Boston Harbor Cruises recently completed the first successful ferry service between St. Thomas and St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Salacia, the largest of the company’s high-speed catamarans, built by Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding, returned to Boston, having carried from 200 to 700 passengers daily between the islands from November til early May. Until now, islanders normally traveled between the islands by plane.
While not the first vessel to attempt this run, Salacia is the first to succeed. “This is probably the most difficult ferry route in the country,” explained Chris Nolan, Boston Harbor Cruises’ managing partner. “The easterly winds blow 15 to 20 knots. The seas were three to five feet eighty percent of the time and would frequently increase to six to eight [feet]. We had flat calm days only ten percent of the time.”
At average speeds of 33 knots, the 146-ft. vessel made the regularly scheduled 40-mile trip in 75 minutes, said Nolan. “Catamarans perform best with an abeam sea,” he said. “The run follows a north south direction, so the seas were always on our bow or stern quarter.” At 33 knots across swells that average five feet, the vessel’s active motion-control system also added to a minimal loss of speed, as well as passenger comfort. Ride control systems perform best at high speeds. A computer measures the vessel’s motion and then calculates the angle of the vessel’s trim tabs to counter its pitch, roll and yaw.
Before returning the Virgin Islands in the fall, Salacia will transport passengers daily between Boston to Provincetown, Mass., through the summer. Athena, another Boston Harbor Cruises catamaran, also built by Gladding-Hearn, has just returned from providing commuter service between Hoboken, N.J., and lower Manhattan. The 250-passenger fast ferry was put into service in November, following the attack on the World Trade Center which destroyed portions of the New York City’s Path transit system. The vessel now resumes its summer schedule, carrying passengers between Pt. Judith and Block Island, Rhode Island.