The Steamship Authority Is Where It All Begins…

When I go to Martha’s Vineyard, it’s a surprisingly short travelling time. I live in downtown Toronto. Toronto has two airports. One of which is conveniently located downtown. I take a cab to the airport and get there about forty-five minutes before my flight. It’s a small airport. Actually, it’s really kinda cool. I take a cab to the ferry that takes me to the airport. Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is on an island that is accessible either by ferry or by a newly dug tunnel that goes under the water. It’s a ferry ride of only 397 feet. That’s short. To give you some perspective, The Chappy Ferry is 527 feet. Anyway, my trip is a cab, a ferry, a plane to Boston’s Logan Airport, a bus to Wood’s Hole, and then another ferry—a big ferry. This is it for me: The Steamship Authority is where it all begins.

So it begins…

I really enjoy the whole trip. I wouldn’t be surprised if the journey ended up in a future novel, I love it so much. It’s exciting. Even my taxi ride to Billy Bishop feels good. I know where I’m going. I’m going home. Funny, but that’s how it feels. I’m going home. The airport isn’t far from my apartment. It’s maybe a ten minute cab ride. I used to book ahead when I was a less seasoned traveller, but now I realize that getting a cab at six a.m on a Friday morning (that seems to be when I go) is not a difficult thing to do at all. Especially, in a city like Toronto.

The Getting There

I always take the first flight available and on the weekdays, that’s 7:00am. If I take the 7:00am flight, I will land in Boston around 8:20-8:30am. The plane is small—I like that. If a plane isn’t too big, I can wrap my head around it being in the air. When they start to get too big, it freaks me out. It doesn’t make sense to me. I always  fly Porter Airlines and their service is excellent. The planes are comfortable and their staff friendly. I love Porter. As much as I enjoy them, I still don’t have that feeling yet. I’m on vacation—I know that—but I’m not there yet in my head.

Picking a seat and sitting down with a pint (or two)

I land at Billy Bishop Airport and get on Peter Pan Bus Lines. Peter Pan has been very late picking me up every single time—every time. I expect it now. However, somehow, they always get me to Woods Hole on time. I don’t know how they do it. I think it’s a secret plot  to make sure that we are all good to go when they get there. The buses have Wi-Fi and the seats are comfortable. Because I go early, I can usually get two seats to myself. I’m a big dude. The two seats helps a lot. It’s good. I have a list of tunes that I like to listen to on the bus. I’m warming up—Good Will Hunting soundtrack, some Gerry Rafferty, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Carly Simon. MVYRadio app also plays a big part in my trip. You can see where I’m going with this…

On Da Boat!

Woods Hole terminal for The Steamship Authority is where it begins. My big city stress starts to fall away. The ocean air begins its sea salt scrub on my big city grime. I can smell the ocean. If the boat is there, people are screaming and yelling to get their bags from the driver. It makes me cringe sometimes how I see him treated. Nice way to start a vacation. Did anyone tell them that there would be another boat, I wonder? Should I bring it up? I look at the feeding frenzy in front of me and decide that it’s probably best if I just steer clear.

The boat is beautiful in the early morning

If I do miss the boat, and I have, this is the horrifying conclusion that those passengers were trying so desperately to avoid: I sit in the sun. I smell the ocean air. Carly Simon sings songs about Menemsha, and island homes that make her feel like she’s Never Been Gone. Then, without fail, the boat comes and I get on. My vacation has begun. There is something about being on this ferry. This part of the trip is the beginning of it all.

The coin powered binoculars are a throwback

I love walking the gangplank and picking a seat on the deck. I love the fact that the people who work the canteen all recognize me—I get a kick out of that. They’re all so nice and friendly. If you work the Steamship Authority, then thank you for always starting my trip off with a smile. So, that’s how I start—I pick a seat, drop my luggage, and go to the canteen to pick up two Bad Martha’s Beer, for the forty minute trip. I’m not really much of a drinker, but hey, it’s the Vineyard.

Vineyard Haven Terminal

Once I have my beers, I go back to my seat and take a selfie for social media—of course, I do. Here’s the thing though. One of the coolest things about Instagram, is that there is a “location selection” when you are on The Steamship Authority ferries that reads, “On Da Boat!” I love that! I sit back on the ferry and sip my beer. I’m there. I haven’t stepped a physical foot on Martha’s Vineyard yet, but in my head, in my heart I’m there, and like Carly is invariably singing on my headphones, “I’m bound for the island, the tide is with me, I think I can make it before dawn…I’m going home, and it feels like I’ve never, never been gone.”

A Romantic Age

Ferries are almost a work of fiction in most of the world. They are a romantic part of the Maritime World that most people never see except in the magical world of movies. That world is populated by ferries, lighthouses, fishing villages, sharks, dolphins. storms, and sailboats. The ocean is like that too. Maybe it’s as simple as that. My trip starts when I get to the ocean. Maybe that’s all there is to it.



  1. I’ll never forget my first trip to the island. We were driving down the Cape to Woods Hole, when suddenly your father rolled the window down and said “Smell that”
    The smell of the ocean and shore filled the car, and I was filled with joy and excitement.

  2. It’s like you know exactly when I need to read another MV post from you. I needed this today, so thanks!

    The official start of summer for me is when the Island Queen begins her trips from Falmouth to the Vineyard – it’s nice to be able to say it’s NEXT MONTH. 44 days and counting.

  3. See, unlike you, I like to sit inside on the boat. My husband always wants to be outside, but when we travel, it’s not typically in the warm summer sun, so it’s the winter and it’s windy and cold and he complain that the ferry blasts the heat too high and he is sweating while I am freezing. Oh, married life on a boat, how grand hahaha!

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