TREMONT, Maine — Ferry service was restored Thursday to Frenchboro and Swan’s Island after high winds and heavy seas damaged the ferry terminal in Bass Harbor, preventing service to the islands for more than a day.
Sharon Johnson, supervisor for the ferry ticket office in Bass Harbor, said divers examined the base of the pier and the ferry docking slip on Thursday morning after some pilings and panels had come loose in the squall the day before.
She said the divers saw no debris below the waves that might harm the boat if it tried to dock, which allowed the ferry service to resume around 11 a.m.
“Right now, it’s running on schedule,” Johnson said Thursday. “We had no service at all yesterday. It was very, very rough here.”
Mark Latti, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, which operates the ferry service to Frenchboro and Swan’s Island, said no one knows for sure how the pier was damaged, but there were no reports of boats coming loose or of other objects in the water that may have struck the pier. The damage occurred either late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.
“It’s difficult to tell what happened because no one actually witnessed it,” Latti said.
Latti said eight pilings on the pier broke loose and washed into the area where the ferry normally docks. He said the estimated cost of the damage is $50,000.
The broken pilings, which were exposed to the fierce southerly winds, have been moved and secured nearby, according to Latti. He said the pier would have to be fixed, even though ferry service already has been restored.
“Long term, it does need to be repaired,” he said.
Local and DOT officials are expected to meet today to talk about repairing the damage. It is too early to tell how long it will take to fix the pier, he said.
About 40 people live on Frenchboro year-round, while Swan’s Island has about 350 residents during the colder months.
Donna Wiegle, a Swan’s Island resident who helps run the island’s health center, said there were no emergencies on the island while the ferry service was suspended. She said one woman had to be taken off the island Thursday morning for medical reasons, but the island ambulance was able to get on the first ferry run after service was restored.
“We’re glad to have the ferry service back,” Wiegle said. “That’s what you worry about — a medical issue.”
Island students who attend high school on Mount Desert Island were forgiven by school officials for missing two days of school, she said, but people who commute across the bay for jobs simply had to miss work.
“They missed two days of work, so you have to have an understanding boss,” Wiegle said.
The Capt. Henry Lee, the vessel that normally serves Frenchboro and Swan’s Island, has been in dry dock for maintenance, according to Wiegle, and is not expected to be back in service until around Christmas. Meanwhile, the state is using the Everett Libby, which carries only 11 vehicles, six fewer than the Henry Lee, she said.
Even during stormy winter days, the ferry usually makes at least two runs on weekdays so that island high school students can get to Mount Desert Island and back, according to Wiegle. She said that even with the ferry service out on Wednesday, a local lobsterman made the trip with his boat to Bass Harbor and back in order to pick up and deliver the mail.
Wiegle said that despite wind gusts of 50 to 60 mph, only a few island residents lost power and some roads were blocked temporarily by fallen trees.
“It was screeching pretty good out here,” she said.