Beginning Nov. 4, and continuing through the winter, the last ferry trip from Rockland to Vinalhaven will leave more than an hour earlier to keep the ferry operating during daylight hours.
The Maine State Ferry Service, a part of the Maine Department of Transportation, announced the schedule change on Tuesday in a release. The change, which coincides with the end of daylight saving time, will move the departure time for the last ferry passage of the day from 4:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. for the 17-week winter schedule.
The number of ferry trips per day will not change, but departure times will be adjusted to accommodate moving the final trip to 3:15 p.m..
The change comes after the state ferry service conducted an emergency assessment of the Vinalhaven route that examined safety concerns raised by Maine State Ferry Service captains who regularly serve on the Vinalhaven route.
“After conducting the assessment, we found that the risk of continuing a 4:30 p.m. trip to Vinalhaven in dark hours, during winter months, was unacceptable without further study and implementation of mitigation measures,” Maine State Ferry Service manager Mark Higgins said in the release.
The change is reverting the Vinalhaven schedule back to what it was during the winter before 2010.
The schedule change was implemented despite strong opposition from Vinalhaven residents. Following a public meeting in September, Vinalhaven selectboard vice chairman Phil Crossman sent a letter and petition signed by 535 people who oppose the schedule change to Maine Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt.
Crossman said changing the last ferry departure from the mainland to 3:15 p.m. will negatively affect the ability of Vinalhaven residents to get back to the island following work, medical appointments and school sporting events, among a number of other things.
In the safety assessment report, the islanders’ concerns are acknowledged, though it states that “the safety of our passengers and crews is the priority of the service, and mitigating the heightened risk of a catastrophic loss to life and property by going back to the pre-2010 winter schedule outweighs those impacts.”
The ferry crossing from Rockland Harbor to Carver Harbor in Vinalhaven is the ferry service’s longest and “undoubtedly the most navigationally challenging. Even in good weather and visibility conditions, the last 30 minutes during the approach around the southwest side of the island to access the harbor are demanding due to the narrow and shallow channels,” according to the safety assessment.
The safety assessment, conducted in early October, included participants from the Maine State Ferry Service, the U.S. Coast Guard and the town of Vinalhaven.
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