ROCKLAND, Maine — The new $9.4 million state ferry that serves Vinalhaven has another mechanical problem.
Manager James MacLeod of the Maine State Ferry Service acknowledged Thursday that the sole elevator on the E. Frank Thompson was out of service for the third time since the vessel was put into service in April. The first two times the elevator was out of service for a few weeks, and it has been the same amount of time in the current instance.
MacLeod said he expects repairs will be made next week.
The problem is with the electronics, he said, and a service technician with the ferry’s Alabama manufacturer is expected to arrive to reprogram the elevator’s computer.
The lack of an elevator means that people who are handicapped will have a difficult time getting to the decks where there are seating and bathrooms. The first level has no seating or bathrooms.
Carol Verow said the problem complicates her plans to take her mother out to Vinalhaven. Verow, who lives in Long Beach, Calif., visits Maine twice a year to see her mother and siblings. Her mother lives at an assisted living facility in Bangor and the family takes the 91-year-old woman out to Vinalhaven each summer.
The older ferries have seating and bathrooms on the first level but did not have elevators.
Verow said her mother uses a walker and would have a very difficult time climbing the steep stairs of the E. Frank Thompson to reach another deck.
People can sit in their vehicles, she acknowledged, but said if someone needs to use the bathroom, then another deck needs to be accessed.
MacLeod said no bathrooms or seating were designed for the first level because island residents wanted three lanes for vehicles to park and drive onto the ferry instead of the two as in the older vessels.
MacLeod said it is not uncommon to have problems on a new vessel with so many mechanical systems. He also acknowledged that elevators can be problematic.
“Elevators aboard a boat are not a good combination with the constant movement and salt air,” he said.
Verow said she plans to cancel her trip to Vinalhaven because of the lack of an elevator on the new ferry. MacLeod said the second ferry that serves the island — the Capt. Charles Philbrook — has seating and bathrooms on the first level. But Verow said she still plans not to go because of the uncertainty about which ferry she would have to use.
The new ferry was built at C&G Boatworks in Mobile, Ala.
This was not the first problem with the new ferry. MacLeod said there has also been a problem with the bow thruster, but it is being fixed. The new ferry also was so large that it had difficulty fitting into the dock on Vinalhaven. Adjustments were made to the fender system at the dock.