With Undersea Cable Still Down, Steamship Gets Creative To Bring 11 Generators To Nantucket

Jason Graziadei •

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Photo by Peter Sutters

That's not something you see every day!

It was like a mirage this morning at the end of Straight Wharf, where it appeared that a handful of tractor-trailers had managed to drive out on the docks of the Boat Basin.

The trucks were real, but they were actually aboard a barge tied up at the dock where the megayachts typically park during the summer months. The story of why they ended up in this unusual spot is even more interesting.

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With one of the two undersea cables that provide Nantucket with electricity out of service since April 30th and no immediate fix in sight, National Grid and Eversource have decided to bring 11 massive generators to the island to ensure continued service to homes and businesses. The only problem? The Steamship’s freight boat, the M/V Sankaty, went down with mechanical issues this week, leading to a backlog of cars and trucks attempting to get to Nantucket. There were simply no spots available for the generators to come over.

So the Steamship Authority got a little creative. General manager Bob Davis told the Current that the boat line crafted a unique solution that required collaboration among multiple agencies and businesses. His first call was to 41 North Offshore, the New Bedford-based marine towing and transportation company that operates a regular tug and barge operation to Nantucket. Davis asked if they could make a special trip to the island, and the answer was yes.

The Steamship’s director of shoreside operations, Alison Fletcher, then reached out to Cape Cod Express to see if they might be willing to give up some of their reservations aboard the regular ferries to free up space for the trucks bringing the generators over to Nantucket. They also obliged, as they had a number of trailers with non-time-sensitive loads scheduled on the ferry.

And so the Cape Cod Express tractor-trailers diverted to New Bedford where they met the 41 North Offshore tugboat and barge and came over Friday morning, while the Eversource trucks carrying the generators have already started to arrive on-island aboard the Steamship’s freight boats.

The barge carrying the Cape Cod Express semis had to tie up briefly at the end of Straight Wharf while another barge was unloading at Steamboat Wharf, leading to the bizarre photos of the tractor-trailer trucks appearing to be on the docks.

“This is an old-school solution,” said Nat Lowell, Nantucket’s representative on the Steamship Authority’s Port Council. “It’s camaraderie. Nuts and bolts. It’s just beautiful because it’s the right thing to do.”

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An Aggreko generator rolling off the Steamship's freight boat, the M/V Gay Head, Friday morning. Photo by Jason Graziadei
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