Provincetown-bound ferry grounding on rocks in Boston Harbor islands blamed on operator error

A skipper in training navigated a ferry to Provincetown into a sandbar in Boston Harbor Saturday morning, a Bay State Cruise Co. spokesman said.

No injuries were reported, and all 149 passengers were transferred from the Provincetown III onto another Bay State ferry. Service on the ferry was suspended while it was repaired, but could be restored on Sunday.

The company said a captain who has been training for about a month missed navigational marks and skidded onto a sandbar near Nixes Mate, a small patch of land between Deer Island and Long Island.

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“At this time, it appears to us that it was a matter of operator error, clear and simple,” Michael Glasfeld, a spokesman for Bay State Cruise Co., wrote in the statement. “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.”

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

“It appears at this time that the fault is ours completely, and we bear the responsibility fully,” Glasfeld wrote.

The captain driving the ship was fired, Glasfeld said.

At 5 p.m. Saturday, about an hour before high tide, the boat dislodged and crews slowly drove it back to the harbor for inspection.

“We’re running as slow as we can possibly run right now,” Glasfeld said in a phone interview from the Provincetown III. “We’re now on the boat traveling under our own power, and everything seems to be running pretty good.”

Fast ferry service on the Provincetown III could be restored Sunday if it turns out only the propellers are damaged, Glasfeld said. At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, workers were in the process of changing the propellers, which Glasfeld said should take until past midnight.

If the ferry’s drive shafts and struts are undamaged, it could be ready in time for Sunday’s first launch, though it will need Coast Guard approval before returning to service, Glasfeld said.

As a backup, Bay State will offer bus service between Boston and Provincetown Sunday, Glasfeld said. “It’ll take a little longer on the road, but the departure schedule will be the same,” he said.

Passengers who had booked tickets can bring them to Bay State’s competitor, Boston Harbor Cruises, where they will be honored, he said.

The ferry crosses Cape Cod Bay in about an hour and a half, Glasfeld said.

The company also operates the Provincetown II, which holds up to 1,137 passengers and crosses to Provincetown in three hours.

Saturday morning, Quincy Police, the Coast Guard, and Boston Police Harbor Patrol transferred passengers from the Provincetown III to the Provincetown II to continue their journey, said Ross Ruddell, a Coast Guard public affairs specialist. He said he not know how long delays lasted.