Navigating Unchartered Waters-Our Business Reflections of the Covid-19 Pandemic
When the Covid-19 pandemic began, we were operating our winter commuter ferry, Miss Lizzie, to the Cranberry Isles, with staff working on winter maintenance projects on some of our vessels.
From the outset, we decided to keep our staff employed if they felt safe to do so, and provide a safe work environment while still providing essential services to the community.
Our staff members were informed that if they did not feel safe working – they were free to remain at home and return to work when they decided it was safe for them to do so. Most staff kept working.
Cranberry Isles Commuter Service – commuter ferry service to the Cranberry Isles for the year-round residents, continued to operate on a reduced schedule during March and April. The ferry Miss Lizzie (built originally on Great Cranberry Island) helped, along with the Beal & Bunker mailboat, to provide essential ferry transportation and deliver tons of groceries to Islanders. We coordinated with town officials from the Cranberry Isles about our vessel operation and voluntary restrictions in operating this vital Island link. The Town of Cranberry Islands and their officials and volunteers should be commended for their excellent networking and communication during this challenging time.
Fortunately, our dedicated staff members were able to continue to work on maintenance and rebuilding projects on several passenger vessels both in our shop and at local boatyards – who thankfully allowed us to continue working on vessels under more proactive restrictive access guidelines. Many of these vessels were stored outside on the land, and we often worked in the cold and sometimes snowy conditions. Some of the vessels that we worked on:
- Ferry Merrimac II
- Ferry Atlantic
- Ferry Miss Lizzie
- Ferry Sutton
- Ferry project Seneca
- Ferry Island Queen
- Schooner Margaret Todd
- Schooner Delight
- 1912 Lobster sloop Chrissy
- Schooner Bailey Louise Todd
Despite Covid-19 challenges, the Cranberry Cove Ferry started ferry service from Southwest Harbor to the Cranberry Isles on time. During the 2020 season we have operated our full schedule 7 days a week as we had islanders depending upon us for ferry transportation. It was a slow start in May with very few passengers and even fewer visiting guests. Fortunately, ridership picked up about mid-summer! Kudos to our reliable lead Captain and her staff for carrying freight, passengers and bicycles and still observing CDC Guidelines with precautions and having to deal with multiple weather events. Including effects from hurricanes!
On June 1st, the Schooner Margaret Todd was moved to Bar Harbor to continue rigging and outfitting work as she awaited eventual opening from Maine’s CDC Guidelines. We received several compliments after the schooner’s arrival. Although the schooner did not start any trips until almost mid – June under reduced capacity, the schooner offered sails on a limited basis allowing guests to get out in the salt air, and enjoy a brief respite from all the challenges everyone has faced. Many of our staff, even those from Maine, needed to quarantine for 2 weeks under the state’s guidelines before they could resume work aboard our vessels. Some even painted a house while they were in quarantine! Everyone did their part to try and keep working and be productive.
The Bar Harbor to Winter Harbor/Schoodic ferry resumed service in late June – despite the Schoodic Marine Center closing its doors, the Island Explorer shuttle bus that meets the ferry not operating in 2020, and the Schoodic Woods Campground not opening. Miss Lizzie operated 5 days a week with 3 round trips – offering ferry service to locals and visitors alike.
The rebuilt schooner Delight offered private charters, as did the 1912 Lobster sloop Chrissy, for those wanting a private sailing experience.
The Eastport to Lubec ferry resumed weekend service in July after a lot of hard work and dedication from our Captains to refit the historic ferry Quoddy Dam. The encouragement from the Eastport and Lubec communities were very supportive in helping to make this happen and were much appreciated.
Our team continued to work on rebuilding projects during the summer, including the significant rebuilding and rewiring of the fishing vessel Ebb Tide.
We continue to try and keep our staff working and provide services for both locals and visitors alike. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our team and support of the communities, and our visiting guests, we have been able to stay in business and be productive. It has been a very challenging time for everyone. Working together, we will press on and look forward to better times ahead.