The Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority

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The Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority
MV Sankaty.jpg
Area served Cape Cod and the Islands
Locale Southeastern Massachusetts
Transit type Ferry
Number of lines 2
Chief executive Wayne C. Lamson (General Manager)
Headquarters One Railroad Avenue, Woods Hole, MA 02543
Began operation 1960 (1960)[1]
Number of vehicles 9 ferry vessels[2]

The Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority, referred to colloquially as The Steamship Authority or simply the SSA, is the statutory regulatory body for all ferry operations to and from the islands from the Massachusetts mainland, as well as being an operator of ferry service from the mainland Cape Cod to the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, and the only ferry operator to carry automobiles to the island.[3] The Authority also operates several freight vessels, thus serving as the main link for shipping any commercial goods to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket that are not transported by air.


The Steamship Authority's terminal in Woods Hole

The present Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority was formed from the New Bedford, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket Steamboat Co., which in turn was a consolidation of earlier companies dating to the early 19th century, just before the railroad arrived. Early steamers included the Marco Bozzaris, Telegraph, Massachusetts, George Law, Naushon, Helen Augusta, Metacomet (1854), Canonicus (1856), Eagle's Wing (1854–1861), Monohansett, River Queen, Island Home, Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, Gay Head, Uncatena, Sankaty, Nobska, New Bedford, Naushon, Mercury, and Hackensack. The motor vessel MV Islander retired in 2007.[4] The last steamship in regular service was the SS Nobska which ran the Woods Hole to Nantucket route until the early 1970s.

In 2007, it was reported that the Steamship Authority ferries were dumping sewage into Nantucket Sound, along with other seafaring vessels. From 2011 forward the SSA converted its vessels with holding tanks for all sewage effluent, to be discharged into new pumping facilities at each port.[citation needed]

Service to Martha's Vineyard[edit]

Frequent passenger and auto ferry service is operated to the Martha's Vineyard towns of Vineyard Haven year round, and to Oak Bluffs from Memorial Day to Labor Day from the mainland terminal in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Sailing time is approximately 45 minutes to both Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs. In early 2001, the SSA purchased the 130-foot MV Schamonchi, along with the New Bedford-Martha's Vineyard route. They operated passenger-only service on this route until 2003, and generated operating losses of about $800,000 per year in the three years that it operated the route. The ferry has since been sold, and a year-round high-speed catamaran service is now operated between New Bedford and Vineyard Haven and seasonally to Oak Bluffs by The New England Fast Ferry Company[5]

Service to Nantucket[edit]

Year round passenger and auto ferry, as well as freight service is operated to Nantucket from the mainland terminal in Hyannis, Massachusetts. Sailing time to Nantucket takes approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes. A one-hour, passenger only catamaran service, is operated with the new (2006) MV Iyanough from mid April through late December from Hyannis to Nantucket.

Massachusetts regulatory body[edit]

In addition to running ferry service, the Steamship Authority (hence the name) also regulates many commercial aspects of ferry operations to and from the Islands, those that are not regulated by the US Coast Guard.[1] All scheduled passenger ferry operations to and from the Islands must, by law, be approved by the Steamship Authority.[1] This generally precludes any ferry service that would directly compete with the Steamship Authority, essentially giving it a legal monopoly on all auto ferry service to the Islands. However, approval has been granted to other companies to operate smaller passenger ferry operations to the islands, these include Freedom Cruises to Nantucket, and the New England Fast Ferry and the Pied Piper Edgartown Ferry to Martha's Vineyard. In addition, Hy-Line Cruises (out of Hyannis to both Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard and between the two islands) and the Island Queen (out of Falmouth to the Vineyard) are allowed to provide certain services as grandfathered carriers due to their existence prior to the SSA's creation. Additional services provided by Hy-Line are licensed by the SSA. Finally, seasonal ferries from Provincetown to Boston and Provincetown to Plymouth are also permitted to operate as they do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Authority.


The Authority currently operates nine vessels.[2] Four of these are auto/passenger ferries featuring roll-on/roll-off ramps for cars traveling to the islands, as well as climate-controlled seating and a bar and concession stand for passengers. The fifth vessel, the MV Iyanough (built in 2007) is a passenger-only catamaran operating fast ferry 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph) one-hour service between Hyannis and Nantucket. - MV Island Home, built in 2007 - MV Iyanough, built in 2007 - MV Martha's Vineyard, built in 1993 - MV Eagle, built in 1987 - MV Nantucket, built in 1974 - MV Woods Hole, built in 2016

Four of the other ferries are open-top roll-on/roll-off ferries, primarily for larger trucks and freight. However, ordinary passengers taking vehicles to the islands are usually permitted to travel on them, space permitting. - MV Katama, built in 1981, acquired by SSA in 1988 - MV Gay Head - MV Sankaty, built in 1981, acquired by SSA in 1994 - MV Governor, built in 1954, acquired by SSA in 1998

Steamship Authority powered vessels serving Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket
Vessel Island Service Began Island Service Ended Notes
Eagle 1818 1818
Connecticut 1824 1828
Hamilton 1828 1828
Marco Bozzaris 1829 1832
Telegraph 1832 1857 aka Nebraska
Massachusetts 1842 1858
Naushon 1846 1848 Renamed News Boy after sale.
Osceola 1848
Eagle's Wing 1854 1861
Metacomet 1854 1857
Island Home 1855 c. 1895
Jersey Blue 1856 1857
Monohansett 1862 c. 1902
Martha's Vineyard 1871 c. 1920
River Queen 1871 1893
Island Belle 1876 Renamed Coskata
Nantucket 1886 after 1905
Gay Head 1891 1924
Uncatena 1902 1928 Last sidewheeler.
Sankaty 1911 1924 Renamed Charles A. Dunning after sale.
Islander 1923 1947 Renamed Martha's Vineyard
Nobska 1925 c. 1974 Renamed Nantucket, then Nobska.
New Bedford 1928 1942 Participated in Atlantic Convoys during WWII
Nantucket 1928 1957 Previously Nobska
Naushon 1929 1942 Participated in Atlantic Convoys during WWII
Gay Head (LSM 286) 1947
Hackensack 1947 c. 1951 First double-ender. Renamed Islander.
MV Islander 1950 2007 First diesel.
SS Nantucket 1957 1987 [6] Renamed Naushon
MV Uncatena 1965 1993
Auriga 1973 c. 1989
MV Nantucket 1974 Present
Eagle 1987 Present
MV Katama 1988 Present
Gay Head 1989 Present Built 1981 by Moss Point Marine (Escatawpa, Miss), converted 1987 by McDermott Shipyard (Morgan City, La.)
Martha's Vineyard 1993 Present
Sankaty 1994 Present
MV Governor 1998 Present Former Governor's Island ferry
Flying Cloud 2000 2007 Catamaran Fast Ferry, now Gran Cacique IV in Venezuela.
MV Island Home 2007 Present
MV Iyanough 2007 Present Catamaran Fast Ferry, Named after Hyannis sachem Iyannough
MV Woods Hole 2016 Present


  1. ^ a b c "About". The Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority. Retrieved December 12, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Vessels". The Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority. Retrieved December 12, 2015. 
  3. ^ The Steamship Authority, Serving the Islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Official website.
  4. ^ Seccombe, Mike (March 2, 2007). One Ferry Begins, Another Ends: Events Run Through Monday. Vineyard Gazette Online.
  5. ^ Kinsella, James (July 5, 2005). An Old Ferry Sails to New York; Schamonchi Reborn as Party Boat. Vineyard Gazette Online.
  6. ^ "Steam-Powered Ferry Makes Its Final Run". (October 31, 1987). The Boston Globe.

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