ROCKLAND – With a splash of champagne, the Maine Department of Transportation on Friday welcomed into service the state’s first new ferry in nearly 20 years.

The Capt. E. Frank Thompson, named after a late, longtime ferry skipper, was christened at the Rockland Ferry Terminal by his daughter, Than Hopkins, who broke a bottle of champagne on the ship’s bow.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, joked that it looked like a Thompson family reunion because so many relatives gathered for the ceremony.

The ferry, which begins regular runs today, cost nearly $10 million, about half of which came from federal stimulus money.

Pingree, who lives on North Haven island so knows all about ferries, described the new vessel as a “lifeline.”

The 154-foot ferry, built at a boatyard in Alabama, can carry 20 vehicles and 250 passengers to and from islands in Penobscot Bay.

The Thompson is much taller than the current ferry — the Governor Curtis, which was built in 1968. The fender panels were adjusted at the dock in Vinalhaven to account for the height and to avoid damaging the ferry.Photos by Pat Wellenbach/The Associated Press