CRANBERRY ISLES—When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, islanders took it seriously. The Town of Cranberry Isles declared a public health emergency on March 20, urging islanders to stop all nonessential travel.
Through this, ferries continued to operate as essential services. As passenger service slowed, mail and freight picked up.
“We had as many packages as we normally have in August,” said Captain Amanda Bracy of Cranberry Cove Ferry, which operates out of Northeast Harbor in the winter and Southwest Harbor in the summer.
To meet the increased demand, Bracy said, “We were tag-teaming with the other ferry.” While Beal & Bunker of Northeast Harbor did the mailboat run, Bracy’s boat did UPS deliveries and late-night grocery orders.
“The wear and tear on the crew has been a lot,” Bracy said. Crew members were given the option in March to not work if they didn’t feel safe to work. Since then, “we’ve been down to two captains and one deck hand,” said Bracy. Cranberry Cove Ferry had to “swap captains” with Beal & Bunker Ferry at times to make sure people got days off, Bracy said.
Passenger transportation has slowed down, according to Paul Hewes, co-owner of Beal & Bunker ferry service. For the month of April, passenger caps were 10 people per boat. Currently the ferry has no passenger caps, but requires passengers to wear masks.
Ferry service is currently limited to island residents and essential workers. That is expected to change on June 15, Hewes said, when the ferry service will start its summer schedule and allow visitors onboard.
“We have to vet people as they get on the boat,” said Bracy, finding out if people have been out of state, or if they feel sick, for example. This is at the request of the health officer and town selectmen, she said.
Both ferry companies follow Maine CDC guidelines for public transportation. Crews disinfect public areas between runs, and require passengers to wear masks.
About the mask requirement, “occasionally we get people a little upset about it one way or the other. For the most part, it hasn’t been an issue.”
Bracy has been working for Cranberry Cove Ferry since 2004, starting as a deck hand and moving up to boat captain. Overall, she said, this season is “definitely a little more stressful” than others she has worked.
This article has been updated.