ferry Terminal has had to reroute and reduce future runs back and forth from the Waldo County island.

The Margaret Chase Smith will bring people from Islesboro to Rockland, which adds nearly an hour to the usual 20-minute ride to the mainland. Because of the increased length of the ride, the ferry will make only four runs a day to Rockland and back, instead of the nine round-trip rides that the boat is scheduled for during the high summer season.

“They’re working on fixing it now, believe me,” said Elizabeth Hayden, supervisor at the Islesboro terminal. “Fourth of July, are you kidding me?”

Ferry Service Director James MacLeod said a winch broke in the bridge at the Lincolnville Beach terminal at about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.

The Maine Department of Transportation has already authorized Prock Marine of Rockland to make the repairs, but it will take at least a few days, MacLeod said.

The mechanical problem has occurred during one of the busiest weeks of the year for the ferry service because of the Fourth of July holiday.

Janet Anderson, Islesboro interim town manager, said that there likely are about 1,000 people on the island now. Its population generally triples from about 500 in the winter to 1,500 at the height of the summer season, and many of those people and their visitors arrive by the car ferry for the July 4 holiday.

“It’s just going to make you think a lot more about planning,” she said.

Town officials were meeting late Tuesday morning to make a plan for possible medical emergencies as well as the other ways that the diminished ferry schedule might affect island life. She said that Islesboro is running low on gasoline for cars, with two big fuel tanker trucks scheduled to arrive on the Margaret Chase Smith on Thursday. Food also is a consideration, she said, but expected that delivery trucks would get priority on the ferry from Rockland.

“Just as long as the fireworks get here,” Anderson said. “They have to make it out somehow.”

The ferry problem has meant that the captain of the private Islesboro water taxi, the Quicksilver, was much busier than usual Tuesday. Andrew Kahrl said that normally he works mostly in the evenings after the ferry stops running, but was full all morning.

The boat carries up to 24 people, but not cars, and takes between 15 and 20 minutes to get to Lincolnville from Islesboro.

“Our business — we view it in part as a community service,” he said, adding that kids under 12 and dogs ride free on the boat. “I’m getting a lot of people saying ‘thank you’ for runs. I’m thanking them, too. It’s good business for us.”

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