The Maine State Ferry Service vessel Captain Richard G. Spear remains tied up at the ferry terminal in Rockland nearly one year after the $10 million ship was launched with a festive ceremony.

The Captain Richard G. Spear tied up at the Rockland ferry terminal. Stephen Betts photo

“It’s still undergoing construction in Rockland. We’re aiming to have the vessel ready for sea trials this spring,” Paul Merrill, spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation, said on Wednesday.

Maine State Ferry Service Manager Mark Higgins said the vessel was launched last April but was not delivered to the Ferry Service dock in Rockland until the middle of January 2022.

“When a vessel is launched, there are always several weeks to months of work for the shipyard to complete. It does not mean the state of Maine has ownership of the ferry; the vessel is still under construction and at W&D (Washburn & Doughty shipyard in East Boothbay). Launching is a ceremonial moment to be celebrated and not delivery/acceptance by the MSFS,” Higgins said.

He said there is always a delay when a newly constructed vessel comes to the Ferry Service because the local U.S. Coast Guard officer in charge of marine inspections has to issue the initial certificate of inspection, and the crews need to be trained. In addition, the Ferry Service has to develop periodic test procedures according to the Coast Guard regulations, Higgins said.

“We took delivery of the vessel to help out W&D since they were short on dock space and would need to continue to pay builder’s insurance when the vessel is at their facility. We did this to be a good partner and help a small Maine company. W&D is sending their people up to work on small things that need to be corrected while they wait on the elevator parts. Construction is not complete until the elevator work is completed and accepted by the Maine State Ferry Service,” Higgins said.


The original construction contract with Washburn & Doughty shipyard in East Boothbay was for $8,783,700. There have been a number of change orders over the base amount, and post-pandemic construction costs are higher than pre-pandemic ones, he said. The current construction contract is approximately $10,150,000.

The 156-foot ferry has not yet carried passengers other than staff, he said.

The Captain Spear was launched on April 9, 2021, and at that time was expected to being making trips to Vinalhaven in July 2021.

The Philbrook will be used as a back-up ferry. The 1968-constructed ferry Gov. Curtis – which is now used as a back-up vessel – will be taken out of service, the state said at the time of the April 2021 launching of the Captain Spear.

The Spear will join the Captain E. Frank Thompson in serving Vinalhaven located 15 miles off Rockland. About 45,000 passengers use the Vinalhaven ferries each year.


Captain Richard G. Spear died in 2018 at the age of 96.

He was the first employee of the Maine State Ferry Service and was involved in creating both the old ferry terminal and the subsequent one that currently serves people traveling back and forth from Vinalhaven, North Haven and Matinicus islands. He served as ferry service manager for 30 years, retiring in 1989.

He remained on the Ferry Service Advisory Board until his death.

Spear, a 1943 graduate of the Maine Maritime Academy, helped guide legislation through the Maine Legislature to create the Port District in 1954 to oversee freight and passenger transportation for Rockland. He was elected to the Port District in 1954 and city residents reelected him every four years. He served as chairman until his death.

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