The ferry Island Transporter had battled through rough seas off the Maine coast for nearly 15 minutes, and a loaded cement truck at its stern was rocking side to side for much of the ride. Finally, it toppled over.
Moments later, Ross Sawyer, who was parked in front of the cement truck in his pickup, watched as his company’s boom truck slid forward and tipped sideways with his brother in the cab. The truck’s boom anchored against the ferry’s four-foot wall, preventing it from falling into the Atlantic.
“If that high part of the railing was not there holding (the truck) in place, then it would have gone right over the edge,” Sawyer said in a phone interview. He said the wall was several feet shorter where the truck was originally parked.
The 95-foot Island Transporter was sailing between Rockland and North Haven, Maine, on Dec. 11, when it encountered rough seas outside the Rockland breakwater. The construction vehicles overturned at about 0930, roughly 15 minutes into the trip that normally takes an hour.
In addition to the three vehicles, the ferry was carrying the two crew and three passengers. No one was seriously hurt, although the cement truck driver was treated for an arm injury.
None of the vehicles was tied down. The Coast Guard is investigating the incident.
A small craft warning was in effect at the time. The Coast Guard reported 25-knot winds and 6-foot seas, although Sawyer believes the swells exceeded 10 feet.
The vehicle and a cement mixer, right, tipped over aboard Island Transporter in rough seas.
The ferry developed a pronounced portside list after the vehicles overturned but continued toward North Haven at a low speed. A Coast Guard cutter escorted the vessel much of the way.
“It was determined that it would be safer for the vessel to continue to its destination with a lee provided by Coast Guard cutter Abbie Burgess,” said PA3 MyeongHi Clegg of Coast Guard Sector Boston.
The vessel attempted to land several times in North Haven before finally succeeding. North Haven Harbormaster Foy Brown helped guide the ferry into port.
“I tell you what, (they) came as close to dying as they could without doing it,” Brown said. “She must have been inches from rolling over.”
Island resident William Trevaskis watched from his office window as the vessel approached North Haven “tilting to one side dramatically.”
“It looked as though it was sinking,” he said in an email.
Cranes were used to straighten the vehicles, both of which were badly damaged. Sawyer, a partner with his brother Ryan in Sawyer Brothers Inc., said his truck has been declared a total loss.
The ferry sustained minor damage during the incident, the Coast Guard said. The agency declined to describe the damage, calling it part of the investigation.
Island Transporter is owned by Island Transporter LLC of Rockland. The company did not respond to email and phone messages seeking comment.