Anxiety had been building among many in the Nantucket school community and beyond over the past month when it appeared that neither the Steamship Authority nor Hy-Line Cruises were planning to run a late fast ferry trip from Hyannis back to Nantucket.
That last boat - which typically leaves Hyannis between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. - is the trip many of the Nantucket Public Schools’ sports teams rely on to return to the island after traveling to the mainland for games. Residents too have come to rely on that schedule for all manner of off-island trips.
But the anxiety turned to relief on Tuesday as the Steamship Authority updated its schedule to show a new 7:30 p.m. departure from Hyannis to Nantucket for September and into October.
“It was always going to run, but it was kind of up in the air,” said Nat Lowell, Nantucket’s representative on the Steamship Authority Port Council. “That trip needs to happen at this time of year, primarily for two reasons: the Hy-Line doesn’t have a boat later than the 5:40 p.m., and the sports teams have to be able to plan and have that later trip. They can’t have the (car ferry) Eagle be their way home every night. That can’t happen.”
The Steamship Authority’s communication director Sean Driscoll said the change was possible because the boat line’s schedules changed on Tuesday with the Vineyard route going down to a “four-boat schedule” which loosened up staffing issues just enough to allow for the late fast ferry to Nantucket.
Those staffing issues had resulted in the late trip of the M/V Iyanough to Nantucket being canceled all summer, but that had not become an issue because Hy-Line Cruises was running its late fast ferry, and school was not in session.
However, with the uncertainty surrounding the schedule and staffing, the Steamship Authority was hesitant to update the schedule for September until it was sure there would be adequate crews to run the late ferry from Hyannis.
“There was some nervousness about getting this to happen,” Lowell said. “The crews hadn’t gotten their slips yet. I was just being the alarm clock, the warning, saying ‘Hello, we’ve got to talk about this.’ I want to thank Steamship management and the crews for resuming the fall schedule. This is vital for Nantucket to have that service to the end of October when the Hy-Line switches to 7 p.m.”
While the schedule was still up in the air over the past month, no one was more concerned about the potential impacts than Nantucket Public Schools athletic director Travis Lombardi.
“I was happy to finally see the official schedule with the 7:30 p.m. Hyannis to Nantucket and 8:45 p.m. Nantucket to Hyannis runs added to the schedule today,” Lombardi said. “I had been in close communication with a few people connected with the Steamship Authority over the last few months and they assured me that these boats were going to be added. Was I a little concerned that I hadn't seen these boats on the schedule over these last few weeks? Definitely. I'd be lying if I said no. We are very appreciative and thankful for the Steamship Authority for adding these boats. The 7:30 p.m. boat is a crucial piece for our fall athletic programs. Without this boat, we’d be in a very tough situation. We can now all breathe a bit easier.”