PORTLAND – As a year-round resident of Peaks Island, I was interested to read both the article and the April 23 editorial regarding the new boat for the Casco Bay Island Transit District.

There was, however, one tidbit of news which was not contained in either the article or editorial but is truly the most fascinating.

In the application to the federal government, whoever wrote it stated that passenger ridership was up 3 percent and expected to continue to rise.

During the exact same time frame, in order to justify a proposed rate hike, islanders were told that ridership was down by 5 percent and expected to continue to decrease.

Obviously, since only one of these statements can be correct, somebody was not telling the truth and either the federal government or the islanders were lied to.

The next item is rather convoluted and requires a suspension of logic to believe. The Island Romance is reaching the end of its useful life and remains tied up at the dock most of the year. On the plus side, however, having only one engine, it uses less fuel.

It will be sold. That all sounds reasonable. However, the new boat will not replace the Romance but will be used to replace the Maquoit, a newer boat that is now operating, is presumably safe, but is, unfortunately, a gas-guzzler. On the plus side, it has a crane for lifting heavy freight and can carry several small cars.

Now for the logic. Why is it necessary to add another boat if one that we already own is not used? If we presently operate with four boats, why do we need a fifth?

It should be noted that the Romance is still used during the summers for charters. Casco Bay Lines puts people on a boat it considers less than reliable because the benches are not bolted down and can be moved to provide dance or party space.

The Aucocisco’s benches are bolted down and arranged in such a manner as to preclude open party space.

Additionally, passengers can ride on the top deck of the Romance, whereas passengers are forbidden on the top deck of the Aucocisco for safety reasons. It should also be noted the new Aucocisco’s double-screw engine design will wreak havoc with lobstermen’s lines if it is sent to Bailey Island or on meandering cruises around the inner bay islands.

Finally, the present Aucocisco is already used far more than the Maquoit simply because it is more fuel-efficient. So, with another newer Aucocisco, do we simply tie the Maquoit up to the dock? Rarely used boats still require maintenance.

Next, Peaks already has a car ferry (the Machigonne) and we are not greedy. It carries passengers, freight, cars and heavy vehicles six days a week in the winter and seven in the summer. It also consistently makes money. At present, Casco Bay Lines does not have a boat capable of transporting cars and heavy freight to the down the bay islands (Little Diamond, Great Diamond, Diamond Cove, Long, Chebeague and Cliff).

Over the past few years, CBL has lost the majority of that portion of the business to several private companies. On Peaks during the summer the revenue brought in by transporting one car is equivalent to approximately 11 adult passengers or 20 senior passengers.

Therefore, if logic prevails, it is an extremely lucrative aspect of the business that needs to be recaptured for all the islands.

Several weeks ago, with only two days notice, the Machigonne had 12 cars sign up to be transported down the bay. That single trip brought in more revenue than 132 adults and was, obviously, popular.

Last, the new boat, while “free,” will be expensive to operate. It has four engines (not two) which will consume a lot of fuel; maintenance costs will be enormous, and it will take up more space at the dock than is presently available.

Equate this purchase with the “cash for clunkers” program: While you get rid of an old vehicle, you gain monthly car payments that you didn’t have before.

CBL makes money four ways; passengers, freight, vehicles and charters. This “freebie” passenger boat takes advantage of only one of those areas.

Patrick Flynn, the board chairman, was correct in one aspect: We need a pickup truck of a boat. Whether it is a Chevy or a Ford is irrelevant. What we’re getting, however, is a stretch limousine.


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