New captain fired after Massachusetts ferry runs aground on sandbar in Boston Harbor

A captain in training was fired after a fast ferry to Provincetown, Mass., ran up on a sandbar in Boston Harbor.

Provincetown III left the marked channel Aug. 25 and ran up on Nixes Mate, a sandbar between Deer Island and Long Island. Bay State Cruise Co. spokesman Michael Glasfeld said the captain, who had been training for about a month, missed navigation aids and was fired as a result of the accident.

None of the 145 passengers or five crewmembers were injured and the damage was limited to the two propellers, according to the U.S. Coast Guard lead investigator, Lt. James Pritchard of Sector Boston. The passengers were transferred to another ferry and Provincetown III returned to service the next day.

When the 91-foot fast ferry went aground in thick fog at about 0845 roughly five miles from downtown Boston the hull of the vessel was not compromised, Glasfeld said in a statement.

“It appears to us that it was a matter of operator error, clear and simple,” he added. “Both skippers have years of high speed catamaran experience in Boston Harbor, with plenty of experience in foggy conditions. The captain in training had been a licensed operator of vessels in Boston Harbor for over 10 years, including experience operating high-speed vessels in the fog. Our electronic equipment is top notch and there is no excuse for having missed the navigational marks and being as far out of position as they were.”

The passengers were transferred to another Bay State Cruise vessel, Provincetown II, by commercial water taxis and brought back to the pier in Boston from which they had departed.

Pritchard said the case is still under investigation so he could not discuss any findings including the results of drug and alcohol tests. He did say there was fog with visibility of about 50 feet, seas were calm and the electronic navigation equipment “did appear to be in working order.”

Another captain with six years of experience was supervising the trainee captain, Glasfeld said.

At 1700, about an hour before high tide, the ferry floated off the sandbar and its crew slowly drove it back to the dock.

“The vessel was inspected by the Coast Guard and the following day was allowed to go back into service,” Pritchard said. “The damage was minimal,” requiring only replacement of two propellers.

The ferry, built in 2004, usually crosses Cape Cod Bay in about an hour and a half.

By Professional Mariner Staff