The visibly damaged ferry Katie Grace. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Ferry seeks $100K

BAR HARBOR — It will take about $100,000 in donations to ensure that the Schoodic Ferry between Bar Harbor and Winter Harbor, which ended its first season in October, will be able to resume operations next summer, according to Kaitlyn Mullen, executive director of the nonprofit organization that owns it.

Two incidents of vandalism in June and another calamity in October that caused about $50,000 in damage to the ferry boat, Katie Grace, and put it out of service for several days, resulting in the loss of revenue.

Mullen said donations are needed to pay for all the damage and to cover the cost of building and installing two new floats at the College of the Atlantic (COA) pier. That is where the ferry docks on the Bar Harbor side of the bay.

Mullen said that at times this past summer, winds as light as 10 to 15 knots caused water to wash over the “tiny float” that the ferry was using.

“That is generally not something you want passengers to land on,” she said. “These improvements will also help make the Schoodic Ferry accessible to a greater variety of passengers, eliminating steps during boarding.”

The first incident of vandalism occurred in early June, shortly after the ferry began operating, while it was tied up at the dock at the Winter Harbor Marine Center.

Mullen said someone boarded the boat and pulled its emergency air flaps, which are used to shut down engines by cutting off their air intake. She said that because of that and some other minor damage, the ferry was out of service for several days.

The second act of vandalism, which occurred the night of June 13, was much more serious; it caused potentially life-threatening damage. Whoever did it gained access to Katie Grace by boat because the ferry had been moved from the dock to a mooring at the Winter Harbor Marine Center.

“Wires between all of our communications devices and GPS had been slashed,” Mullen said. “Someone had poured what looked like some form of sugar into both of our transmission tanks, and they had poured water into our fuel tanks. They had loosened all of our steering gear, and they had loosened the bolts that held both transmissions onto the main engine housing.”

Mullen said it is fortunate that the crew discovered the vandalism before passengers got on board and the ferry left Winter Harbor.

“It was all done really smartly so that it should have held together just long enough for us to get away from the dock,” she said, “If we had, we would have had no way to call shore and we would have had no transmission and no supplementary steering.”

The Winter Harbor police and the Maine Marine Patrol investigated the vandalism. Marine Patrol Officer Richard Derboghosian Jr. said last week that there have been no developments in the case.

In the third incident in which Katie Grace sustained damage, it slipped its mooring in Frenchman Bay near the COA pier. Strong winds pushed it onto the flats in front of the Maine Seacoast Mission at low tide.

Mullen said crew members were able to refloat the ferry after only half an hour and that the damage could have been much worse.

“We have dinged propellers, a cracked strut plate and a shaft that needs to be checked for alignment,” she said.

Mullen is trying to raise money as quickly as possible to cover last season’s unexpected costs and to build new floats at the COA pier for the 2017 season.

“We probably have about $100,000 that we critically need to raise before February so the materials can be ordered and work can be completed so that things can start on time,” she said.

She hopes to raise a significant amount through the CrowdRise fundraising website.

Mullen said an individual who wishes to remain anonymous has donated a second mooring for the ferry off the COA pier “in the hope of increasing vessel security by being able to rotate it [between moorings] so that it isn’t always in the same place.”

She said the ferry’s first-season setbacks were “sad” and “disappointing.”

“But all of business and all of life present unexpected challenges. And rather than sitting down and crying about it, we’re trying to move forward and come up with plans and let life work out the best way it can.”

The Schoodic Ferry is operated by the nonprofit Frenchman Bay Research Boating. Part of its mission is to facilitate marine research while transporting passengers across the bay. Mullen said the ferry served as a “research platform” this past season for scientists collecting baseline data on such things as water quality and seabird and marine mammal populations.

She said more studies are lined up for next season. She has received a $10,000 grant from the Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust, much of which will be used for new equipment to increase the ferry’s research support capabilities.

The Schoodic Ferry this past season competed for customers with Downeast Windjammer Cruises, which had operated the only seasonal ferry service between Bar Harbor and Winter Harbor for the previous 15 years.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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